What the science says (Pt 2): Tips to tell if science is trustworthy

by | Jun 4, 2021 | Last updated Mar 22, 2023

You may have heard people you know make claims about science — like the effects of eating three meals a day or that intermittent fasting is the best way to lose weight. But there’s so much out there that it can be hard to understand what to trust and what not to trust. 

Here are three places to start: 

Was it peer reviewed?

This is by far the best indicator of whether a science claim is trustworthy or not. Peer review is the process by which experts in the field take a scientific study and carefully and rigorously vet it. Peer review limits the possibility of making claims without having good scientific evidence for it. Most journal articles are peer-reviewed, while books, commentaries, online pieces, and Youtube videos are not. 

  • TIP: Search for the topic in Pubmed, a public repository of biomedical and life science articles. After searching, make sure to click all fields under “Article Type” except for “Books and Documents” to restrict your search to peer-reviewed articles. You can also search on Google Scholar and take note of any search results from journals.
  • TIP: When you have a specific paper in mind, check out the name of the source, such as the title of the journal. You can search Google for the name of the journal to navigate to the journal’s home page. On the home page, the journal should say whether it is peer-reviewed or not.

Is it outdated?

Sometimes early research is proven to be either wrong or limited by later research. 

  • TIP: Take a look at the date of the papers showing up in PubMed, and repeat your search; limit your search to recent years. You can do the same thing on Google Scholar. Then see if the same type of claim is made in recent research.

Is it backed by other research?

Sometimes people make a strong claim based on only one study. Claims get more credible the more they’re backed by lots of research.

  • TIP: Search PubMed or Google Scholar for reviews (#systematic review or #meta-analysis), which are when scientists go through all the existing scientific evidence on some topic and evaluate how credible it is.

In a sea of information, it can be hard to tell what is credible and what isn’t. The good news is that peer review helps us understand what kinds of studies may be reliable or not, and ensures that the research has been critically vetted. And that’s why we at Noom make sure that our scientific research is peer-reviewed and published in academic journals, rather than in white papers that do not need peer review. Have any remaining burning questions about scientific credibility or our research? Don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know