Nutrition on the Internet

Updated in July 2015 by the Manitoba Association of Home Economists

Have you gone to the Internet for nutrition information? The Internet can be a good source of information; but some of what you read may not be correct. Here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure the information is reliable.

Who is the author of the web page? The title “Dietitian” is protected by law and can only be used by those who have the required formal training in nutrition, follow a Code of Ethics and provide safe, reliable service. While the title “nutritionist” is not protected, nutritionists who use the initials RD, PDt, RDN or, in French, DtP are also dietitians. In Manitoba, the professional is regulated by the College of Dietitians of Manitoba. They have a Vision, Mission and Code of Ethics. Anyone calling themselves a Dietitian, does require a professional designation. Dietiticans in Manitoba can also be registered with the Manitoba Association of Home Economists.

Where is the information from? Credible organizations include a university nutrition department or a government agency. The 3-letters at the end of the web address can help you find out where the information is coming from. Addresses ending in .edu (educational institute), .org (organization), or .gov (government) are more credible than sites ending in .com, which mean that they are commercial organizations, often trying to sell something.

When was the information last updated? Some people think that if the information is on the Internet, it must be recent. This is not always the case. Check to see when the website was last updated, as the information may have changed.

Does the website promise a new breakthrough or immediate, effortless or guaranteed result? If so, be wary. Websites use these techniques to appeal to your emotions and are not likely based on scientific research.

What kind of proof does the website offer? If it relies on personal stories, be cautious. Although these stories seem believable, they do not prove that something works. Several scientific studies with many people are a much stronger indication of a products’ effectiveness. Good websites will include a reference list so you can look up the studies that have been done.

Is the website selling something? If so, they want to convince you that what they are saying is true. If you believe what they say, you are more likely to buy the product. Verify what the site is saying through other credible websites or sources.

These websites will help you get the real story about nutrition news:

If you have any questions about nutrition information from the Internet, contact a dietitian or public health nutritionist.

WRITTEN BY THE PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITIONISTS OF SASKATCHEWAN

References:

Anderson, J., Patterson, L., and Daly, B. Nutrition Quackery. Colorado State University: Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 1998.

Dietitians of Canada, “Registered Dietitians: Your Professionals for Food, Diet and Nutrition Information”, 2002.

Public Health Nutritionists of Saskatchewan Working Group, “Nutrition on the Internet”, 1999.