Updated March 7th, 2022
How can you be sure that the nutrition and cancer information you’re reading is reliable, accurate and evidence-based? Or simply put, a resource that you can trust? From books and magazines to online news and blogs, there are countless publications that provide nutrition advice. Many of these sources can be trusted, but some contain false information. And knowing how to decipher between the two is crucial.
Some of the false information could be harmful to your health, lead to false hopes or even waste your money. When looking at cancer and nutrition resources, follow the steps below to help you determine if you can trust the information you’re reading.
1. Consider the source
Organizations such as the American Institute for Cancer Research, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cook For Your Life and the National Cancer Institute are all reliable sources because they use evidence-based research for their recommendations.
Be sure to look at the website URL when evaluating a source. Websites ending in .gov or .edu can often be trusted, but commercial sites, or sites that end in .com, may not always be a trustworthy source.
The most trusted organizations will have expert panels who have reviewed the information, so it can be helpful to look at the experts behind the website. For example, if the site focuses on nutrition and cancer, do the experts include registered dietitians who work in the cancer field?
2. Look for “red flags”
Does the information on the site promote a “quick fix” or unrealistic claim? Look out for key words like “guaranteed results,” “breakthrough” or “cure all.” If it sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is. Beware of advice that promotes cutting out specific food groups, focusing on specific foods or using supplement to relieve your nutrition related problems.
Is the information presented based on up-to-date, rigorous scientific research or is it a personal success story? While a personal story may be compelling, it is rarely an appropriate solution for everyone. Instead you should look for scientific resources and evaluate the publication’s references. Is the advice based on a single research study or multiple studies? The more research that is completed and referenced, the more reliable the information. Always be sure the research is thorough.
3. Research the author’s credentials or qualifications
Do your own research on who is writing the information you’re reading. Just as you would ask a licensed pharmacist about the new drug you have been prescribed, the same principle applies for nutrition.
For health advice, it’s best to seek out an expert in the field. A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) holds a degree related to nutrition and dietetics, has completed an accredited supervised practice program, passed a national exam and maintains registration with continuing professional education requirements. Some registered dietitians hold specialized certifications in various areas of nutrition practice, such as a CSO or certified specialist in oncology cancer.
4. Check the date on the website and article
Look for a date on the website of when it was last updated, or the date of when the article was written. The most reliable sources are kept up-to-date.
The American Institute for Cancer Research is the national leader in cancer prevention research and education. Some of AICR’s most popular resources include AICR’s 10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention and AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer which were created using the information from our latest Global Diet and Cancer Research Report. Other websites that provide reliable nutrition information include, but are not limited to, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institutes of Health, and USDA (Nutrition.gov).
When using nutrition information to help you make significant changes in your diet or make decisions about your health, it is vital to keep your healthcare provider informed. Share information that you have found with your dietitian or doctor and talk about changes that you are wanting to make together.