How to Cut Through the New Years Broscience

diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
Broscience: snippets of information and technique passed from person to person in a gym or other setting, sometimes factual but usually not, often accompanied by no more proof than "well it worked for me" or "that guy is ripped, he must know what he's talking about."

The weight loss and fitness world is awash with bad information, and never moreso than at the first of the year. Everyone wants to tell you to do this or do that, buy these products, try these creams, and it is a minefield of information to sort through. Especially for those who haven't attempted this journey before.

I don't have all the answers. I'm not an expert. But I've been hanging around here for a while and maybe I've learned a few things that might help you sort through the good and the bad. Hopefully others will chime in with tips, tricks, and useful websites.

Cultivate sources - Learn who knows what they're talking about and who just wants to use you as a customer. Dr. Oz, most fitness magazines, bloggers, supplement companies, many nutritionists, and a lot of PTs fall into that latter category of people who are selling you something. That's not to say that everyone sucks, but be aware that in the fitness world most seem to. Find the people who know what they're talking about and stick with them. Don't trust Doctor So-and-So with that new book out now, Prevention Magazine, Buzzfeed, Livestrong, or that woman Brenda from accounting without doing some research first.

Track down studies - If someone makes a claim, ask them where they heard it. If they give you an article, find out what sources the article cites. If you can get to the actual scientific studies that's best. Not articles or news stories about the study, but the actual hard science posted in a peer reviewed journal. Google Scholar ( ) or PubMed ( ) can help. You don't have to wade through the whole thing, but learn about the weaknesses in the study and make sure that the conclusion the actual researchers came to matches what the article or person telling you says. You'll find many, many news stories haven't bothered to read the study themselves.

Track down counter-articles - This is especially useful if the study you're curious about sits behind a paywall and you can't access it. Find those sources you've already decided you trust and find out what they have to say about it. I don't always understand what a study is talking about but I've found people I trust who do and they can lay it out for me in easy-to-understand language.

Understand WHY something works - Why? Why? Why? How and why are your strongest questions. I can tell you that three cups of hot, decaf tea in the evenings help me to lose weight, but without knowing how or why that doesn't help you. Is it something special about the tea? Or is it just that hot tea soothes me and keeps me from snacking more than I need to? Once you know why something works you can decide whether or not you want to include it in your own routine.

Love the gray area - Very few things in the nutrition world are absolutes. Man-made trans fats are probably an absolute bad, but beyond that a lot of things work for a lot of different people. Humans thrive on a variety of diets and you can be happy and healthy eating very different things. If someone tells you that you MUST do this or you CAN'T do that, they may not understand what they're talking about. I'm not saying you should throw out their advice immediately, but it's something of a red flag, generally speaking.

In the end, you have to decide whether or not something matters to you - Bacon is a carcinogen. This is a fact. Bacon causes cancer. It is a group 1 carcinogen: carcinogenic to humans. Great, so I can never eat bacon again? Not necessarily. Bacon raises your risk of colon cancer by 21% if you eat it 7 days a week. The average person has about a 4.5% chance of developing colon cancer, so eating bacon 7 days a week raises that from 4.5% to 5.445%. Does that matter to you? It might, and that's cool if it does. And it might not, and that's okay too. But knowing all of that allows you to make a much more nuanced decision than just "Bacon causes cancer; quit eating it." And that's the point of all of this.

Here's one of my favorite things: Scientists randomly chose 50 ingredients from a cookbook and looked to see if there were articles about whether or not they caused cancer. A full 80% of them had articles about their cancer risks, even though 75% of the risk estimates had weak or no statistical significance. If we aren't choosy when we read, everything can seem to cause cancer or be unhealthy in other ways. Leraning to wade through information can feel like an artform sometimes, but it comes with practice.


  • AnvilHead
    AnvilHead Posts: 18,344 Member
    Awesome post. Agree 100%.
  • CSARdiver
    CSARdiver Posts: 6,257 Member
    Brilliant post Dianne.
  • WinoGelato
    WinoGelato Posts: 13,455 Member
    WinoGelato wrote: »
    Great post. Sadly, a lot of people don't realize that the woo/misinformation they are falling for actually falls into the category of BroScience so they may skip over this thread altogether.

    As with anything, some will find it useful, some will skip it, and I'll probably end up with a Dr. Oz supporter wandering in at some point.

    That's true. MFP is filled with self proclaimed excellent researchers - so I'm eager to hear what some of them think of your post about vetting sources.
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    CSARdiver wrote: »
    Brilliant post Dianne.

  • ninerbuff
    ninerbuff Posts: 47,918 Member

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

  • RoxieDawn
    RoxieDawn Posts: 15,489 Member
    Another awesome thread that will be regularly bumped. :smile:

    ...but those bacon facts though.. yikes
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    RoxieDawn wrote: »
    Another awesome thread that will be regularly bumped. :smile:

    ...but those bacon facts though.. yikes

    Sorry to end the post on a downer :(
  • DEBOO7
    DEBOO7 Posts: 239 Member
    What have I learnt on my nearly 4 year weight-loss, nutrition and fitness journey?
    Self education is essential - make informed decisions
    You have to find what works for you - what fits with your lifestyle - what is sustainable.
    Yes, sustainable. if you can't sustain the changes then it's likely failure is a certainty.
    Stop making excuses, there's only one person in control, that makes the choices and that's you!
    Finally... you have to believe in you!
    And as Forrest Gump said 'and that's all I have to say about that'
  • RuNaRoUnDaFiEld
    RuNaRoUnDaFiEld Posts: 5,864 Member
    Great post!
  • estherdragonbat
    estherdragonbat Posts: 5,285 Member
    I bookmarked this from another thread in the forum. I think it might be a good idea to share it here:
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    I bookmarked this from another thread in the forum. I think it might be a good idea to share it here:

    Thanks for this!
  • diannethegeek
    diannethegeek Posts: 14,776 Member
    I want to drop this into the mix, too, since I hadn't spotted it before:
  • Feed_the_Bears
    Feed_the_Bears Posts: 275 Member
    HAHAHA I have never heard the term "broscience" before. Hilarious.