Nutrition Research: How to Tell If It’s Good or Bad


It’s hard to write about nutrition research without boring you to tears (does reading that make you want to stop reading? Don’t!), but this is an uber important one.

I can’t tell you enough how much sexy conversation I’ve had at a dinner party, because of some tidbit found in a medical journal. {Tweet this!}

If you’re looking to market yourself as a nutrition expert or wellness authority, you gotta know your nutrition research sources.

If you’re gonna talk the talk, figuring out who you can trust and telling the difference between good info and “magical” medicine requires a little (dry as it may be) foundation.

You gotta know your meta from your anecdotal from your observational. Eyes closing already? Try to stay awake. Grab a cuppa joe if you need to. Your future audience has to know you’re trustworthy.


If I say “diet is more powerful than exercise in losing weight, because I see it all the time in my practice,” I’m giving you anecdotal evidence. It’s based on my experiences.

When you’re looking to spread anecdotal word, make sure your source is one you really trust, and give them a nod to let your audience know your prose is cred worthy.


Looking at a group in their natural setting, without doing anything to interfere with what’s going on, is observational research.

Usually info for these studies comes from having people fill out surveys or studying population information.

I convince my clients to drink more green tea because observational studies have found more than 5 cups a day are linked to longevity. Probably the most well known observational study is the National Health and Examination Study (NHANES), it’s been looking at Americans since the 60’s.


I’m not going to tell my clients to make any revolutionary changes because of research that only comes from animal studies, but I may use it to make a point.

Knowledge we get from animals is useful, but the info gathered doesn’t directly translate from monkey to man. {Tweet this!}

Maybe I’ll say, “we’re still figuring out how stress affects us. Studies in mice show that stress plays a role in weight gain.” It helps me explain to a client who is up on the scale, inspite of strong food journals, how a stressful week may be to blame for her gain. Animal studies are great at isolating variables. You can stress one group of mice out and not the control group and watch for differences.

We’re not mice. Our lives have many variables, so it’s hard to make conclusions about weight or wellness based solely on stress or any one factor!

Meta Analysis:

Finally, a meta analysis is often the strongest research we nutritionists have.

This research piles up all of the independent research to make conclusions and I use meta research findings when I tell clients mindful eating is more helpful than calorie counting in weight loss.

Of course, none of this interesting (told you you’d enjoy this read) research amounts to a pile of beans without your critical thinking self.

If what you are reading doesn’t make sense to you, make sure there is data to support it before you blindly believe.

You gift your community if you can take this science and present it in a way that helps others. So go spread the word with good science as your cornerstone, you wellness guru, you!

  • Interested in joining our wellness community and becoming a Nutritious Life Master Certified Nutrition and Wellness Coach? Enter your info, get free access now to a sample class!

    I would like to receive text messages, and agree to the Terms of Service & Privacy Policy. Reply STOP to cancel, HELP for help. Msg & data rates may apply. Msg frequency varies.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

you might also like