Today’s post is going to be a little different than normal, but stick with me because this is important stuff to know especially when it comes to your health!
Americans are a very skeptical bunch of people. Most of the time when we hear claims, whether it is for a product or health, we need to have proof that it actually is true/works. Most of the time this proof comes in the form of a scientific study and that is where problems start to crop up. Don’t get me wrong, scientific studies are a good thing and so is demanding that when someone makes a claim they back it up with solid evidence. The problem is that most people don’t know how to detect a good study from a bad one. It seems that as long as a company says that they have done research and have some sort of “science-y” results, we the people are fine with accepting their word. This is very dangerous and often leads to confusion among the public about what is actually good for them. I want to take some time and talk about a few things you can look for to see if a study is a good/reliable one.
There are three key things that you can look for that make a study reliable and generally mean that the results will be helpful to you. Now these aren’t the only ways to look for a good study, and even with these three factors a study may still be skewed or not as accurate. But these are still good things to look for and will give you a basic understanding of a good and reliable study.
1) Independent Organization
This means the study was conducted by an outside and unbiased source. A lot of times you will see that companies will hire a team of scientists to come and test their product/idea/whatever. This is always tricky because when you are paid to do something, the buyer generally wants good or favorable results. The exchange of money may or may not have an effect on the way the results are represented but it is something to look out for. And be EXTRA cautious when the company itself does the study. Of course they are going to have favorable results for their products as they are trying to get you to buy into their idea or product.
2) Location of Study
This might not be an obvious factor, but a lot of time, especially with diet and nutrition, studies are done in places that do not resemble the place the actual product/idea/claim will be marketed. For example, say a health company wants to advocate eating bananas before every meal as a way to be healthy and lose weight. They put this idea into a study of people indigenous to Southeast Asia, where bananas are grown. They are going to get favorable results, sure, as Southeast Asians are used to eating bananas (they have developed the microbes that break down bananas properly), but those results probably won’t translate to someone native to Scandinavia. Or even more simply, if you want to see the effects of cold on the general population of California you wouldn’t conduct your study on people in Alaska. You need to make sure the location, as well as the subjects, of the study is relevant to what is being tested. This is very important when it comes to nutrition, especially diet, because, like I’ve said before, digestion is different for different people due to the microbes they have developed for their local food
3) Control Group
It is very important that studies use a control group. A control group is a group of subjects that mimics the treatment group in pretty much every aspect except they do not get the active treatment. They are the “placebo” group essentially. A control group allows the researchers to set a baseline for their study and measure the results they get with the experimental group (the ones getting the treatment being studied). Without a control group, the data collected pretty much means nothing because there is nothing to prove it against. You might argue that having a control group is one of the most important factors in a study. The control helps keep the whole study in balance making sure the design of the study is good as well as help provide the data being collected. This goes a little more in depth and explains all the details of a good control.
Like I said before, these aren’t the only things that make a good study, but they will help you to weed through all the information to find pertinent and reliable data. I know this was a lengthy, almost lecture-type post, but I think that it is important information to know. So congratulations if you read all the way through! You are one step closer to better health! And to reward all you dedicated readers, here is a picture of me modeling my LOVELY goggles I received after my recent LASIK surgery. I know. I am stunning but try not to compare yourself to me 😉 Have a great Wednesday and I will see you all on Friday!