Distortion of Scientific Findings: Here We Go Again!

“Baby’s Blocked Belly Tied to Low Cholesterol” is the headline of today’s Medscape article reporting on a just-released JAMA publication. Contrast this with the article’s actual title, “Plasma Lipids, Genetic Variants Near APOA1, and the Risk of Infantile Hypertrophic Pyloric Stenosis”. Notice a difference? Accurate headlines don’t sell papers, or blogs. Apparently our interest is peaked only by findings or events that have an immediate and preferably negative impact. One would infer from the headline that low cholesterol is bad, causing the “blocked bellies” in babies. In no way does this study actually come to such a conclusion. Instead it reveals that the genes causing pyloric stenosis reside near those controlling certain lipid levels. Both sets of genes can experience changes (polymorphisms) resulting in abnormalities. So, abnormal lipids in these children are more likely the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is likely that the two disorders occur concurrently not because of causality, but rather misfortune. Low cholesterol is not necessarily causing the pyloric stenosis even if it is associated with the disorder. Similarly, pyloric stenosis is likely not causing the abnormal cholesterol.  The bottom line again; read everything with cautious eyes.

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