Research Study Recommends SparkPeople

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

thank you Report
Thank you! Report
I am a primary care physician and I've used Spark for 14 years. I used it to achieve a healthy lifestyle prior to medical school, and now in the office I recommend it to patients routinely. It's far better than referring to dietitians, whom they can only see monthly, if the insurance plan will even cover it! Unfortunately, I have been discouraged because 100% of my patients (yes, 100% of the 50+ patients whom I intensively care for with obesity) have used My Fitness Pal to track their intake instead of Spark. I think that this is because it is very difficult to tell the difference on the App (and the website unless you upgrade to Premium) between an Ad and an evidence-based Article. Even with Premium, the attractive Image Tiles for each article still look like Ads! And if you don't upgrade, the Ads make the App just plain unusable now. This was not the case when I first joined, but I continue to be a faithful follower because I have over a decade of use now, and I know this program's worth. The Premium version is still the cheapest and most wholistic, sustainable program out there, so I think that it is well worth the small $5 per month fee in order to avoid the ads - but the fact remains that the Articles still look like Ads, so patients just get annoyed by what they think is clickbait and just switch to My Fitness Pal instead. I just wish that the App was more intuitive for my patients. To me, the technology is easy and I absolutely love it, but others don't seem to catch on. But thank you anyway, Spark, for sharing the best advice out there. I will continue recommending you to my patients. Just please consider cutting back on the Ads on the App one day! Report
Awesome... Report
I have been a member of Spark People for years! Report
SparkPeople, it’s member and community, have been a major part of the success of my journey. I encourage everyone to participate in the Spark community. It is a positive and encouraging environment and most snark free. Report
Sparkpeople is great Report
Guess I made a wise decision. Thanks Report
Happy to see this - and totally agree with the well-deserved recognition for Spark - wouldn't be where I am today without it. Report
Good article. Report
Absolutely love SP! It helps me not only with healthy goals, but with goals for living my life. Report
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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.