Healthcare // Patient Tools
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3/28/2012
12:40 PM
Paul Cerrato
Paul Cerrato
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Is That Healthcare Website Making You Sick?

Many healthcare websites provide valuable information that can help prepare you for the next doctor's visit. But some serve up misinformation that just might land you in the hospital. Here's how to tell the difference.
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Compare the objective approach of the NCCAM website to this one, which promotes Sensa Weight loss crystals. Putting aside the emotional appeal of the sexy, trim bodies displayed throughout the website, let's focus on the evidence presented by the website that this product actually works. In large bold type, the site trumpets that Sensa is "clinically proven to help you lose 30 pounds*!" The proof shows a scientific-looking chart that details a large controlled study in which patients on Sensa lost more than 30 pounds in 6 months. Meanwhile, a control group that didn't take the product lost only 2 pounds, the website states.

Now, start to ask questions: Was this research funded by the company that makes Sensa? (It was.) If so, does the company have a vested interest in ensuring that the results turn out in its favor? Was the research published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal? (There's no mention of journal publication on the website.) Have its findings been duplicated by a research team not affiliated with the company? Equally important, did the people who lost weight on Sensa maintain that weight loss one or two years down the road? These are questions you need to ask before spending your time and money.

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