There was some horrible stuff in news this week. But for the good of my sanity, I’m trying not to think about them too much. So, because I’m a coward, I’m heading back to the somewhat safer option of sarcastically commenting on articles involving “statistics”.

First things first, and the BBC, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have all reported on the findings that “intelligent men have better sperm”. I would dearly love to see Ben Goldacre (he of Bad Science fame) covering this one, because it seems to me that a correlation described as “marginal” by the lead researcher should not be condensed down into “intelligent=virile”.

More interestingly, from my point of view, was the way that said researcher was described;

The BBC refer to her as “Lead researcher Dr Rosalind Arden”;

The Telegraph call her “Ms Rosalind Arden, lead author”;

and The Daily Mail? They describe her as “researcher Rosalind Arden” and thereafter use “Miss Arden” at all times.

Interestingly enough, all three articles mention another researcher, a man. And while they differ in their description of his research field (in the same order as above, he is either “an expert in fertility”, a “Senior Lecturer in Andrology” or “a male fertility expert”), they all three refer to him by title as “Dr Allan Pacey”.

If ever you needed a simple guide as to the politics and intelligence of a publication, it’s right there in the titles!


Moving on; my second story of the day is from The Guardian reporting on a statement from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious:

“Most slimming products are a con, claims nutrition expert”.

You think?!

But oh, the irony – the first link in the article takes you to the Guardian’s “Eat Right” homepage, which boasts “Thirteen personalised diet plans to choose from”. From the sentence that says that

“the only [slimming strategies] proven to work are low-calorie diets, exercise programmes, the drugs orlistat and sibutramine, and in some cases bariatric surgery.”

Seriously? The effectiveness of low-calorie diets as a weight-loss tool is “proven”? Well, maybe the Guardian journalists just don’t read the same articles that I do.

In the interests of research, I plugged in an approximation of my vital statistics. I say approximation because I don’t actually know how much I weigh, and until such time as I have to go to the doctors’, that’s how I will stay. But anyway, I plugged in my best guess, and hit the button that said “I wish to lose weight”.

So it came up with this:

guardian-bmi


A “calorie allowance” of 1400, and a “healthy weight” range that starts at 8st 12lbs? Frankly, I’m frightened by that. Since I haven’t weighed less than 10st since I was 16 (back when we still had scales in the house and I still weighed myself from time to time!).


I tried to see what fun and games they’d come up with for me, but sadly, the next page showed this:

guardian-diet-plan

This is where you can get, in two clicks of the mouse, from the article that starts

“Most slimming products are a con, claims nutrition expert”.

It’s definitely an eye-roll moment.


ETA: The day after writing this, what should drop into my spam folder but an email from the Guardian, with the delightful message that “your BMI was between 25 – 30 and this indicates that your health would benefit by losing some weight.”

Call me crazy, but the day before, they themselves told me that the “healthy range” for my height was between 8st 12lbs and 11st 1lb. It’s right there in the screenshot. I plugged in exactly 11st, which is, in fact, within the range that they gave me. This means that I am, by their standards, healthy. (Not forgetting that their standards have very little to do with reality, by the way!) But this means that they’re using scare tactics as well, because I didn’t pay for their product outright. “Healthy” the first time, and now, because I haven’t given them money, my ” health would benefit by losing some weight”. Charming.

So, remember, people: it’s all a con!