Should You Listen to a Celebrity’s Nutritional Advice?

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This is a point that strikes a note with me personally. Dietitians and nutritionists dedicate their lives to becoming experts in nutrition; often in one specific field of nutrition. Yet for some reason, celebrities are the go-to source for diets involving weight-loss, muscle gain or any other result. Every time you walk past a magazine aisle you see a title like “How I lost 10kg” with a picture of a famous celebrity.

For some strange reason, people seem to intensely study the miraculous secret that these individuals appear to have discovered. Then they go and tell their friends about this celebrity’s diet and it spreads like wildfire.

The reason this issue gets to me is that it is completely based on anecdotal evidence with a sample size of n=1. Unusual and restrictive celebrity diets, also seem to be even more popular. The weirder the diet is the more people believe that the celebrity really has discovered the “secret”.

Often you will see the same celebrities on the covers of magazines months or years later with a similar title, yet people seem to overlook the fact that they are clearly yo-yo dieting.

People will then attempt to follow this overly restrictive diet and fall into two categories: 1) Following in the celebrity’s footsteps and yo-yo dieting or 2) Succeed in sticking to the restrictive diet and then become deficient in key nutrients, which may lead to health problems in the long term.

Meanwhile, there are no famous dietitians who have a cult-like following for their healthy eating guidelines. It is extremely rare to see a nutritionist or dietitian on the front cover of a magazine touting their new diet.

In my opinion, the main reason for this is that dietitians often give out logical advice based on the best available evidence. This is advice that people have heard before and think is too simple. It is hard to build up a cult-like following if you are preaching 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day. People who hear that aren’t going to tell their friends about the interesting nutrition tip they recently heard that involved eating more fruit and vegetables.

Unfortunately, if people hear about a detox that completely cuts out “gluten, dairy, grains, corn, soy, caffeine, alcohol, added sugar, red meat, shellfish, white rice, tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum and potatoes” they will shout it off rooftops to let EVERYBODY know about it.

Should you listen to a celebrity’s advice on nutrition? The answer is a resounding NO. They are not trained in the field; so why should they be your first point to go to for advice? Would you ask a celebrity for taxation advice? Medical advice? Legal advice? I doubt it. If you ever find yourself contemplating following something that has worked for a celebrity, think to yourself: is this who I should be listening to? Or should I be listening to somebody who has a 4+ year university qualification in nutrition and has dedicated their lives to the subject?  I think the correct answer will come to you.

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