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Politics of science

January 21, 2011
Not too long ago I was eating watermelon and whole wheat toast for breakfast. Someone commented “Watermelon has a lot of sugar in it, it’s really not good for you.”  I looked at him disbelievingly and said slowly, “It’s watermelon.”  I think he’s a victim of not bad science, but more likely bad media, and poor discernment.
 
Doctors first recommended margarine, saying it was a healthier alternative to butter, especially for heart patients. Years later the general consensus has been reversed. Now omega 3’s have been found to help heart patients, but others are saying it’s a farce. How do we know when to trust this group?

My post on fish oil generated a lot of interest, and I think you’ll find this article helpful. It carefully inspects one of the newest studies that “disproves” the health benefits of fish oil in heart disease patients.  It’s from a health blog  at shakeology, which is a meal replacement shake with antioxidants and vitamins and things like that. More than just talk about fish oil and defend it’s benefits, I think it outlines the fact that we need to be discerning when studies claim things and then other studies disprove them. The jury is still out, folks, and the verdict is always too complex to put in a headline.  Use common sense, and remember that science is largely political.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go eat an avocado before the nutritionists change their minds and say it’s bad for you again.

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One comment

  1. I’ve found that oftentimes if a subject being studied is controversial, then it’s harder to get a good result because when they go to replicate the studies, depending on who does it (whethere they’re funded by a specific organization or not) they might be biased, or there might be flaws within the study.



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