UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

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Document Type



Communication Technology and New Media | Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition | Health Communication | Information Literacy | Journalism Studies | Lipids | Public Health Education and Promotion


BACKGROUND: Dietary supplements are the most used complementary and alternative health modality in the United States, and omega-3 supplements continue to be the most popularly used nonvitamin or nonmineral supplements by adults. Users of dietary supplements report that they obtain health guidance from internet media resources, but there is question as to whether or not these resources provide the necessary evidence to guide health decisions. Current evidence suggests that there is a mistranslation occurring somewhere between researchers and the media.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to conduct a comparative cross-sectional analysis to identify areas of discordance created when science is translated from the laboratory to Web-based news media.

METHODS: A Google news search provided our convenience sample of 40 omega-3 supplement-based media reports stratified by the years 2009 to 2012. Media reports (n=17) were compared with the corresponding scientific papers for content. Report and scientific paper content were extracted using commonly accepted reporting guideline domains, and domains were then compared for detecting underlying omissions or mistranslations in reporting. Mean scores for all of the scientific papers and media reports were assessed for each domain.

RESULTS: Scientific papers (n=14) generally maintained a mean close to complete for each reporting domain. The only domain where there was not a significant difference between media and scientific reporting match was within the objectives domain (chi(2)1= 0.8, P=.36). Media reports (n=17) more frequently reported potential caveats and warnings for consumers with a mean domain for caveat reporting of 0.88, with possible scores falling between 0 and 1.

CONCLUSIONS: There are inherent differences in the intended audience, structure, and goals in scientific and media communications. These differences should be explored further, and consumers should be made aware of them. Additional considerations for balanced reporting and reader accessibility are also necessary to take into account and are explored further in this analysis.


consumer health information, dietary supplements, evidence-based practice, health communication, health literacy, health promotion, journalism, omega-3 fatty acids

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©Daryl Nault, Ariel Beccia, Haruka Ito, Sarah Kashdan, Angela Senders. Originally published in the Interactive Journal of Medical Research (, 01.10.2018. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Interactive Journal of Medical Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

DOI of Published Version



Interact J Med Res. 2018 Oct 1;7(2):e15. doi: 10.2196/ijmr.8981. Link to article on publisher's site

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Interactive journal of medical research

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.