Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Pregnancy Health Scares: Chicken Wings and Penis Size

Not a week goes by without newspapers finding new pregnancy health scares to lord over us. While we all appreciate being fully informed as a small human grows inside us, there are times when we want to throw our hands in the air and admonish the approach of scientists who seem hell-bent on making us feel guilty for our gestational lifestyle choices. It is often the case that scientists are not the ones trying to scare us. Usually—either deliberately or due to lacking an ability to investigate papers efficiently—journalists get the wrong end of the stick. This week, eating chicken wings apparently leads to small penis size.

According to PETA—who are hardly likely to take an unbiased approach to scientific interpretation—eating chicken wings can lead to small penis size. The original study, conducted by Study for Future Families, was investigating the effects of prenatal phthalate exposure. Its primary aim was not to investigate the effects of chicken wings at all, or even to investigate penis size.

Although the study did highlight a slight correlation between phthalate exposure and small penis size, this is by no means grounds for PETA or anybody else to claim a causal link. One of the cardinal rules of scientific research is that correlation does not mean causation. While scientists may often identify apparent correlations, this is simply grounds for further research into the possibility of causation rather than an actual indicator that there is a causal relationship.

What the study did find is that there are high levels of phthalates in spices and fast food packaging. As chicken wings are heavily seasoned and—surprise surprise—packaged, this means they contain more phthalates. However, do we need to begin worrying about this in Europe? A European Union directive issued in 2005 and enforced in most countries in 2008 banned the excessive use of phthalates in food packaging, toys, and other items.

Now this has led to an extremely tenuous assumption that chicken is a source of evil. Not quite. This means that mums can carry on eating chicken regardless. By all means indulge in the odd chicken wing, but maybe consider trading it in for a healthy alternative if you can. This will ultimately lead to a lot less heartburn, which in turn makes for a more restful night's sleep when you are pregnant.

It also seems a little unhealthy to begin promoting worries about penis size from such an early age. Men receive their fair share of exposure to this throughout their lives—should a prominent organisation be using this as a basis for generating health concerns? In the interests of maintaining healthy body image, let's not focus on scare mongering pregnant women or playing on people's insecurities. We hope to bring you more news about maternity wear and pregnancy health scares each week, so stay tuned.