the daily mail's claim that a sugary diet in childhood leads to memory problems is undermined by the study population (rats), the statistical power (poor) & the statistical analysis (poor)  

original article: Noble et al., 2021 (Translational Psychiatry), reported in: The Daily Mail by Joe Pinkstone on 1st April 2021

this story was in episode 7 #rat #sugar #underpowered #fishing

the error bar says

the Daily Mail warns us that a diet full of sweets early in life affects your child's brain and causes memory problems

the claims are based on a paper in Translational Psychiatry, which links the intake of sugars to the growth of particular bacteria in the gut, and with impairments in performance on memory tests

does sugar harm your child's memory?

maybe. if you're the parent of one of the juvenile male rats who took part in this study

there were 10 control and 11 sugar-treated rats in the first part of the study. it's not clear why there's one extra rat in the sugar group

figure 1 in the paper shows twelve comparisons between the groups on several different tasks & measurements. only one of these statistical comparisons is reported as 'significant', alongside the claim that sugar affects hippocampus-dependent memory function

the statistics for this critical test aren't reported. reconstructing the data from the figure, it is unlikely that this result would stand if the researchers took into account how many statistical tests they performed. correcting for these 'multiple comparisons' is required when many different tests are done


a low-power fishing trip


The Daily Mail: fudge - scientific story distorted