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Christian Counseling - Beware Media Reporting

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/HeartHealth/diet-soda-linked-heart-attack-stroke-risk/story?id=12868269

Recently, the media began reporting on a study linking diet soda to increased stroke risk. A search of the Internet for "diet soda and stroke" came up with 1,400,000 hits. The above included link provides the best information I could find describing the study and its limitations. The problem with much of the material I viewed on the Internet and on television is that the study is presented as having found a cause and effect relationship between diet soda and stroke. This is simply not true. The data is correlational in nature. Therefore, there is a relationship between diet soda and stroke risk, but the nature of this relationship is not understood. The ABC News article does an excellent job of describing the other possible variables that may account for the relationship between diet soda and stroke.

Another problem with some media reporting is that, while they discussed the limitations of the study, they also encouraged people to cut back on their diet soda intake. Why? If there is no causal link between diet soda and health concerns, why would someone need to curtail their diet soda intake?

Finally, what is also problematic is that studies like this one are then used by some politicians to change public policy. It is likely that, in the near future, a state senator somewhere will write a piece of legislation designed to increase taxes on diet soda, using this study to say that there is an increased public health risk stemming from diet soda intake.

As always, we must be cautious about media reporting of scientific studies, and, when research is correlational in nature, we must consider the other variables that might be influencing the results. Remember, just because the rooster crows and the sun comes up, it does not mean that the rooster causes the sun to come up.

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