Andrew's Stuff

I've had an interesting thought...

Posted at Tue, 2 Apr 2013, 15:30:36

Over the past few days, a couple of things have crossed my Twitter feed.

One of them is the army of people who (probably-erroneously) believe that random food additives (e.g. aspartame) are causing all kinds of ill health. There is not a shred of evidence to support most these claims, so as far as the scientific and medical community is concerned, these campaigners are wrong and just spreading FUD.

The other issue is that an awful lot of medical trial data is missing-in-action, a problem that Ben Goldacre has been shouting about a fair bit recently.

It is, therefore, entirely possible that there have been proper, well-designed, randomised, blinded, controlled trials (RCTs) that link these food additives to ill health, but they've been buried by someone with an interest in that information not being public.

(Note: I am not saying that I believe this to be the case. I generally trust the various food regulation authorities to do their jobs and protect the public from harmful substances. I personally believe that the stress and hassle of carefully avoiding whichever additives are the anti-science crowd's "demon of the week" is more damaging than the minuscule possibility that any of these chemicals are doing anybody a noticeable amount of harm.)

Given this, could we somehow combine the two issues? Turn the attention of the anti-science brigade to the missing trial data! Surely it's in their interests to demand all of this data? So let's make use of their efforts to do something useful for a change!

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