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Evaluating Health, Fitness and Nutrition Research

Attention-grabbing headers on health, fitness and nutrition news stories don’t always tell the whole story. Learn how to sift through the news to find the true meaning of the research by using the points below to assess what you’re reading.

Consider the source. Is the publication generally regarded as reputable? Does it derive any portion of its income from the promotion or advertisement of products or substances similar to those tested in the study?

Who did the research? Were the scientists working for a nonprofit organization, a university or another third- party organization, or was the study done by an industry with something to gain or lose, depending on the outcome of the research?

Who funded the research? This information can be trickier to find out, but often even nonprofit and university studies can be partially or wholly funded by outside, private groups with something to gain or lose from the findings. This can influence how the data is ultimately presented.

Evaluate the scientific procedures involved. Was this a randomized study with good controls? Was it a meta-analysis? How large was the sample size? Was the study conducted on humans or on lab animals? All of these factors can affect the validity of a study.

Are there other sources that support these findings? If this is the first study to show these findings, and especially if the sample size was small or the test subjects were lab animals rather than humans, it is probably too early to get excited about the findings either one way or the other.

To view the full article which ran in the March 2014 issue of the IDEA Fitness Journal click here.

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