Health News Review
  • May 3 2012

    The limitations of – and explosion in the number of – observational studies

    In the Wall Street Journal, Gautam Naik has a thoughtful piece, “Analytical Trend Troubles Scientists,” hitting on the limitations of – and the explosion in the number of – observational studies.  Excerpts: “While the gold standard of medical research is the randomly controlled experimental study, scientists have recently rushed to pursue observational studies, which are much easier, cheaper and quicker to do. Costs…

  • Dec 20 2007

    Does Your Language Fit The Evidence?

    their dying less frequently from heart attacks? The new wording suggests that’s the case, but the original study does not support a conclusion of cause and effect. Epidemiologic – or observationalstudies examine the association between what’s known in epidemiologic jargon as an exposure (e.g., a food, something in the environment, or a behavior) and an outcome (often a disease or death). Because of all the …

  • Jan 21 2014

    Journalists have “systematic bias” to cover weaker studies

    A paper in PLoS One, “Media Coverage of Medical Journals: Do the Best Articles Make the News?” answers a resounding “No.” Excerpt: Media outlets must make choices when deciding which studies deserve public attention. We sought to examine if there exists a systematic bias favoring certain study design in the choice of articles covered in the press. Our results suggest such a bias; the media is more likely to cover observat…

  • Feb 12 2013

    Valentine’s Day isn’t the only time observational studies are miscommunicated. It just seems that way.

    Health news this week is dripping with warm, gushing claims about the health benefits of chocolate – just in time for Valentine’s Day. Headlines such as: Chocolate – the love drug. Dark Chocolate & Red Wine – The food of love and health Chocolate is good for health and relationships. But one blogger wrote, “I have “Chocolate Concerns.”  Is Chocolate as Healthy as Claimed?” Excerpt:  Most cocoa studies are …

  • Dec 3 2012

    Cardiobrief: Exercise And The Limitations Of Observational Studies

    …ge of the study followed suit, with nearly all reports emphasizing the positive effects of exercise. So what’s wrong here? It almost seems churlish to insist on the point, but of course the study (like all other observational studies) didn’t– couldn’t– actually say anything about the real effect of exercise on health. It seems reasonable to assume that more exercise leads to increased fitness leads to improved health. That’s what we all probably …

  • Jan 22 2014

    Misleading BMJ news releases may be one reason journalists report on more observational studies

    Just a few days ago, a paper in the journal PLoS One, “Media Coverage of Medical Journals: Do the Best Articles Make the News?” showed how journalists are more likely to report on observational studies than on randomized clinical trials.  The authors suggest this shows a systematic bias to report on weaker evidence. And here’s one reason why that may happen. This week the BMJ sent out a news release on a paper from the Annals o…

  • Jan 21 2013

    Observational Studies and Falsification Endpoints

    8212;——————————- That JAMA article by Prasad and Jena offers a rather unique solution to the vexing problem of false positive associations generated in observational studies.  Their solution is to include an implausible hypothesis into the mix, called a “falsification endpoint.” The current New Drug Approval (NDA) process is woefully inadequate to identify relatively rare side effects of…

  • Mar 2 2012

    Please read our primer on observational studies

    If you follow health care news in mainstream media, you’re going to be flooded with news from observational studies – research that is not a true experiment but, rather, what is seen by observing people doing different things over time. It’s valid and important research but one thing we can’t lose sight of:  such research CAN NOT PROVE CAUSE-AND-EFFECT.  It can only point to statistical associations, such as “It app…

  • Feb 17 2010

    Aspirin & breast cancer: another case study in communicating observational studies

    There’s undoubtedly going to be a lot of miscommunication about the latest analysis coming out of the Nurses Health Study, which looks at the impact of different lifestyle factors on women’s health. This time they tracked aspirin use, and then saw how many women were diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s an observational study – not a trial – and it can’t prove cause and effect. The analysis showed that wo…

  • Dec 18 2012

    Please, Grey Lady, don’t spill more coffee observational studies on us

    y around journal articles without getting hurt, you can read the entire study online. Here’s what the story could have told readers, to be most helpful: It could have explained the inherent limitations in observational studies.  We have a published a primer on the topic of the importance of the proper language to describe such studies.  Even a journal group joined in this refrain recently, warning researcher-authors about the importance of…




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