Tag Archive | Health Reporting

Annals of Bad Health Reporting: Diet Soda Edition

Josh Bloom in Science 2.0 sets things straight:

The Iowa group studied 60,000 middle-aged women over a ten-year period. Data were accumulated from questionnaires—a notoriously unreliable method of data gathering. But this isn’t a tiny fraction of the problem.

At the end of the study period the group took a look at the health of women who did, and did not drink diet soda. Lo and behold! Of women who drank two or more diet drinks per day, 8.5 percent had some sort of heart disease. But, for women who either drank fewer or no diet drinks that number was only 7 percent. Uh-oh. Smoking gun?

Not even close. Because buried at the bottom of the article is what is really going on: The women who drank more diet soda were less healthy to begin with. They were more likely to be overweight, to smoke, and to have high blood pressure than the other group.

So, let’s correct the headline a bit: “Sick People are More Likely to Die.” Accurate headline, but it won’t sell many papers.

I pray to the gods that there is a special circle in Hell for health reporters.

On Bad Health Reporting, Irresponsible Scientists and Chicken Nuggets

This story on the non-chickenness of Chicken Nuggets had been persisting as a featured story in my RSS reader, so despite my better judgement, I finally gave in and clicked.

Chicken nuggets: Call ’em tasty, call ’em crunchy, call ’em quick and convenient. But maybe you shouldn’t call them “chicken.”

So says , a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. In a published in The American Journal of Medicine, deShazo and his colleagues report on a small test they conducted to find out just what’s inside that finger food particularly beloved by children. Their conclusion?

“Our sampling shows that some commercially available chicken nuggets are actually fat nuggets,” he tells The Salt. “Their name is a misnomer,” he and his colleagues write. The nuggets they looked at were only 50 percent meat — at best. The rest? Fat, blood vessels, nerve, connective tissue and ground bone — the latter, by the way, is stuff that usually .

Now, this was an informal test. To conduct their chicken “autopsy,” the researchers went to two different national fast-food chains near their health center in Jackson, Miss., and ordered chicken nuggets over the counter.

This isn’t unsurprising and I wouldn’t be at all surprised that it is representative, but what the hell are “scientists” doing reporting an informal test to the public. That is the antithesis of science. If you throw a few nuggets under a microscope and find something interesting, then do some science before reporting it to the public.

It doesn’t rise to the level of rigor that Mythbusters or Alton Brown would give this issue.

The informal test they did suggested the need for a real test that could get an actual meaningful result. This nonsense is a big reason the public feels jerked around that what ‘science’ tells us keeps changing every other week. It reminds me of the nutrition professor that wrote up his N=1 Twinkie Diet experience. I really don’t understand the abysmal level of health reporting in this country, especially in organizations with resources and reputations to look after like NPR and CNN.