Monthly Archives: May 2016

What Happens When the Media Misinterprets the Findings of Scientific Studies?

Media Reporting of Nutrition Research

The media has a tremendous influence on our health decisions, and unfortunately good health and science reporting is often overshadowed by attention-grabbing headlines.  Nutrition and health studies are quite popular in the news media, and often poorly reported.

The general public does not have a good understanding of the scientific process, research design, or nutrition epidemiology.  So it is critical for health reporters to help readers understand what the research means to them. They can do this by interviewing the right experts in the field, putting the research in context, and considering the cumulative scientific knowledge in the area.

Here is a hilariously funny and well-researched piece on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. Oliver explains how the media misinterprets the findings of scientific studies, providing real examples. His clever delivery informs, educates, and will certainly make you laugh.

A consequence of poor reporting is confusion. How many times have we heard

“researchers keep changing their minds”

about what to eat for good health.  Because expert consensus is important to foster trust in science,  poor reporting can fuel this distrust. And this is worrying because such distrust can have serious consequences; for example, distrust or poor understanding of science is the reason some people question the efficacy or safety of vaccines, putting the health of many at risk.

More Reading:

Healthy Or HypeHealthy or Hype?

Along these lines, I’ve been working on a section of my website to help point readers to trusted sources of nutrition information (and highlight sources you should steer clear of).

Here are some of my resources to help you find information based on the best available scientific evidence.

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