Book of the Month: And our Geek Lit winner is... BAD SCIENCE by Ben Goldacre (discussion night Tue 30 March)

(121 Posts)

BAD SCIENCE by Ben Goldacre has grabbed the winning title of March Book of the Month with a staggering 50 votes, streaks ahead of his competitors.

We will get together to chat about the book on Tuesday 30 March, 8-9.30pm.

For those that missed it, here were the choices and the March poll results.

And for anyone new to Bookclub, here is how it works.

I'm hoping Ben may be able to join us to answer all your questions - will keep you posted.

BarryKent Wed 03-Mar-10 21:10:41

A fantastic choice. Really hope Ben will be along for a webchat too. Wonder what he will make of the Mumsnet fish oil trials. You have told him about that, haven't you? grin

nomorexcuses Sat 06-Mar-10 20:02:58

Random coincidence - I am reading this right now! Expected to hate him... bizarrely sort of don't. Can't wait for my first book club!

Birdly Mon 08-Mar-10 07:29:51

DH loves this book, and on his suggestion I'm now reading it too. I'm up to the chapter on homoeopathy (the author is not a fan!).

Bearing in mind Ben's thoughts on the beauty industry, though, I think it might be a cynical ploy on the part of DH to wean me off Clarins and onto the considerably cheaper and less hyped Hydrobase. grin

Next time I get to a chemist, I'm planning to buy myself a vat of Hydrobase to see if it really and truly is as good as Clarins. It'll be like a Proper Scientific Experiment, so I hope Mr Goldacre will approve! grin

JollyPirate Mon 08-Mar-10 07:43:53

Am waiting for my copy to arrivesmile

MaMight Thu 11-Mar-10 04:19:59

Oh brilliant. I hae just finished this. One of those books that alters how you think about things. Will follow this thread.

JollyPirate Fri 12-Mar-10 07:50:18

Am longing to see what Ben has to say about Fish Oils given that I am taking part in the MN trial (not that DS will take the stuff after just ONE dose grin and tis me forcing it down).

Finbar Wed 17-Mar-10 16:09:16

I loved this book - and can now walk past vitamins and fish oils with my head held high. Three cheers for proper science!

choosyfloosy Wed 17-Mar-10 22:54:15

Magnificent choice!

RubberDuck Thu 18-Mar-10 09:19:48


Yes please for a webchat. I heard Ben speak at TAM London last year and he was AWESOME.

franke Thu 18-Mar-10 13:03:14

I suspect the 'staggering 50 votes' came mostly from folk on the forum who got wind of this vote when one of them came over here trolling a few weeks ago. Maybe they think that all us humanities graduate, woo-loving, anti-vax yummy mummies need educating. wink

oooh can i join in?
read this ages ago but will re read for then

butadream Thu 18-Mar-10 14:06:15

Can Ben come for a webchat please?

probonbon Thu 18-Mar-10 16:31:15

smile not only trolling, but urging others on the BS forum to come and have fun at the "mentalist" goings on. He / she was given a rough ride in both places grin. So they can't all be ghastly.


Spidermama Thu 18-Mar-10 20:48:06

I'm not a fan of Goldacre. Disappointing to see his name all over MN all the time.

probonbon Fri 19-Mar-10 09:28:33

I think he's a great hero of the left. Maybe that's why.

He's brilliant, and very funny! I can see how his style might annoy, but, personally, I find it very appealing.

RunLyraRun Fri 19-Mar-10 14:16:47

Ooh very exciting if we could get BG on here for chat. I agree with almost everything he says, which is entirely unconnected to the fact that I think he's quite dishy blush

probonbon Fri 19-Mar-10 17:39:56


GrimmaTheNome Fri 19-Mar-10 19:45:32

Birdly, it'll only be a proper experiment if you use Clarins on one half of your face and the hydrobase on the other.grin

I've not done book club before, might decide to join ...

hanaflower Fri 19-Mar-10 20:13:48

probonbon I'm right wing, and I think he's great.

pippibluestocking Fri 19-Mar-10 23:18:50

Spidermama - Are you a homeopath by any chance? What is there about BG not to like?

