FX, JAMA and peer review.

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Dec 7 23:37:17 EST 1995

On Thu, 7 Dec 1995 U27111 at UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU wrote:

> The breakfast time show on the cable channel FX today showed
> something which just about every mother everywhere knows... but
> apparently the editors (and peer-reviewers) of JAMA does not?
> That sugar does indeed cause hyper-activity in children!
> They didn't give the direct reference... but according to a doctor
> on the show this morning... JAMA had published an article this week
> which states that sugar has no effect on the hyper-activity of
> children.
> To test this premise... the breakfast time show decided to run
> their own experiment (using the scientific method).  They had two
> children who had not yet eaten breakfast... one was feed a high
> protein breakfast of sausage and eggs, and the other one a high
> sugar breakfast of cereal and donuts.
> Within 15 mins. the high sugar child was running around and
> screaming; while the high protein child played nicely with her toys
> and drawing.
> There was a definite (obvious) difference in these two children's
> behavior!
> Another interesting thing they showed (at the end of about an hour
> and a half) was both children's drawings before and after
> breakfast.
> Both children, before breakfast, drew drawings which were focused
> and detailed.  But after breakfast... the high sugar breakfast
> child's drawing was just a scribble of colors; where the high
> protein breakfast child's drawings remained detailed and focus.
> So...  as the doctor in the program pointed out... many would
> criticize this short study because it wasn't done as a blind study
> (we knew which child was which and there may have been bias).
> But my god... the difference was so pronounced - I really don't see
> how that would matter.  It certainly shows something is going on...
> and it's not what JAMA reports!
> About the only question this FX breakfast time analysis failed to
> go into was... exactly who paid for this study presented in JAMA
> this week?  Could such a study (paper) have been funded by the
> sugar industry?
> How could the people at JAMA publish such an obvious false premise?
> What does this tell us about the process of peer review and
> publication?

Thanks for this posting.

I don't know about children's hyperactiviy upon sugar intake,
but I do know for sure that  when my energy is low or I am 
tired, a cup of POLITICALLY INCORRECT coffee with a spoon of an
EVEN MORE POLITICALLY INCORRECT sugar does help me a lot. If 
I woulld be subjected to a peer review on this matter, it would 
undoubtedly conclude that I am wrong and suffer hallucination.
This is not surprisingly, as peer review can perform only two

 (1) rubber-stamp the trivial and/or already known,
 (2) to pronounce that "it can't happen" for anything
 new and/or unknown.

Yours is a nice illustration that the peer review in 
(almost) all cases is pretty useless and very often is directly 
oppressive. Its prime role is to maintain the power structure 
of the scientific "establishement", to induce conformism 
and eradicate the originality. Progress of science happens
IN-SPITE of the peer review, because human creativity can
(fortunately) sometime find the ways around the peer review
and establishment barbedwires.

Alex Berezin

> And isn't it sad when a cable channel breakfast show can use the
> scientific method better then the publishers of JAMA?
> Just some food for thought,
> -Kathy

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