Eat this, not that. One day a certain supplement or medication is great for you, but a week later you’re being advised not to take it. Eggs were ‘bad’ for a few year, and now suddenly the tide has turned and it’s okay to eat them again? It’s a head spinner that’s for sure. How can you judge the worth of media hype around health information and determine what applies to you?
Testimonials Only? If the sole evidence for a product is consumer testimony, without presentation of scientific evidence, it’s important to seek out additional information in order to determine if the claims are valid. There is a big reason why doctors such as Naturopathic Physicians or MDs for that matter are barred from having testimonials including having secretive affiliations with specific companies or products on the market. The reason is that testimonials truthfully bear little weight if anything, but more importantly in the digital age, can be falsified and skewed easily and thus mislead the public. The most important step you can take is do your own research on a product or service and make up your own mind that is not based on someone else’s opinion – imaginary or real. One’s opinion is simply that – a personal experience that was applicable to that sole individual. Not you.
Breakthrough Scientific Discoveries? Dramatic breakthroughs and isolated evidence of “amazing findings” are extremely rare in science. Only when evidence is consistent across various types of studies, from lab reports to case studies to clinical trials that span a variety of populations, are we likely to have strong, reliable and valid evidence for a “breakthrough.”
Who’s that Scientist? When study data is reported, look at who conducted the research. Is the researcher affiliated with a university or research institution or with a company or organization that stands to profit? Reliable data does not come from “secret sources.” When reading an article, look for a link to a source; pay attention to where the article was published, by whom, and how it was funded. And again, in this digital age where you can probably find anything under the sun, attaching an opinion article on social media and calling it research is absolutely false.
Limited or Extensive Data? In research, results that have been replicated by different investigators across a variety of conditions, groups of people, and over time, are much more meaningful and reliable than a single study.
Is there a Cause-and-Effect? Many studies first explore correlation – a relationship between two things. For example, a study finds a relationship between eating olives and headaches. This does not mean the olives cause headaches. Further research is necessary to determine cause and effect. What kind of olives? What is the nutritional profile of the olives? Could it be something in the olives? Are men and women of different ages and races equally affected? What about people who are prone to headaches? Are the olives grown in a certain place? Correlation does not prove causation.
Placebo or Not? A placebo is an inert (inactive) substance or treatment designed to have no physiological impact. When taking a placebo produces the same effect as a supplement or medication, it’s critical to question effectiveness. Studies of medicines must prove (in the data) that the benefits are statistically significantly better than a placebo.
Statistically What? For a study to reach statistical significance means there was a large enough number of participants to measure the effect of the supplement and that the effect was caused by something other than chance.
Who’s in the Study? If a study is done in a petri dish, or on rats, it is not always applicable to human beings. Therefore, studies involving people, if well done, give us more useful and reliable information. Try to identify the population studied. If the population is 90-year old women from Indonesia, the results are not easily generalized to 40 year old working American women with children. You want to see that the study had a large number of diverse people in it, including people like yourself.
Someone published a book – does that make them an Expert? Well, history has certainly decided that it the case. Unfortunately in this day and age where anyone can write anything they please and publish it online, that no longer holds true. Ask yourself if the author has valid credentialing, accumulated knowledge, experience, (and hopefully) wisdom to support what they are writing about. Are they even a valid or licensed health professional having authority to dispense medical advice? If they don’t, then putting your money on ‘experts’ is really throwing your money down the drain.
A lot of information here but I hope that I’ve managed to give you all something to ponder more deeply. These questions will get you off to a good start when assessing the latest health information. Part of the Naturopathic Doctor’s ongoing job is to be up on the latest information especially research. Talk to them if you need clarity on a product or service that you may be considering. And developing discernment is key !
So become an Informed Consumer !
Copyright© 2020 Indigo Integrative Health – Dr. Olena Gill, R.A.c., ND
Dr. Olena Gill, R.Ac., ND is a Naturopathic Doctor and Reg. Acupuncturist practicing in Oceanside and Gabriola on Vancouver Island, BC. She welcomes New Patients in all her clinic locations by telephoning 778 – 762 – 3099. Visit https://www.indigomedicine.com
Disclaimer: No information in this article should be construed as specific health advice. For customized medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, talk to your Naturopathic Doctor directly.