nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Periods Begin Earlier In Girls Who Eat Meat" Wins Worthless Research Award

If there was such an award this would be a great candidate.

Earth-shattering news that girls who eat a lot of meat reach puberty at a younger age (see the BBC News, 11 June, here).

Don't get me wrong.  Menarche (the first period) at an earlier age is a risk factor for breast cancer, and  age at puberty has been falling for at least a century.  The authors speak of the use of estrogen in raising cattle might be a factor (like estrogen doesn't get cooked when you cook the meat).

The "worthless" part is trying to speculate about what all this means.  It could be simply that improved nutrition world-wide is allowing the body to initiate pubertal development earlier in life.  And the risk of breast cancer could be coincidental--due to other cultural, nutritional, and environmental factors.  None of which has been proven yet.

So, lest anyone think that the science says "more meat" = "earlier periods," think about what it means for somehting to cause something else.

It means that the result would not have occurred had the "cause" not been present.  So, do you think that girls will go back to puberty at a later age if we stop feeding them meat?  If you do, then you believe that the sun rotates around the earth, since that's what looks like is happening when you stare at the sky.

You also believe that your alarm clock makes the sun come up.

Here's a classic example from the scientific literature:

Finding:  Young children who sleep with the light on are much more likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness) in later life.
False conclusion:  Sleeping with the light on as a child causes myopia.

Explanation:  it turns out that parents who are myopic tend to leave the light on more often (try walking around in the dark without your glasses), and they tend to pass on their myopia to their children.

I wonder how much public money was spent on this study in Britain, where the health service is broke and people are waiting in line for surgery.

Doc D

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