Tuesday, April 23, 2019

On Eggs and Press Releases

I've written before about the egg trampoline: stories saying eggs are good and then eggs are bad, seeming to bounce from one extreme to the other.

But part of the problem is not the research but the way the popular press deals with that research, writing sensational headlines to capture the interest of the public.

Most popular science sites like Eurekalert and Science Daily don't research stories they post to their sites but simply print press releases sent out by the public relations departments of the universities and research centers where the research was done, including the headlines. The goal of the PR people is to call attention to their institutions, so, as often occurs these days, if the research was done at several different instutions, each one may send out press releases with a slightly different spin.

You might see one saying "X University Scientists Discover New Hormone" and another saying "Y Institute Researchers Find Hormone to Cure Halitosis." Same research, different slant. But both tend to inflate the impact of the hormone that was discovered and the importance of the researchers at their institution.

The problem is that the average reader won't track down the original research to see if it did, indeed, cure halitosis. They'll just remember the headlines.

Two examples related to eggs are "UBC Researchers Say Eggs for Breakfast Benefits Those With Diabetes,  and "Bad News For Egg Lovers." 

I won't critique these stories because frankly I'm tired of this egg controversy and I'm especially tired of observational studies that don't really show much of anything. And then I came across a blogpost that analyzes the problem with nutritional studies. It's worth reading if you read or listen to news stories about nutrition. Enjoy.

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