Category: Medical Independent

One year in: The Science Bit’s greatest hits

I am generally nonplussed by birthdays. And I realise that blog posts about blog posts can sometimes be boring. However, as I’m an obsessive hoarder and a data geek, in this case I am going to make an exception. You see, The Science Bit is one year old today.

That’s right, it has reached the big ‘1’.

*Cue music* There have been highs, and there have been lows; vivid memories and lots of stuff that I’ve forgotten. Readership has waxed and waned, but gradually grown. Some people have been happy. Others have been bored. Millions of people have completely ignored me. But rather than dousing you with further personal reminiscences, I thought I would instead simply feed back to you a countdown of the five most read posts of the past twelve months.

A special item that I like to call…’REELING IN THE YEAR

Continue reading “One year in: The Science Bit’s greatest hits”

Stop the spread of the ecological fallacy

Have a look at this recently launched public health campaign, pithily titled “Stop the Spread“. It aims to address the problem of overweight in the general population. Co-ordinated by Safefood, the statutory body responsible for the promotion of food safety in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the campaign has proven to be somewhat controversial in both countries. This is not least because of its implication that being overweight is somehow communicable, its promotion of waist-circumference as an uncomplicated measure of disease risk, and its apparent recommendation that all adults — including young and otherwise healthy people — should constantly strive to avoid putting on weight and thus regularly measure themselves in order to track their body shape empirically.

Safefood’s primary gimmick has been to issue 250,000 free measuring tapes for members of the public to use to see just how fat they actually are. Vividly, and without any apparent equivocation, they declare that waist circumferences greater than 32 inches for women or 37 inches for men signify significant risk of developing an obesity-related disease. This approach has been very harshly criticized by many commentators, including eating disorder advocacy and support groupswho spend most of their efforts and resources promoting precisely the opposite approach to healthy weight management. In response, Safefood have forthrightly defended their campaign as being necessary in the face of what they argue is a looming public health catastrophe. Moreover, both their website materials and public spokespersons have been adamant that the 32/37-inch threshold is consistent with the best available scientific research.

However, that particular claim is extremely questionable. It is not at all clear that the scientific research supports the details of this campaign; in fact, in some respects, the campaign directly conflicts with the very scientific research that it cites in its own defence. As a result, this campaign could actually be doing far more damage than good… Continue reading “Stop the spread of the ecological fallacy”

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