HEALTH & NUTRITION ADVICE

3 steps for avoiding fake health & nutrition advice

Cofounder Joe Welstead shares his tips to avoid falling for fake health and nutrition advice.

The world of wellness: at its roots, a simple and wonderful desire to live a fulfilling, healthy lifestyle in mind, body and spirit. And yet, the landscape of health and nutrition can be incredibly difficult and frustrating to navigate. Who to turn to for advice? One wellness guru after another gives us contradicting advice. It’s one thing to steer through this as adults, but imagine being a teenager today, hooked to your phone 247 and painfully worried about which refined starch may cause sugar face (!!!), or which plant based protein powder has the most BCAAs according to your seven favourite Vegan YouTubers (and which one to listen to!?). Hang on a minute. What are BCAAs even good for? Most social media influencers will have a heck of a hard time answering this simple question with grounded scientific backing. How can I be so sure? Well, the latest research suggests that BCAAs may not be quite so effective in improving muscle growth and recovery post workout, but a complete source of protein will do a much better job. Sure, a BCAA supplement will help, but it can only be the tip of the iceberg. (So if you’ve fallen for one of those new intra-workout BCAA supplements to help muscle synthesis, remember to check your basics and make sure you fuel yourself with a complete source of protein post workout, and simply worry about staying hydrated during your sessions). Consider a high quality BCAA supplement once you're doing the basics right. That was one example. There are a few fundamentals of sports nutrition that are firmly grounded and backed by multiple scientific studies. But the rest is often evolving as we advance in our understanding of the human body.

So how can you spot the truths from the fake health and nutrition advice? Here are three steps that may help you.

A. Influencers? Look out for Qualifications.

This is by no means a fail-proof step, but if we are going to listen to people’s health and nutrition advice online, we may as well seek qualified individuals. Looking for nutritional advice? Check out Rhiannon Lambert’s website; pay Miguel Toribio-Mateas a visit; flick through Ian Craig’s Wholesome Nutrition for You. These individuals are highly-qualified nutritionists. Speaking with them or reading their content, you will soon notice one commonality. They rarely go to extremes. They don’t broadcast a one-size-fits-all nutritional plan. Be wary of individuals giving such unilateral advice – particularly on a broadcasting social media platform with no knowledge of their followers’ unique requirements.
health and fitness advice Miguel is a Leading Researcher in Functional Nutrition. He is the nutritional expert behind Motion Nutrition formulations. He doesn't post selfies of his abs, though.

B. Brands? Look out for Certifications.

Qualifications are useful for individuals. Likewise, when it comes to brands, certifications can help differentiate the wheat from the chaff. The Soil Association provides one of the most rigorous Organic Certifications in the world. When choosing between one product and another, know that most claims made by conventional brands are not verified by any third party. In practice, this means brands can claim to sell grass-fed dairy products or to avoid the use of harsh pesticides on their crops, without any third party necessarily certifying this claim. On the contrary, the Soil Association guarantees exceptional levels of quality from soil to plate (or shake). Every single ingredient we use in our powders is certified at all processing stages. Every detail of our products’ packaging needs to comply with Organic regulations and depict a true image of what’s inside the bag. So even if we wanted to, we wouldn't be able to BS.

Here are a few interesting truths guaranteed by the Soil Association:

  • No system of farming produces dairy with higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids than organic dairy (so all those claims made by conventional products? Take them with a pinch of salt).
  • Over the last 50 years the UK has witnessed a steep decline in wildlife. Meanwhile, there is up to 50% more wildlife on organic farms than on non-organic farms. Worried about wildlife conservation? Choose organic.
  • Organically produced fruit & vegetables can contain up to 69% more antioxidants and lower levels of undesirable pesticides and potentially toxic heavy metals than their conventional counterparts. Choosing organic means choosing a richer nutritional profile and a safer product.
  • Concerned about climate change? Brands may give you their word that they are too, but here is one cold fact: if organic farming was common practice in the UK, we could offset at least 23% of the country's agriculture’s Green House Gas emissions through carbon sequestration alone. Crudely, that means more trees and biomass in and around farmland to naturally store carbon.

C. Be sceptical.

This is a great piece of advice from our friend Kemo Marriott. Spend a certain amount of time within the health & wellness world, and you’ll soon notice drastically varying advice from different (often self-proclaimed) influencers. The truth? There is so much we don’t yet know about health, fitness and nutrition. And in a way, this is hugely liberating. It means you can take most advice you read with a very sceptical eye. It means you don’t need to suddenly cancel your trip to Wholefoods and become a Breatharian (seriously?). Being sceptical means you don’t need to start frying all your meals in coconut oil because a handsome chap with great abs repeatedly told you to on Instagram. It means you don’t need to become a devoted raw vegan just because it appears to suit some folks on YouTube. Scientific results can be spun any number of ways when taken out of context. By being sceptical and questioning advice you are exposed to, whether it appears to be grounded by scientific research or not, you’ll become much less likely to be convinced by poor evidence. And since different pieces of advice can be so contradictory and change at such a rapid pace, by being sceptical you create space between yourself and this noise. You give yourself time to seek out truthful information that resonates with you. In Kemo’s words: “always be sceptical and be wary of anyone that gives you a definitive answer – even when their reasoning sounds scientific enough to convince you.” In other words, replacing common English with scientific jargon does not one expert make. ballet How do you spot a fraud from an expert? Tweet me your tips @joewelstead.