Viewpoint: ‘Natural’ is a feel-good label that can deceive us about the safety of medicine, beauty products and food

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People believe that a host of items including foods, medicines, beauty products, cigarettes, lighting, and even causes of injuries are better and/or safer when they are labeled as natural versus synthetic or human-made. 

Here are three key findings from several of our studies involving more than 2,000 participants:

  • In hypothetical scenarios, people preferred drugs described as natural over those described as synthetic and rated them as safer too. In fact, some people retained their preference for drugs labeled as natural even when they were said to be less safe or less effective than synthetic ones.
  • When we offered pedestrians a free over-the-counter pain reliever, and they could choose between one that was said to be natural or one that was said to be synthetic, more than 80% of those who made a choice picked the natural drug.

  • When we educated people about the inherent preference for natural items, the bias was reduced.

We believe this term is used so often because it conveys a sense of positivity and safety to consumers, even though it may or may not reflect the actual safety of the product. 

Read full, original post: Why the term ‘natural’ is so seductive — and possibly misleading

Related article:  'We need it now': Why precision medicine isn't doing enough for children with cancer
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