The Power and Pitfalls of Omics: George Davey Smith’s storming talk at ME/CFS conference
Read about the talk that stole the show at a recent ME/CFS conference in Simon McGrath's two-part blog.
Discuss the article on the Forums.

"I fooled millions into thinking chocolate helps weight loss. Here's how"

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Kyla, May 28, 2015.

  1. Kyla

    Kyla ᴀɴɴɪᴇ ɢꜱᴀᴍᴩᴇʟ

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    http://io9.com/i-fooled-millions-into-thinking-chocolate-helps-weight-1707251800

    Amazing.
    A journalist basically pulled a long con on the media, demonstrating some of the issues plaguing science reporting.

    He actually ran a study, one that was intentionally methodologically flawed, then p-hacked and spun his results, submitted to pay-to-publish journals, and then enthusiastically promoted his published article. And it worked.



    Here are some excerpts:

    "I am Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. Well, actually my name is John, and I’m a journalist. I do have a Ph.D., but it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria, not humans. The Institute of Diet and Health? That’s nothing more than a website.

    Other than those fibs, the study was 100 percent authentic. My colleagues and I recruited actual human subjects in Germany. We ran an actual clinical trial, with subjects randomly assigned to different diet regimes. And the statistically significant benefits of chocolate that we reported are based on the actual data. It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded."



    " The only problem with the diet science beat is that it’s science. You have to know how to read a scientific paper—and actually bother to do it. For far too long, the people who cover this beat have treated it like gossip, echoing whatever they find in press releases. Hopefully our little experiment will make reporters and readers alike more skeptical.

    If a study doesn’t even list how many people took part in it, or makes a bold diet claim that’s “statistically significant” but doesn’t say how big the effect size is, you should wonder why. But for the most part, we don’t. Which is a pity, because journalists are becoming the de facto peer review system. And when we fail, the world is awash in junk science.

    There was one glint of hope in this tragicomedy. While the reporters just regurgitated our “findings,” many readers were thoughtful and skeptical. In the online comments, they posed questions that the reporters should have asked.

    “Why are calories not counted on any of the individuals?” asked a reader on a bodybuilding forum. “The domain [for the Institute of Diet and Health web site] was registered at the beginning of March, and dozens of blogs and news magazines (see Google) spread this study without knowing what or who stands behind it,” said a reader beneath the story in Focus, one of Germany’s leading online magazines.

    Or as one prescient reader of the 4 April story in the Daily Express put it, “Every day is April Fool’s in nutrition.” "
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
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  2. Kati

    Kati Patient in training

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    The science relating to 'childhood abuse', CBT efectiveness, 'false illness beliefs' and so much more.. Is no science at all. It's just a crunching of numbers and massaging the numbers so they tell the stories that so called scientists wanted to tell.
     
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  3. chipmunk1

    chipmunk1 Senior Member

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    as if the issue were only science "reporting". entire fields are based on flawed assumptions.
     
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  4. Kyla

    Kyla ᴀɴɴɪᴇ ɢꜱᴀᴍᴩᴇʟ

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    agreed.
    The article actually addresses this in the sense that he is quite clear his actual study is completely bunk.
    I think it is valuable in the sense of showing how garbage "research" can be easily translated by savvy promotors into scientific "facts" and accepted wisdom in the public sphere. From there it is an easy leap to public policy.

    This all probably seems obvious to everyone here, but there are a lot of people who believe that anything published in a journal must be reputable science. Or that everything reported in a major publication is reliable and fact-checked.

    Modern media is often an echo chamber, and one that favours the most sensational headline.
     
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  5. sarah darwins

    sarah darwins I told you I was ill

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    I've noticed a couple of references to childhood abuse on this site recently. I'm still a bit ignorant of the history of me/cfs theories .... has someone postulated a link?!
     
  6. eafw

    eafw Senior Member

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    Sadly I don't think it will. People have been complaining and pointing out problems in science and health journalism for a long while but nothing changes, and the public continue to take it all in on face value.

    And this is why it will roll on business as usual. There's little space nowadays for good reporting.

    Another journalist tries to defend the profession here, but don't think her arguments hold up very well

    https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/culture-beaker/attempt-shame-journalists-chocolate-study-shameful
     
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  7. Valentijn

    Valentijn Senior Member

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    It was quite the fad in the 1990's I think, and some small retrospective studies were used to support it. Then someone finally did a large prospective study and showed that it was a load of crap :p
     
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  8. Revel

    Revel Senior Member

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    This theory is still alive and kicking in these parts.

    Not too many years ago, before I was officially diagnosed in 2012, my GP suggested that I see a hypnotherapist to address my "anxiety". As luck would have it, there was an award-winning therapist right here in town, so I signed up.

    In my first session, I lay on the couch, closed my eyes - and was subjected to the weirdest 10 minutes of my life!

    Try as he might, he was unable to "put me under". Unfortunately, he didn't realise this and proceeded to regress me to my childhood. He then began to raise and lower his voice, talking at speed, as he energetically attempted to encourage me to recall the physical and emotional abuse that I had clearly suffered, buried within my subconscious.

    It reminded me of an Evangelical preacher, calling out the demons from his congregation.

    Finally, I could take no more, opened an eye and said "Really? Is that the best you've got?".

    As I swept out past reception, I heard him call out "No charge for this appointment . . ." :rofl:
     
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  9. eafw

    eafw Senior Member

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    It's one of those things that starts with a grain of truth in it, but ends up as 2+2=5.

    There is an accepted link between abuse (and neglect, poverty, isolation etc) to an increased risk of, or exacerbation of, or slower recovery from chronic ill health.

    This is not the same as saying that everyone with chronic ill health has suffered childhood abuse, or that abuse will specifically cause illness "X".

    I'm not sure how useful it is when looking at the patient population as a whole, but it can be a significant factor for some people, and on an individual basis needs to be taken into account as part of the bigger picture for that individual person - just as if they had any other illness alongside whatever their personal history is.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2015
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  10. sarah darwins

    sarah darwins I told you I was ill

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    Thanks, Valentijn. How nice for the parents of ME sufferers everywhere! I won't mention that one to my mum and dad.

    @Revel — Good grief! And what did he win awards for?
     
  11. Kyla

    Kyla ᴀɴɴɪᴇ ɢꜱᴀᴍᴩᴇʟ

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    You can thank the CDC for that gem. They were obsessed with this line of research for a while.

    and they still report it in some of their materials on "CFS" with a straight face:
    http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/news/features/childhood_adversity.html

    This is not a benign misconception. parents of young children with ME/CFS face a lot of suspicion that they have somehow made their children sick.
     
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  12. Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard Hibernating

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    Isn't the journalist the gullible one? I mean he has provided no evidence that people actually believed that chocolate leads to weight loss after reading the uncritical media articles.
     
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  13. jimells

    jimells Senior Member

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    Acting?
     
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