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Am J Public Health. 2014 Oct;104(10):1971-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302070. Epub 2014 Aug 14.

Analysis of the accuracy of weight loss information search engine results on the internet.

Author information

François Modave is with the Department of Computer Science, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS. Navkiran K. Shokar, Eribeth Peñaranda, and Norma Nguyen are with the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Texas Tech University HSC, El Paso.



We systematically identified and evaluated the quality and comprehensiveness of online information related to weight loss that users were likely to access.


We evaluated the content quality, accessibility of the information, and author credentials for Web sites in 2012 that were identified from weight loss specific queries that we generated. We scored the content with respect to available evidence-based guidelines for weight loss.


One hundred three Web sites met our eligibility criteria (21 commercial, 52 news/media, 7 blogs, 14 medical, government, or university, and 9 unclassified sites). The mean content quality score was 3.75 (range=0-16; SD=2.48). Approximately 5% (4.85%) of the sites scored greater than 8 (of 12) on nutrition, physical activity, and behavior. Content quality score varied significantly by type of Web site; the medical, government, or university sites (mean=4.82, SD=2.27) and blogs (mean=6.33, SD=1.99) had the highest scores. Commercial (mean=2.37, SD=2.60) or news/media sites (mean=3.52, SD=2.31) had the lowest scores (analysis of variance P<.005).


The weight loss information that people were likely to access online was often of substandard quality because most comprehensive and quality Web sites ranked too low in search results.

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