Stunningly Bad Health Science Reporting

Jane Brody reaffirms my astonishment at how bad science reporters are at their jobs. In the NYT Personal Health section, she tells us:

The study found that, other things being equal, the men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner

Which would be a very interesting finding if the very study (and data) she’s citing didn’t demonstrate exactly the opposite–at least for women. Sandy Szwarc explains:

Among the total deaths among the women, the actual annual death rate was 1.19% among women with the lowest red meat intake. This compared to 0.8% among women with the highest red meat intakes. So, the more meat the women purportedly ate, the lower their risks for premature death and of dying from cancers.

The study uses an abstruse “hazard risk” statistical modeling technique that effectively reverses this basic arithmetic fact (a fact that is not revealed in the study). I went to the study and confirmed Sandy’s arithmetic, btw. See her post for a full explanation of the statistical legerdemain.

Hat tip to Matthew.