It’s easy to find information that fits your thesis. Need to know that coffee is good for you? Awesome here’s 100 articles linked to various studies saying coffee will make you live forever. Need to know that coffee is bad for you? Great here’s another 100 articles linked to studies to support this claim! While the internet is an amazing thing; we can connect across oceans, have the world’s knowledge at our finger tips and keep up on all the latest Hollywood gossip in a matter of minutes. The problem comes in when that “knowledge” is unverified. When we look at the headlines not what lies beneath.
Every morning we listen to the radio on the drive to school and many times we hear about different studies:
“Santa May Be Predisposed to be both Jolly and Fat”
“Red Wine Linked to Breast Cancer in Women”
“Ice Cream For Breakfast, Good for Your Brain”
These usually elicit a giggle from both myself and the kids. We talk about the study, why it could be true, why it could be false and most importantly how to look up the actual facts. That last one there…about the ice cream…got more than a giggle it received a huge laughing fit from the kids and a big angry snarl from myself!
5 Problems with Studies and Statistics
Who is funding the research?
Research costs money; a lot of money! Many of these so called studies are funded by parties with stakes in the outcome. When looking at any study it is important to look for the research firm and who has ordered this study in the first place. There are many third party studies completed that are unbiased these are usually the most accurate.
My diet in Canada is going to be very different than that of someone living in the Sudan; which means our baselines will be very different. A study done on heart health in a country halfway around the world does you no good! Consider where the study is done to see if it relates to yourself, family and friends before spreading the “knowledge”.
Age and Gender
Yep these matter too! The age and gender of the studied group is of extreme importance. A study completed on 20 something males is not qualified information for a 50 year old female.
Smokers versus non-smokers. City versus country living. Vegetarians versus meat eaters. Many studies account for this but some do not.
Reality Vs. Fiction
Then of course we have the people that lie about health and eating habits because they fully intend to eat better but never get around to it. Over or under estimating the number of fruits and vegetables consumed last week. This may seem like a small thing but added up over a 100 or 1000 people and weeks, months or years and it can throw a study off completely; making the findings null.
Moderation and Common Sense
At the end of the day the best thing to do is be your own investigator. Remember that all things natural have a point at which the line goes from good to bad. Everything in excess can lead to some sort of problem. Anything unnatural (processed, man made, etc) is bad for you. Our bodies were not designed to consume manufactured ingredients on a regular basis.
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