Recently, a pregnancy nutrition bot is being advertised on Twitter, touting it provides answers from the Mayo Clinic and the FDA regarding what pregnant mothers should and should not eat. Admittedly, pregnancy can be scary for a mother as all these new rules come up about what would and what wouldn’t harm her unborn baby.
While before being pregnant you could go ahead and indulge in some greasy, chocolate covered donuts or some crispy strips knowing the only person you would hurt was yourself, things dramatically change when another life depends on you. And since pregnancy nutrition has some otherwise harmless foods on the banned list, complying with these new rules is not an intuitive process.
The pregnancy nutrition bot that mixes lies with the truth
The marketers of this so called pregnancy nutrition bot seem to be taking advantage of that but their morals are somewhat in a gray area since the bot can give confusing answers and even false ones.
— Twitter Parents (@TwitterParents) May 11, 2017
For example, when asked about deli meat (never recommended to pregnant women because it can carry listeria if uncooked), the bot admitted this but also added that deli meat that contains nitrites or nitrates should be avoided at all cost. Nevertheless, nitrites and nitrates don’t affect pregnancy in any way and there’s no reason to fear them even if you’re not pregnant.
The pregnancy nutrition bot also doesn’t recommend pregnant ladies to eat eggplants because they’re rich in natural phytohormones that can stimulate menstruation when eaten on a daily basis. This is 100% false by the way.
It also uses less-reputable sources
Interestingly, even when the bot cites a reliable source it can provide an incorrect conclusion. Lifehacker.com interviewed Clara de Soto, co-founder of reply.ai which developed this bot. She admitted the bot uses the FDA, Mayo Clinic and Parents.com as sources.
Nevertheless, for “more specific foods” they also used MomJunction as a source which is a shady health website that doesn’t cite sources and is known to often provide inaccurate information. So yeah, we can safely say this bot is not a reliable source for advice on what you should eat or not eat while pregnant, even if it might provide correct answers here and there. And even those can have some false information mixed in, like the answer about deli meats for example.
I tested the bot just out of curiosity and it doesn’t seem willing to provide answers at the moment. While LifeHacker’s investigation might have brought a small media storm on top of the bot’s makers and they seem like they’re working to improve it, I still wouldn’t trust it to give me the right answers or any other bot for that matter.
If you’re pregnant we recommend you get your nutrition advice from a doctor or at the very least check FDA’s list of foods you should avoid during pregnancy.