Making Sense of Scientific Studies

Making Sense of Scientific Studies

More importantly, do we need them in the first place?

These days, it seems like whenever we glance through the newspaper, pick up a magazine, or check our favorite online news site, there’s another scientific study about something or other.

Research studies are conducted for a variety of reasons. They may be initiated to gather information, determine cause and effect, draw conclusions, or validate or disprove previously held beliefs – and sometimes may be conducted to achieve all of the above objectives. Often these studies are funded by an esteemed educational institution, major corporation, pharmaceutical organization or other prominent groups seeking substantiation to satisfy their respective audiences.

But how accurate are these scientific studies? And more importantly, do we even need them in the first place?

Case in point: an article published last August in the Wall Street Journal that called the validity of published studies in question. In discussing the proposed 21st Century Cures Act that would augment funding for the National Institutes of Health by $9.3 billion over a five-year period to foster research for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases, bill detractors noted the current problems plaguing scientific studies. Namely an inability to replicate certain published findings due to flawed research, methodology – or blatant misrepresentation of results.

In a recent paper by Leonard Freedman and associates in the PLOS Biology journal, at least half of published studies turn out to be irreproducible and flawed, costing the government and private funders approximately $28 billion per year.  

Which makes these alleged scientific studies both inconclusive and costly.

Not only that, but study findings about the same topic often conflict with each other, causing you to further question their validity and usefulness. Consider this: in 2013, a study of 8,700 veterans with low testosterone levels conducted by the Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Health System suggested that men who used testosterone supplements had a 30 percent greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke during a three-year period.

One year later, a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health of more than 25,000 older men found no link between testosterone therapy and cardiovascular disease. Coming to yet a different conclusion, Intermountain Medical Center researchers shared findings at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session in 2016 that increasing testosterone could lower the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Does testosterone therapy have an effect on cardiovascular events or not? Depending on what study you believe, the answer could go either way.

That’s why for years I’ve maintained that research studies can be unreliable and superfluous. All too often, the results are conflicting, biased or inaccurate, calling into question their trustworthiness and accountability. Some people feel that statistics don’t lie, but statisticians do. It appears it may be the same in the research arena, giving one pause as to why published studies are even needed in the first place.

While it may be human nature to want to validate what we believe in, if something already works, there’s no need for a study to prove that it does. Why spend time, money and effort to conduct a double-blind controlled study for something we already buy into?

Take scurvy, for example. Back in the 1700s, Dr. James Lind found out how to tackle this fatal disease simply by dividing up 12 sailors into six groups of two, and quickly determining that the groups given oranges and lemons drastically improved. There were no expensive, exhaustive research studies – just a controlled experiment that proved that if something (citrus fruits) worked, that’s all that was important.  

Another popular example is reproduction. Men and women have been making babies since the beginning of time, and seem to do quite well without government approval or scientific substantiation. Why try to fix something that’s not broken with unnecessary bureaucracy and wasted money, simply to “publish or perish” in top-tier journals?

As a functional medicine practitioner I utilize a whole-body approach to determine the root causes of common health concerns. To schedule a consultation at one of my two convenient New York City-area practice locations, call my Brooklyn office (718-382-9200) or Great Neck office (516-467-0253.)

http://www.wsj.com/articles/getting-the-bogus-studies-out-of-science-1440024409

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/05/testosterone-heart-attacks/3448543/

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