Consumer’s Guide To Discerning Health Claims Online

The Internet has brought a great and endless supply of resources on essentially any topic you can think of but as it gets older, quantity doesn’t seem to be the problem. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but the lines between opinion and fact are becoming increasingly blurry to the point it looks like one big smudgy mess that makes discerning health claims online a tricky task.

Even standards for journalism have succumbed to their own biases and even somewhat openly cater to those who share that bias with them. In a world full of information, how do we know who and what to trust?

We took to Twitter to ask some of the more active health professionals and doctors we could find on the network. Here’s some of the advice we got on discerning health claims online:

Conflicting Opinions In Newer Studies

One of the most troubling circumstances is when trusted sources of medical research share opposing or conflicting opinions. If the research in question is still relatively new and has conflicting studies challenged by qualified medical experts, it’s reasonable to view them with a degree of skepticism.

If a study is new, it almost guarantees the information proposed is nowhere close to definitive. Generally, it usually means that more research is required in that area to determine potential areas of inquisition. Again, it doesn’t mean you should dismiss them entirely but you can continuously make dramatic changes on a whim based on anything but concrete evidence based on long-term data.

Who Is Benefiting From The Claim?

Sometimes you truly do need to consider who is on the payroll or set to benefit financially from the research findings. Data supported through scientific research can mean serious credibly for marketing new products.

Caution should always be used when dealing with anything that feels too “salesy”, as Dr. Mike Kirk says from Moorsetown, NJ. Be on your guard for marketing that relies on opinion over fact.

Related: Top 21 Natural Ways To Stay Healthy [Free Report Download]

Ask A Professional You Trust

The most consistent response we received on Twitter was to ask a health professional that you know and trust. Not only can they give an educated opinion based on knowledge of your personal medical history, they are likely someone you can trust more than a name on a research paper.

As Matthew Katz pointed out, even experts disagree about the best strategy to maintain health.

Don’t Take Anything At Face Value

Author of “Health Critical” in Forbes

A great comment came from Forbes writer John Nosta (@JohnNosta on Twitter): “Don’t believe a health guru at face value. Claims must be supported by data. Look at education and background too!”
Knowing you’ve been had is always a disappointing revelation but lets be honest, there are a lot of really persuasive people online that clearly know how to sell a product. These people are trying to make a living but unless they do it with information based on real data and not opinion – you should steer clear.

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True…

Recognize the difference between ‘beneficial’ and pure marketing hype. When people start telling you they have the enriched mega capsules sourced from the rarest antioxidants found in ancient Amazonian superfoods, it sounds more like they are trying to justify their price tag rather than sell you on ‘the next big thing’.

Author of Diet Rehab, host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters & co-host of VH1’s Couples Therapy

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Use your common sense, discernment and research the products you are putting into your body. If you are unsure, consult a health professional that you know and trust.

Related: How To Boost The Immune System During Flu Season

Here are some of the other replies we got from health professionals on Twitter:

What advice would you give for discerning health claims online? Let us know in the comments below!

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