Nutrimedia, a project of the University Pompeu Fabra, provides scientific assessments on the studies behind nutrition messages. The first six messages assessed provide conclusions about antioxidant supplements, alcohol, fruits and vegetables, Danacol, sugar and palm oil.
The Observatory of Scientific Communication of the Pompeu Fabra University has launched Nutrimedia, a website that aims to analyze the degree of scientific confidence deserved by certain messages on food and nutrition disseminated through the media and social networks.
The results of the evaluations will be gradually published with data and scientific criteria to help citizens make informed decisions about it. The project has the support of experts in evidence-based medicine (MBE), nutrition and evaluation of scientific findings related to Ibero-America Cochrane Center, and with the support of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT).
In the first phase a selection of myths, current news and announcements on food and nutrition will be evaluated. In addition, questions raised by the public will be analyzed and answered. In total there will be 30 posts, six of which have already been published.
The summaries of evaluations, written in affordable and informative language, are presented with the following structure: contextualization of the message, verdict of the evaluation, justification of conclusion, degree of confidence in the results of the studies and, in some cases, complementary information. For those who want to know more details, the full technical report is also available.
According to the creators, “Nutrimedia is the only source of information on food and nutrition in Spanish that applies a scientific assessment method to establish the degree of confidence or quality of evidence behind each message“.
Demand real food and nutrition messages
To conduct the assessment, the authors identify and select the most relevant studies on each issue. Then, they analyze the degree of confidence the results deserve using the GRADE system (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation), a proven methodology that classifies the level of certainty of health messages in high, moderate, low and very low.
Finally, the assessment of the accuracy of each message is classified into five degrees: true, probably true, probably false, false and uncertain. So far, some of the evaluations published show: “Antioxidant supplements prevent disease” is probably false; “Moderate drinking is beneficial to health” is false; “To stay healthy it is better to eat more than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables” is probably true; “Danacol reduce high cholesterol up to 10%” is true; “Sugar added to food is harmful to health” is probably true; “Palm oil is more harmful to health than other fats of similar use” uncertain (there is a lack of studies analyzing this topic and those available are of very low quality).
According to experts, one of the peculiarities in nutrition is that most studies are observational, and they often provide low-quality scientific evidence. Additionally, many any questions of interest have been little or no studied, or the available results are uncertain and do not allow conclusions or recommendations.