We get bombarded in the news by tons of data. Some of that info is true and some is not. For that reason, it is always a good thing to keep a healthy dose of skepticism about everything you read. Let me give you a few examples.
1. A few years ago, I read a journal article stating that taking one’s bronchodilator asthma medication increased one’s chances of death. The truth is that this is absolutely not the case. So how did the journalist come to such a conclusion? What were the facts? Indeed, when you look at data, the more people take their bronchodilator, the higher the risk of dying. So what’s the catch? Actually, ask yourself the following question: why do people take more bronchodilators? Certainly not for fun or for getting all jittery! Simply because their asthma is not well controlled! And it is this lack of control that increases the risk of dying. Taking more medication is simply a symptom that something is wrong in the control of asthma. It is not the cause!
2. An article was recently published that reported that in mice, the higher the fat content of a diet, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Data seemed rather convincing. But when you look at the actual diets, it turns out the “high fat” diet was essentially non foods – and 30% table sugar! So much for high fat! I’ll soon publish a blog post on this very subject. Please stay tuned!
3. A study indicated a while back that drinking coffee increased the risk of pancreatic cancer. Once again, what are the facts? What the study found is that the more people drank coffee, the higher the odds of pancreatic cancer. I can assure you there is absolutely no risk of pancreatic cancer with drinking coffee. So what’s the catch? Smoking! Smokers tend to drink more coffee. Heavy smokers tend to drink much more coffee. And there is a clear link between smoking and pancreatic cancer. The REAL cause is smoking. Coffee is only an innocent bystander.
4. Even more ridiculous… It was found that there is a direct correlation (relationship) between eating ice cream and young infants and fragile elderly deaths. The more people eat ice cream, the more infants and fragile elderly die. Strange, isn’t it? Well, ask yourself the following question: why do people eat ice cream? Because they like the taste is a good answer. But an even better answer is because it is hot. And when it is hot, people eat more cold things… And infants and fragile elderly tend to dehydrate and die. Heat is the reason of the deaths, not ice cream!
There may well be a relationship between things or situations. That relationship may be due to chance or accident or it may be a true relationship. But even a true relationship may not be causal. Before establishing a causal relationship between two things, ask yourself if there is a hidden cause that could explain both situations. This is called a confounding factor.
It is not necessarily easy to separate good and bad science. Not everyone has sufficient training in epidemiology and biostatistics to decipher the often cryptic info and data of fitness, science, nutrition and medical journals. My help here is to help you find out the facts, only the facts. And my aim is to make health, fitness and nutrition advice understandable. Have fun reading!
Questions? Comments? Please let me know what you think at [email protected]. Should you want to see more, I also write a blog on fitness, health and nutrition and articles can be read at http://www.blog.fitnessmissionpossible.com. And please don’t forget to “like” and to tweet about it!
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