How do I differentiate a nutrition or supplement fad from information that I can really trust to improve my health and help me feel better?

There’s no guaranteed path to an easy answer.  My suggestion is to get acquainted with http://scholar.google.com and their ‘advanced search’ functions.

  • Find clinical articles that support (or counter) the claims being made.  If there are multiple (10+) studies, I would say there’s a foundation.
  • Also keep an eye out for clinical reviews.  These are usually bodies of work that summarizes the findings of multiple studies.  Keep in mind that clinical studies aren’t cheap and often require sponsorship.  Keep in mind who is paying for the study as they are likely involved in the planning and have intention behind the results (Drug Company vs. University).
  • Some studies include a ‘weaknesses/limitations’ segment as well as a ‘conflict of interest’ statement.  If these are present, that’s a good sign.  If there’s substantial information in the weaknesses/limitations segment, that shows due diligence was done and an effort towards honesty was made because every clinical study has limitations. 
  • My final piece of advice: don’t buy in to the marketing materials.  Visuals and word choice is an entire industry.  Instead, look for the tiny asterisks and the referenced articles/studies in the small print.  Scientists are not marketing professionals so their information, although less vibrant and flashy, will be more straightforward.

Author: Tony Scartozzi

Tony Scartozzi was born and raised in a small town in Eastern Washington. After moving to Seattle in 2001, he attended Bastyr University and graduated with a degree in Nutrition. Driven by his passion for public health, his career has spanned the nonprofit sector, senior housing resources, food service training, and now works for a nutraceutical company that produces market-leading plant extracts used for supplemental health. Observing the severe disparity between advertisement spin and research-based knowledge, Tony has spent many years trying to identify and reconcile the difference. With Tony’s parents’ age beginning to show, his desire to investigate health-related topics has become a very personal one.

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