Monday, May 11, 2015

9 things PBS Newshour famously gets horrible wrong in story on fast food and microbiomes

Well, this is one of the worst microbiome news stories in a long time: Fast food kills gut bacteria that can keep you slim, book claims.  So many things wrong with it I don't even know where to go.  Here are nine:

1. The original headline: "Fast food kills gut bacteria that can keep you slim, study finds"

Here is the Tweet



2. The correction:


is just completely lame and they should, as the New York Times does when it makes a correction, say what it used to say before they changed it

3. The sentence with the reference to Rob Knight is just bad reporting #1

Here is the quote:
Previous studies made similar findings: Professor Rob Knight of the University of Colorado Boulder, who collaborates with Spector, famously showed that transferring gut bacteria from obese humans to mice could make the rodents gain weight.
First of all - the paper they link to does include Rob Knight as a co-author, but the corresponding and senior author is Jeffrey Gordon and Rob is fourth to last (mind you I love Rob and his work, but in this case, saying this is something Rob showed without mentioning Gordon is just not right).

4 . The sentence with the reference to Rob Knight is just bad reporting #2

What the *$*$# does "famously showed" mean? Really.  What does it mean?

5 . The sentence with the reference to Rob Knight is just bad reporting #3

The statement "Previous studies made similar findings" is just so incredibly misleading.   It seems to be referring back to the previous sentences:
“What is emerging is that changes in our gut microbe community , or microbiome, are likely to be responsible for much of our obesity epidemic, and consequences like diabetes, cancer and heart disease,” he said. “It is clear that the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your microbes and the better your health at any age.”
This is just completely overblown.  The more diverse your diet the better your health at any age?  Oh #FFS that is just not based on any science.  And the "likely responsible for" is silly too.

6 . The sentence with the reference to Rob Knight is just bad reporting #4

Why exactly tell us he is collaborating with Rob Knight?  So some of Rob's good work rubs off?  I mean, Spector may do some fine work (and he has done some really good stuff).  But casually mentioning he collaborates with Knight who famously showed something (when actually it was more Jeff Gordon's work) which did not actually show what the article implies it showed.  Aaaaaaaaaaarg.

7. Good news.
Spector’s book claims that the diversity of microbes in the human body has decreased almost a third over the last century. But there’s also good news: Foods like dark chocolate, garlic, coffee and Belgian beer may help increase gut microbes.
Really?  Thinking about microbes MAY also increase gut microbes.  And so might listening to NPR.  Not something worth reporting here.

8. This sentence
This discovery suggested to his father that many cases of obesity may not simply be due to overeating.
That is right.  Looking at his son's poop and the microbes in it is the key to knowing that obesity might actually be fuc$*@#@ complex and not only caused by overeating.  Oh, that and 100 years of epidemiology and research.

9. This sentence
“Once on the diet I rapidly lost 1,300 species of bacteria and my gut was dominated by a different group called bacteroidetes. The implication is that the McDonald’s diet killed 1,300 of my gut species,” he said.
Sorry but that is NOT the implication.


UPDATE 1: May 11, 2015. 8:00 PM

Thanks to a Tweet from Jennifer Gunter I changed the title of my post from " 9 things horribly wrong with Newshour story on fast food and microbiomes" to "9 things PBS Newshour famously gets horrible wrong in story on fast food and microbiomes"


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