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Misinformation about the human gut microbiome in YouTube videos: cross-sectional study

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Title: Misinformation about the human gut microbiome in YouTube videos: cross-sectional study
Authors: Chidambaram, S
Maheswaran, Y
Chan, C
Hanna, L
Ashrafian, H
Markar, SR
Sounderajah, V
Alverdy, JC
Darzi, A
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Background: Social media platforms such as YouTube are integral tools for disseminating information about health and wellness to the public. However, anecdotal reports have cited that the human gut microbiome has been a particular focus of dubious, misleading, and, on occasion, harmful media content. Despite these claims, there have been no published studies investigating this phenomenon within popular social media platforms. Objective: The aim of this study is to (1) evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the content in YouTube videos related to the human gut microbiome and (2) investigate the correlation between content engagement metrics and video quality, as defined by validated criteria. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, videos about the human gut microbiome were searched for on the United Kingdom version of YouTube on September 20, 2021. The 600 most-viewed videos were extracted and screened for relevance. The contents and characteristics of the videos were extracted and independently rated using the DISCERN quality criteria by 2 researchers. Results: Overall, 319 videos accounting for 62,354,628 views were included. Of the 319 videos, 73.4% (n=234) were produced in North America and 78.7% (n=251) were uploaded between 2019 and 2021. A total of 41.1% (131/319) of videos were produced by nonprofit organizations. Of the videos, 16.3% (52/319) included an advertisement for a product or promoted a health-related intervention for financial purposes. Videos by nonmedical education creators had the highest total and preferred viewership. Daily viewership was the highest for videos by internet media sources. The average DISCERN and Health on the Net Foundation Code of Conduct scores were 49.5 (SE 0.68) out of 80 and 5.05 (SE 2.52) out of 8, respectively. DISCERN scores for videos by medical professionals (mean 53.2, SE 0.17) were significantly higher than for videos by independent content creators (mean 39.1, SE 5.58; P<.001). Videos including promotional materials had significantly lower DISCERN scores than videos without any advertisements or product promotion (P<.001). There was no correlation between DISCERN scores and total viewership, daily viewership, or preferred viewership (number of likes). Conclusions: The overall quality and reliability of information about the human gut microbiome on YouTube is generally poor. Moreover, there was no correlation between the quality of a video and the level of public engagement. The significant disconnect between reliable sources of information and the public suggests that there is an immediate need for cross-sector initiatives to safeguard vulnerable viewers from the potentially harmful effects of misinformation.
Issue Date: 16-May-2022
Date of Acceptance: 25-Apr-2022
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/97106
DOI: 10.2196/37546
ISSN: 2561-326X
Publisher: JMIR Publications
Journal / Book Title: JMIR Formative Research
Volume: 6
Issue: 5
Copyright Statement: ┬ęSwathikan Chidambaram, Yathukulan Maheswaran, Calvin Chan, Lydia Hanna, Hutan Ashrafian, Sheraz R Markar, Viknesh Sounderajah, John C Alverdy, Ara Darzi. Originally published in JMIR Formative Research (https://formative.jmir.org), 16.05.2022. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Formative Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://formative.jmir.org, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
Sponsor/Funder: National Institute of Health Research
Keywords: YouTube
content analysis
gut health
microbiome
misinformation
public
social media
Publication Status: Published
Article Number: ARTN e37546
Appears in Collections:Department of Surgery and Cancer
Institute of Global Health Innovation



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