Real or Not Real: Interpreting the Nutrition Research Beyond the Headlines

Looking over the shoulder a man in a grey sweater while he uses a tablet to read an article

As dietitians, and nutrition professionals, one of our roles is to communicate nutrition science accurately and in a meaningful way. With constant news being shared to our phones via apps, podcasts, and social channels, along with more traditional routes like newspapers, television, and radio, the headlines in today’s media make it apparent that, words matter.

 

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Code of Ethics 2018, our decisions should be guided by the best available research and evidence, and our communications should be accurate and truthful (1). While the Code of Ethics is a great tool to guide our judgment, we have access to a variety of other tools that can help when it comes to unlocking a headline to better understand the original research.

 

To look beyond the headlines, and put your research skills into practice, try these tools today:

  • Google Scholar or PubMed– Use these search engines as a quick way to help identify the primary source of a headline.
  • Evidence Analysis Library – This tool, free to Academy members, is made up of systemic review sand evidence-based nutrition practice guidelines on a variety of nutrition topics.
  • Evidence Decision Tool – Another tool for Academy members, this one is designed to help you evaluate the scientific evidence using the hierarchy of evidence.
  • Join the Academy’s Research DPG – This research dietetic practice group is geared towards professionals who want to “expand their horizons about research”.

 

Dietitians have the skills to find the real research, beyond the headlines, and communicate findings effectively. Here are five tips to help you go directly to the science and choose your soundbites wisely:

 

  1. Find the original research tied to the headline.
  2. Think through the following questions: What was the research question? Was the hypothesis stated? Who were the subjects? What was the sample size or population? What types of data were collected? Were the correct outcomes measured to answer the research question? Were the instruments/tools/surveys/questionnaires previously validated? Were the measures reliable? (i.e. reproducible, precise) What conclusions were drawn? Were these based upon the evidence?
  3. Ask yourself if everything makes sense. Absolute certainty from evidence is rare but based on the current body of science, does everything align?
  4. Once you’ve determined the news you can use, be clear and concise in your communication.
  5. Identify sound bites and choose your words carefully.

Being a part of an evidence-based organization is one thing that sets dietitians apart as communicators. Using this variety of reliable tools, along with key principles from our Code of Ethics, nutrition professionals can go beyond the headlines to share nutrition information that is evidence-based, accurate, truthful and professional.

 

Resources:

  1.  http://www.eatrightpro.org (A.N.D. Code of Ethics, 2018).