SchrodingersSexKitten Fri 19-Mar-10 23:37:35

franke links to both the mn thread and the one on BS, please! Can't find either
[wanders away, muttering to oneself]

franke Sat 20-Mar-10 08:38:12

Schrodinger - Wakefield thread here.. The bs thread is linked to on the Wakefield thread. I suspect the bs troll was a bs regular poster who name-changed for the purpose of coming over here - the moderator on that forum seemed un-fazed by the trolling but more interested in the book vote going on here iyswim.

probonbon Sat 20-Mar-10 16:41:12

come and troll among people with sick children you fun Bad Science guys

Franke I just did that to make it a bit easier because the thread is now 11 pages.

Thanks for linking, I looked myself but couldn't find. I note there've been more useful links added.

bruxeur Sat 20-Mar-10 18:27:28

What a useful contribution to the thread!

Thank you bonbon.

probonbon Sun 21-Mar-10 02:32:02

It was requested, Bruxeur -- glad you like it smile

Pengimum Sun 21-Mar-10 10:06:49

Ben Goldacre is great - but he does make me feel foolish and uncomfortable as I had embraced fully the whole homeopath, fish oli 'n' vits and beauty product thing.....i have given up on homeopaths but cant let go of the vits, 'n' fish oil and i really will need some convincing to give Dr Hauschka (sod it even if it makes no difference it feels nice). ps where is the stuff about the MN fishoil trial thing pl?

Im half way through this book now and have just seen this, not done bookclub before either.

Agree witht the above poster that he has so far made me feel a bit daft about the fish oils as i am supposed to be a scientist myself blush.

Disclaimer though....i've only given them to ds's a couple of times as they smell/taste rank!!

ZephirineDrouhin Mon 22-Mar-10 10:27:25

I think Ben Goldacre is brilliant at exposing the way that the press misleads through poor reporting on scientific issues.

However, as far as his views on vaccination go, I have never seen anything from him that is as detailed or convincing as the posts by saintlydamemrsturnip, who appears to have rather more expertise in this particular area. (I notice that even one of the posters from the bad science forum has acknowledged that she is interesting and well informed.) Would love to see a webchat on this subject just between the two of them actually, but I don't suppose he would ever agree to it.

By the way, the Durham fish oil trial might have been very poorly conducted, but that is not at all the same as saying that there is no benefit to taking fish oil supplements, is it? More plausible sounding study here

LadyBlaBlah Mon 22-Mar-10 11:35:49

I really enjoyed the book too, however I am skeptical about encouraging blind faith in what he classes as 'good science'. From the research I have done and analysed, I would say a lot of research could be classed as bad science, despite its publication in what are considered respectable academic journals. As far as I know, most if not all, research has flaws and may have been subjected to manipulation of data in some way, and just because it is reported correctly in the media does not mean it is infallible.

It is not as simple as he makes out. Good reporting of statistics does not necessarily mean good science.

He contributes to the illusion that science has all the answers, when it clearly doesn't.

narmada Mon 22-Mar-10 13:16:44

I don't agree ladyblablah. I think Goldacre is himself skeptical about much scientific research. At least that was my reading.

And I'm a humanities graduate, natch wink

Donbon Mon 22-Mar-10 21:09:20

Coincidentally, I got this boook for Christmas from my Dad. It's still sitting on my bedside table, mostly unread (with a pile of other books). Perhaps I should prioritise in the next week so I can join in!

probonbon Tue 23-Mar-10 07:37:44

I agree with Zephrine: and for me his views on vaccination are rather a deal-breaker. He doesn't seem interested in some of the research that has been carried out and continues to be carried out. I won't be able to join in the discussion because I haven't read the book: just his articles online, the blog and so on. It's his attitude towards the parents of vaccine damaged children and the evidence they present which is a deal breaker for me.

