Fat Science

Investigating the science of body weight regulation

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the HAES® files: Beyond Awareness

Posted by Miriam Gordon on February 27, 2014

This is a brilliant piece written by a brilliant woman. How many people can come up with insights like this?

Health At Every Size® Blog

by Fall Ferguson, JD, MA

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) in the U.S. this week (February 23-March 1, 2014). When I learned that my regularly scheduled post would be this week, I immediately began to contemplate what “new angle” on the HAES approach and eating disorders (EDs) I should try to address. Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to realize that I’m no expert on eating disorders and shouldn’t pretend to be one.

NEDAwarenessPoster_WebMy next stop was to look into the theme of this year’s NEDAW: “I had no idea.” Given my lack of expertise in this area, the theme seemed like a promising starting place for my post. One problem that immediately raised itself was how to write 1000 or so words about “no idea.” Another item that began to nudge its way into my thought process was the “Get in the know” tagline…

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Weekend reads: MIT professor accused of fraud, biologist who retracted paper suspended, and more

Posted by Miriam Gordon on February 15, 2014

Retraction Watch

books Another busy week at Retraction Watch, featuring lots of snow at HQ and a trip to take part in a conference in Davis, California . Here’s what was happening elsewhere on the web:

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Statistics, Semantics and Parity

Posted by Miriam Gordon on March 19, 2012

I am by no means a statistician, but I’ve worked as a medical writer and editor for long enough to know that the results of clinical trials rely heavily on statistics for their interpretation. There have been countless books written on this matter, and here’s a gem of an article in the Atlantic that sums it up nicely. But since most of us are not statisticians, we must rely on the “experts” to interpret them for us. The problem is that they can be so easily misused and misleading.

If you recall, there was a famous study by Christakis and Fowler (NEJM 2007) on the spread of obesity through social networks that relied on statistical analysis. In 2008, a refutation of this article was published by Cohen-Cole and Fletcher in the Journal of Health Economics. In fact, I would bet you a pack of bubble gum that for every statistical analysis ever published, a refutation of that analysis is subsequently published. So what are the non-statisticians to do?

I say we all need to learn to take most studies with a grain of salt, and approach them skeptically. This is something that children should be learning in school – it is essential to the scientific process. If this concept were something that all of us learned in school, we wouldn’t be so quick to jump on the published results of any study even if they would prove our dearly held beliefs.

NB: In their blog “Retraction Watch,” Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus have touched on the problems caused by faulty statistical analysis in climate change research. I hope to see more of this in the future. I attended a conference 2 days ago entitled “Bioethics Bootcamp,” sponsored by the Hastings Center, Science Writers in New York, and the National Association of Science Writers. Ivan, the Executive Director of Reuters Health, said that he routinely tells his reporters to “always carry a statistician in your back pocket.” Easier said than done, but I hope this will get easier in the future.

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