- Misleading statements about cancer nutrition on Pinterest, a social media platform focused on images.
- A new study found that almost 50% of the nutritional content of cancer on Pinterest is linked to a non-profit site.
- Misleading keywords like “Fighting Cancer” and “Fighting Cancer” were often used in these pins.
Pinterest, a platform where users share and “pinpoint” visual inspirations and recipes, has a wide range of misinformation about cancer nutrition, according to a new study.
The researchers found that almost half of all cancer-related pines were linked to non-profit websites, 34% of which sold supplements or similar products. Many of these pins were also misleading keywords such as “cancer attack” and unproven claims to “treat”, “prevent” or “cure” cancer.
“We were surprised to learn that although social media can be a source of support and promotion, a lot of information about cancer online is misleading and misleading, which can be quite worrying for cancer patients and caregivers,” Echo Warner said. The doctor, MPH, the author of the research and an assistant professor at the University of Utah, told Verywell in an email.
Alex Whitaker Cheadle, a survivor of breast cancer living in Kansas City and an advocate for women’s health, turned to Pinterest and other social media sites while undergoing cancer treatment. He was diagnosed at the age of 24 and asked if his diet had any effect.
“It simply came to our notice then. And it’s so frustrating that it’s become a moment of profit, ”Cheadle told Verywell.
During her cancer treatment, Cheadle’s health care providers provided her with a link to information on foods to avoid. However, the binder did not have clear guidelines for the food it could eat, which led to other resources being sought online.
“People want to make the right choices, but finding a good source can be awesome,” Cheadle said.
Pinterest Red Flags
While Cheadle was browsing Pinterest, she said breast cancer survivors can’t eat soy and that eating certain plant extracts eliminates the need for chemotherapy.
“It’s not just misinformation; they are things that can actively harm people, ”he said.
Cheadle was just one of thousands of people searching the web for cancer nutrition information. A 2018 national survey found that 70% of U.S. adults have accessed the Internet for medical information. and many of them were looking for information specifically related to cancer.
There are a number of red flags for cancer patients and their caregivers when they turn to Pinterest for ideas on how to plan meals.
The content that claims to “cure” cancer is particularly troubling because it falsely states that certain foods or recipes will be able to treat cancer, Teplinsky said.
“The phrases ‘cancer’, ‘cancer fight’ or ‘cancer fight’ are very vague and can promote misinformation,” he said. “These claims are actually being used to promote social media traffic and increase social media engagement.”
Teplinsky also noted in a review that sometimes online sources back up their claims with outdated or discredited scientific research. Mentioning a research may make the information more reliable and some people may not take the time to check all the sources mentioned in a social media post.
This is even more difficult when scientific sources are credible and food misinformation is rooted in a truth.
“For example, a compound found in a particular spice or vegetable may show anti-carcinogenic activity in a laboratory environment, but that does not mean that eating these foods will cure or treat the patient’s cancer,” said Margaret Raber, DrPH, MPH. An assistant professor of pediatric nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine and one of the authors of the Pinterest study told Verywell in an email.
Experts recommend evaluating the credentials of Pinterest sources and first and foremost consider the incentives for these sources to share information. They also encourage people to discuss any medical information they find online with their healthcare providers.
How providers and patients can take advantage of social media
Experts pointed out that social networking sites need to step up their efforts to verify and verify health claims on their platforms. Pinterest’s community policy states that the site will “remove or restrict the distribution of false or misleading content” in particular content that provides “medically unacceptable health claims.”
In light of this new study, it seems that this effort has not been enough to get rid of the false nutritional claims of cancer. “So we have to accept that patients are going to find the wrong information related to nutrition,” Raber said.
The research team now plans to create a tool to help patients and caregivers sort out all their online nutrition misinformation.
However, health care providers also need to be more open with their patients about the reality of nutrition misinformation.
“Using Pinterest or other online websites for meal ideas is perfectly fine, and there are some home remedies that will be helpful to many, such as those on chemotherapy with chicken ginger soup,” Raber said. “But people should avoid making big changes. Without discussing their diet patterns with the provider.”
What does this mean for you?
Cancer patients and carers can find supportive communities online. But if you’re looking for meal plans to follow in your cancer treatment, consider discussing the information with your healthcare team as soon as possible. Everyone’s body is different and your provider can evaluate whether some of the recipes are right for your treatment plan.