Articles to 2016-07-02

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.


Fashionable hypotheses conforming to the prejudices of New Age psycho-babble have an easy ride into the most prestigious journals. It is a refreshing change to see Gerber et al. putting them to the test for once.


Education leads to brain tumor – what a feast Khanolkar et al. have served up to the yellow press. Of course it’s only an observational study and the relative risk of only 1.2 is generally dismissed by serious science, but who cares. In the primary article, not the yellow press rehashes, higher education also boils down to money and socio-economic status and right at the end we find the true explanation: “Completeness of cancer registration and detection bias are potential explanations for the observed differences by socioeconomic position.” Most kinds of gliome other than some exceptionally rare ones do not shorten life expectancy and are prone to being overlooked in the lower status elderly. But since when have writers in the quality press been known to read more than the headlines of their sources and what epidemiologist does not yearn for media attention, warranted or not?


It is the yellow press of all sources, the one that habitually and eagerly laps up every nonsense under the sun, that trashes a new study by Gasser et al. published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And me? I count it among the very few epidemiological studies that I’m prepared to accept. Is it just because I’m a habitual contrarian? That too, probably, but it also confirms something I have observed for a long time myself. Those people I have known to eat excessive amounts of chocolate bars tended to be not only slim but downright gaunt, while nearly all fat children had somewhat indulgent parents valuing a healthy and balanced diet. What’s going on here? As far as I can tell from what I see, it’s malnutrition. It is just those, whose childhood lacked regular, nutritious, and wholesome meals, who acquired the habit of stilling their hunger with junk food alone. It’s von Liebig’s law of the minimum at work here, where only those already provided with all the essential nutrients are able to convert chocolate into body mass.

And of course it’s also just another case of correlation not being causation and eating extra chocolate is still not the recommended way to lose weight – but try to explain that distinction to a journalist. But there’s hope still. At least the readers are not yet as ill educated as the editors are. Here are two comments from Die Welt (anonymous of course, that’s how deep we have sunk in public discourse), quoted because I could not have it put better, or even as well myself:

„Schokolade macht schlank. Oder wie anders soll man folgenden Satz verstehen? ‚Die Wahrscheinlichkeit für Übergewicht und Fettleibigkeit ist bei Kindern und Jugendlichen mit dem höchsten Konsum von Süßigkeiten und Schokolade um 18 Prozent niedriger als bei den ’Normalnaschern’ (Referenzgruppe).‘
    Man kann diesen Satz auf gar keinen Fall so verstehen! Ein Kausalzusammenhang wird nicht hergestellt. Angesichts dieser katastrophalen Lesekompetenz spare ich mir die Frage an die Autorin, ob sie die amerikanische Studie, die sie aus unerfindlichen Gründen auf Deutsch zitiert, überhaupt gelesen hat.
    Frau Spoerr, falls Sie einen Schulabschluss haben, geben Sie ihn bitte zurück! [Anm: Frau Dr. Spoerr ist promovierte Juristin, FAB]

Klingt für mich nicht neu. Daß einseitige Ernährung zu Gewichtsverlust führt, ist doch eigentlich schon mindestens seit den 70er Jahren bekannt und es gibt einige Diäten, die damit arbeiten. Allerdings gesund sind diese Diätsysteme in der Regel nicht.


Until now Huybers’ model of the 100 ka Ice Age cycle being an average of 80 and 120 ka ones driven by precession has only been a well supported hypothesis. Cheng et al. now provide the final proof and establish it as fact.


I don’t know what it is, perhaps just me being in a susceptive mood, but after months without a single good short story with Kaye and Sandoval here come two in one go.

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