Consider the Source

Figure out whether the latest medical or nutrition news is worth listening to or not.


By Aimée Suen, NTP


In our content driven world, there’s always a new study, video, book, or documentary that can rock the health and nutrition world. While it’s great that this information can easily be shared with the world, it can get pretty confusing. Quite often, the new information can contradict or clash with accepted facts and it can get confusing on what to believe.

There are some ways you can cut through the noise and figure out what you should listen to and what you should just let pass you by. By going deeper into the information, you can sniff things out. The most common ways new facts get shared are through published studies that news outlets report on or in short videos or documentaries. Here are ways you can check if these studies, videos, or documentaries are telling it to you straight.

Medical Studies

Medical studies come out all the time, and generally the most groundbreaking, serious, or largely funded ones get picked up by the news cycle. After you see a study’s results pop up around several reputable news sites, roll up your sleeves and dig in.

Find the Study: If you can, look for the study online. Most of the time the article will link directly back to the database where it’s been published. From there, you can check if it’s open to the public to read in it’s entirely or if you’ll need to pay to read the whole study. If the study’s subject matter or results are very relevant and important to you, consider paying to read the article.

Read the Abstract: When you’ve found the study, whether you can read the whole thing or not, review the abstract. Located at the top of the study, an abstract is the summary of the study and states what it is setting out to prove. Find out what exactly the study is trying to prove and see if that matches up with the claims news outlets are making. Also, look at what conditions, factors or measurements are being reviewed. Some studies only focus on one to two factors of a larger issue with a very specific population, which may not easily apply to everyone.

Look for Biases: A bias is an error that affect the overall study and affect the results. A study can’t be free of bias, and figuring out what biases exist can help you see if the information can apply to you and your life. Examples of biases can include the population that got studied, how long they were studied, other factors that weren’t accounted for in the study (quality of food if food is a part of the study, what other factors were not in the control of those running the study).

See Who Conducted the Study: The researchers that conduct the study can also let you know how sound the study is. They’ll be listed at the top of the study, but their credentials will be listed at the end of the study. It will state where they work (universities, hospitals, etc) and you can easily look them up.

Find Conflicts of Interest: In addition to stating where the people worked, research papers have to disclose any conflicts of interest. That would include if they’ve been paid by certain industries to conduct studies, serve on the board for pharmaceutical companies, or even work in the industry they’re conducting a study for.

These conflicts of interests can also be biases that can give the findings a little less credibility and sticking power.

Short Videos and Documentaries

With the amount of streaming platforms sharing and now producing content, documentaries in all lengths are coming out much faster than before. Some of them also become viral and just take over social media, which can make it seem louder and more credible than it could be.

Find Out Who Made It: Look into the people who created the video you’re watching. If they’re all in a certain school of thought, it can give you an idea of how unbiased and objective their information is or isn’t. If the video was made by a company or advocacy group, look into the company’s mission statements to understand where they’re coming from. For example, a video from an animal rights group will most likely be sharing and pushing their message. This could be based in fact, and it could also be ignoring the efforts people in other circles are making to improve animal welfare. Their video could just be another form of advertising for their ideals and why you should hold them too.

Find out When it was Made: Things are constantly changing. New studies, ideas and approaches are coming out all of the time, and some of them can nullify or overwrite other facts or studies. Check how old the video you're watching is and look around on the internet to see if those facts still hold up.

Look into their Facts: If what you’re watching cites a lot of scientific studies and facts, look into them. If it’s a larger project that’s got more attention, it’s possible that someone else has fact checked it and published the results online. Make sure that fact checker is also a credible source. If you see multiple, credible people poking holes at the facts presented in the video, this could be something to consider when you’re weighing the information they presented. If you can find the studies they reference, read them. The video could be using the information to serve them and not what the study actually states.

Learning out to identify unsound information can really help you stay on track with your own health and wellness goals. You’ll be able to keep focused on your goals, or make positive changes with information that you find that is credible and relevant to you.

Whether you’re reading a news article, listening to a news report or watching the latest documentary, it’s important to do a little bit of digging to see if what they’re saying is really accurate. Once you drill down, you can gather enough information to see if that is something you should listen to or not.

Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on InstagramTwitter and Pinterest.

Main Photo Credit: SG SHOT/; Second Photo Credit: Dragon Images/; Third Photo Credit: chainarong06/; Fourth Photo Credit: