We’re living in a world where headlines scream at us 24/7. We’re subject to around-the-clock tweets and posts telling us what to do, what not to do, and what’s going to kill us if we keep doing it. While all that instant information can be really great, we have to know how to cut through the clutter and be able to ascertain which headlines are hype and which are worth heeding.
“Coconut Oil Isn’t Healthy. It’s Never Been Healthy.”
Hype or worth heeding? An online USA Today article talks about the American Heart Association’s recent report that advises against the use of coconut oil. No one wants to have a heart attack and we should all believe what the AHA has to say, right?
This coconut oil claim has stirred up a lot of controversies.
Kevin Michael Geary, the founder of Rebooted Body, a renowned podcaster, author, speaker and coach has tackled the topic in his article with a real grabber of a headline.
In this article, Geary opens our eyes to another side of the AHA, stating that “the research funded by the AHA is very strategic and full of manipulation and con-artistry.”
While this post is not about coconut oil, you should definitely check out the article. This is a great example of headline hype and I want to give you some tips on how to sift through all conflicting reports out there so you can feel confident in your decision-making.
What’s real and what’s not?
Why can’t we just believe what we read?
The problem is, there are so many factors and influences involved in medical studies that we have to learn to be a little more discerning.
Here are 7 things to keep in mind when looking at medical studies:
1. Where was the study published?
You want to make sure that the study was published in a reputable and credible publication, such as a peer-reviewed journal. With more and more media outlets emerging daily, establishing credibility is becoming a bigger issue. The best way to know if a publication is reputable is to ask your healthcare provider, a librarian, or someone who is in the field you are researching.
2. Don’t trust your search engine.
Just because something pops up first doesn’t mean it’s the best or truest information out there. There are all kinds of ways to raise your search engine status and, unfortunately, it’s not always based on authenticity.
3. One study is not enough.
It’s not uncommon to see articles contradicting something we’ve been told for years and years – like excessive fat is not good for you. When the headlines start singing praises about fat being fabulous, you have to check the sources. Plural. One simple study does not negate decades of proven research. Just give it some time and often you’ll find the new claim shot down when more research is done.
4. Find out who is funding the research.
While it shouldn’t have anything to do with results, the fact of the matter is that money talks. Make yourself aware of who is funding the research and keep that in mind when reading the claims. Sadly, studies have been known to be influenced when the source of the funding has a vested interest in the results.
5. Who, what, when, and where?
A study is only as good as the people involved. When you want to find out the effects of too many pickles on a pregnancy, you don’t test a woman who is not pregnant. While that may sound obvious, you’d be surprised at how many studies are performed with inconsistent or inconsequential variables.
6. Get both sides of the story.
When a study conflicts with what you’ve always thought to be true, do some research on your own. Talk to a trusted healthcare professional and read as many reputable reports on the subject as you can find before you make any drastic changes to your diet, medication, or lifestyle.
7. Read the fine print.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to always, always read beyond the headlines. Sometimes a catchy headline is all they are, with nothing at all to substantiate the claim.
How Big Pharma Influences Studies
Another thing we have to keep in mind is how the big pharmaceutical companies influence studies, academic institutions, and even healthcare professionals. Doctors are constantly being wooed by Big Pharma. They’re taken out for meals, they’re given speaker fees, and they’re lavished with educational materials with the hope that when it comes time to write a prescription, they’ll remember who their friends are.
Research costs money.
Someone has to fund every one of the studies you read about.
Big corporations tend to have big bucks and big bucks tend to make a big difference. Dr. Peter Rost explains how the medical establishment can be influenced in this short, simple and eye-opening video clip:
U.S. News & World Report tackles this topic in an article published last year: “Doctor Prescribing Linked to Industry Gifts.” This article acknowledges the potential influence of even small payments to physicians by pharmaceutical companies, but also assures us that payments by pharmaceutical companies are not necessarily harmful.
“Patients may benefit from physicians being made aware of newly approved, effective treatments that may have fewer adverse effects, reduce the need for monitoring tests, or improve adherence.”
What can you do to protect yourself?
Do your own research, ask a lot of questions, and make your healthcare professional accountable!
It’s hard enough to be faced with a medical condition and when you have to deal with all the external mumbo jumbo, your stress level can skyrocket! Just remember that most of the headlines telling you you’re doing the wrong thing are just plain wrong.
Keep calm. Talk to a trusted professional. And don’t buy into the hype!
Dr. Mark Burhenne