How The Media Shapes What You Know (or think you know) About Food

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A few years ago a journalist contacted me regarding a story she was writing for a national health magazine. Her assignment was to highlight that a gluten-free diet was more nutritious than a gluten-containing diet and was indeed weight-loss promoting. Immediately a red flag went up but my ears were wide open.

Her question for the expert (that would be me) was, “Can you please offer insight into the superior nutrition of flours without gluten versus those containing it?”

My response after my initial aggravation wore off (I knew what she was looking for), “By the time a grain gets to a flour, there isn’t much nutrition to write home about. In fact, there is absolutely no way that I can tell you that tapioca flour (gluten-free) is more nutritious than barley flour (gluten-containing). And if you tell your readers that a gluten-free diet is more nutritious than it’s counter-cousin without qualification you are doing this nation a disservice. Most people will read your article, think that the gluten-free diet is their healthy ticket to weight loss and have no idea how to navigate it. They will buy into gluten-free products that are really no more nutritious than any other processed food and think that they are super charged for health support and on the road to skinny.”

Don’t get me wrong I was very kind in conversation yet clear and assertive. The journalist thanked me for my time and said she would circle back if she planned to include my thoughts in her article.  As expected, no peep from her but rest assured she got the answer she needed to shape her article on “the superior nutrition of the gluten-free diet, right down to the flours from another expert.

As you surely know, experts are called on to offer “credibility” to anything food and nutrition in the news whether print, web, radio or broadcast. That’s how stories are shaped. But sadly, many tales are sensationalized and don’t tell the real truth, rather the partial truth (if that at all) about your eats, ultimately leaving you in the cross fire of mixed messaging.

I have seen many experts (including ones that I respect or once respected) give the media what they want rather than the real honest truth, whether on a food product, food fad, nutrition gimmick or simple dietary guidance. Sometimes, being seen and heard, even if bending the truth, is number one. And if not this, the media ends up twisting the expert’s words or taking them out of context in some way, shape or form.

As a result you are colossally confused. Who wouldn’t be? What the media has done and continues to do to anything and everything food and nutrition related is blasphemous. So, if you want real integrity when it comes to what you ingest, here are a few of my favorite resources that are super user-friendly for the layperson offering the latest information, backed by fact (and referenced studies) without leaving you too bewildered. So ditch mega-media and check these out:

  1. Nutrition Action Newsletter
  2. Environmental Nutrition
  3. Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter

I am surely not perfect but I strive for authenticity in my work and aim to tell the real truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to food and nutrition. So, if you have any questions or concerns, surely be in touch for a little honest advice.