Friday 29 May 2015
A hoax paper claiming dark chocolate can help you lose weight makes a valuable point about the state of science publishing today. But the real problem comes when such papers chime with political agendas.
News stories about the latest AMAZING diet secret are commonplace - and a standing joke. The media has a steady stream of reports that adding this or avoiding that will soon translate into disappearing inches from our waistlines. Most of this stuff is quickly forgotten. Today’s astonishing research finding is tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper.
So it was no wonder that a team in Germany, working with documentary makers producing a film about the junk science of the diet industry, was able to catapult a story about a wonder food into the mainstream media. The scam closely modeled common practices in the field: the team picked a likely candidate for a wonder food, dark chocolate; they conducted an actual clinical trial that was far too small and poorly controlled to give meaningful results; and tortured the resulting data until a statistically significant result popped up. With an (almost) straight face, they were able to claim that people who ate a low-carb diet but also ate a small bar of dark chocolate each day lost more weight than those who ate a low-carb diet alone.
Monday 25 May 2015
Lowering the legal limit won’t just punish drivers and it won’t make the roads much safer.
The Police Federation for England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file police officers, has called for the legal limit for drink driving to be reduced. But there would be very little benefit from such a reduction - and it could do a lot of harm.
Thursday 14 May 2015
The combination of matey celebs and dubious claims is enough to get me reaching for the sickbag.
Serial crusader and mockney cookbook flogger Jamie Oliver is back – and this time he’s got together with his celeb mates to launch a revolution. Will the barricades be going up around our cities? Will the masked ranks of the workers be marching in support of Comrade Jamieski’s plan to overthrow the fattened plutocrats of the global bourgeoisie?
Tuesday 12 May 2015
People in developing countries are getting richer - and tucking into more processed food. They must be stopped, apparently.
In a widely reported study released this week, the Overseas Development Institute suggests that ‘healthy food’ has become more expensive over the past 20 years, particularly in developing countries, while ‘junk food’ has fallen in price, in real terms. Assuming that people respond to price signals, this would suggest that consumption of ‘unhealthy’ food increases relative to the consumption of fruits and vegetables – and that does appear to be what has happened. Since obesity rates in developing countries have been rising rapidly towards the levels seen in developed countries – and, in the case of Mexico, rising above even the obesity levels seen in the US – it seems reasonable to suggest that the two might be connected.
I'm a writer and author on a wide range of issues. I'm the former deputy editor of the online magazine spiked and I currently work at the Institute of Ideas. I'm the author of Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder (Imprint Academic, 2011).