I always found it interesting when people talked about feeling their loneliest in the middle of New York City, surrounded by millions of people. It may seem like a leap, but that’s how I feel about finding reliable, reputable, easy to understand information on being healthy.
In today’s media-centric society, we have more information more easily available than ever before. Yet when it comes to healthy lifestyles, we may be at a low point in having accurate information that we can use to live healthier lives.
The popularity of social media has inflated the importance of just that….popularity. It is more important to be popular than to be correct, accurate, intelligent, reasonable, balanced, and hundreds of other adjectives. Popularity -measured by numbers of clicks, likes and shares- is king.
That may be harmless when we are talking about videos of cats playing the piano and kangaroos jumping in the ocean, but when it comes to advice that directly impacts our health, popularity may be confusing us more than ever.
We have to be 100% vegan or we are killing ourselves. Statins are poison and should be avoided by everyone. Meat has been incorrectly vilified and we should all eat as much meat and bacon as possible. Low-fat is the only healthy diet. Ketogenic is the best diet for everyone. Cardio exercise is worthless and we all need to do heavy lifting. We need to do interval training every day for weight loss. Tumeric will solve all your problems. Vaccines are killing us and giving us autism.
I could go on and on. I’m getting disgusted just typing these. But you can see how claims such as these from a popular voice, with thousands of shares and likes, could be taken as “truth” and as something that must be part of healthy living.
Fortunately, there are a smattering of popular voices that are also concerned with scientific evidence, reasonable approaches, and practical utility. I hope to be one of those voices. That was the goal behind creating my book, Your Best Health Ever: A Cardiologist’s Surprisingly Simple Guide to What Really Works (available on Amazon here).
My focus is the foundational principles of a healthy lifestyle, made very simple.
I present a balanced, scientifically accurate evaluation of lifestyle as medicine, and help build a sense of self-efficacy and “can do.” It’s meant to be a mix of science and practical tips for incorporating healthy habits into your life.
If my book and my message resonates with you, great. I am happy to be a voice to help. But do not stop there. Below is a list of other individuals with social media and web presence who are valuable sources of health advice. I do my best to summarize them to help you find the right ones for you.
Mark Hyman, MD- @markhymanmd. One of the most well-known functional medicine doctors, head of Cleveland Clinic’s functional medicine program, and multiple times best-selling author. He is a proponent of eating fat as his book Eat Fat to Get Thin suggests. He is one of the more respected and reasonable voices at the intersection of traditional and functional medicine. He tailors posts to the general public with recipes and other concrete health suggestions, and he does an admirable job of combining scientific evidence with clinical experience.
John Mandrola, MD- @drjohnm John is an electrophysiologist (a sub-specialty within cardiology focusing on electrical problems of the heart) who is excellent at dissecting data and seeing multiple points of view. His posts can be on advanced topics and are usually geared towards physicians and less so to the general public. He is still an outstanding example of a reasonable and intelligent voice who challenges the status quo when appropriate yet still acknowledges the benefits of agreeing with the masses.
Kevin Pho– @KevinMD. He is a primary care physician who is vocal regarding the challenges doctors face in providing high quality care and remaining engaged as physicians. He is a good resource for physicians to realize they are not the only ones facing these challenges, and he provides actionable advice to help with them. He may also be beneficial for patients to understand what MDs are going through, although most information may too technical for the public.
Frank Lippman MD-@drfranklipman. He is a physician and functional medicine practitioner. He promotes basic, reasonable health and wellness advice. Sometimes his information is too general, but can still be helpful for general reminders about health and wellness. He avoids the extremes and controversial topics. Has a gentler approach to functional medicine than most.
Val Jones MD- @DrVal She runs Better Health LLC and provides intelligent and well balanced health information.
Tim Caufield- @cuafieldtim He is affectionately known as “The B.S, Detector.” He is very quick to call-out and engage anti-vaccine proponents, chiropractors, naturopaths, holistic practitioners, and of course Gweneth Paltrow for their lack of evidence. His downfall is that he lumps groups together rather than recognizing a “few bad apples” can ruin the reputation of an entire profession. But if you have doubts about whether something legit, Tim likely has an opinion on the matter.
David Katz MD-@drdavidkatz Controversial for his history of self-promotion, but aside from that he provides a reasonable, intelligent, although heavily vegetarian biased, voice on nutrition and health. Frequently gets into twitter battles with Nina Teicholz, which provides an excellent point-counterpoint discussion of nutrition and quality of scientific evidence.
