January 19, 2012

Stay a lert. NZ needs lerts.

Q: Why does the Egg Foundation think eggs are a good breakfast food?

A: Well, the name “Egg Foundation” is a bit  of a hint. Just saying.

Q: No, why do they say that new research says eggs are a good breakfast food?

A: Because it sounds like a good excuse to advertise eggs?

Q: You know what I mean.

A: Sorry, got a bit carried away there.

Q: Well?

A: You are referring to the article about eggs increasing alertness.

Q: Yes. I assume it wasn’t a randomized trial.  Did they ask people about breakfast and alertness?

A: Not people, exactly

Q: Ah.  So it was a mouse study. They fed the mice different things and observed their alertness?

A: Not quite. It was a study of brain cells.

Q: Where did they find people to give them the brain cells?

A: That’s where the mice come in.

Q: So, what did they actually do?

A: They took brain slices from transgenic mice, modified so the cells lit up green when the right chemical pathways were activated, then they added sugar or amino acids to the slices.

Q: And what did they find?

A: Some brain cells, which are known to be involved in both feeding and in alertness, were active when they used amino acids but not when they used sugar.  They also repeated the experiment by feeding the mice before taking the brain slices, to see if they saw the same effects (and they did).

Q: So what does this tell us about eggs for breakfast?

A: Not a whole lot, actually.  Unless you’re a dead mouse.

Q: Why didn’t you complain about the lack of links to the original research?

A: Well, if a proposed US law passes (no, not the well-known one), there won’t be any original research available on the web to link to, so we might as well get used to it.  [NYT, Guardian, Scientific American, The Atlantic, Wiredothers]


Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


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