01 November 2008

just a little rant

...about this article in the guardian friday.

"Boys born to mothers who drank lightly during pregnancy are better behaved and score more highly in tests at the age of three than the sons of women who abstained, according to a study published today."

first of all, wtf? this article flies in the face of almost everything we know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy. it's a shocking claim - i was intrigued enough to click on the headline. when a claim is this controversial, there's a higher standard applied - the research should be solid and peer-reviewed.

is it? i don't know, because the article fails to identify where this finding was published - leading me to believe that it hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal. for a newspaper to print findings that are so contradictory to public health advice when the findings are not yet reviewed is terribly irresponsible. FURTHER, the authors acknowledge that their findings are not solid:

"Although allowances had been made for social circumstances, Dr Yvonne Kelly, the lead researcher, said they could not be completely certain that the children's better performance was not linked to their family background."

what?! family background is arguably the most important factor in child development - if it can't be ruled out as a factor in their study, then the results are completely void. the fact that their findings are only presented in boys suggests to me that they only found a very limited significance in a subgroup and are stretching for a finding.

if the research is crummy, major newspapers have no business printing it. how many expectant mothers will read this headline and decide to start drinking a wine with dinner every night? please can newspapers leave health advice to the experts?

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