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Read Health Care Websites With A Critical Eye!

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Over time I have come across a few websites that make me pause, and cause me to be concerned.  The reason is because some of these sites tend to make promises and mis-statements on health and well-being without using scientific evidence to back them up.  I cringe when I read them, and only hope that the reader is savvy enough to see through the faulty logic and sales pressure to purchase products of those who don’t have recognized credentials yet declare themselves “authorities” on a subject.  Anybody can put up a website and state whatever they want – there is no quality control over the content.  For example, one site spoke of an “epidemic of adrenal fatigue in 2/3rds of the population” and another “estrogen dominance syndrome,” neither of which can be found in a formal search of the medical literature.  In addition, some of these sites tend to dismiss sound scientific evidence or misrepresent the results of research studies to suit their purpose.

I’ve found this misrepresentation to be true for depression, and here are a few examples to show you what I mean.  One website declared that the cause of depression was a copper deficiency or mineral deficiency, and that the solution was to detox (?) and then buy their mineral supplement products for a cure.  Doesn’t sound like a safe nor believable thing to do.  Another spoke of depression as a “ ’natural’ reaction to stress” (?!) and cited an article in a publication without credentials or peer-review to support some of their statements.  I urge you to use a critical eye and read these with caution, checking anything you read with your physician.

I do believe that there is a lot of very useful health information on the internet – you just need to know how to read it and filter out the good from the misleading.  Here are a series of questions to ask yourself when you come across a piece of medical advice online, as found on the NIH (National Institute of Health) and FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) websites and excerpted from my book Managing Your Depression.

 What is the source of the information?  Who runs the website?  Is it a scientifically respected individual or organization?  This will help you evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the information.  Who pays for the website?  This can influence or bias the content presented, particularly if the sponsor is a company trying to sell a product.  What is it’s purpose?  Educating its readers, charity, fundraising for clinical disorders, or making a profit for individuals or shareholders selling products?  Again, this can bias the information presented.  Where does the information come from?  Is it based on sound scientific evidence?  The information should come from a source known to have knowledge and expertise in the area based on sound scientific evidence, with “opinion” clearly identified as such.  The credentials of the authors and reviewers should come from nationally recognized sources and be made available to you.  Their statements should reflect their training and expertise.  For example, a chiropractor should not be speaking of estrogen levels or dysfunctional brain chemistry – that is not within the scope of their training.  (just like you would not have a plumber fix your electrical problem)  The information should be dated so that you know it is current.

Look in the “About” section of the website for the answers to these questions.  Following this set of questions will help you to determine whether or not the information is accurate, not biased, and valuable to you.


Stay well!





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