Reporting What We Might Want to Believe

Once upon a time, CBS was known as “The Tiffany Network,” with a highly respected news division.

Those days are long gone.

For the study, published in Food & Nutrition Research, researchers at Louisiana State University tracked the health of more than 11,000 youngsters between the ages of two and 18 from 1999 to 2004. They found that children who ate sweets were 22 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than kids who shunned sweets. Adolescents? Those who ate candy were 26 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than their non-candy-eating counterparts.

And that wasn’t the only surprising finding. Researchers also found that the blood of candy-eating kids had lower levels of C-reactive protein. That’s a marker of inflammation in the body and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.

As you might expect, this “jaw-dropping” news is immediately followed by the usual caveat:

“The results of this study should not be construed as a hall-pass to overindulge,” lead researcher Dr. Carol O’Neil said in a written statement. “Candy should not replace nutrient-dense foods in the diet; it is a special treat and should be enjoyed in moderation.”

To CBS’s credit, they linked to the full article. Read the fine print:

This research project was supported by the USDA Agricultural Research Service through specific cooperative agreement 58-6250-6-003. Partial support was received from the USDA Hatch Project LAB 93951. Partial support was also received from the National Confectioners Association. [emphasis added]

The statement goes on to reassure that the funders had no “role in the design, analysis, or writing of this manuscript,” and that the “authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.” Still, you can’t help but wonder: Would the study have been published at all if it had supported the established knowledge that sweets can be damaging?

As one commenter on the CBS story put it, “This story is no better than an advertisement for candy. Please go and look to see who funded it before blindly believing it.”

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