Ask the right questions
When reading up on medical research, ask yourself the following questions:
How big was the study and what was the time frame? Studies involving large numbers of people over many years offer more credible results than those withstudies small sample sizes that last only a few months.
- What type of study was it? Epidemiologic studies evaluate large groups of people to determine if certain habits lead to disease. These studies may find a correlation between a behavior (like drinking coffee) and a health problem (like heart disease), but they do not prove a direct link (like drinking coffee causes heart disease).
Retrospective , which are based on a review of medical records or patient recollections are less reliable than prospective studies, which begin at the present time and follow participants through the years.
Clinical trials are controlled studies where researchers test a drug or medical device. Often, one group of participants takes the medication being studied while another group takes a placebo. Double-blind studies take this a step further and are designed so that neither researchers nor study participants know who is receiving the placebo.
- Was the study done on humans? Results generated by animal studies are generally considered preliminary and do not necessarily translate to humans.
- Who sponsored the study? Research paid for by a company or industry that may gain financially from study results should be scrutinized carefully.