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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




BPA-free plastic and mice

A new study in Nature Communications reports that fluorene-9-bisphenol – a Bisphenol A substitute – has anti-oestrogenic effects in mice. read more

shift work linked to lowered fertility in women

Publishing in Occupational & Environmental Medicine new research claims women working non-daytime shifts and those with physically demanding jobs had fewer mature oocytes – on average – compared with women who worked day-only shifts. read more

Acupuncture and colic

New research published in Acupuncture in Medicine reported that acupuncture appears to safely reduce crying in infants with colic. Roundup comments accompanied this analysis. read more

vaping and smoking

A research letter published in JAMA has examined the association between e-cigarette use and progression to smoking in a group of adolescents in the US. read more

socioeconomic status and brain tumours

Socioeconomic status and risk of developing brain tumours is investigated in a paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health with the authors reporting a higher risk of glioma for those with measures of higher socioeconomic status. read more

Mediterranean diet, fat levels and body weight

The effect of a high-fat Mediterranean diet on body weight is examined in a paper published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal in which the authors report an unrestricted-calorie, high-vegetable-fat Mediterranean diet was associated with decreases in bodyweight in older people at risk of cardiovascular disease. read more

differences between organic and conventional milk and meat

Feeding into the debate and uncertainty over whether the use of organic production standards affects food quality, researchers have published two meta-analyses in the journal British Journal of Nutrition which report the differences in nutrient content of organic and conventional bovine milk and meat. read more

historic air pollution exposure and long-term mortality risks

In one of the longest-running studies of its kind, researchers from Imperial College London have published in the journal Thorax their investigation into the possible effects of long-term air pollution exposure over nearly 40 years on various health outcomes including mortality. read more

sedentary behaviour and diabetes

Publishing in the journal Diabetologia, a group of scientists have investigated the results from a study of activity and report that sedentary time was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. read more

e-cigarette use and cigarette smoking in children

Publishing in the journal Tobacco Control a group of scientists have examined how use of e-cigarettes is related to subsequent smoking behaviour, and report that those who use e-cigarettes were more likely to start smoking cigarettes. read more

statins news stories and continuation of statins

The effect of statin-related news stories on people continuing with statin prescriptions and health outcomes in a Danish population is the subject of a paper published in the European Heart Journal. The authors report an association between discontinuing statin use early and heart attack and risk of death from cardiovascular disease. read more

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

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