Our guest co-host was Mike Meraz, who produces and hosts the Actually Speaking podcast, which provides tools for skeptics to communicate more effectively. His 6 year old son is the host of Aaron’s World… go check that out.
Mike spoke about the latest research on the obesity virus. Part of his reporting led him to speak with the original researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, who had a few things to say. Thanks to Mike Meraz for following up…
What you are doing is important. Health and science reporting is a giant and highly variable filter for this study. There are over 200 reports on various websites. I gave fewer than 10 interviews to print or online journalists so many reports are really reports of someone else’s report and it is like the old game of telephone, the farther from the original source, the more things can get distorted. The other thing is that the typical interview is 20 minutes, but usually only 1 or 2 quotes are used so it is very easy to take a quote out of the context in which it was said. This can be done with or without intent to do so. Some reporters got the story right and some did not. If you read the different stories they do not all say the same thing.
My big picture:
1. This work builds off of the work of many others. So when I speak about it, it is important to make clear whether I am talking about our study only, or about the field as a whole.
2. Body weight regulation is complicated, very complicated in fact. There is not 1 factor that explains the whole story when looking at obesity in society. There are many credible factors involved. Which factors are at work for any single child, will differ from child to child.
3. Adenovirus-36 (based upon the entire body of literature) may be 1 factor influencing body fat for some children. However, if it is a factor, that is just what it is, a factor not the (sole) factor. Saying that 1 thing matters does not mean that another factor does not matter. So does nutrition matter? YES. So does exercise matter? YES. Does sleep matter? YES. Does stress matter? YES. Do genes matter? YES. What we do not know well enough is how these many different complicated factors interact with each other. To get to the truth, we need to be open minded and test new ideas rigorously. No one study answers all questions.
4. What to do with this information for now as a parent?
–know that science reporting is a peak into the on-going discussion and discovery before all details have been sorted out
–be aware that weight is complicated
–if you are concerned about your child gaining weight, talk to your doctor sooner, rather than later
–focus on those things that can be controlled or modified (nutrition, activity, sleep)
Laurie’s Project Science segment was about milk and food coloring. Go here for instructions and more information.