Fake health information on the internet

By Dr Georgios Efthimiou, molecular biologist – geneticist PhD

 

Nowadays, internet is full of pieces of health advice whose credibility is not always guaranteed. Modern people that navigate in the net should be in a position to judge which source of health information is dependable and which is not. Below, we list some basic things that someone should look for before trusting health advice from the internet, the television, neighbors, friends or relatives.

The source

There are good and bad sources of medical information. For instance, if an article we read at Facebook or Twitter is based on a scientific journal, scientific institution, state health services or popular then it is more likely to be credible than an article that comes from an unknown site or blog. Every article that discusses a medical discovery must mention the scientific institution (university, research center or pharmaceutical company) and the people that conducted the research that provides the necessary experimental evidence for this discovery.

The research reference

A scientific study is usually published to international scientific journals, in English. The text, the statistitics and the charts of such a study are often difficult to understand. But these articles often have a summary that gives a synopsis of the study’s finding and conclusions. In addition, the date of publication is also important. More recent studies are considered more reliable since they are supposed to have taken older studies into account, therefore presenting only novel results.

The mechanism

Modern science is not satisfied in simply connecting two things (e.g. red wine and heart health) but also tries to identify the mechanism of a biological phenomenon, at a chemical or molecular level. Explaining and experimentally confirming this connection is essential more ensuring its global acceptance. How red wine protects the heart? Which is the chemical compound that has such a beneficial activity? How this experiment was conducted and by whom?

In general, modern people that surf the internet and use social media need to always be suspicious when reading a piece of medical information and carefully check its credibility before accepting it as a fact.

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