Translating Nutrition Science for the Media
Kristin Reimers, PhD, RD
Nutrition Manager, ConAgra Foods
An important skill for retail RDs is the ability to translate the latest nutrition science into consumer-friendly language. Not only will this help you communicate the health benefits of various foods to your customers, but it is also extremely important when conducting media interviews.
As the majority of consumers turn to media for nutrition advice the nutrition soundbites that you provide during an interview can lead to increased sales of healthy food at your stores down the road.
Where do you begin?
Subscribe to daily or weekly nutrition e-newsletters so that you are aware of breaking research. When you come across a study that sounds interesting and relevant, the next step is to evaluate the research.
Review the details of the study design and methodology. The following details signify a study with strong findings:
- Human trials (versus animal studies), and ideally, clinical trials over observational studies
- Studies with a large pool of participants, and conducted over a long period of time
- Significant results (P≤0.05).
Now that you have determined a study is worth sharing, the next step is to translate the technical research finding into something that consumers will easily understand. This step can be tricky – you want to make sure to avoid the following pitfalls:
- Overstating study findings
- Creating a cause and effect relationship if it is an observational study
- Applying the study findings to groups beyond which those who were studied
Remember that one study is not conclusive. Some studies are landmark studies, but most are just one piece of a puzzle. Putting the study into context is helpful. Use words like “emerging science” if the field is fairly new and the evidence is rather unclear. If a study conflicts with previous studies, explain why that might be the case, for example, use of a different design or a different outcome measure.
Translating the Association
A recent study presented at the 2013 Experimental Biology conference found no difference (p > 0.05) in hunger ratings between participants that ate a breakfast of whole eggs and those who ate a breakfast of egg whites with half the calories of the whole eggs .
This finding, translated into consumer-friendly media speak is: “A new study found that people who ate a portion of egg whites for breakfast were kept just as full as those who ate two whole eggs, even though the whole eggs had twice as many calories. Additionally, the people who ate the egg whites actually kept the calorie savings through lunch.”
You’ll also want to include a sound bite that brings the study findings to life for consumers. Think about the health or nutrition issue that is referenced in the study and look for statistics that will help provide context for the results.
Using the egg whites study as an example, you might lead into the interview by saying: “66 percent of Americans eat eggs for breakfast at least once per week…”This helps to set the stage for the findings you are about to discuss, while also relaying the fact that it is a topic impacting a large percentage of the population.
Preparing the Take-Home Message
As a final step, prepare a sound bite to conclude the segment with a practical takeaway based on the study findings. Staying with our egg whites example: “This study suggests that egg whites are a great breakfast option for those watching their waistlines, because not only are egg whites low in calories, but they can also help to keep you full until lunchtime.”
Always keep in mind the practical end result that you are trying to convey to consumers, and you’ll begin to transform science into consumer-speak with ease in no time.
 A lower-calorie egg white breakfast is as satiating as a higher calorie whole egg breakfast. Reimers Kristin, Michael Meyer, Tabra Ward, Mark Andon. FASEB J (2013) 27:853.4.