Monday, September 17, 2012

A Graphic About Evidence

I think I have a new favorite graphic. Shown below is a great graphic that combines information on the popularity of supplements with the amount of evidence that exists regarding their efficacy. The blue and darker green ones at the top have more evidence, whereas those lighter green or yellow ones at the bottom have less evidence behind them. The orange-ish ones have less evidence, but look very promising, so are singled out because they may rise in the ranks in the future.

What's great about this graphic is that it addresses the perennial question of evidence, and presents the information in a clear format. If you're having a hard time reading the fine print in this image, click here to see the original version.

What makes this graphic truly excellent, however, is not that the data is presented well, or that it looks nice, but rather that it's a live graphic that is continually being updated with more information. Click here to see a really cool live version, which you'll notice that it's slightly different than the one below. What's especially cool is that the bubbles link through to the studies being cited - talk about a great interactive data presentation! You'll also be able to select for data related to various topics, like cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc.

I can't say that this is a perfect graphic, as there are some inclusions that strike me as ridiculous - the glaring one here being the assertion that omega-6 fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids' more inflammatory counterparts) are heart healthy. Nonetheless, on the whole, this is a great piece of work.

As always, this is unfiltered data, and working with a healthcare professional is important, because even though this graphic might show that a given supplement is efficacious, it can't tell you how much to take, monitor for side effects, or track your progress over time, not to mention the fact that it can't advise you on improving your exercise regimen or diet. Have fun playing with this device, but don't forget that it takes the human brain of a trained practitioner to assess and implement this information.