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A Simple Tool for Evaluating Scientific Studies on Your News Feed

By Julia Reedy, MNSP, November 17, 2021

understanding studies on news feedInsideTracker works on the cutting edge of nutrition and human science. An entire team of scientists is constantly reviewing newly published studies, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, and integrating their findings into the algorithms that provide all InsideTracker users with personalized wellness and nutrition recommendations. But not everybody has a team of experts to assist with decoding the constant stream of science headlines and posts that cross our screens each day. Luckily, you don’t need formal scientific training to think critically about the studies you see in your news feed—some of the same tools used by scientists are available to all. Here are some general characteristics that can influence the strength of a study, plus info about a tool to help you understand all of the important details.

5 blood biomarkers all athletes should knowAn introduction to characteristics that influence a study’s strengths

InsideTracker takes many considerations into account when determining whether and how to integrate a study’s findings into the platform and recommendation calculations. Here are some high-level characteristics that help to contextualize the strength of a study’s findings.

  • The amount of existing research that supports its findings – A single study is most impactful when its findings are supported by a body of evidence from existing research. Novel, cutting-edge findings can still be important, but caution is warranted before taking their results as objective truth.
  • The scientific journal in which the study is published – Journals have varying levels of reputation and impact in their respective fields. The impact factor of a journal quantifies the importance of its published studies and the frequency at which they are cited in other studies. The higher the impact factor of a journal, the more reputable it is.
  • The sample size of a study – Though small studies can have significant findings, studies that evaluate larger groups of people are more likely to have statistically (and clinically) significant findings.
  • The type of study – Studies can vary significantly in their design. Some studies review or analyze multiple existing studies, some are new experiments, and some observe people in their natural states. Studies that analyze multiple existing studies (meta-analyses) are typically the strongest.
  • The type of findings – Studies can vary in what they measure (e.g. a biomarker like glucose vs. a clinical outcome like diabetes diagnosis) and in how strong an effect is found to be. Studies that evaluate clinical outcomes and those with large effect measures are the most influential.

 

A tool to help you identify and understand high-quality, high-impact studies

Want to learn how to evaluate studies like an InsideTracker scientist? The tool found on this page, created by the United States National Institutes of Health, is an excellent resource for anyone looking to understand a study’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve identified a study of interest, go to the corresponding tab (dependent on study type), and complete the questionnaire—scroll down the page for additional details and guidance.

View the United States National Institutes of Health's Study Quality Assessment Tool here


Connecting to InsideTrackerunderstanding research studiesInsideTracker uses a massive database of human research to inform and provide personalized wellness and nutrition recommendations to its users. The strength of the studies included in this database gives InsideTracker’s algorithms the precision needed to provide recommendations that drive meaningful results.

As an InsideTracker user, you can see the studies informing the recommendations on your profile. In the InsideTracker app, go to your Plan page, click any of your recommendations, and scroll down to Science. There, you can see the strength of the scientific evidence based on InsideTracker's star rating (more info on our rating system here) and even read the original research.

 

 

 

 


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Julia Reedy, MNSP
Julia is a Written Content Strategist & Editor at InsideTracker. She loves to use her experience in cutting-edge nutrition research and writing to spin complex health and nutrition topics into clear, approachable info everyone can relate to. As an inquisitive food shopper, she's constantly reading ingredient lists—and leaving shelves of backward products in her wake.