The Fake Chocolate Study

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Health Current Events

How To Game The Peer Review Process

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

fake chocolate studyPeer review is supposed to assure that clinical studies are well designed, well executed, and correctly interpreted before they are accepted for publication. That is why I frequently advise you, my readers, to look for clinical studies on their nutritional products that are published in peer reviewed scientific journals as a criteria for choosing a supplement company that you can trust.

But, can the system be gamed? Sadly, the answer is yes. There are journals that only pay lip service to the peer review process. Earlier this year an investigative reporter set out to prove just how easy it is to game the peer review process. It is a fascinating story of how a journalist created the fake chocolate study.

Creating The Fake Chocolate Study Hoax

chocolateThe fake chocolate study was a hoax put together by John Bohannon, an investigative journalist and correspondent to Science (a very well respected scientific journal) to test the peer review system. The study was real, but it was seriously flawed. For example, it had only 16 subjects, there was no effort made to determine what the subjects were eating other than chocolate, and the conclusions were not supported by the data. In short, it was a very bad study—one that would have been rejected by any reputable journal.

For the purposes of the test he called himself Dr. Johannes Bohannon from the “Institute of Diet and Health”, a nonexistent entity that consisted of nothing more than a fake website he set up. He then wrote up the study and titled it “Chocolate with High Cocoa Content as a Weight Loss Accelerator” with the conclusion (not supported by the data) that “Long-term weight loss, however, seems to occur easier and more successfully by adding chocolate. The effect of chocolate, the so-called ‘weight loss turbo’, seems to go hand in hand with personal well-being, which was significantly higher than in the control groups.”

Journals Take The Bait

baitIn March 2015 he submitted the article to 20 online journals. Several accepted it within 24 hours. He chose to publish it in the “International Archives of Medicine.” His paper was published online without any revisions a mere two weeks later. [Note: You should not assume the fact that several out of just 20 journals accepted his paper as in indication that a significant percentage of journals accept sub-standard papers without serious peer review. He had, in fact, done previous research for Science magazine identifying those journals most likely to accept flawed studies. It was those types of journals he sent his study to.]

John Bohannon was later quoted as saying “Editors of reputable journals reject [these kinds of studies] out of hand without even sending them to peer reviewers. But there are plenty of journals that care more about money than reputation.” [It costs $650 to have an article published in the International Archives of Medicine.]

The Media Fans The Flames

flamesIf this study had just been published in an obscure journal and had been ignored, that would have been bad enough. But the story gets even worse.  He then created a press release that he sent to news outlets. The press release made some pretty outrageous statements and even contained a link to an unrelated music video. However, the study made news headlines in more than 20 countries in half a dozen languages. For example, headlines from the Daily Express in England blared: “Chocolate Accelerates Weight Loss: Research Claims it Lowers Cholesterol and Aids Sleep.”

John Bohannon’s take was: “The key is to exploit journalist’s incredible laziness. If you lay out the information just right, you can shape the story that emerges in the media almost like you were writing those stories yourself. In fact, that’s literally what you are doing, since many reporters just copied and pasted our text.”

For the complete story of how John Bohannon pulled off this hoax, read his blog post about the “fake study.

 

The Bottom Line

  • An investigative reporter for Science magazine demonstrated recently just how easy it is to get a fake study published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • He created a completely bogus study about chocolate aiding weight loss.
  • He submitted it to several journals that he had previously identified as having substandard peer review processes.
  • Several journals accepted it within 24 hours without any peer review process. One published it two weeks later without any revisions.
  • The story of a new “study” showing that chocolate aids weight loss was picked up by the new media and made the headlines in more than 20 countries in half a dozen languages.
  • The vast majority of journals have a very exacting peer review process, which means that most published clinical studies have been thoroughly reviewed and edited prior to publication. For the most part the peer review process works exactly as it is supposed to.
  • However, this hoax shows just how easy it would be for an unethical supplement company to subvert the peer review process and publish bogus studies to support their product claims. That is why when you are choosing a supplement company it is important to choose one with a reputation for scientific integrity.
  • This hoax also shows just how easy it is for bogus information to be picked up by the media and make it into the headlines. You simply cannot believe everything you read in the press, see on the TV and view online. That is why I created “Health Tips From The Professor.”  I wanted to create a place where you can go for accurate information.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments (2)

  • Opal Hernandez

    |

    Wow, great article. thanks for all your info. I really appreciate it.
    Opal

    Reply

  • Mimi Vollum

    |

    It’s almost a full-time job trying to keep up with all the many forms of fake news these days! Thanks for your always-helpful information.

