Eggs, cancer, and motivated reasoning

The following headline in the The Daily Express caught my attention this week:

“Ovarian cancer – could EGGS be the cause of disease? Vegan charity research REVEALED” 14th March 2017

The article goes on to explain that a Bristol based charity called Viva! Health has urged consumers not to eat eggs, claiming that one egg a week increases cancer risk by up to 70%. According to their own website, Viva! Health is a science-based health and nutrition charity, and being “science-based” you would expect them to have sufficient evidence to make a claim as eye-catching as the one above. So is this the case?food-eggs

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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

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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The dangers of anecdotal evidence

Occasionally (too often) a newspaper publishes a story that is just downright irresponsible. This story from the Daily Express fits into this category.

‘I beat cancer by eating pineapples’ Brave woman, 31, shuns chemotherapy to self-medicate

Daily Express – 30/03/15

Any reader of this blog will understand that this is rubbish, but it’s worth looking at why anecdotal stories like this are useless as evidence for therapy. Continue reading

Does the “Mozart Effect” exist in adults?

It used to be thought that listening to Mozart when pregnant or when a child was under three made for smarter babies. This has been thoroughly disproven A4MBDCand explained by the fact that children from houses where classical music is played tend to be better educated. However, people keep jumping on the bandwagon every time a study about classical music is published. This article was published in the Daily Mail on the 15th of March:

Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia say researchers after discovering Mozart excerpts enhanced gene activity in patients

Daily Mail (15/03/15)

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Best (worst) tabloid story of the week – 12/05/15

MailOnline: Incredible moment baby shocks his parents by saying ‘hello’ at just SEVEN WEEKS old

According to the MailOnline, a baby was filmed saying hello to his parents (video below). While undeniably cute, this isn’t a genius child, mastering language at 7 weeks. It is, however, an example of pareidolia. Pareidolia is the effect of seeing patterns in random things, and is a fascinating quirk of the brain. Continue reading