There is no shortage of resources, be they blogs, TV shows, podcasts, and books, dealing with health-related information.
It is fair to say that the landscape is crowded, and this saturation has led to the all-too familiar practice of churning out click-bait articles. When competing for views, and trying to be heard, the more sensational or controversial a claim, the more likely it is to gain traction and attract views.
This strategy is used frequently in the sale of natural health products and treatments, and does a disservice to those that continue to work hard to move research forward and continue to build on the evidence based for integrative and complimentary medicine.
As the practice of promoting sensational claims of effectiveness of natural health products has grown, so too has the movement to dismiss, disprove, and even demonize natural health products, treatments, and integrative health-care practitioners. Sensationalistic claims are an indiscriminate weapon.
Unfortunately mainstream media is not immune to the influence of this all-or-nothing, headline grabbing, black and white approach to understanding the complexity of the many forms of health care. Saturated fats, vitamin D, multivitamins, cognitive behavioral therapy, and many other treatments have spent time both on a pedestal of health promotion, and relegated to the waste bin. As most people know, the story is never that simple.
One of the most recent, and impactful examples of poor journalism and headline chasing was a CBC Marketplace exposee on the quality of natural health products. The program reported that a number of health products, when tested by a third party, did not contain what they claimed.
There has long been suspicion of such issues in the supplement industry – and it is a fair criticism in some unregulated markets. (In Canada you should always make sure your supplements have a NPN number.)
As with any product, quality in the supplement industry needs to be a priority, and of course not all producers are equal. Unfortunately, the conclusions drawn by the program could paint an industry with a very broad brush.
Recently, CBC printed a retraction to their report. When the CBC was notified there might have been a problem with the lab they used for their original report, they contracted a number of other third party labs to repeat testing and all products tested were shown to have no quality issues.
The CBC did the right thing in re-testing and correcting their mistake, albeit after much damage had been done. Undoubtedly, their mistake has reinforced the negative view many have of natural health products.
It is a cautionary example. It is vitally important to continually question the health information that one is exposed to, and access multiple sources when forming an opinion. Be critical of the media you consume, ask questions, and check in with your health-care practitioner to round out your opinion. Be critical and always assess if the source is more interested in your wallet than your wellness.