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REVIEW

REVIEW Whe n th e wrong studies with contradictory results thinkers who can identify logical faults that invalidate all previous research. Another have eluded everybody else. Many of them studies hit the such study, not even published, gained seem to be unable to take a detached view widespread press coverage last year: people of the evidence or to look for broad headlines who drank milk had less heart disease than consistency. by Malcolm Law people who did not drink milk. But the reason is not that milk (which contains POORL Y DESIGNED saturated fat) protects you against heart STUDIE S Health , Lifestyle and Environment: Countering the Panic, a collection of disease but probably that milk drinkers One example is passive smoking (a essays published by the Social Affairs tend to behave more healthily, smoking recurring theme in this book). Most Unit, London, 1991 , £9.9 5 less and exercising more. people take the reasonable view that ISBN 0 907 631 44 4 Why do newspapers revel in "experts are carcinogens do not generally have wrong" stories? Because they create thresholds; since tobacco smoke causes "Cutting cholesterol can increase risk of controversy and controversy is interesting: lung cancer in active smokers, it must also heart attacks" screamed the headline in a people see the heading and buy the do so at proportionately reduced risk in recent issue of The Sunday Times. The newspaper. Headlines like "Experts passive smokers. But the literature on any article referred to the Helsinki unanimous that fibre is good for you" topic, if it is large, must, even if only by Multifactorial Primary Prevention Trial, would not sell many newspapers. chance, include a few studies that buck the the authors of which certainly did not trend - plus some that are poorly designed. come to the same conclusion as the BENEFIT S DENIED This book dissects the poorly designed headline-writer. A journalist writing an "experts are studies in detail (oblivious of the fact that The Sunday Times correctly stated that wrong" article is not without support, the case stands without them) and half the men in the trial "were put on an however. A small group of doctors and highlights the small number of discrepant intensive five year programme of dietary university academics can be relied on to studies. This inability to be comfortable advice and other treatment"; yet this deny benefit from almost any preventive with discrepant studies is also seen in the group had higher subsequent mortality strategy. Petr Skrabanek, reader in account by James Le Fanu, a London from heart disease than the other half, the community health at Trinity College, general practitioner and medical columnist control group who were given no advice. Dublin, is one of them. The Sunday Times of The Daily Telegraph, of diet and heart But the newspaper omitted the critical quoted him as saying: "Sooner or later this disease. H e shows a graph of mortality information that there was no change in cholesterol theory is going to collapse from heart disease plotted against dietary blood cholesterol in the dietary advice completely". fat consumption for 20 countries. The group: the men may have been advised to But readers do not generally retain graph shows a striking association: change their diet and lifestyle but clearly names and so would fail to realise that the countries with higher fat intake have they disregarded that advice. Their higher doctor who this month denied any benefit higher mortality from heart disease. mortality from heart disease can only have from lowering blood cholesterol was the Dr Le Fanu, however, cannot accept the been due to chance. same one who last month said that breast association because of inconsistencies: screening lacked value and earlier heart disease mortality in France, for CONTROVERS Y SELLS suggested that cervical smears are a waste example, is only about half of what it PAPERS of time. should be. H e discards dietary fat as a This kind of journalism is irresponsible. Which brings us to the book, Health, cause of heart disease and seeks another There is no doubt that decreasing the Lifestyle and Environment - Countering the factor that will yield a perfect association amount of saturated fat in the diet reduces Panic. Published by the Social Affairs for all 20 countries, not merely a good the risk of heart disease; expert Unit, it is a collection of 10 articles by like- association for 18 or 19 of them. committees all around the world have minded sceptics. Its general theme is that, Although this book usefully highlights ratified this. Even if the Helsinki trial was with the possible exception of smoking the difficulty that many people have in valid evidence against dietary change and lung cancer, we do not know the quantifying risk and in placing risk in (which it certainly was not), it could not cause of any disease and we can do next to perspective, I found little else in it to counter the vast amount of evidence in nothing to prevent disease. recommend it. favour. Few will probably read the book - I Malcolm Law is senior lecturer in The article in The Sunday Times i s an found its style tedious and negative. I example of how newspapers seize on "the gained the impression that the authors of epidemiology at St Bartholomew's Medical latest research" and suggest that new the chapters perceive themselves as clear College, London. HEALTH EDUCATION May 1992 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Health Education Emerald Publishing

