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​”Glass of wine a day could shave years off your life,” one current headline warned. “Just five alcoholic drinks a week could shorten your life,” mentioned one other.

Similar headlines appeared everywhere in the world following a research revealed final month in The Lancet that concluded there is perhaps no secure degree of alcohol consumption.

It was typical of the media frenzy that appears to accompany any research displaying {that a} widespread meals or beverage is hazardous to our well being. But some scientists squirm after they see these headlines as a result of they do not belief the science.  

The information protection of the alcohol research was the final straw for Vinay Prasad, an Oregon oncologist and medical coverage researcher who fired off these vibrant tweets:

“I apologize to people who don’t like that language,” Prasad advised CBC News. “But it reflects the frustration many of us feel.”

Rise of the ‘tweetorial’

What occurred subsequent may solely happen within the age of social media.

Prasad went away and ready a seminar full with information slides and references. He returned to Twitter two weeks later with a tweetorial — a collection of tweets forming a mini-lecture — to elucidate why he believes any such dietary analysis is deeply flawed.

“Lots of us secretly feel this way about this branch of research,” he mentioned. “It is a field with fundamental structural problems that make drawing conclusions from it incredibly unreliable.”

Prasad’s tweetorial critiqued a particular space of science referred to as dietary epidemiology. People fill out questionnaires reporting what they eat and drink after which researchers analyze the information looking for hyperlinks with long-term well being outcomes.

The research usually find yourself within the information below contradictory headlines suggesting espresso or crimson wine or another nutrient has been discovered to be both wholesome or lethal.

I by no means consider any headline that claims ‘X’ foodstuff is related to ‘Y’ outcomes in well being phrases. The science is sort of at all times garbage.– Christopher McCabe,  Institute of Health Economics

“Not a week that goes by that we don’t read about one of those things,” Prasad mentioned. “For those of us who follow the health news, it seems as if doctors can’t get anything straight because one week coffee’s good for you and the next week it’s bad for you.”

In Edmonton, well being economist Christopher McCabe joined the Twitter classroom from his sofa.

“I thought it was an excellent tweetorial,” mentioned McCabe, who tweeted that any associations that showing in these research shouldn’t be reported till they’re particularly examined in randomized managed trials.

“I never believe any headline that says ‘X’ foodstuff is associated with ‘Y’ outcomes in health terms. The science is almost always rubbish,” he mentioned.

‘Nutritional epidemiology is a scandal’

Prasad offered slides citing analysis by John Ioannidis, a Stanford professor of drugs who has revealed a collection of papers exposing weaknesses in dietary epidemiology.

One paper selected 50 meals substances from randomly chosen cookbook recipes and located that 40 have been linked to most cancers within the medical literature.

“That’s an insanely high amount of ingredients and that I think suggests there is an underlying bias to find causal links that don’t really exist,” Prasad mentioned

“Nutritional epidemiology is a scandal,” Ioannidis advised CBC News. “It should just go to the waste bin.”

More carrots, fewer carrots, no carrots?

One of the largest issues with dietary epidemiology is that there are too many confounding variables between folks within the research.

“They would vary in age, in gender, in socioeconomic status, in their occupation, in their other habits and in their lifestyle, in a zillion things,” Ioannidis mentioned.

The information could be flawed if folks cannot bear in mind or do not precisely document what they ate or drank. And the analysis additionally depends upon folks telling the reality.

People who’re much less wholesome additionally behave in a different way. They may cease consuming, for instance. In the Lancet research the information confirmed that the non-drinkers or former drinkers had the next threat of coronary heart illness and dying than the heaviest drinkers, a truth identified in an accompanying commentary.

“It’s complete chaos,” Ioannidis mentioned. “What it ends up being is that you get things published that are what the investigators, the reviewers and the editors want to see.”

In his personal analysis, Ioannidis demonstrated that Vitamin E could possibly be proven to be life extending or life shortening relying on which elements have been analyzed.

And the research failing to search out any well being threat often do not get revealed.

Dr. Vinay Prasad says his tweetorial attracted 1000’s of extra folks than may slot in a lecture corridor. (vinayakkprasad.com)

“The journals have a bias against boring null results. And so provocative things filter through these very human biases,” Prasad mentioned.

His tweetorial provided this recommendation:

“The hardest conclusion to accept here is that when it comes to common nutritional exposures — tea, coffee, chocolate, alcohol — we may have to make decisions the same way we decide how often to go to the bathroom or movies, i.e. using common sense and not bad epi [epidemiology].”​

After watching his tweets be retweeted a whole bunch of instances Prasad mentioned he now understands why the media embraces this analysis. “Look how much attention it gets.”

But ought to the media ignore these research and cease reporting on them?

“Yes, I think you should,” Ioannidis mentioned.

University of Twitter

Prasad’s use of the tweetorial is a part of an evolving type of educational debate that occurs in actual time in bite-sized arguments of 280 characters.

“It really does allow you to take people through, like auditing a class that I would teach,” Prasad mentioned.

The first web page of his tweetorial attracted 197,000 views — which means he reached many extra folks than may ever be accommodated in a college lecture corridor.


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Note: “Previously Published on: 2018-05-05 09:00:21, as ‘University of Twitter? Scientists give impromptu lecture critiquing vitamin analysis

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