Have you found yourself overwhelmed and confused at all the health news on the internet and in the papers? Are you worried you are getting fake news? If you are, you are not alone. Each day there are more and more articles on the latest health research. With so much advice being spread around, it can be hard to distinguish the real truth. One study might claim that eating carbohydrates are good for your health, the next study might claim carbohydrates should be avoided. But how do you know who to trust?

We have come up with a few tips to help you avoid poorly reported health news.

1. What Is The Source?

Are you reading your health news from a scientific website, a news reporter, or a fashion magazine? The news reporter can be a strong indicator of an article’s legitimacy. For example, scientific websites or journals are more likely to report accurately than popular fashion magazines. When it comes to nutrition related online news, WebMD, The Mayo Clinic, Science Direct and the NHS are top tier sources of reliable research and information. Publishers such as Science Daily, The BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The New York Times are some examples of new sources that often reference these reliable studies.

2. Read The Article! Not Just The Headlines

This simple, yet easy advice will help you keep educated. In order to know if the news is real or fake it is simply not enough to skim the headlines. Headlines are created to entice a reader and are limited in the amount of information they can share. If you do not take the time to understand what the content of the news says, you may be misled by fun and eye-catching titles. When it comes to nutrition and health, headlines are used to simplify larger and more complex issues. It is very common for specific scientific terminology to be generalised. While this is helpful for you as a reader because it allows you to make the decisions regarding which articles to read in full, it can also be dangerous and misleading.

3. Who Did The Study Test?

Very often studies related to nutrition, food and health are first conducted without humans! In order to find data for on a specific topic, scientists and researchers will have to control of outside variables that might confuse their research. How do scientists do this? They often use lab rats to test theories. This research is still important and can be very exciting, but we must not forget that humans can behave and react differently.

4. What Was The Purpose Of The Study?

Scientific research is often focused on a very specific purpose. Unfortunately, we often extrapolate data findings or over exaggerate the research findings. Beware of headlines or articles that make broad statements about nutrition, health or fitness. A study focusing on the behaviour of a specific hunger hormone could easily be misrepresented and turned into the newest fad diet. Information like this may not be a good source for true health tips or advice.

5. How Many People Were In The Study?

In scientific research the more the merrier. When studies only use a small sample size or a number of people or animals being observed, they are more likely to get misinformed data. Some news articles will report findings on a sample of fewer than 25 people. Studies such as these might not have accurate data and their conclusions may not be the truth. A small sample size may have an outlier that can skew the data towards a false and fake conclusion. Be careful with studies such as these!

6. What Language Did They Use? How Did You Interpret It?

In the scientific world, research attempts to find correlations and analyze relationships between two or more factors. Keep an eye out for strong words. If an article claims research “proved causation” or “ are definitely sure” of a health problem, they are guilty of poor reporting. If a news source is reporting on a new study as the “absolute truth” they are not giving you accurate information. Unfortunately, science reporting can be boring and initial results can be vague. On the other hand, news reporting is fast paced and exciting. When the two worlds collide, you are caught in the middle. Beware of attributing your personal opinions to a research article just because a new source highlighted specific information you connected with.

7. Has Anyone Repeated The Study?

In scientific research, a study is legitimized when other researchers repeat the study and find similar results. Contrary to our modern and tech driven lives, scientific research takes time! The most important long term findings either back up existing research or are later supported by new studies. It is not wrong to be enthusiastic about exciting new studies, but pause a second and think before you go share it with your best friend!

Hopefully, these tips will help you next time you pick up the newspaper or see an article online. If you are still feeling confused about your health and fitness we are here to help educate you and share our knowledge.