Reading past the headlines for a healthy life

060414 106This week I have decided to change direction for a while in my blog. I have been prompted by the continued misleading headlines in newspapers.

Have you noticed how often we read things such as a particular food stuff being the magic answer to certain health solutions only to be told the next week they are the problem?

Recently a headline suggested that research had “proven” that people who were in the obese weight range had a 24% reduced chance of developing dementia. The suggestion was that being over-weight was an important way to stay mentally healthy!

Sadly newspaper reporters are more interested in the circulation of their paper than in reporting accurate information. With that in mind I thought I would offer some tips for balancing headlines.

Firstly, few if anything is “proven” by research. Proven is a very concrete statement suggesting there is no margin for error. Often there are conflicting research projects that provide results that are at odds with each other.

This is more about complexity than anything else, issues such as dementia for instance are very complex and there are multiple indicators, causes and suggested ways to stay healthy. None of these can provide a 100% guarantee of anything.

Secondly, in research there are findings and confounding variables. Usually there are a number of things that can be reported as possibilities, sometimes these are just correlational. For example, in hot weather there are more ice cream stains on clothes.

Does hot weather cause ice cream stains?

I’m sure you are ahead of me here. Perhaps when the weather is hot more people buy ice cream and therefore the chance of ice cream dripping onto clothes is higher. However consider also that perhaps ice cream vans may only go out in the summer particularly in holiday spots. Maybe people on holiday eat more ice cream than when working.

Do you get the idea?

There are often multiple factors to any result. In the case of the research around dementia there were a number of other findings reported including possible problems with the results (this is normal in good research). It is also worth considering what the 24% related to. It is not 24% of the population!

So next time there is a sensational headline consider looking up the original research if you are interested enough. Or look in scientific magazines such as New Scientist who often report such research in an easier format that still has a less sensationalist stance.

I am in a health and well-being stream now so if you happen to live in the Crowborough, East Sussex areaThe Well Place you might want to join me on 12th May at our NLP Practice group meeting. The topic is Well-being and hypnosis. More details on


About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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1 Response to Reading past the headlines for a healthy life

  1. James Pailly says:

    As a science fiction writer, I spend a lot of time reading scientific papers and articles about science. I’ve learned to be wary of anyone claiming they’ve “proven” anything. Genuine scientists tend to speak in terms of “high degrees of certainty” or “statistical significance” or “outside the margin of error.” Words like “proof” and “proven” are huge red flags, and I avoid primary sources that use those terms.

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