Meadville Tribune

Our Generation

March 7, 2009

HEALTH: Surfing for a better diet

By MICHELE KAYAL

For The Associated Press



With so many nutrition-related Web sites clamoring for your attention, sorting through the pile to find impartial and safe information can be frustrating enough to send you on a drive-thru binge.

Here are some basic tips for sussing out sites that are worth the click.

As a general rule, sites with the extensions .gov, .edu and sometimes .org contain accurate, unbiased information, says Jeanne Goldberg, a professor of nutrition science at Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition.

But legitimate commercial sites — usually with .com endings — can be more user-friendly.

The trick with commercial sites is to look for a stamp of legitimacy, Goldberg says, such as an affiliation with a well-known organization, and to avoid being sucked into a sales gimmick.

The best sites for general health and nutrition offer multiple tools, such as calculators for calories, carbohydrates and body mass index, meal planning charts and comprehensive information on individual ingredients and products.

As with all research online, try to verify the source of the information. The most important thing is to look at the site's sponsor, says Gail Woodward-Lopez, associate director at the University of California-Berkeley's Center for Weight and Health.

For instance, food manufacturers or lobbying groups, which often use .org extensions, may have conflicts of interest, such as extolling the virtues of products, treatments or even other sites that they have a financial interest in. If the site belongs to an individual, be clear on the person's credentials.

Also, try to use sites that offer evidence for their advice, such as studies or footnotes that allow you to evaluate the source. And avoid sites that offer a "silver bullet."

"If they point to one very specific food as if it's the solution, or a specific vitamin or mineral, that's a red flag," Woodward-Lopez says. "If it's too much of a dream come true, it probably is a dream."

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