I’m awful, awful beyond words at writing introductions. So let’s move on to the main part right away.
Marton et al (2020) examined the best-selling books on Google Books in the “Health and Fitness” category. They looked at the top 100 diet and nutrition-focused books. Here are the occupations of the best-selling authors:
Something’s fucky here. The best-qualified people to write nutrition-focused books — dietitians — are at the bottom of the list while all the quacks are leading the pack. All the authors with little to no training in nutrition are the ones who the general population takes nutritional advice from.
But there is more. The researchers evaluated the profile, careers, and claims of some of the authors:
- One author was listed by Quackwatch in a list of “Promoters of Questionable Methods and/or Advice.”
- One author was investigated for research fraud and then retired.
- One author lost his ability to practice medicine and was investigated by the New York district attorney for promoting questionable health practices.
- One author received several letters of warning from the United States Food and Drug Administration.
- One author was convicted for misrepresenting the content of his books among other crimes and went to the goddamn jail.
And when quacks like these write books we get outlandish claims a.k.a “rubbish” like “Carbs are destroying your brain,” “Battling breast cancer? Consuming soy is associated with prolonged survival,” “Eat up to 75 percent of your calories each day in fat for optimal health, reduction of heart disease, and cancer prevention.”
Although one book, The Carb Lovers Diet, claimed something that I would call the gold standard for balanced eating: “Eating pasta, bread, potato, and pizza will actually make you happier, healthier, and thinner—for good.” I say fuckin’ A and approve it!
Spot-on. The vast majority of nutritional advice on the web sucks so much that it could teach things that suck how to suck. A 2002 systematic review investigated 79 studies and found that health information online is a huge problem (social media included).
You see, if you are Jason Fung, Paul Saladino, Mark Sisson, Eric Berg, Dave Asprey, or Gary Taubes, you have all the time in the world to write pseudoscientific garbage books.
But if you are a registered dietitian working with clients in-person for 6 hours a day, that’s 6 hours you could have been writing a book or making reels for IG or TikTok to dispute quacky claims made by the previously mentioned quacks (it’s clear as a bell that I’m in love with this word today).
The advantage goes to non-practitioners who know jack-shit about nutrition and will lie to you and say whatever they need to say to get you to buy their products.
But how do you surf through all the garbage? How do you distinguish between good and crappy nutritional advice?
Unless you are up for improving scientific literacy and acquiring basic skills for judging the quality of the information, I’m afraid, it comes down to sheer luck. Sometimes you just stumble upon the right person on Instagram and it snowballs from there.
I came across Alan Aragon years ago and nutrition got infinitely easier for me. No more lunatics claiming that basically everything — carbs, fat, protein, sugar, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, fructose, etc. — is bad for ya.
P.S. The more novel the information or advice sounds, for example, eating raw bull testicles to improve health as steroid-infused liver king suggests, the more nonsense it is. Also, if one single factor such as insulin or carbs is presented as the cause of your weight loss struggles, it’s nonsense too. Plug your fingers into your ears and run.
P.P.S. If you want to bypass all of the nonsensical weight loss information and avoid common beginner mistakes, apply for my 1×1 Coaching Program where my goal is to be at your side the entire way, helping you to avoid scams and pitfalls that most people fall into.
Originally published by me on Medium on December 7, 2022