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Dr Alan Flanagan: How to spot the red flags of social media charlatans

The research-based nutritional educator and former barrister reveals how to tell the difference between a legitimate superstar scientist with your best interest at heart and those social media grifters exploiting bad science to profiteer from your insecurities
Dr Alan Flanagan, PhD
Dr Alan Flanagan, PhD

Dr Alan Flanagan holds a PhD in nutrition from the University of Surrey, having spent a decade practicing as a barrister before moving into science. He is the founder of Alinea Nutrition, an online education hub dedicated to providing impartial, science-based nutrition reviews and analysis, and is also Research Communication Officer for Sigma Nutrition, creating educational resources on nutrition research topics. He lives in London, England. Follow him on Instagram. Visit Alinea Nutrition.

How to spot the red flags that betray bad science

Scroll through social media over the past couple of years and it’s impossible to avoid superstar scientists.

But how can you tell the difference between an influencer whose advice should be taken with a pinch of salt and those who should be avoided at all cost?

Through posts and podcasts these health, fitness, nutrition and performance optimisation experts have grown seven-figure audiences with a simple promise: they’ll improve your life – at zero cost and next-to-no effort – if you listen to their expert explanations of the latest and best scientific research.

And in many ways these social media scientists have been a real force for good.

Their charm and charisma, melded with excellent communication skills, enable them to share highly-complex information in simple, understandable and actionable terms.

What’s not so good is how their science has started to suffer as they’ve become victims of their own success.

To satisfy audience demand, to stay top of the podcast charts, and to maximise income from the advertisers who sponsor their increasingly sophisticated productions, they’re now obligated to share scientific breakthroughs twice a week to deadline. So findings are massaged to fit a narrative and schedule that, you guessed it, plays to the social media machine.

So how do you know who you can trust?

Science-based nutritional educator Dr Alan Flanagan believes the easiest way is to look out for some “red flags” that hint what you’re hearing might not be the truest interpretation of the scientific method.

The founder of Alinea Nutrition and former barrister reveals the key warning signs you should look out for, why he thinks so many of these respected scientists are completely comfortable misrepresenting the research to fit their narrative and agenda, and how to tell the difference between an influencer whose advice should be taken with a pinch of salt and those who should be avoided at all cost.

If you’re reading this, you are among the first people to discover Unfiltered. It means you’re ahead of the game. And it means you are with us from the start of our journey as we guide you through the greatest era of health and wellness innovation the world has ever known. A journey we’re now on together, because we want our community of users to have their say and help us shape our editorial agenda. So thank you for joining us, for being inquisitive and for being someone who can say “I was there from the very beginning”.
Joe Warner, Editor-in-Chief, Unfiltered

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