Monday, August 7, 2023

Book Report: Viral BS Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them

 General Overview

"Viral BS: Medical  Myths and Why We Fall for Them" is a book written by Dr. Seema Yasmin, a physician, journalist, and medical communicator. This book explores the phenomenon of medical myths and their misinformation that spreads in society, particularly in the context of the internet and social media. Dr. Yasmin explains the reasons as to why people are more likely to believe and share these myths despite being scientifically inaccurate or wrong. 

The book examines a large range of medical myths, conspiracy theories, and false health claims that have gained traction online. Dr. Yasmin has a medical and journalism background that she uses to dissect these myths and provides readers with a critical understanding of why they are misleading and can be harmful. 

Favorite Part

My favorite part about this book was that Dr. Yasmin was not afraid to touch on topics that are overlooked in today's media. Dr. Yasmin had several chapters about suicide, discrimination in queer communities, ethnic minority groups, and also women in today's working class. I feel that there is not enough media coverage that discusses the discrimination of many groups, especially in the medical field. Dr. Yasmin however, explains that immigrants and minorities have to endure so much more to live and survive in the United States than white American-born citizens. I also appreciate that she debunks certain conspiracy theories and also explains why people are likely to believe in these myths. For example, in chapter 2 she explains that many social media influencers, like Kim Kardashian, have said that eating her baby's placenta helped her heal faster from her pregnancy and avoid postpartum depression. She states that eating your baby's placenta is actually harmful since it can carry bacteria and feces inside of it from being in a woman's body for 9 months. 


This whole book is about debunking myths and conspiracy theories similar to how James Randi would debunk paranormal and pseudoscience claims. People still believe in these medical myths and conspiracy theories despite scientific facts that indicate misinformation being spread. For example, chapter 1 "Do the Flat Tummy Detox Teas Touted by Instagram Celebrities Actually Work?" talks about the detox teas social media influencers advertise. Dr. Yasmin discusses that these detox teas can actually be harmful to your body especially if you are taking certain supplements and liquids paired with these herbs. She also explains that the detox tea companies choose heavier social media influencers as opposed to thinner influencers since it will be more believable that their product works. She also finds surprising data that indicated that these companies do not list all of the ingredients and herbs that are made in their tea. This can be related to how fortune-tellers give cold readings by using vagueness and generalizing statements. By hiding certain facts and not being specific, this can lead to consumers to believe that a harmful product can work just like how people believe in fortune-tellers.


Below I am linking the website of the popular Flat Tummy Detox Tea that many social media influencers preach have helped them reduce stomach fat. Dr. Yasmin explains in her book that these detox teas can cause dependance on the body, muscle damage, and liver damage if taken too much for over two weeks. I think comparing the website that is advertising the product and the website that goes into depth the risks and dangers of this product is an interesting way to see how even harmful products can look promising if they are advertised a certain way.

Flat Tummy Detox Tea:

The Dangers of Flat Tummy Detox Tea:,related%20to%20dehydration%20and%20malnutrition.


I found this whole book interesting and informative. I am not very educated on medical knowledge especially when it comes to certain products. This book made me realize I should be more aware on what I put in my body even if it is as simple as birth control. As someone who is actively on tiktok and instagram, I am constantly seeing products like skin care and healthy food products being advertised by my favorite influencers. Dr. Yasmin has taught me to have a more critical way of thinking especially when it comes to viral myths I see on my social media.

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