Communication issues in nutritional observational research
Cainzos-Achirica, M., Bilal, U., Al Rifai, M., McEvoy, J. W., Blumenthal, R. S., Kapoor, K., Martinez-Sanchez, J. M., Comin-Colet, J., Pladevall-Vila, M., & Blaha, M. J. (2018). Communication issues in nutritional observational research. Preventive Medicine, 115, 76-82. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.08.024
Observational epidemiological studies involving foods and nutrients often attract great attention from both the press and the public as they involve substances that are part of the daily lives of millions of individuals. In the digital era, findings of this research can be disseminated to very large audiences almost instantaneously, informing health beliefs and potentially triggering lifestyle changes. In this context, communication of results from observational nutritional epidemiology often involves specific issues that may limit the accuracy of the information ultimately being delivered to the public. In this narrative review we discuss some of these issues, with a special attention to the selective reporting of research studies by the media, the presentation of study findings as if they were free of bias, the reporting of inconsistent study results, and the issues related to the real-life uptake of research findings presented in the press. Collaborative efforts by all stakeholders involved in the dissemination process may help ameliorate this situation, and with this purpose we discuss some innovative approaches that may help reduce these issues.