Making Sense of the Latest Health Studies
One day eggs are amazing and the next they’re a hazard to your health. And so it goes with coffee, vitamins, fats, TV viewing, stretching, soy…trying to determine what is truly healthy for you can be overwhelming and even discouraging. The good news? You don’t have to be an expert, doctor, or scientist to determine what’s best for you and your family. Talk to your doctor about any personal concerns you have and consider these tips for making sense of all those studies:
• Ask the following questions: Where did the study come from? Was it a scientific study? How long was the issue studied? How many people were examined? Are the results more qualitative (based on personal stories) than quantitative (based on scientific evidence)? Was this a single study or the results of multiple studies? As evidence continues to pile up for a particular issue, it warrants more time and attention than a lone study. And who published the study? If the National Lollipop Organization reports that kids should eat at least three suckers a day, be skeptical.
• Avoid the black-and-white studies. Since there are generally two sides to every story, be cautious in accepting all-or-nothing reports on a particular topic. While one study might claim that stretching before exercising is completely unnecessary, if it makes your muscles feel better and has provided good results in the past, then enjoy a few lunges and back stretches.
• Take a close look at the numbers. Statistics can be used in both meaningful and deceitful ways. For example, if a study says that watching the news at night will increase your chances of nightmares threefold, what does that actually mean? If the risk goes from 1 in a million to 3 in a million, that might be something you can live with.
• Use common sense. Just because one study says that drinking 15 cups of coffee a day will increase your life span doesn’t mean you need to invest in a larger coffee pot. Take the information that supports your lifestyle and goals to heart and let the rest go.
Ultimately, you don’t have to change your life based on a single study, but if evidence in a particular area of concern or interest starts to mount, you might want to pay closer attention. Be your own health advocate by asking questions, absorbing relevant information, and making the best decisions for you and your family based on your lifestyle and goals.