Oct 03 2009

Dangerous Science Threat Level: Cherry Red

Published by at 8:18 am under science,skepticism

Guns dont’ kill people. People kill people. And those killers may have eaten a lot of sugar in their youth. Ergo, sugar kills people. Right?

Check out this title to a science news release -

Eating sweets every day in childhood ‘increases adult aggression’

Why did the writer put half-quotes around increases adult aggression? Good question. What research led to the trumpeted conclusion?

A study of almost 17,500 participants in the 1970 British Cohort Study found that 10-year-olds who ate confectionary daily were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence at age 34 years.

More specifically -

Researchers from Cardiff University found that 69 per cent of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.

Okay, that is a significant different between the two groups. But we must bear in mind that the discovery was of a correlation between variables, and it is wise to refrain from assuming a causal relationship. The researchers did, however, “control for other factors.”

What do we make of this correlation between variables? 1) High confectionary consumption in childhood associated with 2) higher amounts of violence in adulthood. Hmm.

Here is what the scientists made of it -

The researchers put forward several explanations for the link. Lead researcher Dr Simon Moore said: “Our favoured explanation is that giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them learning how to wait to obtain something they want. Not being able to defer gratification may push them towards more impulsive behaviour, which is strongly associated with delinquency.”

The researchers concluded: “This association between confectionary consumption and violence needs further attention. Targeting resources at improving children’s diet may improve health and reduce aggression.”

Aha! It may not be the actual sugar itself, but behavior relative to food treats. So why the final sentence about “improving children’s diet may improve health and reduce aggression? [Italics mine.] Why not say these two things: 1) getting children to eat better foods could improve their health, and 2) teaching them impulse control as it pertains to diet could increase their overall capability for impulse control?

I consider the above “dangerous science” because in the wrong hands it could lead to violence against critical thinking . . . and half-baked conclusions . . . premature conclusions with a dusting of powdered sugar on them. But don’t swallow it! Wait. Better research may be coming soon.

3 comments

3 Comments to “Dangerous Science Threat Level: Cherry Red”

  1. [...] you’re visiting Andrew’s site, his attack on the charge of scientism is among the several other really great posts worth reading [...]

  2. Rogue Medicon 08 Oct 2009 at 8:51 am

    What if the children were regularly medicated, even with only something like cod liver oil, but received a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down?

    What if there is something about growing up to be violent that leads to a craving for sugar?

    what if they do not have sugar available in the home on whatever day of rest they observe? The study stated that, Confectionery consumption was reduced to a binary variable (every day = 1, less often or never = 0) owing to small numbers in the violence variable. ????

    owing to small numbers in the violence variable. Are they complaining that there is not enough violence? Are they admitting that the numbers are too small to draw any conclusions from, no matter how politically correct?

    I could make every meal mostly sugar, but fast one day a week, or have only healthy food the one day that Granny visits, or something else.

    I could write a book on a Sugar Diet, with a day of fasting, for weight loss and violence prevention. I could appear on Oprah. She could include my book in her book club. all i have to do is think positively, after all, it isn’t any more ridiculous than The Secret, is it?

    I love your last paragraph. Sweeeet!

  3. [...] you’re visiting Andrew’s site, his attack on the charge of scientism is among the several other really great posts worth reading [...]

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