Evaluating Online Health and Nutrition Information

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Where do you get answers for your health and nutrition questions?   Surveys show that almost 90% of respondents initially turn to online resources and websites – usually found through a popular search engine like Google.   The number of results and links can certainly be daunting, but more so which sites you can trust to provide credible, up to date, and evidence backed information.   Nutrition related information and claims on the web is abundant and quite frankly, overwhelming.   So how do you know what info to trust?  This is a question often asked by students – many future health professionals – and one that I hope they leave a nutrition course better equipped to evaluate.  Chapter 1 in our text addresses how and where to find credible sources of nutrition information and provides an activity that engages students in evaluating results from an internet search.  I was interested in this bulletin from the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Medicine that provided guidance for how to evaluate accuracy of online health information.   Along with other helpful advice on social media and health apps, they suggest asking these five questions about online sources – a good place to start and a good basis for a class discussion.   

  •     Who runs or created the site? Can you trust them?
  •     What is the site promising or offering? Do its claims seem too good to be true?
  •     When was the information written or reviewed? Is it up to date?
  •     Where does the information come from? Is it based on scientific research?
  •     Why does the site exist? Is it selling something?


About the Author
Jamie Pope, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University, has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, heart disease prevention, and since 2000 teaching introductory nutrition. Beyond the classroom, she adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course attracting more than 175,000 participants from around the world. This experience earned Jamie an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is the co-author of the textbook entitled Nutrition for a Changing World. Now in its second edition, the text is in use in over 140 universities across the U.S. and the recipient of a 2020 Textbook Excellence Award. Most recently she developed and produced an audio course for Learn25.com (Nutrition 101: Understanding the Science and Practice of Eating Well) that is also featured on platforms like Apple Books and Audible. Jamie holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and post graduate work in Health Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Jamie is an active member and serves on the board of the Textbook and Academic Authors Association. She has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. Jamie also held several corporate positions, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.