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Pass the Nutella: it won’t kill you

Pass the Nutella: it won’t kill you

The newspapers love a good Health Scare, says Ben Chu. Warning about the hidden dangers lurking in mundane parts of life is a sure way to grab readers’ attention. Last week came reports that Nutella might pose a cancer Risk, as it contains processed palm oil; the week before, we heard that living near a busy road raises your chance of getting dementia by 12%. The problem with these tales isn’t that they’re bogus, it’s that they present legitimate scientific findings in a misleading way. They fail to put dangers in context to make the key distinction between relative and absolute risk. There’s an 11% chance of getting dementia no matter where you live (the absolute risk): and you increase it by a slender 1.32% (i.e. 12% of 11%) if you live near heavy traffic. So what sounds at first like a serious increase in the risk of getting dementia actually means that “of 100 people living near a busy road, around 12 will be afflicted, rather than 11”. The same goes for Nutella: the risk it poses is trifling compared, say, to that posed by smoking. Without proper context, these health scare stories are all but meaningless.
Ben Chu


This post first appeared on FOXI News, please read the originial post: here

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Pass the Nutella: it won’t kill you

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