Fake study: Chocolate certainly doesn't make you thin

Fake study: Chocolate certainly doesn't make you thin

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Studies on diets and healthy eating are often not very meaningful
"Who eats chocolate stays slim," headlined the "Bild" newspaper in March. The sheet fell - like many other magazines and magazines - on a fictitious study that chocolate can help you lose weight. Journalists Diana Löbl and Peter Onneken had published a press release by the "Institute for Diet and Health" on the supposed sensational diet. But neither the institute nor the study actually existed. With the campaign, the two journalists wanted to draw attention to the gullibility of the media.

The media often handle press releases too lightly
The news about the supposed diet wonder weapon "chocolate" even reached Australia and Nigeria. The vertigo was then resolved on Wednesday: All fake. Some newspapers printed the press release of the non-existent institute almost word for word. A look at the website of the Diet Institute would have been enough to make attentive journalists sit up and take notice. The website looks anything but serious. In addition, it contains practically no reliable information. Apparently the headline was that chocolate makes you slim but too tempting for many newspapers to be critically questioned.

Löbl and Onneken have achieved their goal. They showed how easy it is to get a good headline in the media, even if the content behind it is quai meaningless. "The business stinks and we journalists join in," quotes the online edition of "TAZ" Onneken. The fake study is part of Onnekens and Löbl's new documentary “Slim through Chocolate”, which will be broadcast on “Arte” in early June. In it, they show how easily people can be fooled by diet promises and that the desire to be slim is mercilessly capitalized.

Many people deal with media reports too uncritically
Health scientist Ingrid Mühlhauser supported the two journalists in preparing the fake study. In an interview with the online edition of "Stern", she spoke about the danger of good faith in many people. “Causal relationships are so hastily created so often without questioning them further. A cell test of five people who eat an apple every day is used to prove that one apple a day extends life. What we as scientists have been complaining about for a long time - and what Onneken ultimately wanted to do: there is a lack of critical analytical skills - in the population anyway, but also among journalists and scientists, ”explains the doctor. "This lack of competence to correctly interpret results leads to reports such as 'Chocolate makes you thin' or 'Coffee protects against cancer'."

Mühlhauser advises teaching people as early as possible, questioning statements and analyzing them critically. So healthy eating is already an issue at school. A study that claims that chocolate helps you lose weight must immediately make you suspicious and raise questions: “How was that determined? How many people have been examined? Was it an experimental clinical study or a laboratory study? "

According to the fake press release, the chocolate study was carried out with a handful of volunteers over a three-week observation period. Every journalist should be aware that the quality criteria of scientifically meaningful studies cannot be met. (ag)

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