There is a cancer eating at the core of medical research.
You've most likely heard of medical reports touting the effectiveness of a diet plan, a new drug, a supplement, or medical procedure. You may have even decided on a course of action based on these findings, only to find out later that they have been refuted by new studies.
Strikingly, the odds are that the studies that influenced your decision, and possibly the decision of your doctor, were wrong.
We are bombarded by medical research studies that don't stand the test of time and potentially cause serious negative health outcomes. Perhaps, because of this, you've become jaded about the newest health findings.
I don't wish to dissuade you from how you feel.
In fact, this article will show you how untrustworthy medical research is and what you must do to protect yourself and loved ones.
The Case Against Medical Research
Medical research is fraught with incompetence, careerism, and fraud.
He ominously went on to say,
As early as 1996, voices were being raised against the scandal of medical research.
In 2005 Dr. John P.A. Ioannidis, currently a professor in disease prevention at Stanford University, published the most widely accessed article in the history of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) entitled Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.
In the report, he stated:
Ioannidis' research model indicated that up to 80 percent of non-randomized research studies (the most common kind of study) are wrong, along with twenty-five percent of randomized trials (the supposed gold standard of research).
Incredulously, these studies are published in top peer reviewed medical journals.
These numbers indicate that much of what our physicians prescribe to us is wrong. Our doctors use research to inform their medical decisions - decisions like what drug to prescribe, what surgery to elect, and what health strategy to adopt. They are making crucial treatment decisions for depression, Alzheimer's, type 2 Diabetes, cancer, obesity, etc. based on bad, incomplete or hidden medical research.
Remember Vioxx, Hormone Replacement Therapy, anti-arrhythmia drugs, high carbohydrate diets?
The lives of hundreds of thousands of people were damaged or ended prematurely.
What's Wrong with Medical Research?
There are serious deficiencies in medical research that have an onerous impact on our well-being.
Many researchers enter their study with a specific finding in mind and, not surprisingly, they find it.
Journalist David H. Freedman in Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science quotes Ioannidis:
Bias can happen in numerous ways, such as how the research is designed, how the samples are selected, and how subjects are pressured, or though errors in data collection and measurement or publication bias.
All of this leads to erroneous results and potentially disastrous medical advice.
Various industries, governments, and regulatory agencies may severely distort the truth by omission. Nearly half of all research studies never see the light of day.
According to Live Science:
In other words, the truth is hidden.
An example of this occurred with nearly 100,000 people dying from taking "safe" prescription anti-arrhythmic drugs in the 1980s. Or more recently, when none of the negative studies of the anti-depressant reboxitene were published.
This leaves us and our doctors in the dark about the efficacy and safety of drugs and medical procedures. We are systematically being misled!
See Dr. Ben Goldacre's Ted Talk to learn more:
Conflicts of Interest
Many studies, especially drug studies,
The more embedded the financial and other interests in the outcome of a study, the more likely the findings are going to be false.
Ioannidis' own research found that conflicts of interest,
Conflicts of interest are not limited to financial matters:
Research findings can be distorted by:
...all of which are widespread in medical research.
What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves?
Given the distorted, corrupt and unreliable state of much of medical research how can we know what to do? Short of ignoring research altogether, there are ways we can protect ourselves.
In his book Wrong, David Freedman lists some practical measures we can take to evaluate the reliability of medical research.
You can tell that a research study is probably wrong if:
I would add that association does not prove causation. Unless a study is a randomized control trial (RCT) it can not prove that one thing causes another, such as red meat causing heart disease.
Read Doctoring Data by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick for an in-depth study of flawed medical research.
There are efforts being made within science to rectify the problem with medical research.
But much remains unreliable and downright wrong. We cannot afford to be fooled by flawed studies. Arm yourself with knowledge. Review the scientific reliability of a course of action. Discuss it with your physician.
This can help in wading through the biased and damaging studies given the light of day in scientific journals and media.
Take responsibility. Your life may depend on it.