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before the headlines
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




elective caesarean sections and asthma, obesity and all-cause death

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has investigated between vaginal birth, planned and unscheduled cesarean delivery, and subsequent health problems or early death of the child, reporting differences in risk of a range of outcomes between the three groups. read more

sweeteners and weight loss

A review of studies which examine low-energy sweeteners and their effect on energy intake and body weight has been published in the International Journal of Obesity, with the authors reporting that use of such sweeteners does not increase energy intake or body weight, and when the sweeteners are used in place of sugar those measurements can be reduced. read more

chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease

A number of types of food have been suggested to have beneficial effects on health, and a team publishing in the journal Heart have investigated an association between chocolate consumption and cardiovascular disease. Based on a meta-analysis, the researchers report that higher intake of chocolate was associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events. read more

single motherhood and health in later life

Publishing in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, researchers have attempted to examine an association between being a single mother and possible poor health later in life. They report that single mothers were at risk of poorer health, but that this risk varied between countries. read more

statins and diabetes

A paper published in the journal Diabetologia has attempted to analyse the effect of taking statins on incidence of type 2 diabetes in men, reporting a small increase in absolute risk. read more

triclosan and tumours in mice

A study published in the journal PNAS has examined the effects of the antimicrobial triclosan in mice. The authors report an association between triclosan use and tumour prevalence. read more

bisphenol-A and till receipts

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE has investigated the levels of exposure to bisphenol-A through the handling of till receipts, eating, and use of hand sanitiser. read more

antibiotics and risk of cardiac deaths

A paper in the British Medical Journal reported an association between use of the antibiotic clarithromycin and a small increased risk of cardiac deaths. The authors suggest that more research should be carried out before changing prescription practices. read more

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

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