Media Professionals Embarrassed by Chocolate Diet Hoax
Those who are trying to lose weight, eat nutritiously and develop a healthy lifestyle are often overwhelmed at where to start. Part of the reason is that we are bombarded with health and diet information from every angle.. and much of it.. simply isn’t true. Even well-known media outlets have fallen prey to spreading inaccurate information, thus disillusioning even more people. So why and how does this happen?
The Chocolate Hoax
The so called “chocolate diet” recently swept the airwaves and internet promising a quick way to weight loss by eating high-calorie fatty chocolate every day. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well it is. In fact, the entire diet was a fabricated hoax that was intended to prove the widespread prevalence of unverified, socially-driven press coverage.
Science journalist John Bohannon, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, started the hoax intentionally. He has written extensively about junk science in the past and was approached by a German television producer about creating a documentary on the subject. Together they formulated an experiment to prove that much of what is published is based on invalid scientific method. They made up a fake organization called the Institute of Diet and Health, created a website for it and then published a story that eating bittersweet chocolate every day resulted in weight loss. A claim backed up by bad scientific research where a very small number of participants were measured for a multitude of variables, which are the ingredients for inaccurate statistical conclusions.
The Media Bites
Bohannon paid money to unscrupulous journals to publish their findings, which they did without question. Then, they issued press releases to reputable media organizations, which soon picked up the story as well.
Bohannon’s goal was to shame the owners and publishers of major media outlets who force reporters to air “trending” topics even when there is no evidence to substantiate a story. He also cautions consumers against believing in quick weight loss fixed instead of focusing on an overall healthy diet.
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