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September 2020
« Jun    






Head ‘lies’

Correcting the ‘Chubby’ Headlines on Lifespan Claims

Misleading headline suggests it's good to be overweight!

Misleading headline suggests it's good to be overweight!

I’ve found in my writing of articles over the years that misleading headlines are becoming more and more commonplace. I wonder if I shouldn’t make it a weekly feature, something like, “The Latest Head‘lie’.”

It’s almost as if the goal of headline writers is to get people to read the article, not to accurately reflect the content of what the article is about.

Come to think of it, given the economic state of newspapers and the lack of readership, perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea (half-joking).

Seriously, though, it’s SO important to look beyond the headlines when you see or hear a story, particularly when it comes to health.

The latest example of headline beguiling says this:  “Study:  Chubby People Live Longest.”  This is what one of the most popular Web sites in the world, the Drudge Report, lists as the takeaway of the study, a Web site that garners 23 million page views in the average 24-hour period.

Talk about misleading the public!

I say that because the focus of the study was not on the fact that chubby people live longer, but that people who are severely underweight tend to have a shorter lifespan.

The headline suggests that it’s actually good to be overweight, but when you actually take time to read  the article, that’s not an accurate representation. You don’t have to take my word for it, though; take the words of one of the study’s lead researchers, Shinichi Kuriyama, from Tohuku University in Japan:  “It’s better that thin people try to gain normal weight, but we doubt it’s good for people of normal physique to put on more fat.

That statement alone illustrates how misleading the headline is.  It’s not that chubby people live longer; it’s that people who are malnourished need to try and gain a normal weight.

Does this finding really come as a surprise, though?  After all, when someone is underweight (below 18.5 on the body mass index), their immune system is compromised, and the body’s organs aren’t given the proper amount of protection that quality muscle and fat stores provide as insulation.

Further, even though I’m not a proponent of chemotherapy because of all the side effects that come along with it, it’s well-known that chemotherapy adversely affects people who are underweight more than it affects people of normal weight or those who are overweight (for the same reasons as listed above).

What the headline ought to have read is something to the effect of “Underweight Have Shorter Lifespan.”  But because this isn’t much of a surprise and it isn’t “attention-getting,” headline writers fudge the truth and fill headline space with words that entice, don’t accurately inform.

But who knows?  Perhaps the misinforming of these articles will inspire people to actually read the article – the whole article – who can then determine for themselves that the story doesn’t accurately reflect its title.  But given the average person’s attention span – which is seconds, not minutes – I’m not too optimistic people will read much beyond the headline or the opening paragraph, both of which are misleading (You have to get to the ninth paragraph of an 11-paragraph story before reading the doctor’s proviso on weight gain quoted above).


Related Posts

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