Published on April 8th, 2015 | by Lesley Paul0
Healthy Trends: Hot or Not?
A trend is defined as a tendency or prevailing style. Each season we see new “trends” in design, fashion, food and even health and wellness. At one time we waited for the latest magazine to arrive to show us what to wear, what the latest appliances were, what to eat and even how to exercise, but with mass media in the form of television and social media, …the latest trends are right at our fingertips or on the screen in front of us.
But we all know that trends come and go. What is “hot” today will be so “not” tomorrow. This is becoming increasingly popular in the world of health and wellness. Today’s power supplement is found useless or even harmful tomorrow. And access to all this medical information doesn’t seem to require a trip to the pharmacy or doctor anymore. Mass mediacan provide us with all the knowledge we need to diagnose and treat all of our ailments. Or can it?
The Internet contains a plethora of “advice” regarding health and wellness. My Facebook and Twitter pages are littered with unsolicited posts instructing me how to lose weight with a magic pill, what supplements will increase my longevity or what the current super food is.
Canadians also spend on average nearly five hours per day watching TV. There are countless numbers of talk shows either hosted by or guest starring a doctor with tips for healthy living. These are real physicians, giving “real” advice. How can we as consumers be sure that the information given is accurate or even safe?
A study recently published in the British Medical Journal* reviewed the quality of health recommendations made on two popular medical TV talk shows:
Of the 40 randomly selected episodes on today’s most popular shows, the BMJ Investigators reviewed 80 recommendations from each show. The reviewers found that only half of the information provided on the shows had evidence to support it. In both cases 15% of the evidence actually contraindicated the information given and the balance of the recommendations had no supporting data at all.Although, the study represented only a snapshot of what has been recommended over many years of shows, it does present a concern about the information provided.
As a society we are drawn to sensationalized television shows such as these to fulfill our desire for the quick and easy solution to all our problems. The doctor’s on both shows made the 2015 Greatist list in the top 100 health and fitness influencers. Interestingly, of the 100 people on this list, only fourteen were actual physicians. Another ten had recognized credentials after their names but many others were simply famous people who have influence in society.(That is not to say that they don’t have a positive influence on healthy living.)
We should be cautious when following the recommendations found through the media. Are these medical talk shows merely entertainment or they actually providing us with sound medical advice? When these doctors tell us that something is good, are they talking to an individual or the population in general? And how do we know if the information provided is supported with evidence? Are the benefits, risks and costs mentioned?
Decisions about healthcare require more than just non-specific recommendations. If the information provided by mass media “specialists” creates positive behavioural change, then maybe there is some value in watching these TV. But let’s not forget about the importance of face-to-face interactions with our own healthcare providers. Only he or she can offer individualized care and advice.
Lesley Paul, Pharmacist