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Another Case of Bad Studies Getting More Press

After yesterday’s post about bad science, I came across this article about another scientist that is being singled out for nothing more (apparently) than pointing out that the better studies show the weakest link between soda and childhood obesity. I would think this would be good news, but apparently not. And ABC seems to be in on the scheme to discredit him. Check it out:

On June 21 ABC News posted a story on its website insinuating that “Big Food,” had corrupted one of the nation’s leading nutrition researchers, biostatistician David Allison.

A Distinguished Professor and Director of the National Institutes of Health-funded Clinical Nutrition Research Center at the University of Alabama, Allison received a presidential award in 2006 for his contributions to mentoring students and increasing the participation of minorities, women and disabled students in science.

But, oddly, the story didn’t run on air – and wasn’t broadcast until the nadir of summer’s dead zone, just before Labor Day weekend, when George Stephanopoulos announced that ABC reporter Dan Harris had some “tough questions” about “one scientist who stands out for questioning the link” between sugary soda and obesity in the face of “study after study” showing such a link.

As I noted on June 22, Allison doesn’t stand out at all. In fact, he says what the US Department of Agriculture expert panel on nutrition says about the evidence on soda and weight gain (a panel made up of leading academics in the field) – and what the majority of clinical reviews of the evidence have concluded: the quality of the science claiming a link is poor. There is a lack of the kind of study – randomized control trials – that can actually prove a causal link.

However, Allison also caused a stir in the field of nutrition by showing that the bias in obesity research was greater among independent researchers who claimed an association between soda and weight gain than it was among the industry supported studies which either found weak or no associations (note that Allison didn’t discount the presence of some bias in industry research).

Indeed, the stronger the association, the less statistical rigor the study had. This research has royally teed off a clique of scientists who a) did these studies, and b) have been demanding that soda be seen as the new tobacco and taxed out of people’s diets.

Read the whole article here, and his 22 June post here. The original post is much more detailed about the scientific research on the subject. Again, not the worst example, but another example in the trend.

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