For example, there is a man called Henry Bauer who calls Goldacre a "scientific illiterate": saying "scientific literates know that if a mainstream consensus is challenged by competent people, one then needs to burrow fairly deeply into the actual evidence before reaching an eventual judgment about where the best case probably lies, with the mainstream or with the challengers."

This makes a lot of sense: and it comes from a man who gained his Phd in Sydney and is an emeritus professor of chemistry and science studies, and emeritus dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

However, Henry Bauer believes in the Loch Ness Monster. It's a deal breaker. Same for me with Goldacre and vaccination: he is so convinced of his own self-righteousness, at the expense of a great deal of solid evidence, that it throws everything else into question for me.

I like the way he challenges pharmaceutical companies, I like his insistence on sound science: but his love of "exposure" and ridicule leads him astray.

LadyBlaBlah Tue 23-Mar-10 11:46:08

Narmada - I think, as probonbon has precisely stated, he is so emphatic about exposures, that he actually does not critically analyse the science he claims to be 'good science'. I believe there is much to be said for questioning of research, period. Advanced statistical methods, for example, are not exact but are more open to interpretation by the researcher, thus leaving room for researchers to find what they want to find. And imo, this is rife in much research, but Goldacre does not question the research he wants to represent, making him, imo, as open to criticism as the science he criticises.

I do, however, like his stuff about the way the media reports statistics and the general's just he doesn't always practice what he preaches imo.

evilgiraffe Sat 27-Mar-10 05:50:07

"I do, however, like his stuff about the way the media reports statistics and the general's just he doesn't always practice what he preaches imo."

I think that's fair. I read the book some time ago and thought it rather lost its way as it went on. It was quite entertaining in places though, and highly amusing in the homeopathy section and wherever it is he talks about ear candles.

The media in general just don't seem to understand the majority of scientific findings, or even the language. Add that to the misconceptions held by the general public, and a lack of understanding what is in the media (whether the science is reported accurately or not) and it's a recipe for confusion. Not sure what can be done about it, though - most science graduates aren't interested in becoming journalists, and you can't expect all journalists to have a good understanding of what are often very complex scientific theories and findings.

Just a reminder that we'll be discussing the book tomorrow at 8-9.30pm. Sadly we haven't heard from Ben so I don't think he'll be able to join us. But all the more time for debating the weird and wonderful placebo effect (my question: does it still work if you're giving it to children? Does the fact that they aren't actively choosing to take it make a difference?)

See you tomorrow

TillyBookClub: Placebo effect also works on animals, dontchaknow!


Haven't you read the book?

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 12:02:27

A debate between SaintlyDameMrsTurnip and Ben Goldacre? I'd pay good money. Good, good money.

Katz Tue 30-Mar-10 12:42:34

i'm reading this at the mo and i work in the field of research - i've just finished the chapter of AIDS and was gobsmacked . I shall try and pop in tonight.

probonbon Tue 30-Mar-10 12:52:19

I think I would bet good money on that debate Pofaced.

I wonder why he's not bothering with us?

We're too small, possibly. But I wonder if he sneers.

I'm sure he will be sneering graciously amid all the fawning.

BecauseImWoeufIt Tue 30-Mar-10 17:10:43

Gah!! Bought the book but have only had time to read the first couple of chapters.

I might pop in later...

Hi all
Shame not to have Ben with us, but quite refreshing to have the floor to ourselves for a change. Especially when the author and subject have generated such a lot of feeling...

First off, I loved reading a challenging, thoughtful book about science - it was exciting to push my brain in that direction (out of the comfy bed of fiction where it usually sprawls about). And I hugely enjoyed the debunking of MindGym, homeopathy, Jessica Alba's sexy walk, etc etc


evilgiraffe and Ladyblahblah: I agree that Ben fails to evaluate the research or anecdotes or examples that he uses to prove his point, whilst slamming the research he doesn't like. I noticed that more and more as the book went on. It made me feel the book was more subjective than it should be.

