Popular press mangles reports on studies

After two weeks of eating freely and not obsessing about food, now I return to more of the nutritional and health nonsense, especially as the popular press distorts and often even reverses what a study actually says. I should have known the flurry of articles was tied to something and that is the annual meeting of the diabetes association. Over the years I’ve noticed more and more the disease-du-jour phenomenon, where interest in some disease (the last was gout) mysteriously peaks. Digging deeper it’s almost always at the same time that a new drug for that disease is being introducing or the annual search for grants. So the “community” does a bad enough job of accurate and non-hyped information but then the popular press adds fuel to the fire.

So based on these headlines Google News choose, you tell me what you think this study said:

sampleHeadline

See the confusion! How many conclusions did this study reach?

Actually the point is simple. There has been an attempt to hype what diabetes is, even trying to peddle the scare tactic of “metabolic syndrome” (which doesn’t exist in the real scientific community since that is too broad and vague to have any meaning).

Diabetes is too much blood sugar, sometimes only at certain times. It is a disease defined by a blood test, a chemical analysis, not actual clearcut connected symptoms. So, of course, when it’s only a number on a blood test, and the above-the-threshold value typically occurs in people with MANY symptoms, mostly age-related (btw, I’m talking type 2 here, type 1 is real, not a made-up disease). So what if a blood test number is high?

That’s the problem I have with the medical establishment.

When I first got a blood test with too-high numbers (cholesterol) I dutifully starting taking statins and they did actually work, my blood test numbers went down. BUT, am I the least bit healthier?  Am I the least bit likely to die? No one really knows. You see, someone notices that people who get a lot of heart attacks (who, for the most part are just old) have high cholesterol and there is some vague connection with formation of plaques in arteries (which, in fact, are more likely to be caused by inflammation (emphasis on ’cause’ because cholesterol just hangs around for the ride, it’s sorta the same claim that poverty “causes” crime since neighborhoods with poverty tend to have high crime). But, in fact, the actual causation link between cholesterol and myocardial infarction has not been proven. But there’s a drug for that, so guess what, we magnify high cholesterol or even ratios of “good” vs “bad” cholesterol into a required treatment. Just go check – find studies, with enough people to be meaningful (and without a lot of other co-morbidities) that followed the people for a long enough time (multiple decades) to actually be significant that show that reducing cholesterol actually allows you to live longer. Well, such studies don’t exist (for good reason, they’d be extremely expensive and, well, ur, would take decades to do and feeding us Lipitor hasn’t been around long enough to even follow enough people as they age).

So does “diabetes” (which, again, is defined just as a number on a blood test) actually make you sick? And does anything you do (exercise, weight loss, meds) actually do anything to make you healthier?

Simple questions. Try to find some accurate answers. Even after subtracting the stupidity of the popular press at presenting study findings, just see if you can find studies that are any good. Given me a break, a study of 12! people is going to be statistically significant! A study done over months with all self-reported data is going to be anything but trash!

So the study being reported (and distorted) by the popular press is yet another one with ambiguous results. BUT, here’s the real rub and why it’s significant.

Diabetes (again just a number on a blood test) has relatively few adverse health effects. What you exclaim, what a fool I am to not believe it’s one of the worst killers there is. The trouble is, that the diabetes lobby has combined diabetes with heart disease (despite a lack of proof of any connection). And yes heart disease is a killer. Diabetes might make you go blind (my fear) or lose some toes, but there is no direct biological connection with heart disease. People who have “diabetes” (a blood test anomaly) also usually have lots of other issues, not the least of which is being old and not the greatest of which is being overweight and sedentary.

So what this study shows is that heart disease and diabetes are not as connected as the “metabolic syndrome” special interest group would like to have you believe. Heart disease has its own progression, causes, and therapies. So changing level of blood sugar, regardless of how measured or how accomplished, doesn’t actually seem to make any difference vis-a-vis heart disease. So trying to scare people with a bad blood test they’re going to die (soon, of course) of a heart attack just isn’t justified.

So diabetes shrinks back to a relatively minor “disease” (if type 2 is even a disease at all) and loses its scary luster that it’s going to kill you.

And to add insult to injury to the lobbying group, guess what, diet and exercise are disconnected too. Now all the anti-food (given kale and quinoa aren’t food, but more like self-flagellation) isn’t really justified. Eat burgers, but hop on the treadmill and you’ll get the same benefit.

So some sacred cows have been butchered by this study (which, btw, is not that great, like most of the studies) so the popular press can’t decide what to say (undoubtedly depends on who the reporter got their quotes from).

And we’re right back where we started – accurate and meaningful information (and especially agenda-free) is hard to get and when it does exist you can be certain the press will mangle the story. The press should stick to politics, which is all opinion anyway, since they really can’t handle science.

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About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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One Response to Popular press mangles reports on studies

  1. beannellie says:

    Is that beautiful picture in Wyoming. I wished I could live there. Thanks for the blog bean.nellie@gmail.com

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