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Mark Bittman finally talks about why the Stanford Organic Food Study is so wrong and stupid

That Flawed Stanford Study - NYTimes.com
The study, which suggested — incredibly — that there is no “strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods,” caused as great an uproar as anything that has happened, food-wise, this year. (By comparison, the Alzheimer’s/diabetes link I wrote about last week was ignored.) That’s because headlines (and, of course, tweets) matter. The Stanford study was not only an exercise in misdirection, it was a headline generator. By providing “useful” and “counterintuitive” information about organic food, it played right into the hands of the news hungry while conveniently obscuring important features of organic agriculture. If I may play with metaphor for a moment, the study was like declaring guns no more dangerous than baseball bats when it comes to blunt-object head injuries. It was the equivalent of comparing milk and Elmer’s glue on the basis of whiteness. It did, in short, miss the point. Even Crystal Smith-Spangler, a Stanford co-author, perfectly captured the narrowness of the study when she said: “some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.” That’s because they didn’t look — or even worse, they ignored. In fact, the Stanford study — actually a meta-study, an analysis of more than 200 existing studies — does say that “consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” Since that’s largely why people eat organic foods, what’s the big deal? Especially if we refer to common definitions of “nutritious” and point out that, in general, nutritious food promotes health and good condition. How can something that reduces your exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria not be “more nutritious” than food that doesn’t?

October 02, 2012

When a scientific paper is retracted, it's probably because the author faked their data

75% of retracted papers were due to falsified data. Ouch. Implied is that these are papers-for-hire, possibly pushed by corporate interests. Though the NYT would never say that. Study Finds Misconduct Widespread in Retracted Scientific Papers - NYTimes.com
In the new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, two scientists and a medical communications consultant analyzed 2,047 retracted papers in the biomedical and life sciences. They found that misconduct was the reason for three-quarters of the retractions for which they could determine the cause. “We found that the problem was a lot worse than we thought,” said an author of the study, Dr. Arturo Casadevall of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. Dr. Casadevall and another author, Dr. Ferric C. Fang of the University of Washington, have been outspoken critics of the current culture of science. To them, the rising rate of retractions reflects perverse incentives that drive scientists to make sloppy mistakes or even knowingly publish false data. “We realized we would really like more hard data for what the reasons were for retractions,” Dr. Fang said.

October 01, 2012

THIS WEEK'S RESEARCH HOLE: Whale Meat (Which Should Probably Be Considered Kosher)

I'm not gonna explain how this happened, but I fell...

Continue reading "THIS WEEK'S RESEARCH HOLE: Whale Meat (Which Should Probably Be Considered Kosher)" »

September 26, 2012

Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?

Is Alzheimer's Type 3 Diabetes? - NYTimes.com
Just in case you need another reason to cut back on junk food, it now turns out that Alzheimer’s could well be a form of diet-induced diabetes. That’s the bad news. The good news is that laying off soda, doughnuts, processed meats and fries could allow you to keep your mind intact until your body fails you. We used to think there were two types of diabetes: the type you’re born with (Type 1) and the type you “get.” That’s called Type 2, and was called “adult onset” until it started ravaging kids. Type 2 is brought about by a combination of factors, including overeating, American-style. The idea that Alzheimer’s might be Type 3 diabetes has been around since 2005, but the connection between poor diet and Alzheimer’s is becoming more convincing, as summarized in a cover story in New Scientist entitled “Food for Thought: What You Eat May Be Killing Your Brain.” (The graphic — a chocolate brain with a huge piece missing — is creepy. But for the record: chocolate is not the enemy.) The studies [1] are increasingly persuasive, and unsurprising when you understand the role of insulin in the body. So, a brief lesson. . . .