Doctor’s Top 10 Red Flags of Fake Health News

Separating real from fake health news

David Becker, MD

(Philadelphia Inquirer) What can you do to avoid falling for fake health news?

Look out for these potential red flags:

  1. The “news” sounds like a press release aimed at selling something. Almost weekly, a patient will bring me an ad or article, or tell me they heard about something on the Dr. Oz show. It’s almost always dubious — at best.
  2. An article makes sweeping conclusions that are not supported by the actual information.
  3. The “news” pops up on Facebook and gets a lot of “likes.” This is not an indicator of truth, just something people want to believe.
  4. The suggestion that this is a cure or treatment that “your doctor will not tell you about” because the medical establishment is keeping it a secret. Please believe me as a physician: I want to help my patients. So do my colleagues. We are terrible secret-keepers if we know of anything that works.
  5. The remedy has been studied only on mice. This doesn’t mean it helps humans, only that it needs more research.
  6. The information appears in a publication you have never heard of. When an article is in a peer-reviewed journal, such as JAMA or the New England Journal of Medicine, other experts in the field have reviewed the information and found it valuable.
  7. Purchasing the product would financially benefit the author or subject of the article.
  8. If the study was sponsored by the pharmaceutical, supplement, or device industry that is peddling the product under review, the information may be slanted.
  9. Your main source of information is Dr. Google. The internet can be a wonderful source of information. It also can lead you down a rabbit hole of misinformation. Look for information from reputable sources.
  10. It sounds too good to be true. Many “fast and easy” weight-loss claims fit this category.

Read more at David Becker, M.D., is a board-certified cardiologist in Flourtown, Pa. He has been in practice for 25 years.

Did you find fake health news today?

  • Did you hear or read possible fake health news today?
  • Do you have your own ‘truth detector’ for screening out fake health news?
  • Do you suspect that fake health news snuck past the editor of Headline Health and onto this site? (When it does, we remove it.)

Let us know in the Comments section below! Be specific about the reasons you reached the conclusion that the news is, in all likelihood, fake. 


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