Why Instagram Influencers Should NOT be Chosen as your Source of Nutrition Information
By Julia Liber, Registered Dietitian
“In order to lose weight, I need to lower the amount of fat I eat in a day”
“In order to lose weight, the amount of fat I eat in a day doesn’t matter, rather I need to lower the amount of carbs I eat in a day”
“In order to lose weight, I can eat whatever I want, yet I can’t eat before 11 AM, and I must stop eating before 7 PM”
What if I was to say that none of these statements are true? These statements sound so convincing, yet they are all trends. Think of fashion. What’s in style today won’t necessarily be in style in 10 years. The same idea follows for nutrition.
The low-fat diet was a popular trend in the 70s and 80s. Over the last couple of years, people have shifted towards other diet trends, such as the low carb keto diet, time-restricted eating regimes such as intermittent fasting along with many others. But if nutrition trends evolve as quickly as fashion trends, how can the truth change so quickly? Does it mean what’s true today is not what’s true tomorrow?
It’s fun to look at nutrition trends, yet just because a dietary pattern is trendy does not mean that it is recommended for your optimal health. So, if you shouldn’t use the trends as a basis for determining your eating habits, where are you supposed to find your nutritional knowledge? Can’t you just ask Siri? After all, she can tell you where you parked and where the closest nail salon is.
That’s where Registered Dietitians come in. Rather than obtaining your nutritional knowledge from Instagram influencers, magazine articles, YouTube and so forth, you should obtain your nutritional knowledge from us, dietitians. Why?
1. This is our field of expertise
We are competent trained professionals! After all, we have spent at least 3 and a half years of our lives studying nutrition. We received a degree in this field of study. As part of our training, it was required for us to complete 40 weeks of practical training via dietetic internships, so we have been trained to apply theory to practice.
Nutrition is a dietitian’s area of expertise. If your car is broken, you call your mechanic. If you need help with your taxes, you call your accountant. Would you go to an Instagram influencer to obtain information on filing your taxes? I didn’t think so. Dietitians ARE the source of nutrition information.
2. Evidenced-based practice
Ok, so you understand how dietitians studied nutrition, but you’re still feeling ambivalent. You know that this is their field of study. Yet, do dietitians know everything?
Of course, we don’t know everything! Would you ask your eye doctor for advice on blood pressure medication? Of course not, since this is not what the eye doctor specializes in. Similarly, with nutrition. Most dietitians have a specialty. Some specialize in heart health, some in kidney health, others in weight loss, some in sports nutrition and so forth. So, your best bet is to find a dietitian who specializes in helping people in the area in which you need help! So if you’re looking to maximize your energy when you run, seek a sports nutritionist rather than a heart health nutritionist!
Our credentials come along with professional responsibilities. When we carry the title “Registered Dietitian”, we are bound by a code of ethics. Part of our ethical responsibilities includes providing you with correct, accurate information. Furthermore, the dietetics profession is regulated by law. In order to call yourself a dietitian, you must be certified with a professional order. Professionals order require dietitians to successfully graduate in dietetics from a recognized university, as well as complete a certain number of hours of fieldwork and pass these internships.
4. No conflicts of interest
We are not marketing agents! Part of our code of ethics states that we cannot have conflicts of interest. Therefore, we would only provide nutrition recommendations that would be in YOUR best interest. For example, if you’re DMing an Instagram influencer for nutritional advice, some of these influencers may try to sell you nutritional products. Yet, these influencers likely don’t care whether you can benefit from the product since they generate a profit when you purchase the product. As dietitians, we are not allowed to partner up with supplement companies, sell you products and benefit from the sale. When we recommend products, supplements or therapeutic diets, you can be confident that we give you advice that is best for YOU, and that we don’t have any competing interests.
5. We are up to date on the current knowledge
Nutrition is an evolving field. Your friend is seeing a dietitian who graduated over 20 years ago. You begin to doubt the knowledge of your friend's dietitian. Yes, she studied in school. Yet the field has changed so much since she graduated, how can you be confident that the information she is giving is current?
As dietitians, we are required to be up to date with the latest nutritional knowledge. In fact, in order to keep our status as Registered Dietitians, we have a certain number of hours of continuing education which must be completed. This means that as the field of nutrition evolves, so do our teachings and our approaches, and we constantly adapt to the new knowledge.
Moral of the story: Registered Dietitians, rather than Instagram Influencers should be your go-to source of nutrition information. Due to our education, credentials as well as ethical responsibilities, we are in the best position to provide you with evidence-based, up-to-date, accurate and relevant information.
Do you have any specific nutrition-related questions? Want to learn more? Get in touch today!
Please note that:
The "Help Wanted" image has widely been circulation on social media, the author is unknown.
As I am Quebec based, all the information regarding ethics, regulations and professional responsibilities are pertaining to Quebec. This information does not necessarily apply to other regions.
The information presented in this article is intended for informational purposes only. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, or give specific medical advice. The information in this article is not intended as medical advice, medical nutrition therapy, or individualized nutrition. No content on this should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical or nutritional advice from your doctor or Registered Dietitian.