This isn’t a brand new illustration, but I really like it. This is a still shot of an interactive set of studies and search popularity of various nutritional supplements, ranked by how much scientific evidence there is to support the efficacy of each supplement for specific health issues. You can visit the interactive image here. The higher the bubble, the more concrete evidence has been found to support claims of health benefits in relation to a specific issue – the lower the bubble, the more evidence has been found to refute claims. Lower bubbles also show a lack of evidence. The larger the bubble, the more popular the supplement is in terms of Google search terms. The reddish circles indicate supplements with few available studies, but those studies have provided promising results.
Anything above the line towards the upper third – the Worth It level – is probably worth giving a try. Garlic for blood pressure is a big bubble way up high. Garlic for cancer, on the other hand, is floating down around the bottom. There don’t seem to be any bubbles parameters for the level of faith put into certain supplements regardless of study results one way or another.
I like that they are also interactive in terms of data addition. That is to say, if this map had some kind of open access for data entry, the position of the bubbles would change with each new study. The interactive image also has the bubbles bouncing slightly in a very pleasing way that kind of makes me wish I could make them pop and regenerate. Maybe for the next iteration.
Some of these pretty illustrations demand a bit of attention to fully grasp in terms of usability, but when we are presented with new ways of looking at information, especially if it is complex and intriguing scientific information, it forces us to flex our assumptions and curiosity just a little bit. I’d like to think that intellectual flexibility, if it were a supplement bubble on the chart above, would be one near the very top.
Information is Beautiful: Snake Oil? Scientific evidence for popular health supplements – David McCandless and Andy Perkins