Writing in The Guardian
, Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre debunks a story published in sister paper The Observer
about the supposed benefits of fish oil. Not only were the study and its results badly misreported (it wasn't even a study on fish-oil, but rather on Omega-3 fatty acids), but it constitutes part of a larger pattern of bad reporting that ultimately benefits dietary supplement vendors who make insane, unsubstantiated claims about their products' benefits.
If this had been a trial to detect whether omega-3 improves performance, it would be laughably small: a dozen children in each group. While small studies aren't entirely useless, as amateurs often claim, you do have a very small number of observations to work from, so your study is much more prone to error from the simple play of chance. A study with 11 children in each arm could conceivably detect an effect, but only if the fish oil caused a gigantic and unambiguous improvement in all the children who got it, and none on placebo improved.
Fish oil in the Observer: the return of a $2bn friend
This paper showed no difference in performance at all. Since it was a brain imaging study, not a trial, they only report the results of children's actual performance on the attention task in passing, in a single paragraph, but they are clear: "there were no significant group differences in percentage correct, commission errors, discriminability, or reaction time"...
And oddly enough, someone has finally now conducted a proper trial of fish oils pills in mainstream children, to see if they work: a well-conducted, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, in 450 children aged 8-10 years old from a mainstream school population. It was published in full this year (http://qurl.com/fish), and they found no improvement. Show me the news headlines about that paper.
(Image: Fish oil caps, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from spcummings's photostream)
The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.
This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web’s top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with. Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it’s interesting how far the blue “cluster” is from the […]
With the cacophony of an election year ablaze with unparalleled drama being fought on the front lines of Twitter, we find ourselves slowing down and staring at it like a bad accident. The need for escapist relief is perhaps more dire than usual right now. This fall, if it’s drama you crave, but the Hillary […]
#1. A-Audio Legacy Noise Cancelling Headphones with 3-Stage Technology The A-Audio Legacy Headphones are the Boing Boing Store’s best seller this month, and it’s easy to see why. With 40mm drivers, powerful circuitry, and memory foam padded circumaural ear cups, these are clearly super high-quality headphones. Plus, the patented 3-Stage Technology lets you toggle between passive […]
Vaping is getting more mainstream by the day, which means there’s been an influx of quality yet affordable vaporizers on the market. We’re particularly excited about the APX Wax Vaporizer Kit, which is an easy-to-use, high-quality vape that works with both dry herbs and waxy concentrates.If you’re a beginner trying to get into vaping, the APX […]
When you’ve had a long day and it’s time to unwind, there’s a lot you can do to relax: drink some tea, take a shower or even read a book. But there’s one thing that’s essential to a comfortable night’s rest—and that’s investing in some really good sheets. Enter Bamboo Bed Sheets. These quality sheets retail for $120, but […]