Monday, May 25, 2009

Junkfood lowers children's IQ and other myths

I would have thought that you'd have to be pretty naive and credulous to have taken the original news stories seriously, but on that measure there are apparently a lot of naive and credulous people out there.
These kinds of stories in the media are morality tales, not science. They are pushed by moral entrepreneurs because they send the "right message", not because they are strongly supported by evidence.
Junkfood Science sets the scene to give you an idea of the type of poor quality and pseudo-scientific rubbish that is used to create the atmosphere of paranoia and panic surrounding the food we eat:

Last week, more than 400 news stories in just two days reported that a study had found conclusive evidence that fast food makes children stupid and lowers their school tests scores. How many journalists do you think actually went to the original source and read the study?




How can we be so sure?


Because there is no published study. There was no ability for any educational or health professional, let alone a journalist, to examine the research and its methodology, data and interpretations.

Though perhaps to be fair to the author, doctoral student Kerri Tobin, she wasn't exactly fairly dealt with by Adi Bloom, who's article in the Times Educational Supplement set off the worldwide explosion of stupid headlines, such as  “Fast food diet makes children more stupid” and “Too much fast food 'harms children's test scores.” 
Himmelgarten Cafe contacted Tobin, (something that no reporter bothered to do), and amongst other things she acknowledged some of the manifest weaknesses of the paper and was not aware that anything was going to be coming out in the press.
She remembered being asked for a copy of her paper by an Englishwoman at the AERA meeting, but it was clearly marked "do not cite without author's permission."
As indicated above, Bloom did not bother to seek Tobin's permission.
Sandy from Junkfood Science continues:

Before we examine this paper in more detail, why did this obscure student paper suddenly make news headlines more than a month later? Here we have an example of media and ‘studies’ being used for marketing to advance an ideology and agenda.


Plenty of people want us to fear that foods that are not processed from scratch by Mom at home contain unseen ingredients that somehow make the foods unhealthy,junkfood” and dangerous for children. They count on us to not understand nutritional science, or biology or cooking or chemistry or statistics.

I've asked the question before - why is bread, beef, lettuce, tomato and onion considered to be good and honest and wholesome if prepared in the home, but becomes "junk food" full of "empty calories" (whatever that means exactly) if prepared at Hungry Jacks (Burger King)?

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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