Conflicting Health Studies Stir Confusion

January 20, 2008 01:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Medical advice on what is good or bad for our health sometimes seems as changeable as the weather. But even casual readers can still make informed choices from apparently contradictory findings.

30-Second Summary

On Jan. 11, 2008, Science Daily reported that a study into the effects of stress had linked it to health problems such as heart disease and depression.

In June 2004, however, the BBC reported that a study conducted by a pair of doctors from the University of Kentucky and the University of British Columbia concluded that small amounts of stress could actually improve a person’s health.

Such apparent contradiction will be nothing new to followers of medical news. In 2002, Hormone replacement therapy was a hotly contested issue. Some studies focused on the treatment’s negative effects; others highlighted the benefits.

Some of the hormone therapies were linked to an increase in heart disease or associated with ovarian cancer. However, they were also said to improve breast cancer prognoses and lower cholesterol levels.

The differing studies undoubtedly left many post-menopausal women wondering what to do.

Doctor LuAnn Moraski of the Wisconsin Medical Society writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that studies can also baffle medical professionals. The important thing is to remember that not every study is germane to every patient.

An article from the University of Ohio Medical Center Media Relations Office advises people to pay attention to study specifics. Knowing how many people were studied, how the research was designed, and who funded it can help readers draw informed conclusions.

However, some in academia think that the current peer review process—the method by which articles are evaluated before publication—is partly to blame and should be made more transparent.

Still others maintain that anonymity is essential to save peer reviewers from becoming embroiled in professional disputes with the authors of rejected papers.

Headline Links: Stressful contradictions

‘Stress Can Be Good for Your Body’

Opinion & Analysis: Differences of opinion; peer review questions

Questions about the peer review process

Related Topics: Questions regarding HRT


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