We’ve been harping on the ethically and intellectually bankrupt medical infotainment industry for years now. Publicity stunts masked as science are bad enough (see: Tuesday’s example). But bad science transformed into a publicity stunt is far more irresponsible. A textbook example came to us all this week in the form of a flawed study linking heavy caffeine consumption to hallucinations: Bad Science » Drink coffee, see dead people..

Newspapers, Web sites, and bloggers went ga-ga over the story. And when stuff like this inevitably happens, there are no two blogs we value more than the UK’s Bad Science and Neuroskeptic. In the U.S., we’ve been encouraged by a special weekly feature in Discover Magazine online, who once again didn’t get caught napping: Worst Science Article Of The Week: Too Much Coffee Will Make You Hallucinate? | Discoblog | Discover Magazine.

Rather than beat that dead horse further, we strongly encourage anyone even remotely curious about the “Drink coffee, see dead people” study to read the above-cited article. It’s a bit of an eyeful, depending on your tolerance for statistical analysis and critique. But it provides insight on the fraudulent underpinnings behind much of the study-based medical reporting we read — and willingly share as if it were fact — today.

UPDATE: March 7, 2009
We cannot believe our eyes. Finally, a news article that tells readers how to tell the difference between good and bad health studies. But it gets much better than that. They also confess that pretty much all medical research and news reporting on the health-related effects of coffee are essentially useless: Health | Get smart about science news: Sorting through health studies | Seattle Times Newspaper.

And we quote:

According to experts who study disease and risk: You can pretty much ignore almost all of these health bulletins, with a few exceptions:

Exercise, eat a balanced diet, don’t be fat, drink only in moderation and, whatever you do, don’t smoke.

There’s nothing more to see here, folks. Everyone, please go back to your homes and worry about something else worth worrying about.