“Have you heard? Dishwashers cause
The media is the primary way
that most people learn about
Media vs. The science
The Guardian, 2.23.2015
Pediatrics, 2015, 135 (3): e1-e8
Primary source of information:Secondary or tertiary sources of information:
CBS News, 2.23.2015
Used with permission by:
Photo by: Florian Seroussi (Creative
The Primary Source
Science at odds with a fast-paced,
electronic media-driven world?
◦ Slow & Steady publication (peer-
◦ New findings framed in the context of
existing scientific knowledge
◦ Self-corrects old ideas
◦ Emphasis on consensus
SCIENCE IN THE MEDIA
◦ Fast publication (may or may not be edited
by credentialed science/health editors)
◦ Emphasizes one new study at a time
◦ Old stories with wrong ideas linger on the
◦ Emotion-laced facts
◦ Emphasis on “fair and balanced.”
◦ Coverage may over-emphasize outlying ideas.
Beware your own bias;
Beware of others’ biases.
◦ We are ALL biased (even scientists).
◦ Have you heard of the Double Blind Placebo-Controlled Food
◦ Why is this the “gold standard?”
◦ Many types of “cognitive bias” exist…
we’ll cover one.
Image source: http://res.dallasnews.com/interactives/2014_January/foodallergies/
We ALL have ideas –
◦ What is the cause of the allergy epidemic?
◦ How can allergy be prevented?
◦ Can we take action to reverse an allergy?
We tend to consume information that
confirms our favorite ideas and
minimizes contrary ideas.
We gravitate toward sources/people
who “think like us.”
Sources of information – can you identify
This step establishes how much weight to give each of your sources
◦ Friends on Facebook or Twitter
◦ News media
◦ Patient support and advocacy groups (e.g., WA FEAST, FARE)
◦ Scientists/researchers & primary peer-reviewed journal articles
◦ Clinicians (e.g., allergists)
After identifying possible bias, which sources do you trust most?
How to evaluate information in the
1. Does it link to original, peer-reviewed articles?
◦ If no – be very skeptical.
◦ If yes – check out the article abstract(s) for yourself!
◦ Does the article match the actual study?
◦ Beware of cherry-picked data.
2. Is it a reputable source for information?
◦ New York Times (and others like it) have credentialed science editors.
◦ Random health site or blog on the internet? Likely not.
3. Do organizations with a medical board (e.g., FARE) comment on the topic?
4. What do other reputable sources have to say (hint, hint… your allergist)?!
CORRELATION ≠ CAUSATION
A common way that
headlines & reporting get
• Beware of articles that
• Key phrases that the
study is a
• “associated with”
• “may cause”
• “linked with”
You can search like a scientist, too.
• Generally secondary/tertiary
• Research database (e.g.
PubMed.gov, Google Scholar)
• Peer-reviewed articles (many
How to evaluate a scientific study
1. Not all studies are created equal.
◦ Peer-review is NOT perfect.
◦ Just because you find it on , doesn’t mean it is solid science.
2. Is the journal reputable (i.e. – not Journal Obscurus established 2 year ago)?
◦ Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Annals of Allergy Asthma and Immuno, etc.
3. Do the authors work for an established, credentialed institution?
4. Do any of the authors have an established publication record in the field?
5. Is it current (less than 10 years old). If not, does it fit with consensus of more current
Takes a lot of practice! Your Doctor’s are experts at this!
Part 2: How to Apply the
Science to YOUR Life!
“FACTS ARE NOT AUTONOMOUS. THEY GAIN MEANING FROM THE
FRAMEWORKS WITHIN WHICH HUMAN BEINGS INTERPRET THEM.”
No One-Sized-Fits-All Approach
◦ Tools to evaluate information for yourself, to
apply it to your situation.
◦ Know that some food allergy studies may
not apply to your situation
◦ Even doctor’s can have differing opinions!
◦ This is why it is so crucial for YOU to
understand/evaluate science for yourself!
Creative commons – photo by Flickr user LaserGuided
Leads to informed discussion with your
allergist based on YOUR UNIQUE situation!
Major categories of scientific studies
1. Basic Science Research
2. Clinical Research
◦ Allergy epidemiology
◦ Allergy prevention & causes
◦ Allergy treatments & cures?
◦ Best practices for living with food allergies
◦ Preventing reactions
◦ Responding to reactions
How do these study categories apply to YOUR Situation?
Image source: http://www.sydneyvital.org.au/our-research/translational-research-diagram/
Basic science Translational Science Clinical Trials
Approval for Clinical Use
1. Discovery of antibody structure (early 1960s,
Edelman & Porter)
2. IgE antibody discovery, the allergy culprit
3. Anti-IgE therapy proposed – Translational
Studies & Clinical Trials (Late 1980s)
4. Anti-IgE therapy (Omalizumab/Xolair®) FDA-
approved for allergic asthma (2003)
5. Anti-IgE therapy to treat multiple food
allergies (in clinical trials now!)
How does basic science research apply to YOU? May be a long time from now…
Characteristics of food allergies in a
population of people.
These are the statistics we often cite to people!
◦ 1 in 13 children have food allergies
◦ Food allergies are growing rapidly
◦ Food allergies cost the U.S. economy tremendously
Why do we care about these studies?
◦ Advocacy for needs of the food allergic.
◦ Local, State, and National
◦ Gain research dollars for research.
◦ Clues for further research questions.
Gupta et al (2011) Pediatrics 128(1): e9-e17
Download facts and stats sheet with peer-reviewed references
Allergy prevention & causes
These studies most likely don’t apply to those
who are already allergic.
◦ “LEAP” Study is a prime example.
◦ Can you go back in time and introduce peanut
◦ LEAP evoked strong emotion in the allergy
◦ How did it make YOU feel? NEJM (2015) 372: 803-813.
Allergy Treatments & Cures?
Very active area of research.
◦ Some of YOU may be part of SEAFAC
These studies very much apply.
◦ Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)
◦ Viaskin Peanut Patch
◦ Chinese herbal formulas (FAHF-2)
Current standard of care
Future of food allergy care
Photo by: Alain Carpentier
(creative commons license)
Photo by: Keith
(creative commons license)
What you can do with these studies:
1. Participate in clinical trials?
2. Advocate for these studies?
3. Financially support these studies?
Best practices for managing food allergies:
Why certain recommendations?
Active area of research
Very much applies to our situation
◦ Why administer epinephrine quickly?
◦ Hand-washing vs. hand-wipes vs. hand-sanitizer.
Why do we care?
◦ This is how we live and respond to food allergies.
◦ Use evidence to advocate our needs!
◦ Print the peer-reviewed articles
◦ FARE’s fact sheet has many of these references.
J. Allergy and Cl Immuno (2004) 113: 973-976.
On the Radar – Quality of Life
Anxiety & Food Allergies: A Major Concern
How to minimize reaction risk without affecting
quality of life.
Dealing with anxiety in food allergy (growing
area of research).
Why are these studies important?
1. Look for warning signs
2. Not only allergic, but caregivers too!
3. Discuss concerns with allergist and/or
primary care providers
Knowledge gained by science continues
Know how to be a good consumer of science.
◦ We view scientific findings through our own
experiences. We are biased.
What is “true” today, may not be true
Science allows us to make appropriate health
decision & advocate our needs.
◦ Experts (e.g. allergists, nurses, etc.) are an integral
part of this process.
“Facts are not autonomous. They gain meaning from the frameworks within which human beings interpret them.”