Does it ever feel like you can barely keep up with the latest nutrition news and research? The internet is littered with nutrition and health information that ranges from downright dangerous to helpful and interesting.
Here at Appetite Communications, we take an evidence-based approach to developing nutrition and health content. When we scour online resources for reliable health and nutrition information, we ask basic questions like:
- Who or what organisation is providing the information and Is the source reputable?
- Is the information provided based on facts like research or is it a case study or anecdotal or opinion-led piece?
- Is the information balanced enough to give context to previous research and information?
- Is the organisation or author trying to sell you something or are they independent?
Nutrition research comes in many forms and can be conducted in many different ways – it’s our job to help determine the best and most robust information about food, drinks, health and related issues. Research can come in different sizes, such as:
Randomised control trials:
These are seen as the gold standard in research as they eliminate research bias by randomising the trial participants to the “treatment” or “control” group to measure whether factors outside of the dietary treatment impacted the response seen.
These investigate the links between risk factors, dietary factors or health outcomes in a large group – known as a cohort – tracked over time. Long term cohort studies are sometimes called longitudinal studies.
These observe the effect of a risk factor, dietary factor, treatment or other intervention without trying to change who is or isn’t exposed to it. While cohort studies can also be observational studies, observational studies don’t have to observe an effect over time and may just study a factor of interest at one point in time.
These refer specifically to studies done in a lab. These studies range from simple experiments using equipment such as spectrometers or microscopes to more complex studies involving animals, such as mice or rats.
The good news is that with a bit of basic understanding and a few nifty sources and tools, staying up to date with evidence-based nutrition news can be relatively simple.
#1 Credible nutrition information source: Examine
Find it: Examine
Examine is run by a team of scientists who provide various paid subscription services to receive up-to-date nutrition and supplement information. The most useful is the nutrition research digest, which is a monthly peer-reviewed report of the most important nutrition and supplement research from the past 90 days.
Study analyses are quite in-depth, so you need time to read the digest. The downside to this service is it can only be received monthly, which may be too long to wait to stay up-to-date. Also, the information here tends to be general and doesn’t cater to very specific business interests.
Sometimes, it just isn’t helpful to get all the latest information about gut health when you really only need to know about new research related to nuts and gut health. As such, Examine is more useful for someone who wants to stay on top of general nutrition research. The great news is that Examine has a whole lot of free nutrition content to check if you have a particular topic you want to know more about, for example intermittent fasting.
#2 Credible nutrition information source: Science Daily
Find it: Science Daily
Science Daily collates press materials and journal articles to synthesise breaking study results into short, easy-to-read articles. There are sections dedicated to all sorts of scientific topics, including nutrition.
We recommend subscribing to their nutrition newsletter or any of their other newsletters that suit your needs, perhaps “consumer behaviour” or “children’s health” could be other topics you might be interested in.
Note that you only get an email if a new article is uploaded, which for nutrition is normally only a couple of times a week, not every day.
#3 Credible nutrition information source: The Conversation
Find it: The Conversation
The Conversation is a news publication website sourcing material from academics at universities. The Conversation offers weekly and daily newsletters across a range of topics, however if you want specific nutrition content it’s best to make an account and search for a topic that interests you, such as obesity. There you can click the star icon to follow this topic to have it appear in your feed. Some good general topics to star include: nutrition, obesity, and diet though you may also want something more specific to your field, for example supermarkets or food waste.
Most articles are written by the authors of the research study reporting their own results, therefore some of the content can lack the objectivity that a third-party author may provide. Articles on The Conversation are more like opinion pieces than news pieces, however they do keep readers up to date with the latest research and trends, allowing you to further the explore the original research should you be interested.
A downside of The Conversation is that you don’t get a nice newsletter in your inbox but rather have to go to the website and scroll through your feed to get the news.
#4 Credible nutrition information source: ABC Health Report podcast
ABC Health Report podcast
For those who commute or simply prefer to listen to the news rather than read it, the Health Report podcast provides an objective summary of three health-related research stories each week. The content is not always related to nutrition, but every couple of weeks there’s a relevant story so it’s worthwhile to scan the title for relevance and choose whether it’s worth listening to or not. ABC presenter Norman Swan interviews the researchers and doesn’t shy away from asking pressing questions and picking apart the results. Transcripts are also made available after the show with links to the research study, which can be helpful as well.
Tools to collate and search for relevant nutrition information
Find it at: PubMed
PubMed is a free search engine for life science and biomedical journals. On PubMed you can set up “saved searches” where PubMed will search for new articles containing your specified search terms. You can set up alerts weekly or daily to receive an email with all the new papers published that meet your search terms.
What’s great about Pubmed is that you can hone in on any super-specific business needs. For example, if you only need to know about all the research related to nuts and gut health, you may use nuts AND microbiome as your search terms and all other unrelated research would be filtered out.
The negative of Pubmed is that you still need to read and analyse the article yourself, as opposed to other services that provide a “pre-digested” summary for you. Also, depending on the journal, some articles require payment for access, so without paying you will only be able to see the abstract rather than the full study.
Find it at: Google Alerts
Similar to your PubMed saved searches, you can set search terms for Google to alert you on any news including your terms. You will need a Google account to set this up and it’s best to get really specific with your terms to make it as useful as possible.
Generic terms such as “diet” or “nutrition” are unlikely to be helpful as you will get all the results from the media. For example setting “nutrition” as the search terms comes up with “16 Delicious and Nutritious Purple Foods” as the first hit. Try some searches relevant to your business needs – if you need to stay on top of the research around breakfast consumption in Australian teens, you might use breakfast teens as your search term and filter to only results from Australia. You can set the frequency to weekly or daily, language, country of publication etc to make sure you’re getting targeted results. Google alerts collate media results, so you might get irrelevant results and need to manually filter through to find the best articles.
Find it at: Twitter lists
Another useful way to stay on top of new nutrition research is to find a few people on Twitter who consistently share new research and add them to a Twitter list within your own Twitter account. You can then monitor this list as a separate feed from your main Twitter feed. Who you want on this list will depend on what type of research you want to see so have a look around and find your “tribe”.
While these tools are all helpful in different ways and using some combination of them will work, staying up to date with nutrition and health research can be time-consuming and labour-intensive . Our team at Appetite are experts in keeping up to date on key nutrition issues, helping our clients with news for content creation, issues preparedness or feeding into product innovation. Get in touch to find out how we can keep you informed.