Today’s post is an excerpt of an article originally published in the Fall 2014 edition of Nutrition Close-Up written by Kate Byers, MS, RDN. Kate is a nutrition communications consultant to the Egg Nutrition Center and writer. She publishes the blog Indulgent Wellness and contributes to the blog Smart Eating for Kids.
Whether working with patients or clients, writing content for a newsletter, publishing a blog or simply talking with family and friends, a solid understanding of how to critically evaluate and translate new research is not only important, it’s a professional’s responsibility. An article discussing a “proven” nutrition and health link might make your internal alarm bells ring, but not necessarily so for the general public, particularly when some media outlets sensationalize headlines to attract readers.
As a health professional, separating evidence-based information from mass media hype is a skill that should be leveraged to help consumers differentiate sound advice from misinformation. Here are steps to provide an overview of the research evaluation process:
• Consider the source
• Read the full text
• Understand article type and study design
• Dissect the data
• Brush up on statistics
• Know your reader (or listener)
• Boil it down
*For more information on how to execute each of these important steps, read more in Nutrition Close-Up (pages 4 & 7).
Key messages for health professionals evaluating the literature
• No matter the study design, remember that evidence-based nutrition advice is not based on a single study, regardless of strength of evidence.
• Read research articles in full (not just the abstract) and assess findings in the context of the investigation itself and within the larger body of evidence, paying close attention to study design.
• Translating scientific findings for the lay public requires the ability to explain a complex process in a succinct manner; narrow down evidence to the most impactful findings; and keep it in the context of the larger body of evidence.