Americans hunger for nutrition, diet advice from the Internet

internetAtlanta - More Americans are turning to the Internet for nutrition and diet advice than ever before.

Fifty-one percent of the 147 million adults who use the Internet look for nutrition information, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Nutrition seekers tend to be women, college-educated and have six or more years of using the Internet. The Pew survey calls these people "power users" who are motivated to find information that relates to actions they might need for specific medical issues in their lives and those of their family and friends.

As you make your New Year's resolution to eat more healthfully, consider some free nutrition advice provided on reputable websites. I stress the word reputable because nutrition quackery thrives on the Internet.

Let's look at a few common health issues and evaluate a few websites that give sound dietary information.

Concern: You have high blood pressure, and you want to try lifestyle changes before you try drugs.

Recommended website: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, nhlbi.nih.gov. Type DASH in the search box.

Pros: The DASH plan lowers blood pressure most effectively in those with pre-hypertension or moderate high blood pressure. The diet consists of foods that contain high levels of calcium, potassium and magnesium, with a modest restriction in salt.

Cons: The site is not user-friendly, but the advice is. Your best bet is to print out the entire PDF of the diet plan if your printer can handle the 60-plus-page document.

Concern: You have high blood cholesterol level, but you want to try a dietary approach to lower cholesterol.

Recommended website: The portfolio eating plan at portfolioeatingplan.com.

Pros: This eating plan is the brainchild of University of Toronto researchers who combined foods known to lower cholesterol in a "portfolio" of soy, almonds, plant sterols (Take Control or Benecol margarines) and fiber-rich foods. Cholesterol levels can be lowered to levels approaching what is achieved with statin drugs.

Cons: This diet plan is close to being vegetarian, which might not appeal to everyone.

Concern: You want to improve your eating habits, but don't know where to start.

Recommended websites: my pyramid.gov or 5aday.gov.

Pros: Both sites contains a wealth of information on eating healthfully. The My Pyramid site lets you track your activity and diet and analyzes the results. The Five-a-Day site contains useful ideas and recipes to help you eat more fruits and veggies.

Cons: The My Pyramid site contains so much information you will need to spend time navigating the site to uncover all of its secrets. The diet analyzer can be slow!

The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests you use these guidelines to help you evaluate a nutrition or health site.

  • Consider the source: Read the About Us page to know who is running the site.
  • Focus on quality: Check to see if the site has an editorial board of professionals who review content.
  • Be a cyberskeptic: Don't believe everything you read. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • Look for proof: Look for evidence, not personal testimony.
  • Check the date: Nutrition and health information change rapidly, so check the date to know when information is posted.
  • Beware of bias: Know who is funding the site and what its purpose is.
  • Protect your privacy: Reputable sites have a policy.
source Denver Post