Healthy skepticism

Before subscribing to a diet, verify the facts.

Jacqueline Lewis, Writer

Undoubtedly, after spending any significant amount of time on the web, Internet users encounter articles claiming “Food X Cures Cancer” or “This Exercise Will Blast 10 Pounds in One Week,” when in reality these foods or exercises could harm them. These shameless click-bait articles continue to attract numerous people due to their eye-catching titles with seemingly promising remedies. But upon further inspection, the majority of them have little to do with actual science and much more to do with gaining a profit. However, inaccurate information does not need those outrageous titles and blatant advertising to fool people — many allegedly scientific articles on the Internet now utilize much subtler tactics to convince readers of their assertions.


Rather than directly declaring their distorted statements, they preface them with phrases like “Studies show that…” or “Scientists discover that…” to give their reports apparent credibility. They hope that by citing a source, people will believe them and most of the time it works. Many of the articles contain a grain of truth that is distorted or incomplete. Fortunately, many real health journalists know how to report on recent studies and discoveries while not exaggerating the conclusions or misinforming the public. Yet, because of the nature of health journalism in that most people are not medical professionals, the average reader must remain skeptical of articles describing new discoveries or studies in the scientific field.


In general, people should always question the information they see online, especially in areas that require technical knowledge or experience, such as health. This does not mean people should simply dismiss any web-based article altogether, or that the Internet should never convey scientific information due to the risk of distortion or misinterpretation. Instead, this only means the average layperson must become aware of their own lack of expertise when reading about health on the Internet. Readers should not spread misinformation, but if they want to share a new health tip, they should tell others they are unsure of its complete accuracy. Readers can follow guidelines to help them decide whether or not to find the article credible.


Readers must then examine the article and ask if it addresses the shortcomings of the study or discovery, such as the cost of the technology needed for its implementation. They could also look at the study itself and find out if the experiment was done on animals or if they used too small or skewed of a sample size. Conclusions from experiments on animals cannot necessarily be directly applied to humans and small sample sizes cannot represent a larger population.

As we constantly encounter more information, we cannot afford to neglect thinking and critical reading skills. We must approach information with skepticism and examine it more thoroughly — our lives could depend on it.


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