Junkfood Science: Unsettling observation

January 15, 2009

Unsettling observation

Remember how that fictitious claim of an epidemic of type 2 diabetes in children that had been published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, went uncontested for years? In fact, four years later, the journal has yet to issue a correction or publish a letter pointing out the glaring methodological flaws in that paper.

It has been more than a month and a half since the journal published online the AAP clinical guidelines for the use of alternative modalities in pediatric patients. Not a single e-letter from a medical professional raising any concerns over those guidances has appeared. Only one letter, from a chiropractor commending the journal for its efforts “in this most important area of pediatric care,” has been published.

It’s been more than two weeks since the journal published a study purportedly finding dramatic evidence that bariatric surgery reverses type 2 diabetes in young people. There has not been a single letter to the editor from a medical professional pointing out the clear flaws in that paper’s methodology and conclusions, or the potential dangers for pediatric patients in its recommendations.

It’s been more than two weeks since the journal published that study on the health dangers of invisible toxins from third-hand smoke. Not a single letter from a medical doctor pointing out the scientific implausibility of this claim has been published. The only letter from a licensed medical professional came from a registered nurse who thanked the journal — using eight exclamation marks. “Your study alerts us to the reality that we need to be more aware of third-hand smoke,” she writes. “Raising the possibility ‘that even extremely low levels of these compounds may be neurotoxic’ demands that we as child health care professionals enlighten parents so they can protect their children's health and intellectual development.” She says she is a school nurse with Smithtown School District in Smithtown, NY, and regularly takes parents aside who come into her office smelling of cigarette smoke.

It’s hard to know what is most troubling: the fact these articles are being published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, or that licensed medical professionals caring for children haven’t noticed anything amiss with the science.

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