‘Fake news’ has become an all-too-familiar term in our Internet-enabled and social-media driven lives.

The scourge of fake news now pervades many spheres of life, from politics and business to, yes, even health, fitness, weight loss and fat loss.

The Internet and social media have made the creation and dissemination of information so much easier (not all of it is true, obviously).

This means we now have to contend with various forms of fake news; some created for legitimate reason, like satire, some misguided fake news – like many of the old health and fitness myths that remain in circulation via well-intentioned articles – and malicious fake news – the kind aimed at influencing people for nefarious reasons.

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Fake news filters

The major issue is that even when patently fake news stretches the boundaries of belief, more and more people are believing it.

In the world of health and fitness, fake news seems to span this spectrum. No matter how much science and common sense assert otherwise, fake news is often manipulated to resemble credible content with the aim of attracting as much as attention as possible and, with it, advertising revenue or product sales.

To help you filter the fake from the facts, here is the most prevalent fat-loss fake news to watch out for:

  1. Perverting science to sell

Crafting articles that read and look similar to research papers has been a popular way to fool people into believing that a promoted product is legitimate and effective, even when there is no actual scientific evidence to substantiate the claims.

In the past it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get such content published in respected and reputable medical and scientific journals, but the world wide web has changed the game.

Now there are many fake news sites that feature mastheads of fictitious but credible-sounding news organisations, or those that carry actual logos of credible news organisations, but are located at dubious or slightly altered web addresses.

These sites will publish these fake journal reviews or study findings, peddling them as real science, for a price, of course. Fake news and social media is then used to create a buzz, where consumers share links and extracts of the “amazing new findings” or “results supported by science” through their channels, effectively helping to boost exposure through viral marketing.

  1. Miracle cures, products and programmes

This is one of the industry’s most pervasive and ‘stickiest’ myths – it just won’t go away. Any product or programme that claims to be ‘revolutionary’ or makes outlandish claims such as ‘lose weight without changing your diet’ or ‘get the body of your dreams without any effort’ should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

This form so ‘fake’ news is used to prey on individuals who find it increasingly difficult to lose weight or succeed in their attempts at physical transformation. Believing these claims doesn’t mean you’re gullible or lack intelligence, though, as emotions can often cloud our judgement.

Many of these fat-loss fake news peddlers are also masters of online marketing, using well-placed banner ads and text advertisements in paid search results to boost awareness around a product or programme by always keeping it top of mind.

As always, be vigilant to sensational claims, especially those that claim to work miracles, as they seldom, if ever, work.

  1. Distorting real-world success stories

Another common trend among unscrupulous product peddlers is to rip images of successful transformations from credible websites and use them to sell unsuspecting consumers on the effectiveness of unproven products or programmes.

Credible-looking review websites are created, or articles planted on respected sites in the form of advertorials that make wild claims like “drinking apple cider vinegar and Garcinia cambogia will help you lose 37 pounds (17kg)” – do a Google search for real-world examples.

These are posted with images of individuals, along with their supposed testimonials, showcasing their weight-loss success. However, in most instances these people and their stories are entirely fictional – in many cases these people don’t actually exist in real life, or names have been changed slightly to avoid detection.

Their stories are essentially fake and are, therefore, not a true reflection of the efficacy of the products being sold.

  1. Revealing the ‘fat-loss secrets’ that your personal trainer doesn’t want you to know

This may be one of the most common forms of fake news in the the health and fitness industry. While this is often a form of click-baiting – unscrupulous websites trying to drive up click-throughs to their site to increase traffic and boost ad revenue – there are sites that take it a step further and actually publish misleading content that could prove damaging or harmful.

Ultimately, what incentive does a personal trainer have to keep information from you?

If they don’t achieve the results their clients are after, they’ll likely lose business. So what do they have to gain by keeping effective treatments or tips a secret?

  1. Celeb diet fake news

Let’s be honest, we all enjoy a bit of celebrity gossip. In fact, it’s the quintessential form of viral content as we share the latest tidbits with friends and family. So why not leverage the power of celebrity in an attempt to sell more diet pills and ineffectual weight loss programmes?

Many questionable marketers are doing just that by creating fake celebrity transformation stories and fake product endorsements for fake news sites. As you can imagine, the combination of a celebrity endorsement coupled with the promise of weight-loss success spreads like wild fire on social media platforms.

But before you believe the hype and click share (or worse, click ‘buy’), consider that many celebrity weight-loss testimonials are not real endorsements.

In fact, most are outright scams that use the name and image of prominent individuals without permission and create fictitious quotes about why they chose that specific product and how effective it was.

Ultimately, most of these fake celeb news websites are just another way that scamsters fabricate and sensationalise content to capture the attention of unsuspecting consumers, usually in the hope that they will buy their unproven (and possibly dangerous) fat-loss products.

To help you filter fake news, follow these tips:

  1. The more outlandish or dogmatic an idea, the more likely it is to be fake news.
  2. Stick to established and trusted sources of information.
  3. Content that carries no by-line, author information, or references to sources is more likely to be fake news.
  4. When visiting websites, look for red flags in areas such as the domain name and ‘About Us’ section. Always check the URL of the website you’ve landed on.
  5. Think before sharing. It is the viral nature of social media that has helped to widely and rapidly spread fake news, in all its forms. Don’t become that person who spreads fake fat-loss news before considering all the facts.