Nutrition Articles

Research Study Recommends SparkPeople

Weight Loss News Flash

These days, it's not uncommon for people to make decisions that affect their health based on information that they find on the Internet. But can you trust the weight loss advice you find on Internet message boards? When it comes to weight loss, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine (July 2007) says internet users tend to receive accurate answers when they ask questions in high-volume online forums. The study also recommends that health professionals refer their patients to high-volume forums, like's Message Boards for weight loss advice.

According to the study's researchers, "weight loss" is one of the most frequently explored topics on the Internet. And while online forums on the topic abound, this is the first study to examine whether or not the information shared on message board posts is actually safe or accurate.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston analyzed over 3,000 posts made in 18 different online weight loss forums, including SparkPeople's Message Boards, for one month. When analyzing all of these posts, the study found:
  • Eight percent of the posts (266 total) asked for weight loss advice. These questions received over 650 responses/answers.
  • Only about six percent of the responses (43 total posts) contained potentially harmful advice, but 28 percent of those posts were later corrected by other posters.
The study authors report that harmful answers, such as recommending weight loss pills, were more likely to occur on forums with low-activity (less than 1,000 posts per month), whereas accurate and helpful answers to weight loss, diet, and fitness questions were more likely to occur on high-activity forums (more than 1,000 posts per month). SparkPeople's Message Boards forums receive hundreds of thousands of posts per month.

In the study's summary, researchers singled out SparkPeople's Message Boards, advising health professionals to, "refer patients to high-activity forums, such as the 'Diet and Nutrition' and 'Fitness and Exercise' forums on" In comments to Reuters Health, co-author Dr. Kevin O. Hwang of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston said, "Good weight loss advice can be given not only by trained professionals, but also by peers who participate in these Internet forums."

Action Sparked: You can't always trust the weight loss, nutrition and fitness information you get from other sources. But you can trust the answers you receive on SparkPeople's Message Boards, which are safe and accurate, according to research published in the American Journal of Medicine. These researchers specifically recommend SparkPeople's forums.

We can't guarantee that everything in the forums will be accurate, but we're happy that research proves what we've known for the past several years—that our members give each other great advice. Our experts and staff work hard to ensure that the information shared on our Message Boards is accurate, helpful and above all, positive. You'll get support, encouragement, and quality advice from an active Community of members and Resident Experts. So what's holding you back? Start by Introducing Yourself, or ask a Nutrition, Fitness or Motivation question today!

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Member Comments

    this article helped me to understand more about the spark people and I'm glad I joined. Just the article I was looking for thanks.
  • Yep, science has proven what we already knew. Way to go, Spark!
  • Good article. I try to do all my work so I can get on SP everyday. And at night before I go to bed. NOTHING BUT LOVE FOR SP.
  • I have introduced SP to everyone I know who tells me that they can't understand how I can (a) exercise every day without feeling bored or giving up; (b) watch my diet but not give up completely on the sinful stuff; and (c) sleep well on most nights at my age (almost 55!).

    The balanced views presented, the speed at which matters are addressed and the support from fellow members are more, much more, than from other sites!!
  • Great to hear good publicity about this site! I love it and more people should know about it.
  • I heart SP. If only I'd been more active when I first learned about it...I'd be that much further ahead. Oh well, better late than never...

  • This is the reason SP has worked successfully for me when nothing else did in more than 60 years of "dieting".
    Good article and just proves what I've known all along and that is that SP is a great website with lots of great advice.
  • I just read this morning that folks who join a group lose more weight than folks trying it alone. . . and the larger the group, the higher % of additional weight lost. The newspaper actually put it at 1% per added group member. We Spark People are really, really lucky . . .
  • Good article! Summarizes some of the reasons why I feel SparkPeople has made a big difference for me. Keep up the good work, everyone!
  • good article, I am again motivated and ready to continue my journey.
  • I'm not surprised at these findings. I have learned a lot on SparkPeople. The advice here is realistic . I have never read any article that says you should do anything one way only. The experts give you pros and cons for exercising on an empty stomach, etc. It's up to us as individuals to do what works best for ourselves. SparkPeople is not a fad diet and that's why it works.
  • I think it's because there is a difference of opinion on what works and what doesn't that the article praised HIGH VOLUME message boards. The more people the more areas of expertise and more opportunity for incorrect information to be corrected or debatable topics to be dicussed from many angles. On a low volume site a question may only get a handful of responses and a message board that caters to a specific area of the fitness spectrum may, by it's very nature, censor itself to varying opinions.
    e forum are great for discussing topics we all share. When you have something in common and if doing one thing healthy, has helped, why not share it with others.
    I do agree with ELLAMENNO....... not all medical professionals, fitness experts and nutritionist agree.......
    For instance.....I have lived with hypothyroidism for years and the only soy products we hypothyroid people should eat is fermented....miso (misso), tempeh and natto.....and most articles on soy, fail to mention this..
  • This is a great article, with one caveat -- I have seen plenty of stuff on SparkPeople messageboards and even by the moderators of Spark that is debatable. And by that I don't mean that it is not true, but simply that there is a debate in the fitness or medical community about whether it works or not (for example, exercising on an empty stomach in the mornings.) I wish that sometimes in the articles, Sparkpeople acknowledged that not all fitness experts or medical professionals agree on one thing or another, so that people can make an informed decision and not simply take what is on Spark as the gospel.

    Just my 2 cents. All in all, I LOVE Sparkpeople and think that it is a wonderful tool and has been a lifesaver for me!

About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

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