'Health hacks' offering cures on the Internet: How to tell fact from fiction

Thursday, February 16, 2017 05:40PM
Sandra Bookman has the latest details.

NEW YORK - Chances are you've heard some pretty crazy home remedies over the years.

But with the advent of the Internet, so-called 'health hacks' have exploded, offering advice on how to cure all sorts of conditions.

But how do you know what really works? We have some advice on separating fact from fiction.

The Internet may be the modern day version of the Encyclopedia Brittanica for getting answers to some of life's burning questions quick.

But you may want to think twice when looking online for answers about your health.

"There's a lot of fake news out there and it can be very difficult for someone who's not trained medically to navigate that," said ABC News Medical Director Dr. Richard Besser.

And there are plenty of sites online promising so-called 'health hacks', shortcuts to remedies for what ails you.

For example, a post on one dedicated Facebook page suggests putting raw onion in your sock overnight to draw out the dangerous toxins in your blood.

Sounds ludicrous, but it's been viewed more than 37 million times, and shared by tens of thousands.

Dr. Besser warns, while the onion may not harm you, there are other posts that could.

Like one that touts six healthy reasons to drink beer. Among them: it will increase bone density, lower cholesterol, even prevent kidney stones..and more.

"They're highly produced, they look really good," said Dr. Besser. "There's little vague links to things that are pseudo-science, and people believe this is the way to health. It's a very dangerous thing."

Some, like the owner of 'Flower Power and Roots', a natural herb emporium in the East Village, believe people these days are just looking for health alternatives.

Being healthy is in, using natural medicine is in," said herbalist Latah Kennedy.

But telling the difference between the merely strange and the truly dangerous is the challenge.

"The Internet has both right now, which is kind of like you have to be discerning," said Maria Maldonado.

"It depends on the source and the web site I'm looking at," said Nicole Rodriguez Chavez.

Dr. Besser suggests always going first to your primary care physician.

But there are also websites like http://www.snopes.com/ or
http://www.trustortrash.org/that will help you separate fiction from fact.

"You can go there and you can type in a web site and see whether it's been certified as being an honest source of information," said Dr. Besser.

One way to make sure that 'hack' isn't quackery.
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