Edit ModuleShow Tags

Does Health Information Overload Sabotage Real Health?

Is Too Much Health Information Causing Confusion? | Food and Nutrition Magazine | Stone Soup Blog

Article author photo. Timi Gustafson, RD This featured post is by Timi Gustafson, RD, LDN, FAND. You can follow this blogger @TimiGustafsonRD.

Nutrition counselors know how frustrating it can be to give advice without it resulting in a desired outcome. We've seen our share of repeat customers and "dropouts" — clients who eventually give up on weight control, regular exercise and improving their lifestyle choices.

What's behind these results? A 2014 study based on data from the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey found that conflicting or contradictory diet and health information in the media made recipients more likely to ignore or dismiss even widely accepted recommendations.

Participants in the survey who had the greatest exposure to inconsistent information expressed the most confusion about nutrition matters, according to Dr. Rebekah Nagler, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication and lead author of the study report. "Greater confusion was associated indirectly with backlash against nutritional advice in general, as indicated by agreement with statements such as 'Dietary recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt,' or 'Scientists really don't know what foods are good for you,'" Nagler wrote. 

Similar reactions were found with regards to the importance of exercise and the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Another reason why some people give up so easily on health advice may be that desired results often don't come as quickly as we'd like. If it doesn’t work right away, this line of thinking goes, there must be something wrong with the particular regimen or lifestyle change. But straightforward solutions are usually hard to come by.

A study from Wageningen University in the Netherlands used a web-based survey of 241 adults and found that oversimplifying descriptions in black and white terms — "good for you" and "bad for you," or "healthy" and "unhealthy" — can also hinder successful weight management and adherence to better eating habits. "All or nothing responses to minor dietary transgressions" can frustrate the best of intentions, according to Aikaterini Palascha, a nutritionist and behavioral scientist and the study's author. Dichotomous thinking and rigid dietary restraints are often a crucial factor in people's inability to maintain healthful diets and weight control, she says.

What makes most people deviate from good eating patterns is not so much that they are confused, but rather that they are conflicted. Tweet thisWe may want a magical formula for weight loss and other health issues, but no such thing exists. However, that doesn't mean we are at a complete loss. To the contrary. Experts, including Dr. David Katz, believe there already is sufficient consensus on what individuals can do (to use one of Dr. Katz's favorite quotes from author Michael Pollan: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.") to make the necessary changes to overcome, or at least diminish, our current obesity crisis and many related diseases.

But because this involves hard work and education, people may be tempted to let it all go. But that's a decision based on how much we are willing to invest in our well-being — not a matter of confusion about how we should go about accomplishing it.

Timi Gustafson, RD, LDN, FAND, is a clinical dietitian and author of the book, The Healthy Diner: How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun, which is available on her blog, Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

(Photo: Jamie Grill/Hemera/Thinkstock)

Edit Module
blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stone Soup

9 Nutrition Tips to Reduce Risk of Colorectal Cancer

9 Nutrition Tips to Reduce Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Diet and nutrition are always hot topics when it comes to colon cancer. But what does the science actually say? Here are the basics on a diet for a healthy colon.
Warm and Sweet Lentil Skillet with Roasted Cauliflower

Warm and Sweet Lentil Skillet with Roasted Cauliflower

Lentils aren’t showy on their own, but can be a nice base for adding other flavors. The result can be smooth, thick, creamy, chewy or al dente. Here’s an easy one-pot meal recipe that’s sure to warm you up.
English-inspired Malted Wheat Rolls

English-inspired Malted Wheat Rolls

After years of baking breads, muffins and pastries, I thought I’d encountered every form of wheat on the planet, but I was wrong! Enter malted wheat flakes.
My Pillars of Well-Being

My Pillars of Well-Being

I practice a special kind of meditation on an almost daily basis. Perhaps meditation isn’t the right word since it doesn’t require me to sit in silence with my eyes closed and legs crossed or anything like that. It’s more a form of taking stock of where my life is going at any particular time.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Advertise with Food & Nutrition
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Stone Soup

Guest bloggers from around the world share with Food & Nutrition Magazine.

About This Blog

Stone Soup is a guest blog written by members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Content — including information, recipes and views expressed — is that of the authors and does not reflect the positions or policies of Food & Nutrition Magazine or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bloggers are required to pledge they will not write for Stone Soup on topics, companies or trade organization they currently represent or have represented at any time.

Learn about our guest blogs!

Comments Policy

Food & Nutrition Magazine provides this forum to exchange ideas, opinions and contributions within a positive community. Diverse viewpoints and constructive, respectful dialogue are welcome. Rudeness, misinformation, self-promotion and abuse are not. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate this policy or our Terms & Conditions. You must include your name or be logged into a personal account on Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to comment.


Edit Module

Get Stone Soup in Your RSS

Use your RSS reader's instructions to add Stone Soup to your list:

Atom Feed Subscribe to the Stone Soup Feed »

Get Our Blogs in Your Email

Stone Soup
Student Scoop