REVIEW

Health Education , Volume 92 (1): 1 – Jan 1, 1992

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0965-4283
DOI
10.1108/eb053678
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Whe n th e wrong studies with contradictory results thinkers who can identify logical faults that invalidate all previous research. Another have eluded everybody else. Many of them studies hit the such study, not even published, gained seem to be unable to take a detached view widespread press coverage last year: people of the evidence or to look for broad headlines who drank milk had less heart disease than consistency. by Malcolm Law people who did not drink milk. But the reason is not that milk (which contains POORL Y DESIGNED saturated fat) protects you against heart STUDIE S Health , Lifestyle and Environment: Countering the Panic, a collection of disease but probably that milk drinkers One example is passive smoking (a essays published by the Social Affairs tend to behave more healthily, smoking recurring theme in this book). Most Unit, London, 1991 , £9.9 5 less and exercising more. people take the reasonable view that ISBN 0 907 631 44 4 Why do newspapers revel in "experts are carcinogens do not generally have wrong" stories? Because they create thresholds; since tobacco smoke causes "Cutting cholesterol can increase risk of controversy and controversy is interesting: lung cancer in active smokers, it must also heart attacks" screamed the headline in a people see the heading and buy the do so at proportionately reduced risk in recent issue of The Sunday Times. The newspaper. Headlines like "Experts passive smokers. But the literature on any article referred to the Helsinki unanimous that fibre is good for you" topic, if it is large, must, even if only by Multifactorial Primary Prevention Trial, would not sell many newspapers. chance, include a few studies that buck the the authors of which certainly did not trend - plus some that are poorly designed. come to the same conclusion as the BENEFIT S DENIED This book dissects the poorly designed headline-writer. A journalist writing an "experts are studies in detail (oblivious of the fact that The Sunday Times correctly stated that wrong" article is not without support, the case stands without them) and half the men in the trial "were put on an however. A small group of doctors and highlights the small number of discrepant intensive five year programme of dietary university academics can be relied on to studies. This inability to be comfortable advice and other treatment"; yet this deny benefit from almost any preventive with discrepant studies is also seen in the group had higher subsequent mortality strategy. Petr Skrabanek, reader in account by James Le Fanu, a London from heart disease than the other half, the community health at Trinity College, general practitioner and medical columnist control group who were given no advice. Dublin, is one of them. The Sunday Times of The Daily Telegraph, of diet and heart But the newspaper omitted the critical quoted him as saying: "Sooner or later this disease. H e shows a graph of mortality information that there was no change in cholesterol theory is going to collapse from heart disease plotted against dietary blood cholesterol in the dietary advice completely". fat consumption for 20 countries. The group: the men may have been advised to But readers do not generally retain graph shows a striking association: change their diet and lifestyle but clearly names and so would fail to realise that the countries with higher fat intake have they disregarded that advice. Their higher doctor who this month denied any benefit higher mortality from heart disease. mortality from heart disease can only have from lowering blood cholesterol was the Dr Le Fanu, however, cannot accept the been due to chance. same one who last month said that breast association because of inconsistencies: screening lacked value and earlier heart disease mortality in France, for CONTROVERS Y SELLS suggested that cervical smears are a waste example, is only about half of what it PAPERS of time. should be. H e discards dietary fat as a This kind of journalism is irresponsible. Which brings us to the book, Health, cause of heart disease and seeks another There is no doubt that decreasing the Lifestyle and Environment - Countering the factor that will yield a perfect association amount of saturated fat in the diet reduces Panic. Published by the Social Affairs for all 20 countries, not merely a good the risk of heart disease; expert Unit, it is a collection of 10 articles by like- association for 18 or 19 of them. committees all around the world have minded sceptics. Its general theme is that, Although this book usefully highlights ratified this. Even if the Helsinki trial was with the possible exception of smoking the difficulty that many people have in valid evidence against dietary change and lung cancer, we do not know the quantifying risk and in placing risk in (which it certainly was not), it could not cause of any disease and we can do next to perspective, I found little else in it to counter the vast amount of evidence in nothing to prevent disease. recommend it. favour. Few will probably read the book - I Malcolm Law is senior lecturer in The article in The Sunday Times i s an found its style tedious and negative. I example of how newspapers seize on "the gained the impression that the authors of epidemiology at St Bartholomew's Medical latest research" and suggest that new the chapters perceive themselves as clear College, London. HEALTH EDUCATION May 1992

Journal

Health EducationEmerald Publishing

Published: Jan 1, 1992

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