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Br J Gen Pract. 2006 December 1; 56(533): 970.
PMCID: PMC1934063

The good lie?

Malcolm Thomas, Associate Director of Postgraduate GP Education

Dr Fitzpatrick wrote an interesting piece in the BJGP in Nov 2006,1 making a good point about honesty being the best policy in the public health arena.

In the second part of his article, he then selectively quotes, twice, from a BHF spokesperson, Dr Mike Knapton. I could not see the source of Dr Fitzpatrick's complaints about Dr Knapton's remarks.

Firstly, in relation to a review article about eating oily fish and fish oils,2 Dr Knapton is quoted as saying, ‘people should not stop consuming omega 3 fats or eating oily fish as a result of this study’.

That seems precisely accurate to me. Dr Knapton doesn’t seem to be saying that people should START consuming more of these items.

Secondly, in relation to an interventional study3 that hoped to increase the exercise of young children and thus, produce a lower BMI, Dr Knapton is quoted as saying, ‘we know it's crucial to encourage good exercise habits from an early age’.

I would point out that this DOES appear to be good support for this viewpoint — see for example this systematic review by Sallis et al.4 Additionally, in Dr Fitzpatrick's original source for Dr Knapton's quotation,5 there is the following remark, ‘The British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, accepted the research was solid’.

I conclude that it is very easy to create a selective impression with quotations and evidence and that there is evidence that Dr Fitzpatrick may have fallen into the very trap about which he warns us.


Competing interests

I am a friend of Dr Mike Knapton (and he can, in fact, fight his own battles!)


1. Fitzpatrick M. The good lie? Br J Gen Pract. 2006;56:889.
2. Hooper L, Thompson RL, Harrison RA, et al. Risks and benefits of omega 3 fats for mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer: systematic review. BMJ. 2006;332:752–760. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Reilly JJ, Kelly L, Montgomery C. Physical activity to prevent obesity in young children: cluster randomised controlled trial. (accessed 9 Nov 2006) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
4. Sallis JF, Prochaska JJ, Taylor WC. A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32(5):963–975. [PubMed]
5. Boseley S. More exercise does nothing to stop obesity in youngsters, study finds. Guardian. 2006;6 October,,1888863,00.html (accessed 9 Nov 2006)

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners