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Fight the Fads: How our students are removing fear surrounding diets and food

Posted on 12/12/2016

Fight the Fads is a myth busting group who debunk nutritional misinformation in the media and set records related to food and diet straight.

Started earlier this year by three of King’s Nutrition and Dietetics BSc students, they hope to use the latest evidence-based science to inform on nutrition, diet and health. Now in their third year, Elisabeth Cresta, Harriet Smith and Caroline Day are passionate about not just addressing, but correcting misinformation in the media.

Rather than just pointing out what’s wrong, we’re trying to connect with people and explain the facts says the group.

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There was an article earlier this year about ten vegetables that are bad for you with no scientific evidence behind the claims, so we came back with the same ten vegetables but with the take of why they’re good for you. The original article has since been removed from many well-known publishers.

As well as providing nutritional information, the group has recently started a petition to have the term Nutritionist protected.

Dietitian is a protected title, this means to practise as a dietitian you need to have completed an accredited degree course to allow registration with the Health Care Professions Council. Nutritionist though is not currently protected, so even though we're studying alongside students who are working very hard to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, someone without a university degree can also legally call themselves a nutritionist.

Most worrying is that we've seen short courses, sometimes only half a day, listed on discount shopping sites offering an ‘accredited nutrition qualification’ on completion. In most cases enrolment does not require any formal science qualifications.

It’s very concerning that through social media and sensationalised headlines the general public are following the nutrition advice of unqualified individuals.

In starting the petition we hope that people will become more aware of what nutritionists and dietitians do, and for registered nutritionists and dietitians to become the gold standard experts that the media will publish for nutritional advice.

Since launching the petition, Fight the Fads have received nearly 5,000 signatures; 1,000 of which were received in the first 24 hours. They need 10,000 for the government to respond.

What’s actually been really interesting about the petition is that it’s raised awareness of what a dietitian does and what a trained nutritionist does and who people should listen to and what to believe when it comes to diets and nutrition.

When asked about how the group fit in their studies at King’s and Fight the Fads, it seems the two go hand-in-hand.

Fight the Fads actually really helps with our studies, says the group.

In this field people are constantly bringing reactive news to your attention for comment, by having Fight the Fads work alongside our studies it helps us develop our research skills and for us to critically appraise things quickly, allowing us to get a new blog or social media post out in 20 minutes.

We’re so lucky here at King’s to be exposed to lecturers who are renowned for their areas of academic research. When we go to them they’re not only so helpful, but can give us quotes from an expert’ point of view. It’s so exciting that the lecturers that we’re learning from are renowned in their fields and learning about research as it is being published.

We love King’s and the whole university has been incredibly supportive of us.

In September Elisabeth, Harriet and Caroline were jointly named as Student of the Year 2016 by Complete Nutrition Magazine for their roles in Fight the Fads and as Presidents of the King's College London Nutrition & Dietetics Society and KCL Student Dietitians. We wish them congratulations on their hard work to date and look forward to seeing how they progress both through King’s and with Fight the Fads.

For more information about Fight the Fads: debunking nutritional myths & fads with science, visit www.fightthefads.com

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