I dislike headlines about scientific studies that give an inaccurate picture of the conclusion of the study, and today I found an excellent example. Publications love to do twists on "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" when reporting on studies involving apples. I regularly read Science Daily, which aggregates information on scientific studies, and generally does a pretty good job of it, with decent summaries and links to the source of the content of their articles.
Their current issue, however, ran the following headline: "An apple a day could keep obesity away".
The problem with that headline is that the study featured in the article makes no such claim. In defense of Science Daily, the same headline was used in WSU News, the source of the report. But Science Daily's editor's should still know better. As a publication reporting on science, they have a responsibility not to make the same bone-headed mistakes often made by the media in general.
The study itself. conducted at Washington State University, examined the effects of various types of apples on the colon bacteria of mice. The connection with obesity in the study is that nondigestible compounds found in apples, particularly Granny Smith apples, promote beneficial colon bacteria which might reduce inflammation in obese people, thereby lowering the risk of type II diabetes.
There is no claim in the study that apples will reduce obesity, which is strongly implied in the headline. The article, on the other hand, presents a more plausible account of the findings of the study, based on the summary published by Washington State University.
We are living in a world where advances in science have a big impact on our lives. The press has a responsibility to report on scientific issues in a manners which gives the public an accurate picture. Science Daily does a good job at this in most respects. The articles always include links to the original source of the material, and their articles tend to accurately reflect the content of the studies. They need to tighten up on their headlines, though.