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Communicating Nutrition and Other Science: A Reality Check

Rowe, Sylvia B. MA; Alexander, Nick BA

doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000141
Nutrition Communications
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The authors take up an issue recently explored in the literature: the increasing exaggeration of research results in press releases and in the mass media. Pointing out that such exaggeration may stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of science as “magic,” rather than as a process of experimentation, they propose that nutrition communicators adopt a new perspective: acknowledgement that science progresses by trial and error rather than a search for “truth.” They cite commentators who suggest banning such misleading expressions as “statistically significant,” “theory,” and “truth,” as well as such common nutrition science terms as “natural” and “organic.” The authors recommend that nutrition communicators focus on telling their readers not about such fantasies as “super foods” and “life-prolonging supplements,” but about how better to think about health and nutrition science.

Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, is currently president of SR Strategy pursuing communications and issues management consulting on a broad range of health, nutrition, food safety, and risk issues. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Nick Alexander, BA, is former senior media counselor for the IFIC Foundation, Washington, DC. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and is a former network correspondent with ABC News. For more than the past decade, Alexander has tracked and written about science communications issues and the evolving challenge to public acceptance of credible science.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Sylvia B. Rowe, MA, 1100 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 430, Washington, DC 20036-4120 (rowe@srstrategy.com).

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