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Take a look at your Facebook news feed, or open your Twitter home page, and chances are you’ll find at least one shared article revealing a shocking medical ‘fact’ that you simply have to read and share. Sometimes it’s about popular products (“Did you know that Coca-Cola is so acidic that it can dissolve a nail?”), or about dietary habits (“Drinking cold water after meals causes cancer!”), and so on. And you’ll probably notice that the article in question has been shared several thousand times already…

Sadly, this simply means that thousands of people have fallen for a stupid hoax…

So, how can you tell hoaxes from factual articles? Well, here are some of the most common symptoms of phony advice:

1. The article being shared/forwarded is anonymous…

2. The article contains phrases like, ‘Forward this to everyone you know!’ or ‘MUST SHARE!!!’ as well as, ‘This is NOT a hoax’.

3. The contents tend to be persuasive instead of informative.

4. The writer claims to have extremely important information that doesn’t appear on legitimate venues such as news sites, medical journals, and so on.

5. The article doesn’t cite any references. Sometimes the writer will claim to have received information from a legitimate (and usually famous) source, but any links will included will redirect you to a personal website or blog.

And finally, the best way to test the veracity of an article is to see if it’s already been debunked by websites that specialize in urban legends and Internet hoaxes, such Snopes.com and Hoax-Slayer

So, next time you see a dramatic post about a ‘groundbreaking discovery’ in medical research, you might want to be a bit skeptic. Because, no, drinking cold water after a meal won’t give you cancer, reusing plastic bottles doesn’t cause cancer although heating them up might not be a good idea, instant noodle cups don’t have wax linings that will end up clogging your stomach, you can safely eat fruit after eating, and no, John Hopkins university never released an “update” about cancer. This hoax has proven so popular that they actually published a rebuttal… 

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