From there, I also noticed how I had to take his word for it, because I'm so woefully lacking in scientific education myself. This is part of his point, that many people accept the media's version due to scientific ignorance. But I wouldn't I be just as guilty of slavishly believing his version, unless I went through all the stats and research myself?

meltedmarsbars: I've read it, but cannot figure out it he ever describes how the placebo effect works on children/animals. He seems to make out that when its an adult human taking one, it is their belief in the concept of a pill (and its colours, branding and all of that). A one year old can't have a belief in a pill as they've never taken one before, so how does the placebo effect work there?

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 30-Mar-10 20:10:22

'm only half way through the book but have realised just how ignorant I am about science in general.

I know enough of statistics and how easy they are to manipulate because of my research interests but didn't realise quite how ignorant my basic science knowledge is.

The debunking of Brain gym was good. I'd be interested to hear his opinions on the research into physical activity before school and its impact on behaviour in children with and without ADHD

WidowWadman Tue 30-Mar-10 20:12:28

TillyBookClub - he explains how the placebo effect in these circumstances very well, namely that it a) works on the adult who's administering it through their expectations and b) the children/animals are reacting to the behaviour of the adult administering the placebo. I suppose you ought to read the chapter again.

DutchOma Tue 30-Mar-10 20:24:03

AIBU to think that the discussion would have been more lively if Dr Goldacre had been there to answer questions?

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 30-Mar-10 20:29:56

Everyone appears to be on the 'Gillian McKeith is the anti=christ' threads.

DutchOma Tue 30-Mar-10 20:31:16


StewieGriffinsMom Tue 30-Mar-10 20:32:20

There's one in chat and one in AIBU.

I enjoyed Goldacre's bashing of her too. Can't stand the woman.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 20:32:31

To be fair to BG (re: not evaluating the research he uses to back up his arguments), he does reference his chapters pretty thoroughly, and the whole point of the book is about empowering you to follow up claims and have the knowledge to identify bad research.

One of his biggest bugbears appears to be the lack of references to the original research in popular science reporting.

Having said that, not many people are likely to be arsed to follow up the refs.

JollyPirate Tue 30-Mar-10 20:33:10

I really enjoyed the book - I hate GMcK with a passion and he destroyed her.

I can't find anything about humans transferring expectations to a dog - I only remember the part where they injected the dog with sugar water plus a immunosuppressant, and then afterwards the sugar water had an effect due to association.

I'm fascinated by the placebo effect, and I think it is the most mysterious and interesting part of the book.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 20:35:17

Also, re: homeopathy, his argument isn't all homeopathy=placebo. He also spends quite a lot of time looking at concepts such as regressing to the mean. I.e, the chances are that even if you do nothing you'll eventually start to feel better.

With animals & children obviously this sort of concept is completely possible. If your dog has a self-limiting condition and you just happen to give the homeopathic remedy at the point where they'd have started to get better anyway you'll get a positive result. Or at least it'll seem like you did.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 20:39:15

It also depends on who decides that the animal is "better".

As animals (and babies) can't generally tell us when they're feeling better, we interpret their behaviour to decide this. This is a subjective process. If you've given a remedy that you expect to work you're more likely to see what you believe is going to happen - recovery.

Of course, this depends on the condition. If you were using, say, a blood test or other biological measurement to judge whether there had been improvement then this would take away the subjectivity.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 20:40:50

And (I'm sorry - this should really all be one post), if I remember rightly, this is one of his arguments against homeopathic research, that they're not controlling for this sort of subjectivity so the results can't really tell us anything useful.

SuziKettles: agreed, he does give good footnotes. And he makes a very valid point in the last chapter that anyone can understand very complicated science but only if they're motivated enough. Which usually means you are in hospital or have a sick child, or another strong impetus to take on all the information.

I think am now motivated enough to be sceptical, to think round an issue and to follow up research in one or two areas. But on the whole, I expect I will still be taking someone's word for it, whether that's my GP or Ben Goldacre.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 20:43:57

But I think the fact that you realise you're taking someone's word for it is important.

Anything that makes you start asking questions has got to be positive.

