Balance September 2017 - 34

W E I G H I N G U P T H E FA C T S

reported last year that between them, Coca
Cola and Pepsi gave money to 96 health
groups in the US. A study of 206 pieces of
research that looked at the 'Relationship
between Funding Source and Conclusion
among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles'
found those sponsored by a food or drink
manufacturer were four to eight times more
likely to show positive health effects from
consuming those products.
Often health claims or scientific
breakthroughs are reported in the media
without context. Heidi Gardner, PhD researcher
and science communicator, believes 'poor
quality science is easily disseminated broadly
and good quality science gets minimal
coverage because researchers are open about
the limitations of the work they've done.' We
want conclusive answers, and for science to
provide them, but 'that just isn't possible
with decent quality research - the best we get
is 'yes or no for now'.'
Helen West and
Rosie Saunt from
the Rooted Project,
a scheme they cofounded when they
'became tired of the
nutri-b****cks filling
our social media feeds'
stress the importance
of looking at the whole
body of evidence, rather than only that which
supports your personal belief. They see big
problems in the health and wellness industry,
where qualifications are not regulated in
certain fields, but recognise the public are
starting to understand the importance of
evidence-based nutrition and are 'demanding
credibility from the industry'.

While there are enormous advantages to
this, it's difficult to separate real expertise
or verifiable news from opinion and idea
- to 'hear the signal through the noise' as
Rob puts it. We're also human and tend to
believe things because other people do, or
experience confirmation bias where we tend
to search for information consistent with
beliefs we already hold.
Dr Joseph Reddington is director of
EqualityTime, a charity using critical
thinking to solve social problems. He's
also active in London's 'Quantified Self'
movement which is based on daily selftracking and says technology offers a
chance to become your own expert. 'Being
able to fact check in real time empowers
normal people with just enough truth to
fight back,' he says.
A yoga teacher specialising in prenatal
and baby yoga, Hayley Slatter aims to
help individuals find their own sense of
wellbeing. Even with experience as a physio,
a Masters in neuropsychology and additional
qualifications in yoga and pilates, she
finds the field overwhelming. The number
of yoga teachers
demonstrates the
versatility of a yoga
practice. But when
you add endless
articles, so-called
expert bloggers
and what Hayley
calls 'Instayogis',
showing the benefits
of particular poses,
classes and even nutrition, it's difficult
to know which practice is right for you. 'I
believe the common theme through all these
yoga types is that a true practice requires a
degree of self-awareness,' she says.
Heidi Gardner agrees, 'people tend to
tune out of their own bodies in favour
of trying to find evidence for what they
should or shouldn't be doing.' She has been
working with a nutritionist since 'feeling
overwhelmed' with all the healthy living
'evidence' she was faced with. 'I was relying
on claims I'd seen to tell me what was
healthy,' she says. Stopping soaking up all
the 'evidence' has made her happier and
more relaxed - and probably healthier, too.
So, how do we gain that self-awareness?
We might have to accept that there isn't
one. We're all human and after we've read
widely and deeply, asked critical questions
and considered all the evidence, sometimes
the only thing to do is take a deep breath
and jump in to what feels right for you. B

TECHNOLOGY
OFFERS A CHANCE
TO BECOME YOUR
OWN EXPERT

THE SIGNAL OR THE NOISE
Rob Briner is scientific director at The Center
for Evidence-Based Management. His advice
is to think widely and deeply. 'It is essential
to get evidence from a range of different
sources... because using information from
just one source means it is more likely we
will be using information that is either
limited or biased, or both. The second thing
we need to remember is to judge the quality
of the information or evidence we obtain.'
It has never been easier to share your
thoughts with the world via the internet.
Technology means anyone can have a voice.

34

BA LA N CE September 2017

FIND
YOUR
BALANCE
HOW YOU CAN
APPLY EVIDENCE
TO YOUR OWN LIFE
Search for the best available
evidence. As well as a degree of
quantity, you need quality. Who
wrote it? What do they have to
gain? What is their experience?
Play the 'why' game and
approach what you read and
hear with a dose of healthy
scepticism. 'Asking "why?"
repeatedly and focusing on
making better-informed and not
perfect decisions' is important
says Rob Briner, The Center for
Evidence-Based Management.

IS IT IMPORTANT?
Use Pettigrew and Roberts' idea
of salience, or how important
something is. Basically, does
what you're investigating even
matter? And why? Do we actually
care about taking 10,000 steps a
day, or whether we have 35 or
40 grams of protein? In the
grand scheme of our lives, how
much does it really matter?

THREE WISE THOUGHTS
The Rooted Project has three
questions to ask:
'Is the claim based on a person's
story, or a scientific study?' If it's
an anecdote, you can be pretty
certain it's not a fact and
probably not applicable to the
whole population.
'Is the newspaper headline
referring to one study or
multiple?' Single studies do not
change public health advice.
'Is it a human or animal study?'
You are not a mouse, rat or
monkey. You can't extrapolate
data from animals to humans.

LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
Remember that intuition is itself
a form of evidence. If your gut
is telling you something, then
you should listen to it. The
more practiced we become in
doing this, the more we will learn
to trust our own instincts and
develop self-awareness.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Balance September 2017

Balance September 2017 - 1
Balance September 2017 - 2
Balance September 2017 - 3
Balance September 2017 - 4
Balance September 2017 - 5
Balance September 2017 - 6
Balance September 2017 - 7
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