Joel Kahn MD-@drjkahn He is an admirable mix of practicing cardiologist, businessman, author, and passionate individual. He is heavily biased toward Veganism, and practices what he preaches. He even has his own Vegan restaurant in Detroit. He is committed to promoting health and wellness, and it is noteworthy how strongly he believes in his message. He is very active contributing articles on multiple websites, and is always quick to weigh in on current issues. He also frequently engages in twitter debates with Nina Teicholz. Eventhough I don’t personally believe we all need to be vegan, I appreciate Dr. Kahn’s message and his style, and I highly recommend him as a vegan health resource.
The Alternative Practitioner:
Chris Kresser-@chriskresser Of the non-MD functional medicine practitioners and Paleo proponents, he is the most reasonable, and the most detailed regarding science and research. He does not subscribe to the all-or-none approach to Paleo, and his level of thinking is deeper than most others. If you read an article on fish oil and then read Chris’ article on the same, you will immediately see his added layer of thinking and analysis.
@zdoggMD– Likely the most entertaining and humorous physician to follow. He may not be the best resource, but he certainly is the most entertaining.
Non-Physician Authors and Writers:
Gary Taubes-@garytaubes He is a journalist and author of The Case Against Sugar and Good Calories Bad Calories. He is not a medical professional, but he is a very good researcher and writer, and a vocal crusader against sugar and refined carbohydrates. The attacks against him would be the strength of evidence behind his claims, but overall he is a wealth of information and a vigilant proponent of health and the crusade against sugar.
Nina Teicholz-@bigfatsurprise Author of The Big Fat Surprise. Vocal proponent of saturated fat and one of the initial whistleblowers on the poor-quality science demonizing fat. She embraces controversy and can frequently be seen in twitter debates with Drs. Katz and Kahn listed above. That makes her always entertaining and informative, and a great source to help us see the “other side” of the low-fat trend that has been present for decades.
The Nutritional Movement:
The Whole 30: @whole30 Best-selling book promoting whole food nutrition and avoiding processed, refined foods. Great resource with recipes and inspirational links.
The Standard Medical Sites:
These all seem to have a balanced and reasonable approach to standard medical advice.
@Greatist- The health website for millennials and Gen X.
Joseph Mercola DO-@mercola- He is one of the most popular and most active voices in the health and wellness sector. Many of his posts are reasonable and great resources. However, he also drifts to the extremes and overstates the strength of the evidence to suit his claims such as (Do Drug Companies Secretly Favor a World Flu Pandemic?” “Zinc Can Cure Diarrhea” and “Learn How Homeopathy Cured a Boy of Autism” not to mention calling shampoo, tampons and other daily use items a “poison.” Of course, he sells healthy versions of them all on his website. There are multiple articles written calling him the most dangerous voice in health and wellness, and the FDA has reprimanded him on a number of occasions. Yet that doesn’t stop him from getting almost 2 million visitors to his site every month. As far as the public is concerned, he is doing something very right.
Mehemet Oz, MD- He wins the award for most popular physician voice on multiple mediums- TV, website, social media etc. He reportedly reaches millions every day in over 100 countries. He has gotten into trouble in the past for episodes such as “Plant based magic weight loss cures,” “miracle appetite suppressants,” communicating with the dead to reduce stress, and others. Doctors have petitioned Columbia University to remove him from his faculty position due to his “egregious lack of integrity” and his promotion of “quack treatments.” Yet it is clear he has won the popularity game and has a voice millions yearn to hear. He could never have done that if he wasn’t helping people to some degree. From that aspect, we can all learn from him.
Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola are two of many popular voices promoting a message of either distrust of modern medicine, or belief that miracle cures exist. This message resonates with millions. They both have credentials as experienced clinicians, and much of their advice is scientifically sound. The challenge comes in knowing when they cross the line and enter the potentially dangerous realm. That is why now more than ever, we need reasonable and responsible voices promoting health, wellness and prevention of chronic diseases.
So where can we turn for reputable, easy to understand information that will help us lead healthier lives? I encourage you to follow those on the above list whose style resonates with you, and I hope my book and website can fill that role as well. Just remember, everyone has a bias. Everyone. Every point has a counter point. Every story has more than one interpretation.
Look for balance, look for rational analysis, look for people who ask more question and don’t pretend to have all the answers. And please, remember to question every dramatic claim or headline you read. They rarely are as simple or impressive as authors would like you to believe.
Follow these principles, and you will ensure that you get the most accurate and reliable health information available. It may not always be the most popular or have the most likes, but hopefully it will be the most accurate and helpful. That’s more important than cats playing the piano, don’t you think?
Thanks for reading.
Bret Scher, MD FACC
Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health