26 February 2010

Finding Science-Based Answers to Health Questions

When someone has a health-related question today, they are most likely to do a Google search for their symptoms. Of course, what they are looking for is good advice on what will help them. But the results they get back will be a mixture of actual good advice mixed with con-men and quacks selling snake-oil cures. How can a person who wants to find reliable advice sift through all the mountains of useless information?

The key to finding good health advice is to seek advice that is supported by good scientific research, which can be difficult if you are not sure where to look. Here are the resources that I use when trying to find health advice:
Science-Based Medicine
Blog that covers all topics related to science and health. Posts on the site are written by a staff of ten physicians and researchers in various medical fields. They also provide a topic-based reference guide to direct you to information on different topics.
The Cochrane Collaboration
Systematic reviews of evidence-based health therapies and products. Use the search function to find evidence about your particular interest.
Quack Watch
A guide to fraudulent health products, services, and theories. Includes articles on quackery in medicine in general and how to identify it.
Search the scientific medical literature directly. This site is a little more technical, but you can find information on the individual papers that support or contradict various health claims.
The above links are good general resources. In addition, here are a few random interesting sites:
Snake-Oil Supplements
A graphic showing which supplements are supported by evidence. Not a general reference, but a quick guide to get you started.