Assessing the quality of weight loss information on the German language web


  • Selina Meyer
  • David Elsweiler
  • Bernd Ludwig



Weight-loss, quality of information, web search, credibility assessment, information seeking


This article examines the quality of weight loss information on the German language web and studies how websites, likely to be accessed via popular web search engines, are evaluated by end users. Sixty-five websites were identified and qualitatively examined with respect to content quality as defined by the literature, as well as meta information on design and structure of the page. In a further step, the same web pages were evaluated by non-expert users in an online study. Deficiencies were found, both in terms of the quality of information on the websites, and with respect to the search behaviour and the rating competence of users. Many of the examined web pages showed little or no relevance for weight loss and 46% of the pages covered a maximum of only 3 of the 18 content criteria. Significant differences in results were identified for websites of different type. Media websites covered most criteria (M = 5.5, SD = 2.66), followed by commercial sites (M = 4.10, SD = 2.54). Nonprofit sites contained the fewest content criteria (M = 2.72, SD = 2.7), but made the least number of unsubstantiated claims and met the most design criteria. In the majority of cases, agreement between participant ratings was found to be poor to moderate. They also generally found fewer content criteria than the gold standard suggested, but gave higher quality ratings and underestimated the proportion of unsubstantiated claims. We conclude that users have low expectations for weight loss information on the Internet or are influenced by criteria other than content when assessing quality.