Health News Review
  • 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…

  • Jul 29 2014

    6th time I’ve called out BMJ news releases on observational studies

    I do not enjoy this – repeatedly calling out The BMJ for its misleading news releases on observational studies. But I’m going to keep doing it until I see a change. The last time I did this, just two months ago, change was promised by The BMJ editor Trish Groves. But here we go again. The BMJ this week sent out the following news release.  I have highlighted the areas of concern in red. Five daily portions of fruit and vegetables may…

  • Feb 14 2011

    Why negative studies are good for health journalism, and where to find them

    This is a guest column by Ivan Oransky, MD, who is executive editor of Reuters Health and blogs at Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch. One of the things that makes evaluating medical evidence difficult is knowing whether what’s being published actually reflects reality. Are the studies we read a good representation of scientific truth, or are they full of cherry-picked data that help sell drugs or skew policy decisions? That question may…

  • Jan 10 2013

    Positive spin on cancer studies – warnings to researchers, journalists, and the public

    …en with breast cancer.“ Results & conclusion, in short: Of 164 included trials, 33% showed bias in reporting of the primary endpoint  and 67% in the reporting of toxicity. Bias in reporting of outcome is common for studies with negative primary endpoints. Reporting of toxicity is poor, especially for studies with positive primary endpoints. Some journalists, who had more time than I did yesterday to delve into the details, reported on…

  • Sep 5 2013

    The NY Times Well blog isn’t always so well

    The roller coaster ride of uneven quality of the New York Times Well blog was on display again as they posted, “Some Fruits Are Better Than Others.”  Excerpt: Recent studies have found that eating a greater variety, but not a greater quantity, of fruit significantly reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes. This made researchers wonder whether some fruits might have a stronger effect than others. Using data from three large health studie…

  • Jun 27 2012

    Coffee clichés and the tired old trend on observational study stories

    …s of big local news.  But this TV station grabbed a story off the wire and put it up high in their newscast. Another observational study about supposed benefits of coffee with no discussion of the limitations of observational studies and how they can’t establish cause-and-effect. In other media, tired old coffee clichés and the same tired old trend of failing to explain the limitations of such research played out over and over. The ABC New…

  • May 25 2011

    Today’s scorecard on observational study news stories: 2 wins, 1 loss

    Maybe our continued messages about how journalists need to do a better job explaining observational studies are getting through. HealthDay reported on an observational study, emphasizing the limitations: “Research tracking more than 84,000 postmenopausal women for an average of 10 years found that those whose diets included more baked and broiled fish — defined as five or more servings per week — had a 30 percent lower risk of…

  • Sep 26 2014

    Flawed news about skirt size-breast cancer observational study

    …tions of the research. As always, I point journalists to our primer, “Does the Language Fit the Evidence? Association Versus Causation.” It provides good and bad examples of language used to describe observational studies. ————————- Tweet Follow us on Twitter: and on Facebook. …

  • Aug 20 2013

    Scary coffee stories – add cream and two lumps of caveats

    …not causation.  So causal phrases such as “raises risk” or “can kill you” are unfounded. I always have to remind first-time readers that I’m not knocking the potential importance of observational studies.  They are what they are and they ain’t what they ain’t. At last check there were more than 170 stories about this study that turned up on a simple web search. One of the study authors, in this video, exp…

  • Jul 17 2013

    Of mice and men: problems with animal studies highlighted in a new light

    photo from KimCarpenterNJ on flickr John Ioannidis of Stanford and colleagues published an important paper in PLoS Biology, “Evaluation of Excess Significance Bias in Animal Studies of Neurological Diseases.” Summary: “Studies have shown that the results of animal biomedical experiments fail to translate into human clinical trials; this could be attributed either to real differences in the underlying biology between humans and…

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