Eroding trust? New report looks to fight declining confidence in nutrition science

The report, “Best practices in nutrition science to earn and keep the public’s trust,” ​discusses six recommendations by a panel that cover ways to work collaboratively with stakeholders while ensuring transparency and scientific rigour.

“There may be no more important issue facing nutrition scientists today than ensuring that the research that we do and disseminate has the trust of all our stakeholders,”​ said Catherine Field, president of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), which published the report.

“These stakeholders include those who use our research to define the direction of their own research, make policy decisions such as nutrition recommendations and practice guidelines, and make funding decisions and priorities,” ​she added in an accompanying commentary.

A blue ribbon panel

Formed two years ago the panel, an independent group composed of 11 members, attempts to respond to researchers’ concerns stemming from the range of information sources, some of which were unclear about their motivations, qualifications, or ethical standards.

The report further elaborates on this, identifying these forces as particularly amplified in nutrition sciences where food’s “intimate connection and interest to all individuals and the size of the food and agriculture economy”.

Noted was the rise of professional bloggers, who had thousands of followers. Some may also earn income through product placement and the generation of stories later picked up by social media.

The authors said the volume, multiplicity of sources, frequency and disparities in “messaging”​ made distinguishing objective, accurate information from information that is intentionally biased “overly demanding for nearly all audiences”.