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By: Jonathan Tait, D.O.
I read an article recently in NPR talking about the popularity of scare tactics, fear-driven marketing, and pseudoscience being used by the ballooning number of “experts” adding information and growing their following on the Internet.
It is my prediction for 2015 that this type of information will be pumped into your email inbox and newsfeed in the coming year with ever-increasing volume.
Get your boots and shovel because a lot of it smells, and it is piled high and deep.
The Internet is a wonderful tool at your fingertips, accessible each second of the day, allowing you to access an unfathomable amount of information – information however that is constantly evolving and changing.
In just a few clicks, keystrokes, or a voice command to your phone you can have the answer to any question you have. So what is the problem?
You are left to decipher whether or not the information you find in a search (or what is being marketed to you on the page after you input that search) was written or produced by someone with expertise in that area (often times not), is supported by the weight of the research evidence in the context it is being discussed (often times not), and is good intentioned to inform and educate the reader (often times not).
While I could crank out an email to you every day, post a hundred things on social media each week, or promote to you every product sent my way for a hopeful endorsement, I choose not to.
Why? Isn’t that the best way to market? Shouldn’t I constantly be bombarding my audience with more intrusive ads forcing their submission to the click?
Frankly I don’t have the time to do that even if I chose to. I have a full-time job as a physician, and that takes a good chunk of my time as I help patients fight against the current of what is going on in our “health care” system. I don’t spend my day cranking out marketing schemes (like some of the high profile doctor endorsements you may see) to get you to buy more stuff from me that may or may not impact your health.
Don’t get me wrong; I would like you to buy my book. However, the difference is that I put a painstaking amount of time into the research of the content in my book over the past few years. I can’t say that of most of the social media drivel that seems to get the most likes, shares, and forwards. Such is life in media.
Second, I am careful and respectful about adding to the pile of information being thrown at you on an epic scale each day – especially in the form of email and social media. According to the American Institute of Stress, “media overload” such as television, radio, email, Internet and social media is the #6 cause of stress for Americans. By the way, chronic illness or chronic pain ranked #3.
Much like my aim with The Pain Free Diet, I want everything I take the time to write to be something that you can readily apply to your life. The information is to stimulate food for thought, and is to be used as a guideline or roadmap to help you evaluate and hopefully improve some aspect of your health for the better.
Putting stock in a single isolated factoid, nutrient, or supplement, rarely leads to major change in my patient’s lives. Laying out a more comprehensive plan for their health, as delivered in my book, most often will.
Science- and nutrition-related messages can be confusing or contradictory. If the information is delivered through popular media, it often gives a quick blurb about the findings or recommendations, but not much about the who, how, or why the study came to be.
To that point, as 2014 draws to a close and we embark on the New Year, I want to present you with a better system to evaluate what you read, and to become a more confident, critical consumer of information.
Of course, I’ll continue to shovel the pile in order to deliver to you what truth may be buried beneath the marketing BS (Big Spending).
Here are the questions I use, and I recommend that you use, to critique what you hear or read in the popular press or scientific literature:
This is the approach I used to evaluate the research and opinions that made it in to the second edition of The Pain Free Diet.
Committed to your health,