On my morning commute, I often find myself wincing at headlines in the newspaper, which declare certain things ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. A few examples include “Running is bad for you” and “most cancer types just bad luck”.
Translating scientific research into a short and punchy article for the general public is very difficult. More often than not the article will consist of a small paragraph summarising many years of scientific research of which the conclusions are often exaggerated and sometimes incorrectly reported.
As well as sensationalist articles in newspapers and on news websites we are endlessly bombarded with health, exercise and diet tips from social media. Twitter is full to the brim with accounts offering health advice and with apps such as Mapmyrun and Myfitness pal we are literally a tap away from sharing our daily health regime with all our 900 Facebook friends!
Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we are more connected than ever before and people now have the platform to offer their own opinions and expertise to the world. Social media has become an unparalleled tool in getting people talking about what interests them. The caveat is that there are a lot of young and easily-influenced people on social media of whom can be severely impacted by what they read. Having the world wide web at our fingertips has meant that we all google our symptoms before we even go to the Doctors and despite their advice, we may still choose to believe Mr. Jones on twitter who suggests drinking green tea will cure your colon cancer…!
When it comes to your health and wellbeing it is important to be aware of the difference between scientific fact and opinion. It is important to consider where the information is coming from and who is saying what. Social media has revolutionized the way we get information. It doesn’t take much hunting to find diet plans, home workouts and recipes to keep you and your family healthy. It’s a fantastic aid but something that, for now, does not replace seeking guidance from a medical professional and requires us to use our brains and question the things we see and hear. We are all investigators, especially when it comes to scientific topics, and we should be excited by all the information out there but remain vigilant in what we choose to believe.
Chloe is a health and fitness enthusiast undertaking a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at UCL. To check out her blog visit www.runningwithscience.com