Social Skeptic 1# – Junk Health Claims on Facebook

Pseudoscience is piling up on social media

Have you ever heard these lines in the break-room or at the dinner table?

  • “They say……if you eat ________, it’ll increase your energy”,
  • “They say it’ll boost your immune system.”
  • “They say it’s 10,000 time more powerful that chemotherapy.”
  • “They say big pharma doesn’t want anyone one to know about it because it natural.”
  • “How can it be bad for you…..it’s natural?”

These days, I’m convinced that when people use the phrase, “they say”, it usually references a random post on their Facebook feed.

I follow a lot of herbal, health, and medicinal plants pages on Facebook and try to stay up to date on the latest findings.  Occasionally, I’ll share a credible health or plant story on the Survival Gardener Facebook page.  Sadly, there are popular health pages making repeated scientific claims about various plants, herbs and fruits with little or no evidence.  Many of these pages have well over 100,000 followers.  If an untrained eye saw my feed, it would seem that every human ailment can be cured by a multitude of different plants.  Considering some of the grandiose claims, it’s not surprising that these sites fail to supply credible evidence in their articles.

Example #1 below

lemon juice sodium bicarbonate 10,000 times more powerful than chemotherapy

10,000 times? Hey “Juicing Vegetables” FB page, let’s see a source!

Evidence…..who needs it?

I place a high value on evidence.  I’m not asking for any exorbitant amount of evidence; just something credible.  For example, if someone told me that “lemongrass tea cures cancer”, my next questions would be, “over what time period, what kind of cancer and what scientific studies verify the claim”?   It would be great if natural lemon grass tea reversed a type of cancer!  Questioning the source of the claim is paramount.  Just believing what feels good is one reason social media is clogged up with pseudoscience and malarkey.

Below are a few more Facebook posts that ought to tweak your skeptic radar.  When explored further, none of these health claims backed up by relevant sources. 

Cure all Juice

Well, thank goodness someone finally found this!  No we can shut the site down.

Statistics, science, testing.....not important here.  It happened to one under uncontrolled conditions.....bam....Fact

Statistics, science, testing are not important here. It happened to one dude under uncontrolled conditions…..therefore, baking sode cures cancer.

Thank goodness Type 2 Diabetes has been cured.   Geez....I guess the rule here is, quote one Dr. in a blog post and you can say whatever the heck you want.

Type 2 Diabetes has been cured!  Next up, AIDS with kale chips and apple cider vinegar.

I believe that some of the most popular health related Facebook pages are posting flashy pseudoscience titles to raise their hit count. (big shocker, I know)  The unfortunate thing is, our friends and family members are reading, believing and sharing this ‘junk science’ quicker than crack in the 1980’s.

How Do We Stop the BS Train?

When a claim seems extraordinary, check its sources.  Read critical and opposing viewpoints.  Look at the authors qualifications.  Health claims are rife with testimonials and anecdotal evidence.  Sift through them, look for good data.  Whatever you do, don’t just share it because, “it can’t hurt”.  What’s the harm?  Check out WhatsTheHarm.Net to see what is the harm in bad science and shoddy health claims.

If there is a scientific claim on the Survival Gardener site and it turns out to be false or outdated, I’ll gladly update the information.  I welcome this sort of learning opportunity and realize that good science is built on changing and updating information.  

Thoughts? Rants?

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About Thad

A fan of tropical perennials, gardening, survival, permaculture aquaponics and unique species. Currently living in Costa RIca and Florida.

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