The Evolution Of Nutrition

By on September 18, 2014


Truth: Nutrition is always evolving. If you have any interest in nutrition, you’ve probably been caught directly in the middle of these changes. Remember fifteen years ago, when bread and pasta were the way to go? Flash forward to now, when low carbohydrate diets are used for a number of things, from weight loss to treating epilepsy. Low fat diets, though still recommended in some circles, were dealt a blow when a massive study on the Mediterranean diet linked increased intake of unsaturated fats with improved heart health markers. Does coffee cause or prevent cancer? We read a new take on this every few months. So what do you do with all of this? How do you (and I, for that matter), as a consumer, use this information to improve, not hurt, your health?


You have two choices in regards to finding and using nutrition information. 1) Contact a professional to educate you. 2) Educate yourself. If you are choosing Option 2 (which most of us do), put on your lab coats, and get comfortable evaluating the information. Your job is to determine the credibility of the nutrition information you are reading.


Here is a point that I hope doesn’t surprise you: Just because it is on the internet, and the person writing it sounds confident, doesn’t mean the information is true. The ever-expanding explosion of information across all of our available technologies can be very helpful, but it can also be very overwhelming to the average person. Don’t let that intimidate you into complacency. You need to hold yourself more accountable than you may think, and apply a critical eye to the information you find. In the end, this is YOUR health and YOU make the final decision. Put yourself in the best position possible to make the right one.


As a nutrition student, I have a few tactics I use in evaluating this information for myself. Here they are:


  • Read as many sources of information on a given topic as you can (or have made enough coffee to). Guess what? That intimidating abyss of information called the Internet can actually be used to your advantage. Your goal here is to establish a consensus, and identify any evidence that contradicts the recommendations you are researching. Logically, the greater the proportion of evidence supporting the information, the more you should consider putting it to use. If you aren’t familiar with something you read, that handy Internet is, again, directly at your disposal to find out what it is. Research EVERYTHING.


Consider the weight of the opposing evidence. As an example, you might read on several websites that consuming Aloe Vera juice orally cures a whole host of ailments. You have probably seen bottled beverages in the grocery store highlighting the addition of Aloe Vera. However, NCCAM (NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) publishes that Aloe Vera is recommended at this time for topical use only. This is because a study showed distinct occurrence of tumor growth in the large intestine of rats given the product orally. There simply isn’t a great deal of research exploring this potential negative effect. So, how concerned should you be? Should you panic, toss the Aloe Vera juice you just bought down the drain, and light the bottles on fire? Say you are someone who has a family history of colorectal cancer. Does it make sense to incorporate a product into your regular routine that has been shown in research studies to potentially cause tumor growth in the large intestine? Probably not. On the other side of this, you may have a friend that raves about drinking Aloe Vera juice, and regularly does so. You decide, despite the potential consequences, to give it a try. Ultimately, based on the research that YOU HAVE DONE, you have learned that oral consumption of Aloe Vera is still incomplete in its research, and there are therefore some unknown effects of doing so. You are accepting the unknown risks, along with the unknown benefits. Whatever your decision, this choice must be INFORMED. Which brings me to my next point…


  • Not all resources are created equal. We all want to believe the guarantees of websites claiming an “all natural weight loss supplement” that will help you lose “5 pounds a week”, complete with a photo of a gorgeous twenty-something with an eight-pack. “This could be YOU!” Unfortunately, our real-life experiences tell us that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If something is true, we want proof that it is. To accomplish this, we look for research-based information. If you’re not a nutrition nerd and into reading scientific articles on the subject, you can find sources that are essentially summaries of research. Some may be a summary on a single study, others may be what is called a “literature review”, covering information from MANY studies. These resources will site the articles containing this research, giving you a clear indicator that you’ve stumbled on research-based evidence.


One caveat: the risk you take with summarized research, is that you are essentially playing telephone. This is someone else’s interpretation of what they read. BE CAREFUL where you read these summaries, as some can be biased for a number of reasons. If you aren’t comfortable determining if a source is credible, ask around in an educated community to find the information sources that have proven successful for those people, and weed out the ones that haven’t.


  • There’s a new kid on the block. New research findings can be very exciting, especially when that research is a break-through on a topic that has been slow to progress. We tend to hear about these findings because the media will be quick to take advantage of the public’s inevitable interest. Take these on a case-by-case basis.


A strong cause and effect relationship holds more weight than a “there’s a slight possibility that there may one day be a potential connection between these factors” relationship. We are lucky when the connections are so clear. More often, it may be better to wait until more solid information becomes available. Again, do your research, and make an informed decision on these new findings.


Even with the endless supply of information available to us, and the tools to sift through it all, decision-making isn’t easy. Additionally, we aren’t all hermits perched atop our desk chairs with hoodies drawn, main-lining coffee while we comb the far corners of the internet for the latest and greatest study on the effects of turmeric consumption on cancer prevention. When time is short, and your decision-making muscles fail you, contacting a nutrition professional is a good place to start.


There are varying degrees of professional depending on what you are looking for. If you have a nutrition-related condition, ulcerative colitis for example, a Registered Dietitian is an appropriate choice, being educated in clinical nutrition. Nutritionists cover a broad category of capabilities and specialties, but some research into your options can find one that will suit your needs. Increasingly, fitness professionals are also gaining nutrition certifications to help their clients in balancing physical fitness with nutrition needs. These days, not only can you find published information on the internet, you can find nutrition professionals as well. Plenty are willing to answer questions on basic information, and some even conduct nutrition assessments and treatment through email. Just as with any health professional, do your research to find a reputable one to best help you. Another truth: With all of these options available to you, a dash of work and a pinch of practice make sound nutrition choices both possible and achievable.






Hartman AL, Vining EPG. Clinical aspects of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia. 2007; 48(1): 31-42.

NIH National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Aloe Vera. Available at: Accessed August 10, 2014.

Whayne TF. Ischemic heart disease and the mediterranean diet. Current Cardiology Reports. 2014; 16: 491.







Lindsey Earl

About Lindsey Earl

Lindsey Earl is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer at Titan CrossFit in Baltimore, Maryland, and student in Eastern Michigan University’s Master of Science in Dietetics program. She believes that every person deserves to achieve any potential they desire in life, and that a healthy mind and body are crucial to making this happen. She seeks to guide people to health through nutrition and fitness education and counseling.

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