    Reply

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Latest Article

One of the Little known Causes of Headaches

Posted August 15, 2017 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Your Sleeping Position May Be Causing Your Headaches!

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

Can sleeping position be one of the causes of headaches?  

A Sleeping position that has your head tilted puts pressure on your spinal cord and will cause headaches. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times, and the reasoning is so logical it’s easy to understand.

causes of headachesYour spinal cord runs from your brain, through each of your vertebrae, down your arms and legs. Nerves pass out of the vertebrae and go to every cell in your body, including each of your organs. When you are sleeping it is important to keep your head, neck, and spine in a horizontal plane so you aren’t straining the muscles that insert into your vertebrae.

The graphic above is a close-up of your skull and the cervical (neck) vertebrae. Your nerves are shown in yellow, and your artery is shown in red.  Consider what happens if you hold your head to one side for hours. You can notice that the nerves and artery will likely be press upon. Also, since your spinal cord comes down the inside of the vertebrae, it will also be impinged.

In 2004 the Archives of Internal Medicine published an article stating that 1 out of 13 people have morning headaches. It’s interesting to note that the article never mentions the spinal cord being impinged by the vertebrae. That’s a major oversight!

Muscles merge into tendons, and the tendons insert into the bone.  As you stayed in the tilted position for hours, the muscles actually shortened to the new length.  Then you try to turn over, but the short muscles are holding your cervical vertebrae tightly, and they can’t lengthen.

The weight of your head pulls on the vertebrae, putting even more pressure on your spinal cord and nerves.  Plus, the tight muscles are pulling on the bones, causing pain on the bone.

Your Pillow is Involved in Your Sleeping Position and the Causes of  Headaches

sleep left side

The analogy I always use is; just as pulling your hair hurts your scalp, the muscle pulling on the tendons hurts the bone where it inserts.  In this case it is your neck muscles putting a strain on your cervical bones.  For example, if you sleep on your left side and your pillow is too thick, your head will be tilted up toward the ceiling. This position tightens the muscles on the right side of your neck.

sleeping in car and desk

Dozing off while sitting in a car waiting for someone to arrive, or while working for hours at your desk can also horizontal line sleepcause headaches. The pictures above show a strain on the neck when you fall asleep without any support on your neck. Both of these people will wake up with a headache, and with stiffness in their neck.

The best sleeping position to prevent headaches is to have your pillow adjusted so your head, neck, and spine are in a horizontal line. Play with your pillows, putting two thin pillows into one case if necessary. If your pillow is too thick try to open up a corner and pull out some of the stuffing.

 

sleeping on stomachSleeping on Your Back & Stomach

If you sleep on your back and have your head on the mattress, your spine is straight. All you need is a little neck pillow for support, and a pillow under your knees.

Stomach sleeping is the worst sleeping position for not only headaches, but so many other aches and pains. It’s a tough habit to break, but it can be done. This sleeping position deserves its own blog, which I will do in the future.

 

Treating the Muscles That Cause Headaches

sleeping position causes of headachesAll of the muscles that originate or insert into your cervical vertebrae, and many that insert into your shoulder and upper back, need to be treated.  The treatments are all taught in Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living, in the neck and shoulder chapters.  Here is one treatment that will help you get relief.

Take either a tennis ball or the Perfect Ball (which really is Perfect because it has a solid center and soft outside) and press into your shoulder as shown.  You are treating a muscle called Levator Scapulae which pulls your cervical vertebrae out of alignment when it is tight.

Hold the press for about 30 seconds, release, and then press again.

Your pillow is a key to neck pain and headaches caused by your sleeping position.  It’s worth the time and energy to investigate how you sleep and correct your pillow.  I believe this blog will help you find the solution and will insure you have restful sleep each night.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

About The Author

julie donnelly

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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