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Fiona fox's blog

before the headlines

When faced with a dataset from a scientific study, assessing what conclusions can legitimately be drawn is a challenging task. For a busy journalist, performing such an analysis is a tall order. One of the services the Science Media Centre provides for journalists is brief, independent statistical analyses of scientific papers with accompanying critiques of the authors’ own conclusions at a glance.

‘Before the headlines’ analyses are structured in a simple format, with clear summaries of what the paper in question claims, and a concise assessment of the strengths and limitations. This service is provided to the SMC by volunteer statisticians.

before the headlines volunteers

 

 

 

nutritional content of organic and conventional foods

A meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at 343 studies into compositional differences between organic and conventional crops, reporting differences including higher levels of certain anti-oxidants and lower levels of cadmium in organic crops. read more

coffee intake and type II diabetes

Researchers publishing in Diabetologia reviewed three large observational studies and reported that increasing coffee consumption by an average of one and half cups per day over a four-year period was associated with an 11% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes. read more

salt reduction and health

Researchers publishing in BMJ Open report the 15% fall in dietary salt intake over the past decade in England is likely to have had a key role in the 40% drop in deaths from heart disease and stroke over the same period. read more

Tamiflu and Relenza for treatment and prevention of influenza

The Cochrane Collaboration published an evidence review of Tamiflu (the antiviral drug oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) trials, reporting that Tamiflu shortens symptoms of influenza but other claims made for the drugs were not well supported by evidence from clinical study reports. read more

fruit and veg consumption and mortality

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
suggested eating at least seven daily portions of fruit and vegetables may confer the best chance of staving off life-threatening diseases. read more

climate change and winter deaths

Nature Climate Change published research showing socio-economic and health-care conditions factors in England and Wales may be a better explanation for the decreasing numbers of winter deaths than milder winters due to climate change. read more

ear acupuncture and weight loss

The journal Acupuncture in Medicine published a small study which suggested 5-point ear acupuncture was better than single point in trying to reduce abdominal fat. read more

air pollution and death

Research in The Lancet suggested exposure to tiny particles of soot or dust may be more deadly below current European Union (EU) air … read more

air pollution and lung cancer

A paper published in The Lancet Oncology found prolonged exposure to particulate air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, even at levels below the European Union limit values. read more

IVF and autism

In a JAMA study of more than 2.5 million children born in Sweden in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment was associated with a small but statistically significantly increased risk of mental retardation, though not associated with autistic disorder. read more

long term shift work and breast cancer

A study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found working night shifts for 30 or more years doubles the risk of developing breast cancer, and is not confined to nurses as previous research had indicated. read more

GM pig feed and stomach inflammation

A study published in the Journal of Organic Systems appeared to show that pigs fed on genetically modified soy and corn developed stomach inflammation at greater rates than those fed a conventional diet. read more

iodine and pregnancy

A study of around 1000 UK mothers and their children, published in The Lancet, revealed that iodine deficiency in pregnancy may have an adverse effect on children’s mental development. read more

red peppers and Parkinson’s disease

Research in Annals of Neurology found that Solanaceae, a family of plants including peppers and tomatoes may provide a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease due to the plants containing low levels of nicotine. read more

resting heart rate and risk of death

Research published in the journal Heart tracked the cardiovascular health of just under 3000 men for 16 years, and found that after controlling for other health factors including fitness level, men with higher resting heart rates had a higher risk of death. read more

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