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There are so many headlines out there which may cause you to feel a bit unsettled, and with reason… until you continue reading that is. How do you know if the headline speaks the truth? Is it an actual fact or is it just a theory? If you continue reading you’ll often notice that the headline has left something rather important out – this is most likely the extent they went to in order to reach their conclusion of “Junk Food in Pregnancy Leaving Children Fat for Life.” You haven’t really ever considered statements like this before so obviously, you’re more than likely going to be shocked into wanting to read the article – this is their aim!
Bloggers will always use the most enticing headline they can think of to attract you to their work. The more original the headline is, the more views / sales they are going to receive. The first thing you should keep telling yourself when it comes to blogs and articles is to not believe the headline straight away – stop stressing!
Has the writer even supported their work with scientific research? This should be your very first point of concern. For instance, they are saying they have found a brand-new drug which can help to reduce symptoms of a disease which you may have… unless they can back their words up with scientific research, or if their work is yet to be published, take caution.
Articles based on a conference abstract shouldn’t scare you into running to your GP for help. Research made here has often only just been introduced and usually hasn’t been studied by experts in the field. Full details regarding methods are usually yet to be provided, as for this, it is difficult to judge how well the research was found and put together.
Many people refer to something being tested on cells in the lab or on animals as the “miracle cure” however, this is not always true. For example, if a rat with a disease has been cured by a drug, it doesn’t mean it is guaranteed to cure you (as a human) too. Many drugs that show promising results in animals don’t work in humans, same as how many drugs that show promising results in cells in labs don’t work in animals. Due to this, you shouldn’t just buy the drug and expect it to cure you of all your health issues as it more than likely won’t. However, studies in cells and animals are crucial first steps and should not be undervalued.
Whilst the research is being studied, it is good to see a larger amount of attendees – this is because the more people there are, the more trustworthy the research becomes, so when you see a study conducted on a handful of people, treat it with caution. A control group allows the researchers to compare what happens to people who have the treatment/exposure of the “cure” with what happens to people who don’t. If the study doesn’t have a control group, then it’s difficult to come up with accurate results. It’s important that the control group is as similar to the treated/exposed group as possible. A randomised controlled trail entails randomly assigning people to be in their chosen groups. So, when you’re reading an article, make sure to look out for this feature.
The research needs to have examined what is being talked about in the headline and article. If a news story is focusing on a health outcome that was not examined by the research then beware of it being misleading. For example, as discussed on the NHS website you might read a headline that claims:
“Tomatoes reduce the risk of heart attacks.” What you need to look for is evidence that the study actually looked at heart attacks. You might instead see that the study found that tomatoes reduce blood pressure. This means that someone has extrapolated that tomatoes must also have some impact on heart attacks, as high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks. Sometimes these extrapolations will prove to be true, but other times they won’t.
Most trials today are receiving their funds via the manufacturers of whatever is being tested; this could possibly affect what the researchers find and report, due to the manufacturers having a vested interest in the results. Therefore, it could be useful finding out who funded the study just to increase trust.
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