Are We Giving Bad Advice?
Almost daily we read of a new medical study that “proves” yet another food, drink, activity, or medication is a terrible thing or the next answer to all the world’s problems. 20 years ago, eggs were causing an increase in cholesterol and therefore were the main cause of heart disease. 10 years later, eggs were an excellent source of protein and low in calories. Americans now consume an estimated 280 eggs per person per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
There is an increasing concern that a portion of medical research studies are either skewed or false. “Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true” says JP Ioannidis who wrote “Why Most Published Research Findings are False”. He feels the smaller the study, the smaller the effects studied, and the prevailing bias, will all make a study less than accurate.
We want to believe.
We want to give our patients good advice, backed by science, and as we all said in our graduation oaths “do no harm”. Decisions are made based on what we have read, our own experience, and what we would advise our own family; but there is always the chance we are wrong. All medical studies are ultimately based on human behavior and we all know how unpredictable that can be. The interference of government, large pharmaceutical companies and even media can also affect many of today’s studies.
Where did the money for the study come from? How many people were involved? How long did it last? Were there adequate guidelines in place? Did they actually prove anything? Are there similar correlating studies? Are the results reproducible? So many questions and so difficult to find the answers, Still, ask them. We are not sheep and should not believe everything we are told.
That said, we need to continue research to improve lives, cure diseases and promote wellness. Let’s just add a little healthy skepticism and a lot more knowledge before we change how we live our lives.
Last modified: December 11, 2020