Can I Trust What I Read Online?

It’s a question many of you will have asked yourselves at some point. Many of you will also have mulled it over with friends and family too when having a coffee – have you heard such and such causes cancer? Eating chocolate can reduce your risk of having a stroke! Drinking red wine will make you loose weight!


These are just some of the outlandish claims made by the media when it comes to reporting on health issues.


So can I trust what I read online?


New stories and medical claims are published daily by media outlets all over the world. Often their articles will be backed up by research and studies but it is important to look closely at how the research was conducted and how big the sample size is. Unfortunately, there are frequently a high number of false and exagerrated health allegations made in the media and it is wise to remain wary of what you read.


In order to help with this, NHS Choices has its own dedicated page; “Behind The Headlines” which scours the media everyday for over-exaggerated claims to protect the public from falling foul of misinformation. The team running “Behind The Headlines” will “unspin” the stories in the press to ensure a true representation of the headlines by putting to bed any misrepresented facts and providing a truthful and unbiased analysis of the studies.


The team segment each article into sections and look at the following factors:


Where Did The Story Come From?

What Sort of Research Was This?

What Did The Research Involve?

What Were The Basic Results?

How Did The Researchers Interpret The Results?



By looking at the different elements involved in the story, the team are able to deduce how factual the story is, before making their own conclusions. So when you next come across a story that you feel may be a little far fetched, it’s a good idea to check the Behind The Headlines section of the NHS Choices website to ensure that what you are reading you can trust.


If you have any health related questions or queries, or if you’ve read something in the press, you can also ask your pharmacist or GP for more help and information.