How to Find Credible Health Information on the Internet
Last month, when researching online for an article for this very website, I stumbled upon some, shall we say, misinformation.
What!? Information on the internet that wasn’t completely accurate, you say? Never!
Nope, totally true.
It was nutrition-related information, and, really, unless you train yourself to know what to look for, it is super easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole of bad advice from supposed experts, to the point where you start to question everything you’re putting in your mouth, the medications you’re taking, or the way you’re exercising.
How to tell apart fake news from the facts
So! Here are some good ways to try to separate the, shall we say, fake news about health and wellness from the facts.
- Read research rather than articles written by people who are trying to sell you something. If you go to Google Scholar, you can type in what you’re interested in reading about, such as “nutrition for diabetes” or “exercise for chronic conditions,” and up pop articles that are based on evidence as opposed to opinion. They can be a little long and daunting, but look for the sections called “abstract” and “conclusion” to read the stuff you’ll find most pertinent.
- Look for sources that you recognize. The American Diabetes Association is going to have trustworthy information. A random blogger that your friend follows on Facebook, eh, maybe not so much. Even if someone is a popular nutrition or exercise resource, it doesn’t mean what they’re peddling is true.
- Articles written by medical doctors, registered dietitians, and exercise physiologists are probably pretty good. If an article is written by someone who has the degree to back their knowledge up, you can generally trust what they’re saying. Beware of those who call themselves nutritionists, because anyone can use that title (you’re looking for RD after their name if you’re seeking nutrition advice). Also, a personal trainer isn’t the right person to get nutrition advice from in most cases, and even when it comes to exercise you may want to get a second opinion—most personal trainers take a basic course or are just trained through a program in their gym.
- When in doubt, research the source. Sometimes something will pop up in your search that looks flashy and professional and seems to have a lot of social cred and to have been shared often. Still, just because someone is popular on the internet does not mean they are giving you good advice. This is the kind of thing I ran into when I was doing the aforementioned research, and it can be really easy to believe a convincing argument when you want it to be true. So, if the author isn’t providing a research study to back up their claims, or if what they’re saying seems a little out there, google their name with the phrase “legitimate” and see what other people have said.
- Go with your gut. If something seems too good to be true, or makes you feel icky because they’re constantly trying to sell you on their brand or supplements, leave the page and throw the information out of your brain.
There is helpful, solid information to be found on the internet, you just have to be cautious about where you find it.