Bruhn listed 10 warning signs that published claims made for a food or diet may be biased or misleading. These can be extended to claims made about drugs or therapies.


Warning signs about the claims made about a product or therapy:

(1) There is a promise of a quick fix, especially when the problem is complex.

(2) Dire warnings are made about dangers from a competing product or therapy.

(3) Claims are made that sound too good to be true (miracle cure).

(4) There are lists of things characterized as "good" and "bad" (without substantiating evidence).

(5) There are claims made that support the sale of a specific product made by the author or sponsoring company.


Warning signs in the published report may be misleading:

(1) Overly simplistic conclusions are made, especially if the topic or study is complex.

(2) Recommendations are based on a single study (especially if the study is poorly designed or controlled).

(3) Recommendations are published without peer review.

(4) The study ignores (or does not control for) differences between individuals or groups.


External evaluations of the product:

(1) The claims are refuted by reputable scientists or scientific organizations.



• I remember an article on "power clothes" for the business person which listed "good" and "bad" colors that promised or prevented success, targeting the reader's anxiety about failure.

• Findings of a single well-controlled and designed clinical trial can provide good information about a therapy.


The presence of one or more of these signs should cause the reader to seriously question the claims and to critically analyze the data.


Some additional warning signs that I can think of:

(1) No attempts are made to critically analyze the claims made or conduct a well-designed study.

(2) Possible side effects are denied or downplayed (or written in very small print).

(3) Anyone who questions the product is viciously attacked (for example, a drug company that sues a scientist for slander when negative findings are published).

(4) No one else is able to reproduce the reported findings.

(5) The claims target a desperate and vulnerable population.


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