Does it Matter Where Advice Comes From?

Betty, sipping some coffee and getting her research on. 

Betty, sipping some coffee and getting her research on. 

Would you trust me if I told you that pouring a mixture of lemon juice and cayenne pepper into the motor oil of your car would help to “cleanse and detox” the engine?

I sure hope not, because you’d be walking home. I am not a mechanic, so who am I to give advice on your car?  But the truth is, you would probably be skeptical and not listen to me for that reason, I am not a mechanic. I am not trained or licenced to give advice on vehicle maintenance.

Your car was a large financial investment for you, and you wouldn’t risk causing harm to it just because someone told you that you should try something based on their own anecdotal experience. So why would anyone want to do that to their own health? You cannot just bring your body into the mechanic shop for the damaged part to be ordered in and replaced. Your body is your home and unlike a car, you only get one.

Almost every day I hear of people’s experiences being confused and overwhelmed by the amount of health and nutrition information that is available these days. With headlines enthusiastically telling about the miracles of coconut oil and the dangers of soy, while other sources giving another story.

Nutrition is a fairly new science, and there is new research coming out in the field each day. At the time of writing this post, there have been 37,519 papers published and available on PubMed so far in 2016 on “diet or nutrition” (an average of 136 papers per day). That is a lot of data, and yet we really only find out about a small amount of the research. Why?

Click bait. What is going to sound sexy and ground breaking? What is going attract and retain followers or readers? Or maybe even, what is going to support the status quo?

I find this especially troublesome on websites and pages of groups or individuals with a large following (social media or otherwise). Far too often I see posts on health and nutrition information that is not evidenced based, is false, or is based on an oversimplified, half understanding on human metabolism and how the human body works. And this is dangerous.

Harm can occur directly or indirectly. What is being recommended can negatively impact an individual’s organs, metabolism or physiology for the rest of their life.  Or, it may prevent them from seeking medical attention when they really need it by promoting an ineffective treatment.

Individuals or groups promoting health and wellness (social media or otherwise) owe it to their followers to provide advice that is correct and not harmful, as people are actually listening to them. True, they might say things like “this works for me, I recommend it to all my family members and friends”, but we are all different in our lifestyles, body, health conditions and motivations. Some of the things that work for one person may not necessarily work for others. And, is there good evidence to support these recommendations? Is it good enough to provide advice to the general public based on someone’s own “research” and anecdotal experience? Always think critically about where information is coming from. One could argue that providing unproven advice to followers in unethical, and even disrespectful to the people reading/listening/watching their ideas and interpreting them as truth.

Take care of your body, it is the only one you have. And don’t take vehicle maintenance advice from me. ;)