Commentary

International Journal of Obesity (2010) 34, 84–88; doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.239; published online 1 December 2009

White hat bias: examples of its presence in obesity research and a call for renewed commitment to faithfulness in research reporting

M B Cope1 and D B Allison2

  1. 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA
  2. 2Section of Statistical Genetics, Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, and Clinical Nutrition Research Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

Correspondence: Professor DB Allison, Section of Statistical Genetics, Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ryals Public Health Building, 1530 3rd Avenue S, RPHB 327, Birmingham, AL 35294-0022, USA. E-mail: Dallison@uab.edu

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Abstract

‘White hat bias’ (WHB) (bias leading to distortion of information in the service of what may be perceived to be righteous ends) is documented through quantitative data and anecdotal evidence from the research record regarding the postulated predisposing and protective effects of nutritively sweetened beverages and breastfeeding, respectively, on obesity. Evidence of an apparent WHB is found in a degree sufficient to mislead readers. WHB bias may be conjectured to be fuelled by feelings of righteous zeal, indignation toward certain aspects of industry or other factors. Readers should beware of WHB, and our field should seek methods to minimize it.

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