Fishy Science in the News!

Does fish oil improve the test scores of children? Well, it seemed that way to Durham County in England until Dr. Ben Goldacre had a look at the claim.  Apparently, this county administered Omega-3 fish oil pills to 3000 children.  A third of those children improved their test scores that year.  But Goldacre points out that there wasn’t a control group of children who didn’t take the pills.  It seems like a picky thing, but science is only as good as it’s method, and without a control group, we don’t know whether the students’ scores had a boost from other reasons.

Does fish given in infancy reduce the incidence of eczema? Researchers from University of Gothenberg and Queen Silvia’s Chilren’s Hospital performed a prospective cohort study on 5000+ families in Sweden and found that fish in the diet seems to reduce the incidence of eczema by 24%.  Another significant (and unusual) find the media ignored in their headlines was that families with pet birds were 65% less likely to have children with eczema.

This was an observational study based on questionnaires, which can be faulty due to a variety of reasons.  The study does not and can not explain how or why these statistical blips occured, so further testing needs to be done to see whether the interpretations actually fit the statistical observations of the study.

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