A team of German scientists has fooled millions of people into thinking that eating chocolate results in more rapid weight loss – and managed to get their sham study reported on the front page of Europe’s biggest newspaper.
Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. conducted a study which supposedly proved that people lost weight 10% faster if they ate chocolate. But turns out Johannes is actually John, a journalist. And while he does indeed have a Ph.D., it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria. Meanwhile the ‘Institute of Diet and Health’ where the study was supposedly carried out is actually just a website.
Bohannon and his team set out to prove just how easy it is to turn “bad science into big headlines”. And they succeeded. The study was not only reported in newspapers and magazines around the world, with the media going crazy about this ‘proof’ that chocolate causes weight loss, it was also accepted into supposedly reputable scientific journals.
So, in a time of nutrition information overload, a lesson that we really need to question everything we read, even if it is written by someone with a Ph.D. People are desperate for nutrition information but often leave themselves at mercy of the media which, at the end of the day, makes its money from a good story. As Bohannon points out “Journalists need to feed the daily news beast and diet science is their horn of plenty”.
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