Monday, August 13, 2012


Everyday, a new medical study is announced purporting to tell the American population how to live, eat, work, play, etc. Some tell you what to do while others caution the opposite. While some studies reaffirm previous studies, many are diametrically opposed. In fact, the more sensational and controversial the headline, the more likely you are to hear about it. This reality gives me constant pause for thought. How does anyone figure it all out in such an environment?

Of course, all studies are not the same. Some are well constructed, scientifically valid, and worth consideration. In previous blogs, I've discussed how to differentiate between good and bad studies.  In a nutshell, a large double-blind randomized controlled study done by a reputable university, not paid for by a commercial interest, done by researchers with no financial conflict of interest is the most trustworthy study.  Most people never read the actual study so they have to rely upon a trustworthy news source for a reasonable interpretation of what the study's results actually mean in practical terms. Even then, results can be reported in such a way to support one bias or another.

Consider this Olympic inspired example. The United States and China were in a contest. The U.S. came second and the Chinese were second to last. Who did better?  It depends. If there were only two participants in the contest, then China came in first, or second to last, and the U.S. came in second, or last. See how not knowing all the facts allows for some clever manipulation. I've seen this happen more times than you would predict.

Why am I telling you all this? The reason is when YOU read about a study that sounds reasonable and valid, YOU would still be foolhardy to implement its finding(s) on your own without consulting a physician. Why? Because no matter how well constructed the study, by definition, studies are limited in the number of variables they consider. They can't look at all the variables that may affect YOU. They don't consider everything YOU eat, what medications YOU take, your medical and family history,  allergies, food sensitivities, age,  gender, race, etc. In other words, they don't know YOU and in fact, the results may have no value to YOU.

For example, cars typically need four wheels. A study was done with cars that had three wheels, but needed four. Adding a fourth wheel improved the performance of the car. The headline blares, "Adding Wheel to Cars Improves Performance." You read this headline and think that adding a wheel to your car will also improve its performance. The only problem is that your car already has four wheels and a fifth wheel not only makes little sense, but may also actually impede your car's performance.

According to the recent issue of Consumer Reports, there are 55,000 dietary supplement products now marketed in the U.S. That's 55,000 reasons for someone to sell you on the value and greatness of their product. These products also often need to advertise/market their products in mainstream media to get your attention. That's a lot of product information coming at you on a daily basis. Who's on the other side of this tsunami of info?  Hardly anyone because there is no money in telling you what not to take. There are only a few of us in the U.S. expressing caution about dietary supplements and virtually none of us gets paid to do so. It's lonely on this side of the aisle, but it's a worthwhile endeavor.

Ultimately, taking advice from a news source without consulting your physician is outright foolish and dangerous. Forgive my bluntness, but I'm tired of seeing so many people fooled into spending their hard earned money on bad products that may actually harm them. Don't be a guinea pig. Discuss your options with your physician and take a rational approach to your health needs. There's only one YOU and you need to take care of him or her by making the right decision for YOU. Got it?


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