Nutrition Sources You Might Not Be Able to Trust

Various sources of nutrition information may not be very reliable.

Article by Thomas Seest | 08 Nov, 2020

Article originally published on on 8/22/16. It has been heavily edited for re-publication.

Selective Listening is a phenomena wherein one only really pays attention to the parts of a conversation that interest them. We are probably all guilty of doing this from time to time, and if you're doing it more frequently it can be quite damaging to relationships. We don't recommend making it a habit in that case.

However, there are some times when not paying attention might be considered a good thing, especially when it comes to the world of nutrition. Sometimes you just can't trust the source of the information. Here are a few specific occasions when you might be a bit more selective in your listening:

Food Marketing Labels

Most food marketing labels are designed to promote or sell the product. Manufacturers throw around terms like "healthy," "natural," and "organic" (nowadays, even "low-carb" or "keto"), but government labeling standards usually only very loosely define these terms, and food processors are allowed to use them fairly freely and without any real consequence if it's not quite right. The best case scenario is to buy foods in their most natural form, which means there shouldn't be any label involved at all. If, for one reason or another, you do need to purchase a product with a fancy label, don't assume it's healthy just because it says so on the front of the package. Always look at ingredients to see if they fit into your lifestyle, and then make the best and most informed decisions that you can.

Food Nutrition Panels

The nutrition panels on the back of a box or container may give you the carb count, but they frequently don't tell the whole story. There are specific rules that must be followed in nutrition labeling, and those guidelines are usually fairly favorable to the manufacturer. For example, many ingredients that are known to spike glucose or insulin, and are as high or higher than sugar on the glycemic index, aren't required to be listed in the carb count at all. The unsuspecting ketonian may miss these hidden saboteurs if they only rely on the numbers listed on the nutrition panel. It is important to understand the government's nutritional labeling guidelines, and then make your purchasing decisions accordingly.

Food Ingredient Lists

Didn't we just get done telling you to read the ingredients? Yes, and we still advocate doing so, but there are some additional factors we feel it's important you understand. Food manufacturers want you to purchase their products and no government is in the business of making these transactions particularly difficult. The result is that both entities, world-wide, make a habit of obscuring the ingredients facts by renaming items to make the sound more acceptable. There are currently over sixty (60) different terms that food manufacturers use in their ingredient lists to avoid outright stating they've added sugar to a product. If you don't already know that cane juice is sugar, for instance, you can very easily be fooled into assuming there are no added sugars in a product. Thus, it is crucial to educate yourself on different ways an ingredient may named, and what it actually means. Luckily, we live in an age wherein most of this information is at the tip of our fingers. If you're in doubt about an ingredient, don't be afraid to look it up before you buy it. As always, it's better to purchase products that have plain, easy to understand labels and ingredients with which you're familiar.

Scientific Studies

Everyone loves to have their point of view backed up by the latest science. We appreciate the scientific method, and openly acknowledge that the latest and greatest in nutrition science that validates a ketogenic lifestyle is always exciting news. On the other hand, and as we have cautioned before, science can be done well or done poorly, and researchers and those who fund them are human beings with very human motivations. Be sure to understand that anyone can fund a study, and most studies (especially in the food arena) are frequently funded by food manufacturers or other organizations whose primary purpose is to sell you something. Once you understand that the motives behind any body of research may not always be pure, you can still learn things by reading these studies with the appropriate context in mind and a healthy dose of (very scientific) skepticism. It may also help to educate yourself on the methods used to conduct any study you read (researchers generally publish their methods and procedures with the results). Remember: a loosely-controlled, poorly-formulated study that seems to support your position is actually not good for your position.

Articles Written about Scientific Studies

Like the studies themselves, the articles that promote the results of scientific studies can be structured in a way that obscures important caveats or conclusions. In the low-carb community, we often witness some pretty bizarre headlines and ill-informed journalism; some downplay the effects of sugar and mistakenly place blame for insulin issues on fat, others continue to insist that saturated fats are the devil, and many reports inflate relatively insignificant or unclear correlations into evidence of direct causation. Remember that the reporters assigned to the nutrition beat may not be particularly well-versed in the subject at all, much less familiar with the methods and limits of various types of research. If you find a reporter that seems to accurately summarize the results of studies, and you find them informative, that can be wonderful. Otherwise, you might choose to selectively listen to their message.


We often hear that "they" say this, and "they" say that. Most of us got into our unhealthy mess to begin with because we listened to what "they" said. "They" often don't know what "they" are talking about, especially in regards to nutrition. Common knowledge is often incorrect. Don't assume a health tip is useful because you heard it from the grapevine.

Athletes and Those Who Have Never Struggled with Weight

This does not mean that thin or athletic people don't have anything to add to the weight loss conversation. Many have valuable advice about what is and isn't healthy, and it would be silly to dismiss them outright. It does, however, mean that lack of personal obesity experience in the perpetually fit can color their input in a way which may not always be helpful. If you are morbidly obese and your goal is fat loss, it's important to understand that not all experts have been where you are, and many may give advice that is based upon their own experience, and not necessarily the experience of people "like you." It's always important to avoid dismissing anyone out of hand, but it's also crucial to consider the source of any information and whether or not there might be a disconnect between the advice issued and your lived experience. Any expert that reduces struggles with weight to an input-minus-output equation, or insists all you need is a daily trip to the gym may not be equipped to help persons for whom fitness does not come easily.

Your Body

This may seem counterintuitive, but stick with it for a minute. Your body can communicate to you in many different ways; some are beneficial, other not so much. Many times, your body will send you a hunger signal when you are really just encountering stress, or you're bored, or it's the "time" on the clock you normally eat. If you have a history of insulin resistance, it's likely you may also have hormonal miscommunication with your leptin and ghrelin (the "full" and "hungry" hormones). You need to listen to your body, but also be aware that sometimes your body may be sending you a mixed up signal. Getting those signals straight so that you truly understand what your body is telling you is a process, and you might need some practice to get it right. That's okay! The longer you maintain a consistent ketogenic lifestyle, the more in-tune with your body you will be.


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