“Finding Nutrition Advice” Extra Helpings: Food & Inflammation. From the ‘Food as Medicine’ series

“Finding Nutrition Advice” Extra Helpings: Food & Inflammation. From the ‘Food as Medicine’ series


Aimee Dordevic: everyone.
We’re here today to talk about public perceptions
on food and inflammation. We know that food
and inflammation is such a hot topic among consumers
and patients right now. And we also know that they’re
actually turning to places like the Internet
for their major source of information. Steph you’ve just recently
published a paper exploring this very topic. So can you tell us a little bit
about what you’ve done in your research? Stephanie Cowan: absolutely.
So we did some qualitative research. We actually use data from
a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which is titled ‘Food
as Medicine’ and it’s available for free to the general public. And in this course there’s
a unit on foods and inflammation because it’s so popular,
I should say, in the public sphere. And we took essentially
learner comments from the online discussion
forum within this unit and we also got them to fill out
a questionnaire at the end of the unit. And for those of you that might
be new to qualitative research, basically what we do is we look
for patterns in the data. We explore those patterns
in the data and we use those patterns to generate I guess
overarching themes that help us to answer the research question. Aimee Dordevic: So there
were quite a few major themes that came out in this paper. One of them that I found
really interesting was that people were saying
that they need guidance but “who do I trust?”. Stephanie Cowan: absolutely.
So we found that overwhelmingly the learners
in this course were very disengaged
with traditional nutrition messages like national dietary
guidelines and they were absolutely
seeking out alternate information on diet
and inflammation. But the majority of their
information was coming from the internet.
In particular, unregulated platforms
like social media and a very small percentage was coming
from qualified health professionals,
like doctors, like dietitians, like nutritionists. And for this reason we also
found that these learners viewed anti inflammatory
eating as needing to I guess avoid core food
groups like dairy or grains or meat. And so the nutritional
quality of their diet was absolutely compromised. Which of course isn’t what
we want as health care professionals. So then we kind of dug
a little bit deeper and we wanted to explore
what why exactly are they sourcing
this information from health care professionals. And what we’ve found
is that the learners viewed health professionals, in particular doctors
and dietitians as being really adverse to providing
information on this topic. And the learners felt very
kind of dejected and often like they were being
turned away. And then also we found
which was really interesting for the small
percentage of health professionals that were
providing advice, they were often underestimating
I guess the learners’ underlying
level of nutrition knowledge and they
were providing oversimplified advice
it basically just didn’t capture their
scientific curiosities. It wasn’t.. we weren’t really selling
to them what they wanted to hear. Aimee Dordevic: So another one
of the themes that came out in your paper was that managing
inflammation is more than just diet. So what are they saying
about this? Stephanie Cowan: Yeah this was
really interesting. So given that the course
was on nutrition we thought that they would only
be talking about diet. That wasn’t the case at all. They were talking
about their weight. They were talking about
the importance of exercise, the importance of mental
health but even really emerging topics like talking
about the gut microbiota and how that might be
influencing the inflammation in their body. Which again kind of indicates
that for this subset of the population we might be
underestimating just how much they understand
some of this science. Not only that but they also
wanted more than what we were giving them. So for example there
was a lot of talk between these learners that they wanted
us to teach them why, not just how. So for example, rather than just telling them
to eat whole grains they wanted to know well what types
of fibre to whole grains contain and what happens
to this fibre when it goes in the digestive tract, and how does this then influence
our health. So there was I guess the type
of information that we are providing
when we are providing it, that is, because a lot of the time
we’re not giving them what they want to hear
on this topic. But when we are providing
it it’s also not necessarily engaging them
on the level that they need. Aimee Dordevic: So in a nutshell
it’s the perceptions of the general public
and patients on food and inflammation is based
on the way that the information is presented to them. They’re getting a lot
of misinformation on the Internet and ways
as health professionals have to understand that their
learning is already at a basic level I guess
and that we actually need to add onto that. Stephanie Cowan: Match that. Aimee Dordevic: Yeah. Stephanie Cowan: 100% yep. Aimee Dordevic: If you could say
in one sentence in a nutshell.. Stephanie Cowan: Yeah. Aimee Dordevic: What your main
message out of this paper would be, what would that be
to our learners? Stephanie Cowan: Ok.
Well it’s a couple of sentences probably. [BOTH LAUGH] But I
would certainly say that we do.. all health professionals, but especially those at
the frontline, we need to be upskilling
so that we are able to engage with patients when they do
want to talk about these novel nutrition topics in particular. In this case diet
and inflammation. And certainly we need to be
thinking about then how we communicate those messages, so that it’s actually
engaging the patient and that might mean
that for example if you are a doctor or a GP, and you don’t have
the time or whatever the resources that might be
to provide that level of detail and support that they require, then perhaps you should be
utilising referral systems to nutritionists and dietitians. But as you said we need
to be providing the information but we also
need to be thinking about how we provide
that information as well. Aimee Dordevic: Yeah.
Thanks Step. And thank you for joining us.

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