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Autism and vitamin D in pregnancy

This post was written by Amanda Gillooly and Sinead Rhodes

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder associated with difficulties in social communication and social interactions and an engagement in restrictive and repetitive behaviours. Media coverage regarding childhood disorders and risk factors associated with their development has increased significantly in recent years. While this increased awareness can have clear advantages, this can also lead to heightened and at times unwarranted anxiety among parents. This week the media has reported on evidence of a link between vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy and the development of autistic behaviours in children. Headlines have included “children born to mothers with low vitamin D levels may develop autistic-like behaviours”), “low vitamin D linked to autism behaviours” and the more stronger assertion “vitamin D deficiency can put children at risk of autism”. These headlines suggest a link between vitamin D deficiency and the development of autism. The use of phrases such as “at risk”, potentially make these headlines alarming to pregnant mothers. Here, we will delve further into the actual research study behind the headlines, to clarify precisely what the study showed and the context of this research.

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California to declare COFFEE a cancer risk amid claims it contains toxic chemicals

There have been many reports recently describing the potential cancer-causing (carcinogenic) properties of various foodstuffs. The headline of this article in the Mail certainly gives the impression that coffee is about to be added to this list; indeed, it suggests that California is poised to enshrine the carcinogenic properties of coffee in law. However (and this is a common theme at Research the Headlines), in this case the substance of the headline does not quite match up with the text in the rest of the article.

Read more… and ADHD, the highly successful founding member of The Black Eyed Peas and judge on ITV’s ‘The Voice’, has recently spoken to the media about his diagnosis of ADHD. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a developmental disorder characterised by pervasive inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is one of the most common childhood psychological disorders, affecting around 3-5% of all children worldwide. Diagnosis rates in the U.K. are lower than most European countries and the U.S., with around 1% of U.K. children diagnosed with the condition. Media awareness of the condition, particularly from successful individuals like is very positive in highlighting issues surrounding the condition. Last year there was extensive media coverage of a programme about ADHD with Rory Bremner covering his diagnosis, which helped address significant misconceptions about the condition. So how has the coverage of on this topic helped with awareness on this occasion?

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Looking Back on Research the Headlines in 2017

It has been another trying year for evidence-based journalism. Research the Headlines was set up in 2013 to examine how research was portrayed in the media, and to give the public helpful advice and tools when trying to get to the heart of a news story. This task seems positively leviathan in our current climate.

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Social media, depression and suicide

This article was co-authored by Sinead Rhodes and guest writer Tracy Stewart

A link between use of social media services, such as Facebook and Instagram, and mental health is frequently discussed in the media. Invariably, an association between the two is interpreted as time spent online causing mental health problems. The current discussion centers on a study which examined depression and social media engagement. So how did the media handle reporting of this study?

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Dyslexia, eyes, light and hype

This week a story on dyslexia, my main research interest, has dominated the media, and I could not ignore it. Dyslexia is a specific difficulty in learning to read experienced by about 5-10% children in the UK. The causes and mechanisms leading to dyslexia are yet to be made clear and an effective universal treatment is not available. Every now and then, as it is often the case for childhood disorders, a miraculous cure is proposed ranging from videogames, to  coloured lenses or even electric therapy.

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Parallel realities: media reports on climate change research

Reducing carbon emissions to minimise climate change is a global challenge, which 195 of world’s countries have agreed to work towards. Unlike most human modifications of the planet, the effect of carbon emissions is truly global, and can only be avoided through global cooperation. Based on overwhelming scientific evidence and substantial negotiations, the Paris agreement set the target of keeping global average temperature increase below 2°C, while attempting to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The agreement opens scientific questions as to whether this target is achievable, and, if so, how it could be achieved. This study set out to answer these questions using carbon cycle models and emissions scenarios. The results caused a media storm of divergent reports.

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Talking Headlines with Theo Koutmeridis: Media, Brexit and the Scottish Economy

Dr Theodore Koutmeridis is a Lecturer in Economics at the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow. He holds a PhD in Economics from Warwick University where he was a Royal Economic Society Junior Fellow and an Onassis Scholar, and he has recently been a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University. His work on economic inequality and crime has been recognised with various awards, such as the Sir Alec Cairncross Prize, the 1st Prize of the ‘European Science Days’ Interdisciplinary Award, the British Academy Rising Star Award, grants by the ESRC, and has been featured in the media and various symposia, such as his TEDx talk on ‘The Underground Economy’. His contribution to the YAS Brexit Report highlighted the opportunities and risks of Brexit to the Scottish Economy, and also the role of the media in communicating socioeconomic issues.

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Sometimes the Science is Irrelevant : Dissecting the so-called “perfect woman” article

Every so often, an article comes along that purports to be based in quantitative research, where we in RtH don’t particularly care whether the research is represented well or not.  A good example is the recent Daily Mail piece on “the perfect woman“, which collates quantitative measures of various aspects of the female body in an attempt to find what features are “the most attractive”.

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Babies sleeping in separate rooms

For parents of newborns grappling with limited sleep, a headline such as ‘babies who sleep in separate rooms from their parents…..get more shut eye’ is bound to raise an eyebrow. The latest findings, at first glance, seem to challenge official guidelines that babies should sleep in the same room as their parents until at least 6 months. Indeed the reporting specifically claims the findings challenge the guidelines. On closer inspection though, the headline and the article is riddled with misinterpretations of the study findings. So what does the study actually reveal?

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