Disclosure Statements I Would Like to See

sharma-obesity-tickboxStudy showing that exercise can promote weight loss

Disclosures: the lead author has been a lifelong sports enthusiast and firm believer in the notion that “exercise is medicine”. He is also actively fund raising for a new Institute of Sports Medicine and has made a lucrative side career as motivational speaker with regular media appearances to promote exercise as the cure for all that ails us (including excess weight). The positive message of this paper, which just happens to be very much in line with the author’s thinking on the subject, clearly justifies the lack of a control group and the exclusion of participants who did not lose weight as non-compliant “outliers”.

Study showing that low vitamin D intake causes diabetes

Disclosures: The lead author is on the verge of promotion to tenure but still needs a couple of “big” papers for his CV. Given that a negative study is unlikely to make the cut, extra efforts were taken to massage the data to ensure a positive finding (at least in one subgroup) to increase chances of acceptance in a high impact journal. Never mind that this cross-sectional study cannot actually prove causality, the “provocative” title and the assumptions of causality made in the paper should ensure welcome media attention.

Study showing that weight gain may be linked to lower cognitive function

Disclosures: The senior author has long harboured (in secret) the opinion that fat people cannot be very smart (after all how difficult is it to push away from the plate?). She is also the author of a book on using will-power and positive thinking on conquering obesity and another book on improving cognitive health. She also runs a website where she promotes the use of nutrition supplements to enhance brain function. Never mind that in this study unintentional weight loss had an even bigger effect on cognitive decline – that, after all, is nothing anyone can do much about (also makes for a less sexy paper).

Study showing that early breast cancer screening can save lives

Disclosures: At age 15, the principal investigator lost her mother to breast cancer. This is why the paper chooses to focus on the lives saved rather than on the potential harm caused by frequent false-positives findings or the poor cost-effectiveness of routine screening.

Study showing that individuals with obesity spend food stamps on sugar-sweetened beverages

Disclosures: The author is a card-holding member of the Libertarian party and would like to see government reduce taxes and end hand-outs to folks not willing to work for a living.

Study showing that industry funded research is more likely to show favourable results

Disclosures: The left-leaning senior author has long held the view that Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Energy, Big (take your pick) is the root of all evil and must be kept away from the holy church of independent science, even if much of the research funded by these organisations would never get done (even better!).

Study showing that a widely used cholesterol lowering drug has prevented over 1,000,000 heart attacks

Disclosures: The principle investigator has on several occasions been invited to a cup of coffee by the sales rep of the company that makes this drug. The masters student and post-doc involved in this study have each eaten a slice of pizza (may have been two slices) provided by another (unrelated) drug company at a science fair celebrating young researchers.

Edmonton, AB