Evidence

Show Me

If you’re reading this blog (out of true interest rather than mild coercive tactics), you’ve no doubt asked or been asked about the 1276_snake_oil2validity of a certain supplement for preventing disease or ensuring good health. In fact, you’ve probably at some point attempted to Google or Pubmed a certain compound (Vitamin D! Fish oil! Garlic! Green Tea!) and been completely overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting and contradictory evidence lurking out there on the internet. It is with great happiness, then, that I bring you one of the neatest information graphics I’ve seen in a long time, published by David McCandless and Andy Perkins.

Here’s how it works. First, click on the link to see the graphic. You’ll see a bubble diagram (a representative still image is on the right) showing all of the popular health supplements included. The “show me” tab lets you click on various disease conditions, although the default is all conditions. The higher the bubble, the better the evidence for that supplement providing tangible health benefits for the disease or condition that appears when you mouse over the bubble. Certain supplements have multiple bubbles because there is research regarding their effectivess in treating more than one condition. The left axis shows the scale of evidence, ranging from strong, good and promising (above the “worth it” line) to conflicting, slight and none (below the “worth it” line). The bigger the bubble, the more popular that supplement in Google hits, indicating a lot of people are searching for information about it. And finally, if you click on a bubble, you’ll see a link to one key study providing evidence used for the graphic. Sources of information are Pubmed and the Cochrane database, and data are from large, blinded, placebo-controlled human studies (more rigorous studies in which subjects didn’t know whether they were receiving an identical supplement or placebo).

Like it? Find it useful? If so, you can geek out on other infographics on David’s blog, from this representation of the major causes of death in the 20th century (the atrocities of Humanity are sobering) to gender imbalances on social networks, censorship in China, the correlation between drugs and happiness, and the caloric content of caffeinated drinks. Enjoy!

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One thought on “Show Me

  1. I love graphics like this…especially the fact that they’re regenerating from an updated GoogleDocs – brilliant! However, I’d bet that the MonaVie folks aren’t too crazy about it.

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