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  • Northside West

DCU expert warns against fitness bloggers

Monday, 8th January, 2018 6:00pm
DCU expert warns against fitness bloggers

Getting fit and losing weight dominate New Year resolutions.

DCU expert warns against fitness bloggers

Getting fit and losing weight dominate New Year resolutions.

Adam Daly

NEW Year resolutions are always dominated with promises to get fit after the indulgence of Christmas, but turning to online fitness bloggers for inspiration is something experts warn against.

According to Dr Mary Rose Sweeney, some health and fitness bloggers on Instagram and Facebook are trying to make commercial gain out of their celebrity status, with many not having adequate nutritional training from a university.

Real nutritionists and dieticians are working in an academic setting with international collaborators, operating from the perspective of what the evidence says works, Dr Sweeney, Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Human Sciences in DCU said.

“A strong grounding in nutrition is needed but also in things like biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and genetics but above all in research,” Dr Sweeney said.

“You need all these skills to advise others on what the evidence says. 

A sample size of one, of what works for you, is not evidence of what will work for others’’

The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute warn of people who claim to be nutritional therapists.

The increase in the number of self-proclaimed nutrition practitioners emerging from informal courses not recognised by the State or Irish universities is on the rise.

Nutritional therapists can be found online but also in private clinic settings. Some may offer nutritional tests such as food intolerance testing, which is not evidence-based within conventional medicine. Some may also offer treatments such as supplements, detox diets, and food exclusions for which there is also little scientific evidence.

Since 2015, only those who have applied or registered with Coru, Ireland’s multi-profession health regulator, are entitled to practise using the title Dietician. If someone does misuse a protected title under this law, it is a criminal offence and on conviction they may be liable to a Class A fine and/or six months imprisonment.

However, as Dr Sweeney points out, this law does not cover the use of the title nutritionist. There is currently a campaign under way to change the law surrounding that title.

Dr Sweeney herself has a PHD in nutrition and has worked in the area since 1996, with international peer reviewed work. Before taking the advice of a nutritional therapist people should check if they have a BSc or MSc in Public Health Nutrition, Human Nutrition or Nutritional science Dr Sweeney warns.

The thing that Dr Sweeney wants people to remember is that online influencers are able to put every moment of every day into losing weight and staying lean in order to obtain their brand.

‘’The average members of the public have to work or rare families. They have responsibilities. They can't obsessively exercise.’’

When it comes to online personal trainers, proteins in powder form can be a big part of their agenda. From a safety point of view, Dr Sweeney says orthodox trained nutritionists and dieticians would never advocate that.

‘’We like people to eat real food, in the right amounts, to get a blend of nutrients. There is a risk of over consuming powder protein which puts extra strain on your kidneys, as it has to be broken down by the body.’’ She said.

Many people turn to social media for nutritional advice to lose weight because if you are in any way overweight it is a lot more difficult to put yourself out there and go to a professional dietician or nutritionist. But this is something that professionals are aware of Dr Sweeney said.

RTÉ’s ‘Operation Transformation’, which is back on TV this month, is something that Dr Sweeney recommends watching for someone who may not want to go see a professional but who still wants to lose weight healthily.

‘’Advice there is evidence based, with a lot of good tips and menu plans there. It’s a safe way to lose weight. They recommend one to two pounds a week. Rapid weight loss, as we all know, isn't sustainable.’’ Dr Sweeney added.

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