We’ve told you before how the only scientific study that even purports to link soft drink consumption to childhood obesity (by fat-tax advocate David Ludwig) was dismissed by the Centers for Disease Control. Now British researchers say their program to reduce youngsters’ soda drinking also resulted in some collective weight loss. More than 200 media outlets have already regurgitated the information contained in their press release. There’s just one problem: the actual research doesn’t back up all the lurid headlines.
Did a year of close contact with “soda is bad” propaganda actually reduce childhood obesity as reported? Among the indoctrinated kids, the number of obese dropped from 16 to 14. But obesity also declined (from 15 to 14) among kids who did not hear anti-soda lessons. That’s not what one calls a meaningful result.
The authors’ own charts show that the difference in body-mass index between the indoctrinated and non-indoctrinated kids was not statistically significant by scientific standards. Neither was the supposed reduction in soda consumption to begin with.
It’s not like the authors don’t understand what statistical significance is. They report that among one set of kids “there was no significant change in the difference in body mass index,” even though there was an apparent change. [emphasis added] Likewise, one of their charts seems to show that non-indoctrinated kids drank lots more water than their indoctrinated peers. But the authors correctly note that there was “no difference” (translation: no statistically significant difference) in water consumption between the two groups of children.
So statistical significance is important when it comes to an incidental result like water consumption, but it is overlooked if their pre-determined soda-obesity link is threatened. Bottom line: This study has no meaningful results. But don’t expect the Puritanical opponents of all things fizzy to refrain from using it as another junk-science arrow in their activist quiver.