Author: Ivan Couronne, AFP
Washington (AFP) - A few years ago, two researchers took the 50 most-used ingredients in a cook book and studied how many had been linked with a cancer risk or benefit, based on a variety of studies published in scientific journals.
The result? Forty out of 50, including salt, flour, parsley and sugar. "Is everything we eat associated with cancer?" the researchers wondered in a 2013 article based on their findings.
Their investigation touched on a known but persistent problem in the research world: too few studies have large enough samples to support generalized conclusions.
But pressure on researchers, competition between journals and the media's insatiable appetite for new studies announcing revolutionary breakthroughs has meant such articles continue to be published.
"The majority of papers that get published, even in serious journals, are pretty sloppy," said John Ioannidis, professor of medicine at Stanford University, who specializes in the study of scientific studies.
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