First, fat was evil.
Wait, we can eat egg yolks now? What about cholesterol?
Just kidding, let’s get rid of carbs instead.
But sugar is also killing us now, right? Oh, and gluten, too.
Here’s the deal → Nutrition is a science, and a young one at that. It is still evolving so there are going to be new discoveries that override previous recommendations. I know this can be frustrating for the public because why should they trust us if we keep changing our minds?!
Let’s start with who you can’t trust: Dr. Oz. Haha, just kidding. Kinda…
But in all seriousness, we have to be really careful. There’s A LOT of people out there claiming to be nutrition experts.
In the U.S. the term nutritionist is not protected. That means literally anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. The titles Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist are legally protected. Only those with the proper education and experience may use them. They have to have completed the following: Bachelor’s (soon to be Master’s) degree in nutrition, competitive year-long dietetic internship, and pass a national exam.
I don’t say this to belittle others, but many other professionals (e.g. athletic trainers, chiropractors, physicians, physical therapists, nurses, “healthy living” bloggers/coaches, chefs, etc.) falsely claim to be nutrition experts. Here’s the problem. Most of these professions do not require enough, if any, formal nutrition education.
I am not saying dietitians are better healthcare providers than the others. We are just another part of a health care team working to provide you with well-rounded care. However, we are also the the only ones with a specific scope of practice that includes nutrition. In the same way that I would never try to prescribe you a medication or create a workout regime to accommodate physical limitations, others need to be mindful of where their scope lies.
Disclaimer: This is not to say there aren’t ANY credible, non-dietitians in health care. It’s possible, but much more rare. If you are given dietary recommendations from a non-dietitian health care professional, it wouldn’t hurt to follow-up with a dietitian who specializes in your condition for a second opinion.
But why have dietitians changed their recommendations over the years? Why trust them?
Dietitians are proud to support scientific, evidence-based information. This means that there’s enough, reliable, and credible research to back up claims + recommendations.
Why? Because nutrition is a science, not a set of beliefs.
We have to have a lot of studies that support a claim before making a blanket recommendation to the public. One study is not enough. These studies also need to be reputable, without bias, have large enough sample sizes, etc. This is not an easy feat. It takes a lot of time and resources.
As such, research can be a long, slow-going process. Hence why it takes awhile for concrete decisions to be made. When it comes to our health, it’s often better to work with a “better safe than sorry” mindset than being the first to jump on the bandwagon [Looking at you, coconut oil!].
Dietitians do the legwork for you. We take this confusing, sometimes contradictory, nutrition research and translate it into an easier-to-understand recommendation.
So how can we protect ourselves?
Look at the source. Is it truly credible? If not, do not hold on to it as 100% truth.
Are they making claims that seem “too good to be true.” They probably are. Be realistic + skeptical.
Is this advice or supplement part of a multi-level marketing company? Watch out. Their goal is typically rooted in the business of making money — not about promoting health. Rarely are these products legit.
Is this the first time you’ve heard about this dietary claim? Contact a dietitian to learn more. It’s their job to research and provide accurate information. Brand new claims may not have enough research to back them up just yet. In this case, it’s not a good thing to be the first to jump on the bandwagon.
Work with both a physician and dietitian to get a clear picture. As your personal team, they can communicate about how best to meet your needs from a medical and nutrition perspective.