Sunday January 17, 2016

Lean beef linked to atheism?: Nutrition-research tool draws skepticism

NEW YORK - MARCH 16:  Competitive eaters (L-R) Pat Bertoletti, Joey Chestnut and Juliet Lee face off in the first-ever Stroehmann Sandwich Slamm, an eating contest featuring corned beef and rye sandwiches ahead of St. Patrick's Day, March 16, 2009 in New York City. Winner Pat Bertoletti consumed 16 3/4 sandwiches in ten minutes to win the contest at Gallagher's Steakhouse.

NEW YORK - MARCH 16: Competitive eaters (L-R) Pat Bertoletti, Joey Chestnut and Juliet Lee face off in the first-ever Stroehmann Sandwich Slamm, an eating contest featuring corned beef and rye sandwiches ahead of St. Patrick's Day, March 16, 2009 in New York City. Winner Pat Bertoletti consumed 16 3/4 sandwiches in ten minutes to win the contest at Gallagher's Steakhouse. (Getty Images)

Listen 10:51

Drinking pop is linked to weird skin rashes.

People who eat steak with the fat trimmed off are at a higher risk of atheism. 

High levels of salt consumption could lead to a good relationship with your internet service provider.

Those are some of the media-friendly headlines to come out of a little experiment put together by the science and statistics website Five Thirty Eight. 

It was an somewhat less scientific approach to the same type of tool that leads to all sorts of real science headlines, like "Red wine and fruit are the new Viagra" 

Many nutritional studies use a tool called a "Food Frequency Questionnaire". Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer at FiveThirtyEight, says the questionnaire can lead to inaccurate data, and inaccurate conclusions. Those conclusions are then eaten up by a hungry media. 

The problem here is the news cycle demands news. And there aren't medical breakthroughs every week. And there are headlines to fill... and so we could do a much better job of selecting which studies are covered to begin with. - Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer at FiveThirtyEight

Click the play button above to hear the entire interview.