DutchOma Tue 30-Mar-10 20:49:47

The trouble is that you don't really know what questions to ask. Or understand the answers you are given.

weasle Tue 30-Mar-10 20:50:51

Yes, i think regression to the mean might explain some of the placebo effect on children/animals. Also good point about the subjective interpretation of illness/recovery.

DH and I loved this book. The homeopathy chapter very good at explaining why it is rubbish. Interesting points about the MMR issue - no controversy in other countries, in this country the controversy took some years after the original, now retracted Lancet paper.

The things that I think about all the time are the points about terribly poor science/medical reporting and the contrast with the business pages where you get proper educated reporting. Also the stats - 50% increase in cancer risk if you do x, not that important if actually your risk goes from 2 in 100 000 to 3 in 100 000!

Yes, I fully support the regression to the mean argument.
Is the same theory applied to conventional medicine? Apologies if Ben covers this in the book - I am worried now that I will get another ticking off...

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 20:54:05

it is simply not true that there is no controversy about MMR in other countries.

carlymarx Tue 30-Mar-10 21:06:01

Re: placebo effect in children. You can buy calpol-style placebo called obecalp ... read it backwards. Couldn't comment upon whether it works though.

I can't see why not really. If I understand correctly placebo works because of the belief that it will work. Children readily believe that medicine will make them feel better, and provided you can make a reasonable stab at convincing them it is real medicine, they are perhaps ideal candidates. Over the counter placebo is likely to be diminished in adults by the fact that you know that there are no active ingredients - this obviously doesn't apply to children.

I can't be the only one who has given Calpol as a last resort to soothe a distressed child and wondered if paracetemol could really have such a transformative effect, or whether it is in fact magic. Maybe it is just the placebo effect

It does occur to me though that the placebo still may not work as well - BG discusses in his book the fact that doctors' beliefs about whether the drug would work or not affected its effectiveness, this would seem to apply equally to parents. Think I'll just stick to Calpol

I really liked the book by the way. Really interesting to have statistical theories like 'regression to the mean' explained clearly. Has changed the way I 'read' news stories about science now. But I think the book/column does confirm my own prejudices, so I was always going to like it!

Agree about children who are old enough to 'get' medicine, i.e to know what it is and what it does. I was just astounded when a friend of mine with a 12 month old tried homeopathy for a terrible blocked tear duct (as diagnosed by the doctor and about to be operated on) - and it worked. Cleared the eye in 24 hours. It was most likely regression to the mean rather than placebo, but it made me wonder if babies that young could be affected by placebo psychology.

Not that it made me believe in homeopathy, which I think is brilliantly (and funnily) trashed in the book.

I feel I need to read it at least 10 times more, to absorb all the facts and prepare for informed arguments.

weasle Tue 30-Mar-10 21:16:47

Well, i think there certainly are diseases which doctors are under pressure to 'do something' when actually they are self-limiting. Eg, the demand for antibiotics for viral diseases such as colds and the like which will get better by themselves (ie regress to the mean).

And the placebo effect does IIRC account for about 10% of the effect of conventional medicines. Hence research requiring double blind placebo trials.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 30-Mar-10 21:18:54

MMR rates have dropped everywhere.

V interested by Obecalp. Considered making my own placebos out of small sugary blobs. Then remembered Jelly Tots which have probably nailed most of my children's placebo needs.

Wondering what happened to all the 50 people who voted for the book? Perhaps bumped off by the evil big pharma...

Thanks to all who did make it and see you for the next bookclub chat on Tues 27 April.

seeker Tue 30-Mar-10 21:32:36

I would be prepared to stick my neck out and suggest that the ONLY conditions that alternative therapies appear effective for are the self limiters. A really good example is Molluscum. Generally, people leave it,knowing that it will eventually go by itself unless they are motivated by it starting to bleed or look infected to try some remedy - which appears to work because molluscum almost always get "worse" just before they go naturally. Hey presto, the remedy worked!

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 21:58:31

The problem is it is utterly patronising to tell other people that ALL alternative therapies are nonsensical and that ANY postive effect is imagined.

