21 reliable resources to answer your health questions
Originally published in June 2018; updated with more awesomeness in February 2020.
It’s not always easy to know where to find reliable resources when it comes to health and wellness. What we hear in the media, social media, and online doesn’t always reflect the studies accurately. And, even if you have the expertise to evaluate a trusted source like the research itself (hello! *waves*), who has the time to read every study on a topic?
If you’re frustrated with the positioning and flip-flopping of the latest and greatest health information, you’re not alone! #WelcomeToTheClub
Why I bothered to compile this list of reliable resources is at the end of the article. But first, here is the shortlist of trusted sources.
Google is making strides to show more credible information at the top of the search engine results pages.
In April 2017, Google announced its intention to show if posts have been fact-checked. Search results are supposed to start showing a little “fact checked” label under them.
Plus, Google is always tweaking its core agorithm and in 2019 started putting even more emphasis on trustworthy expertise that is clearly sourced—particularly in the areas of health and wellness (and finance, etc.).
So, Google is slowly becoming a more reliable source, but it may be a constant uphill battle when it comes to the amount of information added to the internet every single day.
Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone. Like Google, they’re also working to improve the quality of the health information on their website. These include collaborations with the NIH and Cochrane (both are credible sites that I highly recommend and mention below).
As with Google, this is going to be a continuous project.
Want to instantly download the 21 resources in this blog post, plus a few extra?
Health-specific reliable resources
Here are some of my favourite easy-to-read reliable resources when it comes to health information. These are trustworthy websites that review the research and are written in consumer language.
Note from Leesa: One way to recognize a trusted source is to understand these two infographics about how science is done and communicated:
- A Rough Guide to Types of Scientific Evidence – this is SUPER-IMPORTANT when looking at studies to see which ones have more weight when it comes to human health & wellness (HINT: Reviews of multiple human studies take the cake!).
- A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science (and bad reporting of good science).
If you’re looking for a trusted source on health topics and goals
MedlinePlus is a reliable resource for a bunch of health topics, supplements, and medications. They’re one of my first “go-to” sites when I need to know something fast.
World Health Organization Health Topics
The WHO isn’t just about infectious diseases and malnutrition – they’re a trusted source for all kinds of health information. Here’s an alphabetical list of topics you can read about from abortion to zoonoses.
Up To Date: A reliable resource for medical professionals AND patients
Up To Date prides themselves on being the resource trusted by clinicians and healthcare practitioners worldwide. In fact, you can access part of their patient information (“Beyond the basics”) for free! And, if you want more detailed info, you can purchase a 7-day or even 30-day subscription.
Cochrane: The people who teach scientists how to spot bias in studies
Not only does Cochrane teach scientists how to do the highest quality of the highest level studies (systematic reviews), they also teach how to spot bias in studies! This is what makes them a trusted source.
You can browse by health topic, or search to read the abstract of some of the systematic reviews they’ve published. Some of their articles are “unlocked” (free), and they often have a “Plain language summary” that explains things in, well, English. 🙂
Reliable complementary and integrative health resources
Yes – there is growing research in the area of complementary and integrative health! My favourite site for this is the National Institutes of Health – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. They are a reliable resource for nutrients, herbs, health goals, exercise, mindfulness, sleep, stress, etc.
JAMA Patient Pages
The Journal of the American Medical Association has been publishing Patient Pages since 1998. Enter your search term and see what they have for you on your health topic.
Harvard Health has a blog!
Harvard Medical School publishes easy-to-read articles on just about every topic. Most are available for free. If an article you want is locked, you can purchase unlimited site access for a very low price (currently under USD$10/month).
If you’re looking for reliable resources on foods and nutrients
- What nutrients are in which foods? USDA FoodData Central
- How much of each nutrient do we need every day? Health Canada’s Dietary Reference Intake Table
- About food (beyond just nutrients): Encyclopedia of Food
- Fun food chemistry (Note from Leesa: I love sharing these as “fun facts”): Compound Chem
Here are some trusted sources for info on supplements
There are two different ways to research supplements. One is by active ingredient and the other is by product/brand/certification.
