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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Digging deeper


I hold out hope for good science journalism, although that may be in vain.

The headline: Stinky Cheese makes you live longer (from the LA Weekly). No conditionals, definitive. So, let's dig a little deeper.

The blog post is simply a shortened retelling of an article that appeared in The Telegraph in the UK, titled: The secret to why the French live longer: Roquefort cheese.  The article, by one Andrew Hough (notable for "quirky Internet stories) didn't link to the original paper, although it did name the journal where it was published in: Medical Hypotheses. That should be an immediate alarm bell. It's a journal meant to publish ideas with observational support but little or no experimental evidence. Meaning it's a forum for speculation; the journalists shouldn't be reporting this with a definitive tone. At best, it is correlative, but this particular publication does not even quantitate the correlation. So, it is speculative: basically, the French seem to live longer, and they eat a lot of moldy cheese - could one be causative of the other? That's an old news - no, it's not even news.

Is there a story here, then? Yes - do a search on the author's names: Dr Ivan Petyaev and Dr Yuriy Bashmakov, and we find that they are part of a company: Lycotec, which has a business model making nutraceuticals. And their latest product - something made from fermented cheese. Coincidence? Sad thing is, all they could justify it is a speculative paper in a journal that doesn't require scientific evidence.

The story is in the paper itself: the authors declared no conflict of interest. I think they very much had a conflict of interest in this, that this publication is nothing more than a publicity stunt - and shoddy journalism just pushed it forward.

So, go ahead, enjoy the Roquefort - life may be too short to worry about bad cheese.

PS: Besha Rodell - just a little critical thinking and some internet research would elevate your reporting.  Stop regurgitating pablum.


  1. Just wondering though. Is fermented cheese bad for the health? Isn't it rich in vitamin K2?

  2. In general, anything linking to Mercola is suspect.