A Great Example of Biased Reporting

A Great Example of Biased Reporting

A few days ago, CNN posted a brief report (via health.com) on “new research” that shows cutting saturated fat from one’s diet isn’t necessarily helpful for heart health. Of course, this isn’t news at all; the last 20+ years of research has shown that saturated fat is in no way unhealthy (nor are fats in general, aside from processed “trans fats”), but I suppose CNN needed a headline. In general, the article isn’t all that bad until near the end, when it becomes plain that the journalist (Anne Harding) is still so thoroughly bound by her “saturated fat is bad” bias that she can’t even accurately report a “whoops, saturated fat is okay after all” story. Here’s how the article ends (minus the last paragraph):

Don’t interpret the new research on saturated fat as an excuse to go on a bacon cheeseburger binge. Dr. Krauss says that to conclude that saturated fats aren’t harmful is a big oversimplification.

“To extrapolate from our analysis about saturated fat to all foods containing saturated fat is a direction I think we need to move away from,” he says.

For one thing, he explains, there may be other unhealthful ingredients lurking in saturated fat-filled foods.

Harding’s summary bears little resemblance to what Krauss actually says—when she says “to conclude that saturated fats aren’t harmful is a big oversimplification,” she actually contradicts the results of the studies she is addressing, which effectively demonstrate that saturated fats aren’t harmful. What Krauss does warn against is concluding that all foods full of saturated fat are not harmful, not because of the fat, but because they may contain other possibly harmful ingredients. Big difference. This is a textbook example of how a person’s long-held presuppositions (in this case, Harding’s media-fed “saturated fat is bad” conception) cause them to misrepresent or misinterpret data that conflicts with their biases. Harding actually manages to report a “saturated fat isn’t actually bad” story with a caviat: “but it still might be,” misrepresenting the warning against concluding that all foods loaded with saturated fat are okay as though it were a warning against thinking saturated fat is harmless. Old ideas die hard, especially when they are uncritically accepted received wisdom.

2 Comments
  • scott reeves
    Posted at 00:48h, 02 April Reply

    have you read “nourishing traditions”? Excellent book that deals with modern american ignorance and bias about natural foods that contain things like saturated fats. The subtitle has something about politically correct in it. I think you would like it.

    SR

    • Jason A. Staples
      Posted at 10:00h, 13 April Reply

      I haven’t read it, but it sounds like I’d like it.

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