(BPT) – Sensationalized nutrition headlines are everywhere, leaving consumers confused and overwhelmed at supermarkets, restaurants and even in their own kitchens. Referred to as “sound-bite science,” much of the media reporting simplifies, sensationalizes and tailors headlines to get clicks or tune-ins. As a result, consumers may miss critical information about the studies themselves. With almost 50 percent of consumers trusting media statements on health benefits in food, as foodinsights.org states, it is increasingly important for health professionals to assist consumers in reaching fact-based conclusions about new science.
Here are five nutrition myths you might have read or heard about that deserve a second look:
1. “Natural” is healthier: Just because a product is claiming to be “natural,” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier. There is no universal definition for the term, making it even more important for consumers to view the nutrition facts panel and ingredient list for information, rather than relying on product claims.
2. High fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar: In recent years, high fructose corn syrup has been singled out in some of the media as a unique cause of obesity and other health problems even though there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support such allegations. In fact, high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sugar, and has the same number of calories.
3. Saturated fat is OK: Saturated fat has made something of a comeback due to new research that found no evidence of saturated fat’s association with heart disease. What didn’t make the headlines was the importance of looking for healthier alternatives when replacing saturated fats. Scientific evidence has found that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats reduces total and LDL cholesterol. Bottom line: When you go to replace saturated and trans fats, look for foods high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts and avocados.
4. Sugar intake is rising: Consumption of added sugars has actually decreased over the last 14 years at the same time that obesity rates have been increasing. Moreover, from 1970 to 2010, daily caloric intake increased by 459 calories, yet added sugar only accounted for 4 percent (20 calories) of that rise. There is no credible scientific evidence that any one single food or ingredient, including sugars and sweeteners, is uniquely responsible for obesity. The focus should be on how all foods fit into a healthy diet rather than singling out particular ingredients.
5. Eating at night contributes to weight gain: Scientific research shows that calories are calories. Timing of caloric intake is less important than total daily calories. Balance your food groups; enjoy your favorite foods, but practice moderation when eating foods that are higher in calories. And remember to exercise.
How can you tell if a story in the media is accurate or not? Here are some tips:
* Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). RDN’s possess an extensive educational background in science and are a great resource for debunking nutrition myths.
* Find the actual research study itself and review the full article, instead of a journalist’s summary. Visit the scientific journal’s website or Pubmed.gov to find the full research article.
* Ask yourself if the reporter is promoting food fears by making sweeping claims about a specific ingredient. If the answer is yes, it’s likely the reporter is failing to provide key information from the study.
The constant stream of information from innumerable media sources makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. These tips will help you to cut through the clutter and become a more informed consumer.
This content is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association. For more information on sweeteners, visit SweetSurprise.com.