Is Bias Harming Your Health?

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Do you ever find yourself believing something simply because you read it in a national media source?


It’s easy to fall for that.


As an author and Certified Health Coach, I do a fair amount of public speaking. One of my most popular talks is Fierce Wellness: How to Thrive in a World That Wants You Sick.


During this talk, I suggest five steps to becoming fierce in protecting your health. One of the most crucial steps relates to how you shouldn’t believe everything you read and hear when it comes to health and wellness, even when it’s from a national media source.


It’s important to understand that nutrition and health studies are very nuanced and journalists don’t always have the training required to properly interpret a study. Journalists are smart people – don’t get me wrong. But when your training is in journalism and not nutrition, you may not have the perspective to put information into the proper context.


I also believe it’s useful for you – the consumer of media – to understand how many media outlets find their sources. One way they do this is through a service called HARO, or Help a Reporter Out. I’m not knocking HARO; it’s given me several opportunities to be in the media.


However, the calls that reporters put out to sources are often worded in such a way that the responses they receive are likely to be quite biased.


For instance, there was in inquiry today from a major national magazine looking for “doctors talking about cancer myths”. The reporter is “hoping to quote a lot of doctors with common myths that they hear on the job”.


Will these doctors consider using proper nutrition to fight cancer a “myth”?


This is bothersome to me because the fact is, most doctors are not properly trained in nutrition. Sadly, the majority of U.S. medical schools offer somewhere between 2-10 hours of nutrition training.


And when it comes to cancer, many oncologists still believe, and tell patients and survivors, that it’s okay to eat whatever they want because it doesn’t matter. Their motto is “any calorie is a good calorie”.


So…is a patient coming into the office stating they read avoiding food additives is good for their health going to be counted as a “myth”? Or will using nutrition to fight cancer also be considered one, simply because this particular doctor doesn’t have the proper training required to understand the consequences of a diet filled with pesticides, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, and other chemicals on the human body?


What type of doctor do you believe is going to respond to this inquiry – one who is open to therapies outside of conventional medicine or one who is not?


It seems to me that when you ask a biased question you will likely receive a biased answer.


In Fierce Wellness, I call the aforementioned step “viewing things through a new lens”. I encourage you to run everything you read or hear through this new, more discerning lens. Think critically. If you see an article quoting a doctor talking about detoxing or special diets not being valuable in treating disease, ask yourself why the journalist didn’t speak to a functional medicine M.D., naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist – all far more likely to recommend and see the benefits of those types of treatments.


This isn’t about alternative facts. However, just because you read something in a national news source doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 100 percent true. All kinds of misinterpreted data and personal bias is included in many stories. Even when studies are quoted it doesn’t necessarily mean as much as you would think. There’s something called funding bias, which leads to the scientific studies often supporting the agenda of whomever sponsored the study


For example, a study that reviewed studies performed by the pharmaceutical industry showed this bias favors products which are made by the company funding the research. In addition, with regards to nutritional studies, Marion Nestle of states, “There are relatively few studies funded by industry whose results are contrary to the funders’ interest.”


Last, holistic practitioners often see improvements in people in clinical practice from therapies that may not be proven by a randomized controlled study. These types of studies are very expensive and typically won’t be funded if there is no profit to be made, such as from selling an expensive pharmaceutical drug.


Think critically and beware of bias. You’ll be much healthier for it.


Informed. Empowered. FIERCE.





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