Monday, 9 April 2007

Chinese Whispers/Telephone game

The BBC recently published a news article with the heading: “Med diet ‘could prevent asthma’”. A little further into the article it changes the message slightly to say that diet could help control asthma symptoms, which is really quite different. If you read the abstract of the original article in Thorax it is slightly different again. “A high level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet was protective for allergic rhinitis while a more modest protection was observed for wheezing and atopy.” Additionally, the study was carried out on children living in rural Crete, so whether this is going to translate into a benefit for children living in urban Britain, or urban anywhere else, is another matter.

In this instance it’s not a big deal. Eating a Mediterranean diet would do no harm but it seems to me to be another case of sloppy reporting. Does nobody look at the reports with a critical eye? Do they have non-scientists writing up these findings? Or is it just another example of journalists wanting to make a story with only an approximation to the truth? Or indeed, is it just a case of Chinese Whispers, where the message becomes distorted each time it is told?


  1. I think it not reading for understanding, its reading to get the gist of the story. They create the stories like the headlines. Quite often I am totally dismayed when I read the story.

  2. The awful thing is, I have always thought the BBC fairly reliable, but they seem to be as bad as the rest.


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