• ''Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" trainer Chris Powell

''Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" trainer Chris Powell (Photo : Reuters)

With documentary filmmakers Peter Onneken and Diana Lobl, journalist John Bohannon recently pieced together a study that aimed to demonstrate faster weight loss by eating dark chocolates than by having a chocolate-free diet. However, the whole groundwork of the study was not real.

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The study was all planned-out to generate a statistically positive result. Bohannon explained in io9 that data engineering is not difficult and will be seen as valid if various measurements are adequately taken.

The study involved real volunteers, real food, and real monitoring of health indicators, which included weight, cholesterol levels, and sleep quality. Bohannon compared the measurements to lottery tickets, in which a single slot has a small probability of getting a significant outcome that can be used in a story and sold to the media.

While Onneken, Lobl and Bohannon had no idea which measurement variable will yield a notable result, they knew that they are going to have a chocolate-related health assertion, News has learned. 

McQuaid explained that some scientists usually select data from their research that will intrigue people and they will sell them to the media. He added that this will debunk a lot of stories, some of which could have proven results. If people believe the wrong information, they can end up having the wrong approach on their diet and not achieve the result that they desire.

McQuaid also said that people should ignore surprising dietary claims. He added that readers should also consider the number of volunteers in the study and the relationship of the new study to recent works.

For McQuaid, a study is not shocking or revealing if it builds on other reputable work. Also, he believes that the big picture is what matters.