Ekaterini Papadopoulou, MLIS, MA, AHIP
Health Science Librarian
Examine.com and Examine+ are two parts of an online resource offering reference information and research summaries addressing the safety and efficacy of nutritional supplements. The combined services make up the eponymous publisher, providing supplement use and efficacy research in a variety of ways, including elements seen in point-of-care reference tools, drug monographs, and textbooks.
Through access to the full product via paid subscription, Examine+ aims to provide an encyclopedic and robust, evidence-based online resource for nutrition and supplementation research. The information is presented in a combination of clearly-written summaries that are accessible and appropriate for patients and consumers, and detailed summaries of the available evidence are particularly valuable to students and healthcare professionals. Examine+ describes its organizational structure as a series of “hierarchies” that connect information on over 800 specific supplement and nutrition interventions with broader categories of over 400 “Outcomes or Health Conditions,” and 25 even broader syntheses called “Health Categories,” which combine research about several conditions and nutritional interventions around a theme such as “Gut Health.”
The information about nutritional interventions, such as specific supplements, is presented as an individual supplement monograph, whereas the “Supplement Guides” combine detailed evidence on multiple supplement approaches for a specific condition and are more reminiscent of a point-of-care tool. While Examine+ is a large (and growing) database of information on nutrition and supplementation, it is not yet comprehensive and does not include some of the rarer or more unusual herbal supplements.
Examine+ also includes access to the searchable “Examine Database” of graded research summaries, as well as a “Research Feed” which is updated daily with critical summaries of the most recent publications. The “Examine Database” provides graded summaries of the body of evidence for a given intervention, and the “Research Feed” content offers detailed critical summaries and robust discussion of recent nutrition and supplementation research.
Examine.com offers free access to select introductory portions of health conditions and supplement summaries pertaining to diet and nutritional supplements, their benefits, drawbacks, and dosage suggestions, but does not include full access to the graded assessment of published research.
The Examine resources emphasize transparency of the process and a demonstration of appropriate authority and review throughout, particularly with the supplement and condition summaries, which include researcher and fact-checker names linked to summaries of their research interests and credentials, along with details of the editorial policy and funding structure. The editorial team encompasses an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners in the health sciences, including biomedical research, clinical professions, and basic sciences, and the website highlights the editorial process along with user guides to encourage appropriate and discerning use of the resources.
Features / Functionality
Examine+ is designed to offer multiple entry points to information based on users’ needs, enabling users to find evidence for supplements based on either the supplement itself, the health condition they are focused on, or their desired health outcome. Owing to the multiple entry points, initial navigation can be confusing, but the “How to Use Examine” section provides helpful visualizations on how the layers of information are organized. The site also includes a “How to Read a Study” resource, which is an excellent introduction to reading scientific literature.
The “Research Feed” summaries include a section named “Anything else I need to know?” which succinctly provides context and caution about the limitations of the study and how it relates to the wider research base. This content is geared towards students, professionals, and researchers, but is written in plain and accessible language, making it an excellent teaching tool to model critical thinking around research. These research summaries also enable Examine+ subscribers to earn CE credits through several nutrition and exercise associations.
Examine+ maintains an accessible, almost conversational tone, which makes the content easy to engage with, even for audiences without a scientific background.
Additional tools include an Optimal Protein Intake Guide, along with a protein intake calculator. Other calculator tools are planned and positively impact the applicability of the research presented for health practitioners and consumer health audiences.
Examine.com is freely available and provides access to introductory information in select parts of the site, whereas Examine+ enables subscribers to access the full suite of evidence summaries and CE. Personal subscriptions are available on monthly, annual, or lifetime subscription options, with student and senior discounts available. Institutional subscriptions are now also available, and access is supported by either IP authentication, EZProxy, or Open Athens.
Owing to the combination of plain language summaries coupled with frequently updated research summaries, this resource is appropriate for individuals with a strong personal or professional interest in optimizing health through diet and nutrition, as well as students and those working in the health professions.
The breadth and accessible presentation of information in Examine+ make it a valuable resource for any institution supporting informed consumer health. Owing to the substantial and growing number of supplements and interventions that Examine+ includes, the additional paid content is a uniquely valuable resource to any library supporting programs with a focus on sports, diet, and nutrition.