Is it our own fault that there is so much nutrition and health misinformation out there?
I thought this would be a good topic for some general discussion. In some of the "top stories" feed below I see some really questionable ones. For example, the story about Oreos being as addictive as Cocaine. Did anyone actually click through and read the article? It seems like a pretty stupid study to me. In test #1, they gave a lab rat the choice to go through a maze with two endings. One with an oreo and one with a rice cake. The rat preferred the oreo. Next they put the lab rat in the maze where one end had toe reward of cocaine and one end had the reward of a water/saline solution. They rat preferred the cocaine. Now suddenly, there is an article saying Oreos are as Addictive as cocaine!!! It's pretty ridiculous, yet as personal trainers and group-x instructors these are exactly the kinds of tidbits and news bites we post on our facebook walls for our clients to see. Aren't we doing them a disservice? How about the article about the "Best poses for digestion" also linked in the top stories news feed. Did you click through and read the fine print that this is based on a SINGLE yoga instructors opinion, with no scientific research to back it up? It frustrates me the amount of bad info we spread to our clients based on sensational titles. How much research do you put in to the things you share on your Facebook and Twitter feeds to your clients? Do you make a conscious effort to correct the misinformation out there? It seems like sometimes, we as professionals are our own worst enemies! What do you think?
More of us enter what would be considered the clinical rather than the research arm of fitness. We work directly with people utilizing rather than creating the research. However, we do not loose our obligation to understand the difference between good and poor research. We not only have an obligation to read what is current, but to read critically: what is the 'n'?, is there a double blind?, how is the control structured? etc.... AND do other studies back up this research, AND is this a peer reviewed journal? Keep in mind there are a plethora of journals that take money to publish research. (There is a gentleman who has a site that lists such spurious journals, and has shown the incredibly bad research they publish.... for a price). The point is before we share information with our students and clients we need to do due diligence to make sure it is accurate, and that we nuance the way we present it .... e.g. "there are a couple of small studies suggesting this, but more needs to be known" And absolutely we need to know the difference between a case study and a pro or retrospective study, and a controlled clinical trial.
The third part of this is what is sometimes called 'the fourth estate'. The press is a powerful tool of either information or misinformation. We cannot control what major media, or the internet as a whole presents, but those of us who blog, or write articles, or give interviews have an obligation to have our facts, to write without sensationalism, and to present various sides of an issue. This does not mean that we cannot editorialize; you do not need to put the point of view of cigarette manufacturers in an article on smoking and cancer, for example. But if you are going to make a conclusion based on scientific research and present this to any number of people you should know the facts and the opinions well enough to be able to stand behind what you say.
Of course, we have to remember the kids game where the first child in the circle whispers something in the ear of the next, and by the end of the circle the whisper is never the same. Even when research is impeccable, and impeccably presented, the public consuming it will not always hear it directly from the source, or have the context to get the whole thing. So we need to keep repeating the important points, because communication needs both mouths and ears to work well.
The profit motive is also an important part of this question. It takes a lot of time to do things well,(whether it is doing, reading, or communicating information) and if we can make more money by taking a shorter route there will always be some who choose that route.
So, yes. We need to read carefully. We need to write carefully. We need to be nuanced in our communication. Yes, there is some fuzzy thinking out there, some fuzzy research, and some fuzzy writing. There is nothing wrong with a piece on best poses for digestion by one teacher, as long as that is made clear in the piece, and we make it clear if we share it, and if when we communicate it as a fitness professional we do so from a base of knowledge to which we have added this as one piece and put into that context.
For me though, I see more to be hopeful about, and proud of within our community. The vast majority of those with whom I work set a high standard, are quite knowledgeable, want to understand more, and see themselves as and act as professionals.
It also is great reminder to do your own research and evaluations prior to passing the information along.
In todays world with twenty four hour news media the information comes in as fast as it goes out.
thanks for starting this thought-provoking conversation. Here are my personal thoughts on this subject.
The way we communicate what we know, read and perceive should make clear when the information is based on little more than anecdotal evidence. Yet I also believe that not everything needs to be in peer-reviewed documentation to be true. Many scientific breakthroughs have started with anecdotal observation, and subsequent studies were providing explanations for it.
That is not so say that we should pass the latest gossip as gospel. But I see nothing wrong with communicating things that ring plausible to me, that I may be able to corroborate with own experience or that I have found to be true for me. As long as I make this clear, I do not think that I provide misinformation.
You are certainly correct that we should not share, paste on walls or tweet anything we see without having read all there is to it.
I am curious to read what my fellow fitness professionals have to say.
I agree, some of the studies are crazy. I will not send a story without reading it myself first. I also tell my clients that if they have any questions or want to discuss something, that I am always available for them. The other thing I do is to try to stay abreast of the latest health stories by listening to the news and flipping through the stray magazine, for what the general public is exposed to. Whenever someone says "they say" to me, I ask, who is "they"?
After all that, it is my job to set the client straight on the best way for them to be responsible for their own health.
NAPS 2 B Fit
Our responsibility as fitness professionals is to stay current on the latest reliable research, from peer-reviewed journals, and to respond to popular press releases with a focus based on our education and on scientific research.
Who is "they," as Natalie suggests, is always a great question to ask in response to a clients comment that "they say."
I agree with Susan that by staying in our scope of practice we can eliminate the danger of providing false information to others (especially for subjects we are not experts or familiar with). But, also need to keep in mind that some times it's OK to repost studies or articles that we don't agree with for the sake of starting a conversation or to enlighten our audience as to what is credible and what is not. The specific article/study you've mentioned in your question was posted at IDEA's Fitfeed section, but this doesn't make this site as a non-credible one or a source of misinformation.
Here is an interesting article by David Katz:
The points you make are exactly why I think it's important for each of us to decide and determine which sources we believe are credible and not simply follow EVERY headline and news report out there. As 'they' say, with research, "the devil is in the details!" Over my 20-year training career, I have come to recognize which sources and types of sources I give credibility to when I read their reports and studies (for example the New England Journal of Medicine), and while not everyone will ever agree on what they consider a reputable source or study, I think that as your post points out, they should at least be responsible enough to look behind the headline or story to determine it's accuracy and whether they are comfortable with it, BEFORE passing it on to those people who follow them and rely on them as a source of fitness information.
My two cents :-)