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Rubeus
05-28-2015, 03:49 AM
I think I hear about this some times ago, didn't know it was fake. :lol:


“Slim by Chocolate!” the headlines blared. A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day. It made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper, just beneath their update about the Germanwings crash. From there, it ricocheted around the internet and beyond, making news in more than 20 countries and half a dozen languages. It was discussed on television news shows. It appeared in glossy print, most recently in the June issue of Shape magazine (“Why You Must Eat Chocolate Daily”, page 128). Not only does chocolate accelerate weight loss, the study found, but it leads to healthier cholesterol levels and overall increased well-being. The Bild story quotes the study’s lead author, Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D., research director of the Institute of Diet and Health: “The best part is you can buy chocolate everywhere.”

I am Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. Well, actually my name is John, and I’m a journalist. I do have a Ph.D., but it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria, not humans. The Institute of Diet and Health? That’s nothing more than a website.

Other than those fibs, the study was 100 percent authentic. My colleagues and I recruited actual human subjects in Germany. We ran an actual clinical trial, with subjects randomly assigned to different diet regimes. And the statistically significant benefits of chocolate that we reported are based on the actual data. It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded.

Here’s how we did it.

The Setup

I got a call in December last year from a German television reporter named Peter Onneken. He and his collaborator Diana Löbl were working on a documentary film about the junk-science diet industry. They wanted me to help demonstrate just how easy it is to turn bad science into the big headlines behind diet fads. And Onneken wanted to do it gonzo style: Reveal the corruption of the diet research-media complex by taking part.

I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here's How.

The call wasn’t a complete surprise. The year before, I had run a sting operation for Science on fee-charging open access journals, a fast-growing and lucrative new sector of the academic publishing business. To find out how many of those publishers are keeping their promise of doing rigorous peer review, I submitted ridiculously flawed papers and counted how many rejected them. (Answer: fewer than half.)

Onneken and Löbl had everything lined up: a few thousand Euros to recruit research subjects, a German doctor to run the study, and a statistician friend to massage the data. Onneken heard about my journal sting and figured that I would know how to pull it all together and get it published. The only problem was time: The film was scheduled to be aired on German and French television in the late spring (it premieres next week), so we really only had a couple of months to pull this off.

Could we get something published? Probably. But beyond that? I thought it was sure to fizzle. We science journalists like to think of ourselves as more clever than the average hack. After all, we have to understand arcane scientific research well enough to explain it. And for reporters who don’t have science chops, as soon as they tapped outside sources for their stories—really anyone with a science degree, let alone an actual nutrition scientist—they would discover that the study was laughably flimsy. Not to mention that a Google search yielded no trace of Johannes Bohannon or his alleged institute. Reporters on the health science beat were going to smell this a mile away. But I didn’t want to sound pessimistic. “Let’s see how far we can take this,” I said.

http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--R7x3APXQ--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/1271138709896203298.jpg


The Con

Onneken and Löbl wasted no time. They used Facebook to recruit subjects around Frankfurt, offering 150 Euros to anyone willing to go on a diet for 3 weeks. They made it clear that this was part of a documentary film about dieting, but they didn’t give more detail. On a cold January morning, 5 men and 11 women showed up, aged 19 to 67.

Gunter Frank, a general practitioner in on the prank, ran the clinical trial. Onneken had pulled him in after reading a popular book Frank wrote railing against dietary pseudoscience. Testing bitter chocolate as a dietary supplement was his idea. When I asked him why, Frank said it was a favorite of the “whole food” fanatics. “Bitter chocolate tastes bad, therefore it must be good for you,” he said. “It’s like a religion.”

http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--08VHNJr5--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_320/1271138709936035618.jpg

After a round of questionnaires and blood tests to ensure that no one had eating disorders, diabetes, or other illnesses that might endanger them, Frank randomly assigned the subjects to one of three diet groups. One group followed a low-carbohydrate diet. Another followed the same low-carb diet plus a daily 1.5 oz. bar of dark chocolate. And the rest, a control group, were instructed to make no changes to their current diet. They weighed themselves each morning for 21 days, and the study finished with a final round of questionnaires and blood tests.

Onneken then turned to his friend Alex Droste-Haars, a financial analyst, to crunch the numbers. One beer-fueled weekend later and... jackpot! Both of the treatment groups lost about 5 pounds over the course of the study, while the control group’s average body weight fluctuated up and down around zero. But the people on the low-carb diet plus chocolate? They lost weight 10 percent faster. Not only was that difference statistically significant, but the chocolate group had better cholesterol readings and higher scores on the well-being survey.


The Hook

I know what you’re thinking. The study did show accelerated weight loss in the chocolate group—shouldn’t we trust it? Isn’t that how science works?

Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a “statistically significant” result. Our study included 18 different measurements—weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc.—from 15 people. (One subject was dropped.) That study design is a recipe for false positives.


The Score

We landed big fish before we even knew they were biting. Bild rushed their story out—”Those who eat chocolate stay slim!”—without contacting me at all. Soon we were in the Daily Star, the Irish Examiner, Cosmopolitan’s German website, the Times of India, both the German and Indian site of the Huffington Post, and even television news in Texas and an Australian morning talk show.

When reporters contacted me at all, they asked perfunctory questions. “Why do you think chocolate accelerates weight loss? Do you have any advice for our readers?” Almost no one asked how many subjects we tested, and no one reported that number. Not a single reporter seems to have contacted an outside researcher. None are quoted.



There was one glint of hope in this tragicomedy. While the reporters just regurgitated our “findings,” many readers were thoughtful and skeptical. In the online comments, they posed questions that the reporters should have asked.

“Why are calories not counted on any of the individuals?” asked a reader on a bodybuilding forum. “The domain [for the Institute of Diet and Health web site] was registered at the beginning of March, and dozens of blogs and news magazines (see Google) spread this study without knowing what or who stands behind it,” said a reader beneath the story in Focus, one of Germany’s leading online magazines.

Or as one prescient reader of the 4 April story in the Daily Express put it, “Every day is April Fool’s in nutrition.”

http://io9.com/i-fooled-millions-into-thinking-chocolate-helps-weight-1707251800

spider-prime
05-28-2015, 07:32 AM
I need to get me some chocolate!

Sinful Sam
05-31-2015, 03:09 AM
Not long ago people thought Nuttela was healthy. I think I remember they got sued for false advertising some time after.

Drunken Savior
06-01-2015, 01:58 AM
Some people will believe anything. Stupid people.

Now I'm going to have a cigarette, who's with me!?

http://i.imgur.com/7CzsFmA.jpg

Sinful Sam
06-01-2015, 06:18 AM
Lol... That advertising

Paper exe
06-01-2015, 11:05 AM
eating sugar or artificial things are never good. we don't need a stud to tell us that or worst tell us the opposite.

spider-prime
06-01-2015, 02:15 PM
Great, now I need some Camel Cigarettes!

FinalSolace2
06-01-2015, 04:28 PM
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