Health News: How Dependable Is It?
How Reliable is your health news?
Every week a new study comes out with amazing new information that usually has a lot of shock value and causes us to question our supplements or our drugs.
Most of this information turns out to be mostly hype for two reasons. Over ninety per cent of all medical studies are flawed in that they are usually paid for by pharmaceutical companies or some other interested party that will gain from the study. Then along comes the news media who never check the facts and source and simply publish the sensational part in order to attract your attention.
The most recent example of this occurred when a dairy company in New Zealand sponsored two studies at universities there that indicated that calcium supplements could cause calcium deposits in your arteries and cause heart attacks. This was immediately broadcast in every news media and only months later did we find out that the results were flawed, they could not be duplicated anywhere else in the world and were published deliberately by Fonterra, the largest exporter of dairy products in the world in order to make people drink milk rather than take calcium supplements.
Just last month the journal Heart published an editorial about how extreme runners face a higher cardiac risk. Without fully reading the editorial and understanding which types of people actually were at risk and the extreme rarity of these occasions, the news media jumped on the reports and published stories staying that running was bad for you.
I read a very large number of research studies in order to gather information for my newsletter. Most of the articles I read are real garbage. I have found studies that show salt is very good and healthy for you, only to find at the very end that Campbell’s Soup paid for the study. On the final page of very study there is supposed to be a disclosure notice that indicates where the funding for the study came from. In some cases even this fact is obfuscated.
Many years ago the complete human genome was discovered and we all knew that human beings contained about 30,000 genes and we assumed what I would call the “one gene one action theory”. In other word that a gene could be responsible for a specific type of disease besides hair colour and eye colour. Immediately the press jumped on the research and were taking about “super babies” and how would manipulate our genes to produce a whole race of tall blond blue eyed people. Years later we find out the true facts. We now know that all of us have the genes for Alzheimer’s but only a few of us will get the disease. We now know that genes act together with other genes and it takes a specific combination for anything to happen. In other words, it is so complicated, we could not possibly manipulate the gene structure of any human being. However, the fear of it happening is still with us thanks to the news media.
One of the favourites of pharmaceutical companies is to get together a group of people who are very seriously ill. They may be congestive heart failure patients, cancer patients or most commonly people with Type 2 diabetes. They make sure they are in the latter stages of their disease and then they give the group a constant dose of Vitamin E or a daily regimen of multivitamins and Vitamin C or Vitamin D and of course there is no positive result because these people were already at the end stage of their illnesses. However when the media report the study it sounds like “ Multivitamins will not help people with Type 2 diabetes” or Vitamin D shown to be useless in treating heart disease”. These studies are designed to promote the use of pharmaceuticals and the disuse of supplements that if taken earlier may have prevented the disease.
The reliability of health news is a very serious matter but the stories that get published are usually the ones that are dramatic or controversial. Universities and journals have their own agenda because they have to attract funds for research. Unfortunately the source of most of these funds is from large corporations and not from the alumni or government.
Many researchers who may have an excellent idea about how to prevent a certain type of cancer may only get funds if their research involves the testing of experimental drugs. If someone develops a non-invasive surgical procedure that could easily stop the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease they would have great difficulty getting large sums of money to continue their research.
It even goers beyond the researchers to the public relations departments of large universities. If their study gets world-wide attention then it puts their university on the map for research funding and the ability to acquire some of the best researchers.
Then come the journalists who like me read a lot of these studies but unlike me they are not looking for helpful facts but they are looking for the most sensational story for their publisher. A story that explains how aerobic exercise and proper diet can reverse Type 2 diabetes and heart conditions can be very boring compared to a story that indicates some common supplement will cause your death.
Very often these medical studies have a very small sample size, eight or ten people and yet the results will be hailed as a medical breakthrough. These studies are very poorly designed in order to generate publicity and money for the university.
Just recently the American Journal of Cardiology finally spoke out and urged researchers to decrease the use of overly positive or dramatic language in their published studies. These descriptions do not match the reality of the results. Also as I mentioned earlier, although I always look for the people who provided the financing for the study, the news media never broadcasts that information.
One of the worst instances of this happened just recently right here in Canada. A press release from the University of Western Ontario said that egg yolks are as bad for your health as smoking. The same group published a similar study a year earlier that equated eating eggs yolks with KFC’s gluttonous Double down Sandwich. These stories appeared in media all around the world because they were so sensational; yes sensationally false as nutritional critics later pointed out.
The health food industry is just as bad as the pharmaceutical study when publishing poor and flawed studies. Years ago the makers of Salba seeds an edible version of chia seeds that you may have bought this Christmas under the name “Chia Pet”, claimed medical studies proved the great value of their product. An entire search of all the published medical journals in the world turned up only one study in which it was used with another substance unsuccessfully to treat Type 2 diabetes. More recently Dr. Oz has made a huge thing about studies that show Green Coffee Bean extract will cause dramatic weight loss. These studies involved a total of 16 people, were done in India and the manufacturer paid for the whole study even though it was not disclosed in the footnotes. In fact most of the so-called “studies” reported in the health food industry are simply advertising and these studies have never been published anywhere in any peer-reviewed recognized journal.
I cannot fault people for watching that very trusted anchor reading out the news with the latest medical report and believing it. When you pick up a newspaper and read an article you generally consider it to be truthful and factual. However in this business it is buyer beware. That is why people come to me for health advice. They know that I have the background and the knowledge and they know that whatever rumours or information they have heard, I can get them the honest facts and the truth about the information. [print_link]