I am sceptical about homeopathy myself. I can see how scientifically it appears nonsensical. But to apply this to all other alternative/complementary therapies [osteopathy, nutrition] is extremely blinkered and arrogant. The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil, as well as other benefits, are mentioned here

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 21:59:10

that is not to say Gillian McKeith is not the anti christ grin

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:01:17

this a very recent study done by University of Southampton with patients in intensive care

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:04:08

But BG doesn't say that does he? He's just talking about Bad Science, specifically scientific claims made without any evidence to back them up.

So, if an osteopath or a nutritionist or someone promoting fish oils makes a claim about a benefit and produces research, properly conducted which minimises the risk of bias, subjective reporting of results etc etc etc then I really don't think there's a problem.

Of course all this shouting about woo that you seem to get everywhere now is deeply patronising I absolutely agree.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:06:04

Again, I've never got the impression that BG is saying "fish oil is shite. It will always be shite and I don't care what you say I'm not changing my mind on that".

What he said was that the Durham Fish Oil "Trials" were actually a big advert for the company supplying the capsules, and I don't think Durham County Council (or whoever it was) did themselves any favours over that whole episode.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:09:08

And actually, it doesn't matter if it turns out that fish oil is a panacea for all the world's ills, the Durham Fish Oil trials will still have been poorly carried out "research" which won't have added anything meaningful to our knowledge about fish oils.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:12:29

Yes but there was better, peer reviewed research on fish oils that BG should have included in his book as a counter balance. But he didn't. And so loads of mothers go around saying 'I've stopped giving my dcs fish oil because BG says so'

Which isn't much better than following Gillian McKeith.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 30-Mar-10 22:16:38

Oxford uni just completed a huge study on fish oils which seem to suggest that there is a good benefit to giving all children fish oils although more benefits for children with dyslexia and ADHD.

What it doesn't say is where we are going to get all these lovely fish oils from.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:17:12

Hmm, yes that's a good point and he's probably guilty as charged there, but he wasn't writing a book about fish oils, or homeopathy he was writing a book about bad research practices, or frequently no research practices, about how the media reports science and how we are misled by press-releases passed off as medical breakthroughs.

Bad Science is not a good book to get the be all and end all about any therapy mentioned therein, but it's a good book to get a fairly comprehensive overview of why it's important to have scientific research, what happens when people don't research properly and how to understand statistics that are often used to bamboozle the general public.

And I found it very useful from that point of view.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:22:16

But it is totally unbalanced and subjective. If you choose one study and conclude there is no positive effect in giving children fish oils then you are ding exactly what you are criticizing others for [media misrepresentations of science]. It is not the whole truth.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:25:42

Also he calls Aspergers a 'pseudodiagnostic category' which is fairly-jaw dropping. Interesting comments raised on the bad science forum here

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:27:19

No - he chose one study and showed that because of its bad design it couldn't tell us anything about whether fish oils worked or not.

That particular story made the book I suspect because the people behind the trials made him jump through so many hoops to get any information out of them. Which yes, isn't subjective, but it didn't make the studies any better science.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:28:50

Well I won't stand up for him there (re Aspergers).

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:30:26

But it is the way you present information. He misrepresented the value of fish oil by not mentioning that there are other rigorous studies that prove it has benefits. Which is fairly ironic.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:31:14

I am wondering if that is why he didn't come on actually...

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 30-Mar-10 22:34:37

Maybe he's been reading the DMs version of us as hysterical harridans. grin

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:35:54

Which is also pretty ironic seeing as the DM were responsible in large part for all the MMR scaremongering...

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:37:55

It is a shame. Particularly if he just didn't bother to get back to Tilly.

Rhian82 Tue 30-Mar-10 22:40:02

He is a practising doctor. Maybe he had a shift at a hospital?

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 30-Mar-10 22:40:39

Well, it is possible he gets lots of these requests so a non-response isn't necessarily a sign he thinks we're nuts.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:42:11

Which would explain why he wasn't here, but not why he didn't tell Tilly he wouldn't be.

