Milk and Parkinson’s

As the population has been getting older, there has been increased attention paid to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. These are diseases that cause a progressive loss of mental function (dementia), or problems with movement, such as tremors. The causes of these diseases are still relatively unknown, so there is a lot of public interest in studies that look at this. This week a paper was published that suggests there may be a link between high consumption of low fat dairy (particularly milk), and Parkinson’s. This was picked up by numerous media outlets, with predictable headlines. Continue reading

Does Nutella cause cancer?

nutellaOn a recent cycling trip in Canada, I ate an obscene amount of Nutella. It works as a great lunch, and dipping fresh bread in it is a delicious snack. When you are exercising all day every day, a tasty, spreadable, dippable energy source like this is extremely useful. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very unhealthy food, but despite this, I’m a fan.

Which is why I was surprised this week to see Ferrero (the makers of Nutella) defending their product against claims that it causes cancer. A quick internet search revealed the problem. As the Tech Times put it: “Nutella Can Cause Cancer, Study Warns”. The Huffington Post ran with: “Stores Are Pulling Nutella After Report Links It To Cancer”, while the Daily Mail asked “Could Nutella give you CANCER?”. So what is this all about, and should you stop eating Nutella? Continue reading

Correlation vs Causation

The following headline caught my eye recently:

“Migraines could be caused by gut bacteria, study suggests”

The Guardian – 18/10/16

To anybody who suffers from migraines, this is very interesting; at the moment, we really don’t understand what causes them. If a study has figured this out, then we may be able to help the estimated 15% of the population who are sufferers.

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Hot drinks and cancer

You may have seen a frankly terrifying headline this week:

“Hot drinks probably cause cancer, warns World Health Organisation”

Telegraph, 15th June 2016

Almost every news source carried this story, and the headlines were universally similar to the one above. This story comes from a report by the WHO, which looked at the association between coffee and mate (a South American herbal tea) and various forms of cancer. In short, they found that there was no association between coffee or mate and cancer, but that the temperature of the beverage may be linked to oesophageal cancer. Continue reading

Trust in science

As with every other week, the last 10 days has brought a slew of tabloid stories, linking various things with causing or curing cancer:

GOOD: antacids, Chinese herbal remedy, berries and teaanthrax, frying food

BAD: being tall, tonsils, artificial football pitches, The RAF, oral sex

As always, these stories are largely nonsense, suitable only for the bin. Unfortunately, they are reported credulously and are widely read, and this saturation of health-related articles has several negative consequences.

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