Wisdom vs. Spin

“Spin” is not quite lying. It can involve exaggeration, mal-emphasis, the cherry-picking of evidence, misrepresentation, slant, overgeneralization, deliberate misunderstanding, disingenuousness, willful ignorance, and more.

In 2017, three authors, including Prof. Lisa Bero, published “‘Spin’ in published biomedical literature: A methodological systematic review.” In the vital job of spin prevention, peer reviewers and the editors of professional journals are the first line of defense. They are expected to check the study conclusions (usually words) against the study results (usually numbers) and see if they align.

When causal language is inappropriately used, their job is to call it out. The authors added,

Second, clinical practice and public health guidelines should be developed based on systematic reviews to ensure that recommendations are founded on rigorous data and not misleading conclusions.

Third, promoting fully open data or inviting published interpretation of published data from multiple researchers could mitigate the occurrence of spin.

Finally, structural reforms within academia are needed to change research incentives and reward structures that emphasize ‘positive’ conclusions…

Not long afterward, an interview with Jennifer Woo Baidal, M.D., emphasized once again that “understanding potentially effective ways to prevent childhood obesity, particularly in vulnerable populations, should focus on early life.” In terms of fighting obesity, the ground lost in those early years can be recovered only with great difficulty, and maybe not at all.

These researchers studied families and discovered that parents who have a bad attitude about sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consume fewer SSBs, and are less likely to give them to their children. But apparently the parents with negative attitudes about soda pop are in the minority, since 89% of the adult subjects and 30% of the children in the study included it in their diets.

Being multifactorial, obesity is very difficult to tame, especially since systems or processes may be involved that science does not even have a clue about yet. In response, Dr. Baidal and many other health professionals make a very strong and pertinent point about obesity and the adverse health outcomes connected with it. The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is a “modifiable risk factor,” otherwise known as “a thing we can do something about.”


Remember the Serenity Prayer? A person asks for the serenity to accept what can’t be changed, the courage to handle things that can be changed — and the wisdom to know the difference. That is the crux of the argument. There are so many things we can’t change or don’t even know about — and yet here is a clear, straightforward example of a behavior that can definitively, indubitably be changed. People can choose to stop pouring sugar-sweetened beverages down their throats.

Such an obvious solution should emanate from heaven surrounded by golden rays and silver clouds, accompanied by trumpet blasts. “Hey, humans, yoo-hoo! You wanted a simple, cheap answer to the obesity epidemic — well here it is! No need for a magic wand, or silver bullet. No need for a genie with a lamp. Just stop drinking that swill! You’re welcome!”

And the response is, as they say in show biz — crickets.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘Spin’ in published biomedical literature: A methodological systematic review,” PLOS.org, 09/11/17
Source: “Parental Attitudes Linked to Infant Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption,” MedicalResearch.com, 10/25/18
Image by Andreas Kretschmer/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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