Oscar Wilde is reputed to have said, “”The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Others have paraphrased this as there is no such thing as bad publicity. This came to mind when I began scanning the web and the press in preparation for this column and discovered the astonishing number of reports of the Solnick study (published Oct. 24 in the online issue of Injury Prevention). This paper found an association between soda consumption and violence. There was more coverage of this report than any other that I can recall in recent years. Truly unbelievable! It seemed as if every media outlet ran the story in one form or another. Although the better accounts included the authors’ careful disclaimers that the soft drinks “are probably not the direct cause of the aggression”, many reporters chose to ignore this as well as the senior author’s caution that soda consumption “may (only) be a marker of heightened violent tendencies already present in the teen..”. (To be fair to the journalists the authors also wrote “there is a chance that the sugar and caffeine from carbonated drinks contributes to violent behavior.”)
Comment: The moral of this story is that no matter how carefully you write your conclusions, always assume that reporters will distort your research in such a way that it appears more sensational.