MuchaFriki Tue 30-Mar-10 22:42:29

Well, oily fish are full of fish oils. And other good things.

A often-repeated theme in the book is the benefit of a balanced diet, Jamie Oliver style. And pill companies of whatever flavour are multi-million industries playing on our fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Ben may be a tad arrogant but i don't think he's smirking or dismissive...

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:45:32

<sigh> but the peer reviewed trials are not of fish, they are of fish oils. So misleading to leave them out.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 22:47:34

Pill companies do do that. Big pharma companies do that too.

Doesn't mean there are not some benefits to some vitamins taken in pill form. There are plenty of peer-reviewed studies on Vit C, D and A.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:51:13

I would have loved to see what his answer would have been to that pofaced, I really would.

I hope, because he would have been able to have argued his case better than I can, and in any case it would have been an interesting debate.

(I notice the last link you gave was to a study about anti-inflamatory properties of fishoils which I suspect he would have rejected as he was talking about claims that they make your children brighter - but I obviously don't know that. Again though, I don't recall at any stage in that chapter him saying that fish oils were useless, don't eat them.)

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 22:52:03

Vitamin companies & Big Pharma of course are often one and the same..

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 23:00:08

there was this on the same page Suzi. [small study]

MuchaFriki Tue 30-Mar-10 23:04:27

I gave the book to a friend who is interested in nutritionism, natural remedies etc and she was intrigued by the debunking of Prof Patrick Holford who is so influential in that scene.

Despite the generalisations or flimsinesses "Bad Science" may contain, it was eye opening to me. I read the blurb claiming the benefits of pills, or the science stories in the papers, with extra critical eyes.

So at least I can look at the link that Pofacedagain posted and think "well, 23 people is pretty small study. Were the patients randomised. How significant were the results really. If i really care, i should go read the original research paper listed on BioMedCentral and look at the methods they used". Which points out that the shorter length of hospital stay is significant only if one excludes the patients who died.

Thank goodness for open access science and now even as a clueless humanities student I can learn to understand at least some of the research if i care to try.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 23:08:05

23 people is certainly a small study. Usually means a follow up study is needed, rather than the study itself can be discredited.

But you're right. It is important to learn how to understand how to interpret research.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 23:09:23

That study though is looking at maternal supplementation with the theory that the foetus isn't getting sufficient DHA through the mother's normal diet and that DHA is important for brain development.

Similar to folic acid supplementation I suppose.

Anyway, it's not making any claims about fish oils as a "brain food" as such. Just as a way of giving mothers extra DHA when worries about mercury in oily fish have meant that pregnant women are recommended to limit the amounts they consume.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 23:10:02

thisinteresting too
<awaits MuchaFriki's wrath> wink

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 23:14:18

But we need reputable studies that show an academic improvement in NT children to truly compare against the Durham studies.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 23:16:10

Yes definitely we do. There a lots of studies that show and link between fish oil and brain health. Trying to find them. Here is


MuchaFriki Tue 30-Mar-10 23:20:09

Hehe not to worry Pofacedagain i am already distracted by the Power Balance bracelet - the hologram activates my body's energy fields! Spanish royalty are wearing them!

*glances at the washing up pile, backs away* wink

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 23:24:19

Now, my critical appraisal skills are pretty tenuous so I'm going to be out of my depth pretty soon grin, but:

The study group that got the active ingredient numbered 88 students

The study group who received the placebo numbered only 33

Why was that?

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 23:46:12

'In all, 72 children were assessed (33 in the fish oil group and 39 in the olive oil group).'

Isn't that right?

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 23:48:59

LOL at the power bracelet
<furiously searches internet for peer reviewed study>

MuchaFriki Tue 30-Mar-10 23:49:12

SuziKettles, Pofaced, right, I can't see enough context in the article about fish oil supplements in pregnancy, to find the original research in BMJ's "Archives of disease in childhood".

But there's nothing to suggest there that the same effects cannot be achieved by eating oily fish and other good sources of omega-3.

