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, January 8, 2011

Help! We're Overhwelmed With Health Advice

A plethora of studies over the last week:  environmental, nutritional, genetic, and traumatic influences...good and bad.  Do any of them matter?

The appearance of a news report (Science Daily, Jan 7) on the influence of tomatoes on vascular disease was the last straw.  As I read the article, I started wondering if there was anything on the planet that doesn't influence us in some subtle way, either harmfully or beneficially.  The researchers were enthused about their results:
"Tomatoes are already known to contain many compounds beneficial to health. In this study the team analyzed 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid, to test its potential anti-dyslipidemia properties.  The compound was found to enhance fatty acid oxidation and contributed to the regulation of hepatic lipid metabolism. These findings suggest that 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid has anti-dyslipidemia affects and can therefore help prevent vascular diseases."

Earlier this week there was a study suggesting that compounds in pomegranate juice could prevent cancers from spreading.  Juice producers love to point to this kind of research to market their products. 

Again, so?

Should we go stock up on tomatoes and pomegranates, while continuing to seek out or avoid all the other stuff we've been pummeled into pursuing or avoiding?

Think back over the years: how many studies have you seen like this that hail some product as a cure or preventative?   And the just-as-frequent number of studies of things to avoid.

Coffee reduces Parkinson's disease, breast feeding reduces cancer, cactus controls blood sugar, sodium leads to hypertension...the list is endless.

Then there are the (seemingly) contradictory studies.  Anti-oxidants reduce, they are a cancer risk (according to a study this week).  For every study that shows a benefit, there's another that shows harm.

There must be tens of thousands of these.  I imagine scientists saying, "What else is there in the grocery store we haven't injected into mice that might result in a publication?"

And say you spend thousands of dollars buying some health supplement that you take for decades in the hope that it makes a difference.  In the end, how will you know?  Maybe, amongst all the other stuff, it gets lost in the wash.

It's not that each of these reported effects are not true.  But they are studied in isolation.  What if we took all these studies and threw their data together.  Imagine a super computer that could add up all the good and bad effects, giving proper weight to how important each influence is (mostly minimal)....what would happen?

My guess is they would all cancel out.  Bottom line impact, null.

But don't let me discourage you from buying milk thistle and wrist magnets.  Ironically, I would be doing the same things these studies are doing.

If you think it helps, I guess that's something.

Doc D

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