I thought I would take some time to discuss finding health and fitness information on the internet. This is something that comes up all the time in conversations with my clients. We try to do the best we can to educate ourselves, but are inundated with conflicting information, exaggerated headlines, and clickbait.
For those of you who do not know what clickbait is, the Urban Dictionary defines it as: ” A seemingly innocent posting on social media that contains a link to more content, but whose true goal is to trick the viewer into clicking on the link so that the writer can collect view stats — usually for monetary or for narcissistic purposes.” This means the content doesn’t matter and doesn’t have to be accurate.
For our discussion today, I will use the following article as an example. Many people have heard of the paleo diet and may be curious as to it’s efficacy. I have chosen this article because it comes from a very legitimate source, US News and World Report.
My first issue is the title. It is imperative for a journalist to use a title that will grab the reader’s attention. The problem is that some people will use the title as the sum total of the information and not actually read the article. In this case, while the title provides a true statement it gives no indication of the cautionary information provided in the article regarding the paleo diet.
My second issue is reporting of the study at all. According to the article “the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary (my emphasis) until published in a peer-reviewed journal.” This is really important in the realm of evidence-based nutrition. This means that the study has yet to be picked apart by other scientists, the data has yet to be replicated, and the results yet to be proven. In this case, the study size is relatively small and relied heavily on self-reporting. This means that further review may find the results to be insignificant compared to other diets or altogether incorrect.
Finally, my third issue is that this is really not news from a commonsense perspective. It is not surprising that a diet rich in whole foods and healthy fats has positive results on weight and other health markers. I don’t think that there are many people who would argue that the paleo diet does not have the potential to be effective. The most common arguments against it are that the premise behind it is misguided, it can be expensive and difficult to follow long term, and it can result in deficiencies in essential nutrients. In the end there really is no magic sauce to a healthy diet other than eating whole foods, mostly vegetables while limiting processed carbohydrates and saturated fats.
What should you look for in an article?
The source: Beware of the links you see on social media. While the article above is not an example of clickbait, often times the articles that pop up through social media are.
The title: Approach every article with a healthy dose of skepticism, no matter how much you want chocolate and wine to be the healthiest thing you can do all day.
The content: Really read the article. Take the time to digest it. If you see something questionable or counterintuitive, trust your instincts and do some more research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
See you at the gym!
By: Amy Rauch