But that kind of coverage leaves me as a mother feeling (as the Bad Science book points out) was i negligent not to eat fish oil pills while incubating DS? Is he this manic due to too much mercury?

Why do the journal publishers shop individual studies round the press? Why is there so much interest in the effects of fish oils on kids? So more research and meta-analysis goes on, and we wonder and worry while it's being concluded....

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 23:54:31

Sorry, my post of 23:24 refers to your study about anxiety in students helped by a mixture of essential fatty acids. There seems to be a pretty large discrepancy between the numbers in the placebo group and the group who received the active ingredient. Might not be important but it seems odd.

Mucha, the original article (I have an Athens password) states that because pregnant women are advised to limit their oily fish intake because of mercury worries there is a concern that they're not getting enough DHA for optimal brain development of the unborn child, hence the supplement.

Pofacedagain Tue 30-Mar-10 23:55:20

the 'Mixture of essential fatty acids lowers test anxiety' study is interesting, but cannot access full text at moment.

Questions over flawed research and manipulated stats occur in pharma drug and vaccine research too. this research [which I suspect is flawed itself] calls into question previous research on Hib vaccine safety. I am not for one moment suggesting Hib vaccine is not safe, but I found it interesting in its suggestion that the previous research was deliberately skewed.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 23:55:23

Well there's a lot of money in fish oil capsules <cynic>

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 23:57:32

Oh yes, big pharma are dreadful re: flawed research etc. I was gobsmacked (as a medical librarian) to read about one of the big drug companies - think it was Merck - getting Elsevier to basically publishe as so-called journal that only had their (positive, natch) studies in it.

SuziKettles Tue 30-Mar-10 23:59:14

I went to a statistics study day once where a bunch of journal articles were pulled apart. Quite often there's no actual badness behind the "bad" science, just carelessness. The waste of research time/money etc is shocking.

SuziKettles Wed 31-Mar-10 00:02:43

Here re: fake journals.

SuziKettles Wed 31-Mar-10 00:03:53

And of course, Merck own SevenSeas so are up to their eyes in fish oil capsules.

Pofacedagain Wed 31-Mar-10 00:04:51

shock at that link Suzi.

Sputnik Wed 31-Mar-10 21:28:30

Going off at a bit of a tangent here but, I really enjoyed the book, however one thing is still bugging me 2 years after reading it. At one point he talks about putting your sperm under a microscope. Not simply sperm, or your or your partner's sperm, but your sperm.

Not having any sperm of my own I felt a little excluded by this, and I got the impression reading the book that he had a male readership in mind when he wrote it, and women are more likely to be the people falling for all the detox, Mckeith, homeopathy bullshit.

I'm not normally sensitive about this kind of thing, did anyone else get that impression?

Pofacedagain Wed 31-Mar-10 22:14:31

Interesting point.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 31-Mar-10 22:54:11

I've read that criticism before [and before i read the book] so did read it with that in mind and i did think it was gendered. However, can't say I would have felt that way if I had read the book before reading the gendered critique of it.

seeker Thu 01-Apr-10 07:41:23

Just because something is published in a scientific-looking journal doesn't mean that the journal is one of record or that it is peer reviewed. And just because someone is Professor of Something or Other at Somewhere or Other University doesn"t mean that he or she is a genuine academic from a reputable academic institution.

Pofacedagain Thu 01-Apr-10 11:10:06

The articles I linked to where summaries of studies from the BMJ I think.

Care to comment on BG's 'pseudodiagnostic' categorization of Asperger's syndrome? Doesn't sound particularly 'scientific' to me.

resurrecting this, as I have a few questions and am generally interested (no time to read the thread now but will later)

Sputnik I did notice that (I am re reading it at the moment and read your comment first) but I've also noticed that in other places in the book he refers to female researchers, academics etc. I don't get the impression GM is 'picked on' because she's femal, but for all the reasons he lists.

He does write in the style of Jeremy Clarkson though - a lot of the time I hear his voice in my head when I'm reading it

sorken Sun 23-May-10 16:39:58

yeah seen this here too:

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