Journalist John Bohannon tricked international media in 20 countries into believing that chocolate could lead to weight loss. He had a reason.
"Slim with chocolate" and "Therefore, you must eat chocolate daily" were among the headlines in international media, including German Bild, British Daily Mail, The Huffington Post and Shape Magazine, last year. In more than 20 countries, the news was featured in mainstream media.
The background was a "study" conducted by The Institute of Diet and Health. The study showed that chocolate could both contribute to weight loss (up to ten per cent), lower cholesterol and improve general health.
However, the study international media wrote about turned out to be a hoax. The Institute of Diet and Health does not exist. It is journalist John Bohannon who is behind it all, he writes in an article on the website io9.com His intention was to show how poor research and science can make headlines worldwide.
- Journalists should do a better job. The only way to do that is to shock the system. The results of this "study" was meaningless, and the results were spread out to millions of people worldwide unfounded. The motivation behind this was to show how poor the diet-industry-media complex is. I had no idea it was so bad, says Bohannon.
It was easy to get major media to write about the chocolate news: Bohannon managed to get a magazine to publish the "study" for money, then he sent out a bunch of enticing press releases.
- Was it ethical for you to do this?
- Yes absolutely. Investigative journalism is important for society. Especially when it uncovers corruption and is harmless.
Bohannon says that few media outlets that wrote about his fictional chocolate study has informed their readers that it was all a hoax.
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