We often see headlines claiming that a particular food will either save us or kill us. The problem is that there’s usually no good science to support those headlines. Should journalists just stop writing about food studies? Kelly Crowe at CBC News asks this question in her latest article.
The background is all the recent click-and-share health news. Journalists have written stories based on weak studies about how all alcohol consumption is bad for health, that cheese and yogurt protect you from death and that a low-carb diet could shorten your life. These news stories have been widely spread without being based on any strong evidence.
The problem is that journalists want to make clickable headlines no matter what effects they may have on the people who read it. Unlike nutrition researchers, who are careful to report their findings associated with a specific outcome, journalists often skip the nuance in order to make these news stories.
In an article published in JAMA last month, John P. A. Ioannidis, MD, also wrote about this. He looked at claimed life-extending benefits from published research, and concluded, for example, that eating 12 hazelnuts daily would prolong life by 12 years. Drinking three cups of coffee a day would provide an extra 12 years on top of that, and eating a single clementine every day would add five more years. Ioannidis continues:
If you were to gain all the benefits speculated by each one of these studies, we would be able to live for 5,000 years
The stories journalists are publishing may also often contain conflicting advice, which leaves people confused and worried. Both Crowe and Ioannidis are throwing a spotlight on something important. Should journalists just stop writing about food studies? Or should people just stop reading these articles?