Hypotheses vs. Conclusions

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You may have read the blog entry that Joanne recently wrote in which she discusses the dangers of believing everything written about nutrition on the internet without considering the source.  One of the reliable sources of nutrition information online is the blog that Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN writes for boston.com.  In a recent post entitled “Do Sugar Substitutes Cause Cancer?” she discusses the widely-held belief that artificial sweeteners cause cancer, the historical roots of this belief, and the lack of any credible research whatsoever to support this belief.

Apologies to my former English professors who would frown at my decision to use “belief” three times in a single sentence, but I did so to emphasize my point: one of the main reasons that online nutrition information is often faulty is because the messages being conveyed are really just beliefs, theories, ideals, or hypotheses disguised as facts or well-supported conclusions.

Last month, I attended the Cardiometabolic Health Congress.  For four days, I sat in what might as well have been a series of statistics classes.  The presenters understood that the credibility of information rests on the quality and quantity of research supporting it.  Reliable information, like Joan Salge Blake writes about and Joanne and I use in our counseling, is founded on an evidence-based research approach.  The ethics of our profession demand it.

The authors of most website content, however, are bound to no such standards and are free to write whatever they please.  The result is that hypotheses are often misrepresented as conclusions despite the void of supporting data.  Remember this the next time you read about nutrition online.  Ask yourself who the author is, what his or her credentials are (if any), and be suspicious of claims that are not backed by reputable research.  If you get confused or have questions, ask one of us.  That’s what we are here for, and we are happy to help!

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