Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Weight watchers and churnalism

Today, a story appears in the news citing the latest research which shows that sending obese patients to Weight Watchers helps them lose twice as much weight as normal NHS weight loss treatments. The story appears, in remarkably similar form, on the BBC, and in The Guardian, The Telegraph, and even The Sun.

By an amazing coincidence, the research was funded by Weight Watchers. Who'd have thought it?

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean the research is wrong. Maybe it was incredibly well conducted research and Weight Watchers is indeed a remarkably effective way to lose weight.

But here's the thing: I don't know whether it was or not,  because the research has not yet been published. So I'm willing to bet that none of the journalists who wrote about it knows whether the research is trustworthy either. It is going to be presented at a conference this week, but a peer-reviewed article is not yet available. Without seeing a full description of the methods and results of the research, it is impossible to know whether it is reliable.

Seems that the journalists were simply regurgitating a press release without bothering to check whether the research was credible. But that's a much easier way to write a story than to actually have to think about something, isn't it guys?

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