What if someone told you that 40 of the 50 most common ingredients in cookbooks, including salt, flour and sugar "had been linked with a cancer risk or benefit" in a variety of scientific studies. In an article published by AFP, Ivan Couronne says if you're like most people you'd probably wonder, "is everything we eat associated with cancer?"
Couronne may have an answer. He reports that according to John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University who specializes in the study of scientific studies, "The majority of papers that get published, even in serious journals, are pretty sloppy."
Couronne goes on to point out that scientists are under pressure to find "revolutionary breakthroughs" leading them to rush experiments and ultimately confuse people with conflicting results.
"Diet is one of the most horrible areas," said Ioannidis, because diet is so hard to measure, and people are desperate for information about what they should and shouldn't eat.
The other culprit is mass media. According to Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which covers the withdrawal of scientific articles, media "needs to better explain the uncertainties inherent in scientific research, and resist sensationalism." Indeed, in the age of clickbait and the 24-hour news cycle, journalists tend to jump to conclusions about the effect of ingredients on individual's health.
So, what can you do? Until scientists and the media stop rushing studies and sensationalizing results, Ioannidis recommends asking yourself questions when reading about studies, such as, "Is this a small or large study?" and "Are the researchers transparent?"
So, next time you read a crazy headline claiming that salt, sugar or flour is connected to cancer, don't rush to your kitchen to purge your shelves. Remember that scientific studies may not be all they're cracked up to be, and to trust your gut when shopping for yourself and your family.