Confused by some of the health news you see and hear? One day something is good for you, the next someone makes the case that it’s not. It seems like there’s a study out there that will prove (or at least strongly suggest) almost everything. It’s very difficult to know what you can believe anymore.
Saturated fat is universally recognized as being bad, right? Wrong, there are health benefits associated with saturated fats. Well then what’s better for you, a high-protein or a low-protein diet? There’s plenty of research out there that to suggest that high protein is the answer. There’s no lack of studies that seem to show low protein will extend your life (especially if you’re a fly).
Part of the problem is that human beings are incredibly hard to test. We’re not willing to be locked in cages and monitored 24 hours-a-day cradle to grave. So eliminating variables becomes very problematic, especially when trying to differentiate cause and effect. Another big problem can be contributed to what is known as “bad science”. According to Sourcewatch:
Bad Science” usually refers to information presented as a scientific finding that is not based on research using recognized scientific methods. In conversation, speeches or texts, “bad science” may refer to flawed science that does not necessarily reflect a particular bias. “Bad science” can refer to poor research, biased research or to faulty information that might not even be based in scientific research.
Propagandists can exploit flawed science to suggest conclusions not supported by research. Propagandists sometimes filter the otherwise unimpeachable work of unbiased scientists, presenting only findings favorable to the propagandist’s goals. Misrepresented by a propagandist, “good science” might become bad science.
Money, opportunities for recognition and other interests can interfere with the work of scientists. Agendas, affiliations and preconceptions can bias the work of professional researchers. Propagandists can more easily exploit the work of biased scientists. At the extreme, scientists can become propagandists, primarily producing research to support an employer’s interests.
Here is a very common example of bad science. Vegetarians will often cite studies that show the life expectancy of practicing 7th Day Adventists is considerably longer than the general population. They will then cite this fact as proof that eating meat shortens your life and is inherently unhealthy.
What they don’t tell you is that members of the LDS Church (Mormons) enjoy their meat and have similar life expectancies. Could it be something else that these religions share in common that leads to better health? Do you think that maybe abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine might play a role?
More recent studies have shown that people with a strong religious faith, regardless of denomination, live longer lives. Dig a little deeper and it makes sense: churchgoers are better educated, wealthier, take part in more social activities, and have a wider network of family and friends. Those are all traits that we know contribute to healthier living.
But even after factoring in all of these external variables the researchers found that a “strong association” still persists between infrequent or no religious attendance and higher mortality risk. Does that prove that going to church and having strong religious beliefs extends lives?
It might. But maybe just gathering together with a group of people who share similar beliefs could be the trigger. Do active members in a service club or organization experience similar benefits? How about health club members? Does exercising religiously count? (ha-ha)
This blog went off on a different tangent today than I had planned, and I probably asked more questions than I answered. But that’s OK, they’re stimulating questions to get the week rolling. The gray matter needs to get a workout in sometimes too.