Health & Wellbeing
Nutrition and the Net
Christine Meissner
Christine Meissner

Have you or a family member been recently diagnosed with a nutrition related illness? Like most Americans you may consult the internet for help with treatment ideas or to prepare for a doctor’s appointment.

Recent Pew Research found that 72% of internet users searched for health information online during the past year – including nutrition information. The web can be a valuable resource, but consumers need to become “cyberskeptics” in order to distinguish the good from the bad.

How do you know if the website you are reading has credible nutrition information? The National Institutes of Health has several important questions you should ask when you are visiting a website.

1. Who is providing the website information?

When visiting a website, look for the “About Us” section. A credible health and nutrition website will have an editorial board with doctors, dietitians and nurses listed. Good sites use medical research provided by trained professionals, not opinions. Watch out for fake credentials and degrees. A qualified nutrition expert will have the title “registered dietitian (RD).”

2. Is the information timely?

A credible website will update information regularly. New nutritional treatments are developed as research evolves and web sites should include dates materials are posted, reviewed or updated. Dates are usually found at the bottom of the page. Find a more recently updated site if the information is more than a year old.

3. Is my privacy protected?

Use caution if a web site asks you for personal information. Each site should have a privacy policy for your review. Be careful if the site states it will share your information with other organizations.

Health on the Net Certification

Health on the Net (HON) is an agency that gives its endorsement to health websites that have been evaluated, using strict criteria. Once approved HON allows the site to use their seal of approval on the site. The sites are reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain true to the code of ethics. Watch for this seal on your internet searches.

Get Started Now

Still unsure how to get started with safer web surfing? Here are a few credible nutrition and health web sites to get you started.

In conclusion, finding credible nutrition information on the web requires a critical eye. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid miracle cures based on testimonials rather than medical research. Assess if the information is “too emotional” or “too good to be true.” Most importantly, check with your own physician, nurse or dietitian before trying any new treatments or therapies.

Reference: Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/
Accessed August 5, 2013

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