Dr. Ioannidis is a hero of mine. In fact, he’s a hero of many a scientist who has found him- or herself shaking their heads upon finding out how the contemporary scientific establishment functions.
He came to Montreal in October to give a public science talk on the lack of reproducibility in the scientific literature. I heard some negative feedback from non-scientists who reported that his talk was not always understandable to the uninitiated. Indeed, his spiel (minus the opening bit about the Greek poem) was aimed at scientists and was roughly the same I had heard him give to a roomful of physicians and researchers at the Jewish General Hospital months earlier.
Julia Belluz at MacLeans does a stand-up job of digesting the data he recently showed at the Harvard School of Public Health and making it accessible to all. Here’s an excerpt:
“In one of his studies – appropriately titled ‘Is everything we eat associated with cancer?’ – Ioannidis and a co-author randomly selected 50 ingredients from recipes in the The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. They then looked at whether those ingredients were associated with an increased or decreased risk of cancer. At least one study was identified for 40 of the ingredients – from bacon and bread to sherry and sugar – and most of the claims made in the studies contradicted each other or were based on weak evidence. ‘Most of the ingredients had results on both sides, positive and negative,’ he said, making the point that many studies about cancer and nutrition are poorly designed. There were studies to support just about every claim on the popular topic – and many of them are too good to be true. ‘With one more serving of tomatoes,’ he told his class with a smirk, ‘half the burden of cancer in the world would go away.'”
I encourage you to go read the whole thing here!