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

How to Choose the Right Pillow

Posted April 17, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Wake Up Each Morning Pain Free

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

how to choose the right pillow without headachesThe way you sleep is often a key to discovering the cause of headaches and more. If you wake up with neck pain, a headache, or you suffer from ringing in your ears, dizziness, or ear pain, there is a good possibility that it may be caused by the way you are sleeping. Your pillow may be the culprit.  But if you need to know how to choose the right pillow for you, it’s easy.   It just takes a little “investigation.”

 

How to Choose the Right Pillow if You Sleep On Your Side

Your head, neck, and spine need to always stay in a nice straight line, just as it is when you are standing up, but that takes a little thought and understanding of the way you sleep.  So, get comfy in your bed and then notice how your head is resting.

how to choose the right pillow to sleep painfreeIf you sleep on your side, your pillow needs to be just the right size, so your head doesn’t point down toward the mattress (your pillow is too soft) or up to the ceiling (your pillow is too thick). Either of these positions will make the muscles on the side of your neck stay in the contracted position for hours and pull your vertebrae in that direction, especially when you try to turn over to your other side.

Your SCM Muscle May Cause Serious Problems

You also need to notice if you turn your head a bit, especially if you are turning into your pillow or turning your head up toward away from your pillow. In either of these two cases you will be causing your sternocleidomastoid (SCM for short) to be held shortened for hours.

Your SCM originates on your collarbone and inserts into the bone behind your ear.  When it contracts you turn your head to the opposite side. However, if the muscle is tight (for example, when you’ve held your head turned toward one side for an extended period of time) and then you bring your head back so you are facing forward, the tight muscle will pull on the bone behind your ear and cause havoc.

The symptoms for a tight SCM are tinnitus (ringing in the ear), dizziness, loss of equilibrium, ear pain, headaches, pain in the eye and around the skull, pain at the top of the head, and even pain in the throat. Amazing! What’s even more amazing is that it’s rare that this muscle is considered when a medical professional is searching for the cause of your symptoms.

These are the things to know when considering how to choose the right pillow if you sleep on your side.

How To Choose The Right Pillow If You Sleep On Your Back

how to choose the right pillow for sleeping on your backIf you sleep on your back, your head should be on the mattress (not propped up with a pillow) and you should have a tiny support (like a folded washcloth) under your neck.  Or, you can have a wedge pillow that starts at your mid-back and gently raises your entire trunk and head up while still allowing your head and back to be in a straight line.

It’s always a challenge for people who toss and turn during the night, sometimes on their side and sometimes on their back.  The best thing I’ve found for this situation is to have the pillow below shoulder level so when you turn on your side your shoulder will automatically slide to the edge of the pillow while still supporting your head properly, and when you turn onto your back, the pillow will start at shoulder level so your head and neck are supported, but your head is being pushed in a way that causes your chin to move down to your chest.

hip pain causes and treatment pain freeIt’s tricky, but I can personally attest to the fact that it will work.  I can always tell when I’ve had my head tilted (I toss and turn during the night) because I will wake with a headache. When that happens I’m grateful that I know how to self-treat the muscles of my neck and shoulders so the headache is eliminated quickly.  If you already have Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living,  you can self-treat all your neck and shoulder muscles to release the tension.

How To Choose The Right Pillow If You Sleep On Your Stomach

If you sleep on your stomach, this is the one position that is so bad that it behooves you to force yourself to change your position. Your head is turned to the side and held still for hours, putting a severe strain on all your cervical and upper thoracic vertebrae. Not only will this cause headaches, tinnitus, and a list of other pains, but it can cause problems down your entire spine. It can also impinge on the nerves that pass through the vertebrae on their way to your organs.

If you do sleep that way, let me know and I’ll give you some suggestions that work to change your habit of sleeping. It takes time and energy, but the results are worth the effort.

In every case, the way you sleep may cause neck pain that won’t go away until the pillow situation is resolved.

Now you should know how to choose the right pillow for the way you sleep.

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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