Publication bias in obesity treatment trials?

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1996 Oct;20(10):931-7.


Objective: The present investigation examined the extent of publication bias (namely the tendency to publish significant findings and file away non-significant findings) within the obesity treatment literature.

Design: Quantitative literature synthesis of four published meta-analyses from the obesity treatment literature. Interventions in these studies included pharmacological, educational, child, and couples treatments.

Methods: To assess publication bias, several regression procedures (for example weighted least-squares, random-effects multi-level modeling, and robust regression methods) were used to regress effect sizes onto their standard errors, or proxies thereof, within each of the four meta-analysis. A significant positive beta weight in these analyses signified publication bias.

Results: There was evidence for publication bias within two of the four published meta-analyses, such that reviews of published studies were likely to overestimate clinical efficacy. The lack of evidence for publication bias within the two other meta-analyses might have been due to insufficient statistical power rather than the absence of selection bias.

Conclusions: As in other disciplines, publication bias appears to exist in the obesity treatment literature. Suggestions are offered for managing publication bias once identified or reducing its likelihood in the first place.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bias*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Publishing*
  • Regression Analysis