John Oliver on Scientific Studies

John Oliver does a great job in critiquing scientific studies as they often are portrayed by the media.

Click Here

The website Five Thirty Eight posted the results of the American Statistical Association’s expert panel, with the heading: Statisticians Found One Thing They Can Agree On: It’s Time to Stop Misusing P-Values.

While there were heated discussions about what the p-value means, the authors stated, “If there’s one takeaway from the ASA statement, it’s that p-values are not badges of truth and p < 0.05 is not a line that separates real results from false ones. They’re simply one piece of a puzzle that should be considered in the context of other evidence.”

Click Here

Taubes: Why is Nutrition So Confusing?

nutrition NY timesThe New York Times published an article by Gary Taubes that explores the challenges of scientific research when it comes to understanding nutrition.Click Here

He notes that obesity, and its related diseases like Type II diabetes, have increased dramatically since the 1960s. (Gail”s note: Leaving aside some increase is due to changing definitions, not all of the increase can be explained by that). The public discussion and research about those to issues has also increased dramatically. Taubes states, “In 1960, fewer than 1,100 articles were published on obesity or diabetes in the indexed medical literature. Last year it was more than 44,000. In total, over 600,000 articles have been published purporting to convey some meaningful information on these conditions.”

Yet, we really do not know much about causes or prevention or nutritional treatment. It is possible that our understanding about nutrition is flawed, or that our assumptions about people are flawed: that everyone’s body is the same, and what works for one person should work for everyone. Or our attachment to an beloved theory makes it hard to recognize that it does not really explain much or work: in my view, the restricted calories as the solution pretty much fails for a lot of people.

Taubes offers another possible explanation about all these articles: ” {They] are the noise generated by a dysfunctional research establishment. Because the nutrition research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes, it has opened the door to a diversity of opinions on the subject, of hypotheses about cause, cure and prevention, many of which cannot be refuted by the existing evidence. Everyone has a theory. The evidence doesn’t exist to say unequivocally who’s wrong.” Continue reading »

Do Clinical Trials Work?

pillsA NY Times article asking “Do Clinical Trials Work?” stirred up lots of questions about the challenges of using experimental designs. Read here Clinical trials (also called experimental designs) are often referred to as “the gold standard” of research. In social science, they are hard to do; when they are used, the results are often inconclusive. Somehow, I thought science might be different, but at least in terms of health research on drugs, the results are also often disappointing, according to the author Clifton Leaf. Continue reading »

Asking Tough Questions about Research Studies

I am not the only one who is trying to make it easier for people to make sense of research results. For those who are interested in health and nutrition, the number of studies can feel overwhelming, not to mention conflicting.  Here is a webpost from Chris Kresser about how to read and understand scientific research. Interesting comments as well. Asking tough questions are essential.
  Check it out here: Kresser: How to read and understand scientific research

Kresser provides this link to more information about research put together by the Cancer Information and Support Network. It provides excellent information.
Check it out here: How Cancer is Studied