The rise of the lifestyle guru and information cherry picking

cherry-07

So I have only posted several times refuting facts that people share on the social medias’. This is mainly because I am not interested in the deluge of responses located in the comments section of said links. My biggest gripe is people using the internet to push unverified data and anecdotal evidence, usually with the tag line “what scientists aren’t telling you about [insert item here]”.

This is why I was surprised when a link  appeared in my news feed (that I initially dismissed as tripe) had sound science with links to high-quality peer reviewed journals. *Gasp*.

‘And you won’t believe what this common foodstuff does!!…”

The article describes how the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, appears to be able to improve endothelial cell functioning. What this means is that it can alter the way that the endothelial cells that line blood vessels contract, restricting or promoting blood flow through the vessels. There is also evidence that curcumin may be an interesting adjuvant (additional to other therapies) chemotherapeutic agent, although further investigation is required. My literature search showed that there are a lot of articles supporting these facts, BUT, it should be noted that doses tested in the laboratory do not necessarily translate to the amount that you obtain from consuming turmeric. And, there are other considerations such as, was it tested in cells, using animal models, or in human clinical trials?

Money, money, money

Now back to the link that was posted. While it was scientifically sound, a quick search of the author of the article showed that he has a vast financial investment in what he discusses in his blog. Books, seminars, videos and so on all selling the ‘lifestyle’ that he promotes. Interestingly, a science blog from McGill University in Canada also discussed the lifestyle blog and that despite the use of peer reviewed research, there is an agenda and therefore the information presented is cherry picked.

The deluge will continue

As long as the internet will exist, there will be sites that support or refute opinions (most likely refuting concrete scientific data). Evidence shows that when searching for information, people themselves will cherry pick what data they choose to believe. Using the anti-vaccination movement as an example, providing anti-vaccinators with evidence contrary to their beliefs, including images of sick children, fails to change their views against the plethora of sites that will support their ideas.

Adding to this are the personalised search results and advertising, which further cement beliefs and opinions.

Final thought

To me the internet is like a store that sells ‘dust collectors’. Pretty to look at, you consider for a second to buy the bauble, but ultimately realise it is a cheap trinket that will collect dust. But, at the same time, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. The jury is still out amongst scholars on how to prevent the spread of misinformation, false news and potentially health damaging opinions and ideaologies, without completely censoring information and internet use. However, while there is a dollar value linked to the promotion of these opinions, these sites will persist. I implore you that if a link appears purporting the health benefits of [insert name of ‘natural product’] and how scientists/ doctors are lying to you, take it with a grain of salt.

Rant over (!)

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