Vegetarian Weaning: A Content Analysis of the Accuracy and Quality of Advice Available on the Internet.
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Background: There is widespread use of the Internet for information regarding nutrition and health. This study evaluates the quality and accuracy of online information in English, relating to weaning an infant on a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet. Methods: A content analysis of 20 eligible websites was undertaken. The sampling method reflected proven online information seeking habits. Two comprehensive research tools were devised, based on current nutritional guidelines and recommendations to evaluate accuracy and quality of the information provided. Results were analysed to compare information accuracy and quality between health care professional and non-health care professional sources, by origin and by website type – Healthcare, Health Journals, Parenting and Vegetarian. Results: The combined overall score for accuracy and quality was health care professionals 70%, non-health care professionals 51%. The separate scores were health care professionals, 80% accuracy, 62% quality; Non-health care professionals 52% accuracy and 50% quality. Information provided by Health Care professionals overall did not meet the appropriate recommendations for website reading ease scores 70+. Conclusions: Whilst Health care professionals provided information of higher accuracy and quality, the information was written at an inappropriate level for widespread understanding and therefore of less use to its intended audience. There is potential across the majority of websites for an increase in the accuracy and quality of information in relation to Lacto-Ovo vegetarian weaning, to reflect more of the recommendations and advice provided by the recognised authoritative bodies including DoH (1988), WHO (2004 & 2005), NICE (2014), BDA (2016) & SACN (2017).
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