If you know the active ingredient you’re looking for, e.g., Vitamin D, then these are the sites to search:
If you’re interested in which products and brands have been certified, then here’s where you’d check:
How to know if health and wellness books are credible
Finally, yes finally, there are unbiased critical reviews of popular health and wellness books. These are the Red Pen Reviews, headed by Stephan Guyenet, PhD, author of The Hungry Brain. The reviewers evaluate books based on their scientific accuracy, reference accuracy, and healthfulness.
Wondering how they review books? Their methods are all laid out here.
Shout out to The Good Gut by Dr.’s Sonnenburg for the highest rating to-date (86 percent).
PubMed: Go to the research itself #HealthNerd
Of course, there is always the option of heading straight to the source of information. This, my friends, is where all those blog posts and news headlines originate . . . The one and only PubMed.
If you have the time and patience, PubMed is THE source for health science. Searching, filtering, reviewing, and ultimately translating the “scienc-ese” into English takes time and practice.
Researching a health topic in PubMed will take longer than searching a trusted website.
Searching PubMed is a skill because each study is ultra-specific. Plus, once you find studies, you need to understand if/how they apply to your health topic, and how much weight to give the conclusions. This is one of my superpowers, and doing it right takes time.
PRO TIP from Leesa: When doing a search in PubMed, filter your results by “Review.” This will ensure that the only studies that show up are reviews of several studies. They’re the ones that take an overview of the health topics. Review studies are the best types of studies to reference exactly because they’re overviews.
Want an insider view of how I review and critique studies? Here you go (grab a nice tea because it’s a long one):Reliable resources for health and wellness info. #health #research #science Click To Tweet
Why did I create this list of reliable resources?
In a nutshell, it’s because I was frustrated and felt “duped.”
I’ve always loved to learn about health science. My idea of a great Sunday afternoon is reading about the newest health study (or a critique of it); particularly when it comes to nutrition and wellness.
But, the more time I spent taking courses, reading books and websites, and watching documentaries, the angrier I got.
- Angry at what the course/book/documentary was also angry about (How do so few people see these corporatocracies and conspiracies?)
- Angry that it seemed like no one was doing anything about it (Do I need to go rogue?)
- And to be completely honest, most of all, I was angry at myself for believing these without question—especially when they’re sowing confusion about how to be healthy! How could I not know which sources to trust when I spent my life learning, working, and living health and wellness?
So, I started digging directly into the research myself. If there were all these conspiracies, coverups, and unethical practices, how could I simply trust anyone? I wanted to learn about and expose unethical behaviour and inaccurate information. I wanted credible and trustworthy proof! I wanted to see for myself the quality and funding of studies. I wanted to evaluate how applicable the studies actually were to human health and wellness.
Of course, I also wanted to boost my confidence to help my clients and update my knowledge from what I learned in school.
I HAD SO MANY QUESTIONS AND NO ONE TO TRUST!
At this point, I decided to jump off everyone’s bandwagon and look at what the research said, not just what courses, books, and documentaries said. I wanted to find out WHAT was right, not WHO was right.
By spending time looking at the evidence myself, I could figure out who was being credible, trustworthy, and unbiased, and who was (purposefully or not) influencing or misrepresenting the science. I found that some health news was fake and others eventually were proven wrong, all of which can cause negative health effects.By looking at the evidence, I could figure out who was being credible, trustworthy, and unbiased, and who was (purposefully or not) influencing or misrepresenting the science. #evidence #science #health Click To Tweet
Don’t forget, if you want some short tutorials how to navigate some of these websites, plus more tips, my How to do Health Research Online course is available! Click here to watch the free modules and see if it’s for you.
Here’s what Zoe said about this course:
Misleading and confusing health information gets me unnecessarily frustrated! It’s unfortunate that many people, myself included, feel the need to do our own research and “fact check” what’s out there. Good news, though is that there are some trusted sources that I personally use and recommend.
Signing off and toasting: To using reliable resources for your health research!
Over to you
Do you have time to look up every piece of conflicting health advice you come across? Do you have preferred and trusted sources that you routinely check? Do you also love to “nerd out” on studies?
I’d love to know (in the comments below)!
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I'm Leesa Klich, MSc., R.H.N.
Health writer – Blogging expert – Research nerd.
I help health and wellness professionals build their authority with scientific health content. They want to stand out in the crowded, often unqualified, market of entrepreneurs. I help them establish trust with their audiences, add credibility to their services, and save them a ton of time so they don’t have to do the research or writing themselves. To work with me, click here.