Health Studies: Fact or False Hope?

Updated: 11/22/2013 7:22 AM KSTP.com By: Tom Hauser



If it seems like you saw a story in the news last year that said wine is good for you, it's because you did. If it seems like you saw a different story last week that says wine is bad for you, you probably did. 

Welcome to the contradictory world of health and medical studies. They're among the most popular items you'll see in television newscasts, on radio talk shows and in daily newspapers.

However, contradictions in these medical studies are just a part of the problem, according to Gary Schwitzer, publisher of a website called HealthNewsReview.org.

He's reviewed more than 1,900 news stories on television and in newspapers over the past seven years. His conclusion about the majority of what he sees? "This is a giant tsunami of misinformation, of exaggerated claims that washes over the American public every day," Schwitzer says. 

He doesn't say that all medical studies and the stories about them are without merit. Schwitzer does say they very often exaggerate the impact of the findings with little emphasis on the scope and size of a study or potentially harmful effects. 

They also usually don't disclose who paid to have the research done so we can determine if there's a conflict of interest. "As a journalist, I look in the mirror and saw we have to take some of the responsibility for this because we mislead people," Schwitzer says.