Reading the mainstream media’s coverage of the health and nutrition issue, you’d be forgiven if you thought eating everything from red meat to burnt toast could cause cancer. But a new study shows many of these reports are nothing more than bogus sensationalism — just as we’ve been saying for years.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provocatively titled, “Is everything we eat associated with cancer? A systematic cookbook review,” Drs. Jonathan Schoenfeld of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and John Loannidis of Stanford University randomly selected 50 ingredients from a popular cookbook. They did a scientific literature search for articles evaluating the cancer risk of 40 of the 50 ingredients — everything from flour to parsley, lobster to duck.
But “when we examined the reports, we found many had borderline or no statistical significance,” Dr. Schoenfeld toldthe Guardian. And even if one individual study did find a statistically significant link to cancer, “it was very often difficult to repeat that in other studies.”
But — of course — the initial studies often stir debate “rife with emotional and sensational rhetoric that can subject the general public to increased anxiety and contradictory advice,” Dr. Schoenfeld says. (You don’t need to tell usthat!)
“This review underlines that, by and large, these scares we’ve been talking about for years are insignificant, to say the least,” says ACSH’s Dr. Ruth Kava. “It provides scientific backing for what we’ve said repeatedly — as exemplified by ACSH’s classic publication, the Holiday Dinner Menu.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, aside from the Guardian and the U.K. Mirror, the mainstream media has pretty much ignored the Schoenfeld-Ioannidis study. We’re sure if it was a report linking mayonnaise and heart cancer it would have gotten more attention!