A new paper by epidemiologists in Europe will overturn centuries of diet and health thinking; the thinking that eating too much makes people gain weight.

Instead, the new statistical correlation argues, the weight gain is due to pregnant women who used cosmetics containing parabens, which triggered epigenetic changes in the babies, who then grew up to be fat. It is yet another thing you can blame on your mother.

Parabens are simply preservatives. In cosmetics they keep microbes from ruining those all-natural lotions. Parabens are natural too, created from the para-hydroxybenzoic acid that is in everything from blueberries to onions. Our bodies cannot tell the difference between a paraben from a carrot and a paraben from a lab, it metabolizes identically.

But statistical correlation often requires no science, it is more like cui bono? inference, that Systemic Conspiracy Catch-All which says you if find an outcome, like that kids are fatter than ever, and find a group who were popular among the mothers, like cosmetic companies, you can insist the cosmetic companies are responsible for the obesity.

If you do this, your child might blame you later. If they believe in statistical correlation rather than science, anyway. Image: UFZ

Using this kind of intentionally data dredged epidemiology, I can make flipping tails on a coin the reason for obesity. Or the reason for not getting obesity. Using the same data I can get the same p-value that epidemiologists have fetishized to the point of irrelevance for either outcome. It is why almost every food both causes and cures cancer at this point.

You can claim the election of President Trump caused Latina women to go into pre-term labor, and that will get media attention, as long as you don't note it was only 0.00007 more in the press release.

I once sent an employee to be in a debate about what causes obesity, the pizza or the pizza box, and it was such a goof that the pizza box side had to find a good-natured fellow who took up the cause even though he knew it was ridiculous. They couldn't find a credible person to argue that the chemicals in the pizza box made anyone fat.

But activists raise billions of dollars each year inventing new things to worry the public about. Corporate media needs to write about their claims if they want advertising pageviews. The Guardian probably actually believes this stuff:

The public are left confused about what science to trust and what is nonsense. No wonder we have issues with vaccine deniers on one side and global warming deniers on the other.

In a perfect world, we'd still be able to trust our National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences or the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, but today they are the ones arguing the box makes you fat, rather than the pizza inside.