This study may shock you. Dr John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, published a paper a few years ago showing that almost 50% of research studies are either entirely wrong because they can’t be reproduced, or are exaggerated.
On almost every nightly newscast there is some new medical discovery that is presented as the “truth” and people take it as gospel. The problem is that in many cases, these contradict previous studies, and if we wait long enough into the future, they will be contradicted again.
For centuries, the scientific belief was that the earth was the centre of the universe according to the vast majority of astronomers. Then along came Copernicus and Galileo who calculated that it was the sun, not the earth that was at the centre of our solar system. Galileo was persecuted and had to recant to save himself. In the Middle Ages, the church along with the established astronomical community had all the power. If we fast forward to more recent times, we continue to have contradictions.
In 1974, a Time magazine article titled, Another Ice Age? stated the following: “When meteorologists take an average temperature around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing.” Of course, today, we know that most scientists are expressing alarm about global warming.
Also, in the 1970’s the medical profession raised fears about the consumption of butter and they encouraged people to substitute it with margarine. The research indicated that saturated fats were unhealthy and could lead to an increased incidence of heart disease. If we look at the past decade, we find science contradicting itself on this issue. Some studies have shown that there is an increased risk of heart disease and cancer with margarine consumption as opposed to butter. Which is right? You decide, but for myself, butter tastes better. Perhaps, that is what is most important.
When I attended university in the 1960’s and 70’s, I learned that the human brain was hard-wired. The research said that by the time you reach adulthood, the number of cells in the brain are fixed, much like computer hardware. Then in the late 1980’s and early 90’s especially with the advent of modern scanning techniques, some new research started appearing indicating that the brain can grow new cells and even new connections. This idea that the brain can re-wire itself is now considered to be true. The “truth” of an unchangeable brain was only correct with the knowledge at the time. Technology has managed to reverse what was once considered unshakeable.
Now we come to coffee, that food beverage that seems to alternate between good and bad from decade to decade. During my university days, while coffee was considered useful to keep you awake because of caffeine, it was found to be unhealthy. The research showed that it was not good for the heart as it raised blood pressure and overtaxed your pancreas which could lead to diabetes. While we enjoyed the drink, the scientific community made us feel guilty about consuming it. Today, coffee is promoted in some circles as a panacea. Researchers are claiming that it increases life expectancy, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, decreases the risk of diabetes and has preventative effects against cancer. How can the same product that we used to blame for numerous ills now be praised?
The problem lies in the fact that what scientists promote, is very often just a consensus based on research that is often contradictory and at times downright biased. Science relies on coming up with a hypothesis and then showing that it is provable and then repeatable. In other words, reproducibility is one of the hallmarks of science.
Some have said that mathematics is the only true science; one plus one equals two, two plus two equals four and so on. Even this may only be true for what we can see. Perhaps on some distant planet, it may be untrue. Much of our interactions with the world and especially with health relates more to opinion, skill and art as applied by the practitioner.
If you go to a doctor, and he diagnoses a condition and treats you accordingly, what he does may not work and what we consider outside of mainstream may work. When it comes to the human body and other very complex systems we can only rely on science as a general rule because we are all so different both inside and out. The result is that we can have so many different reactions to various treatments.
So next time you read or hear something about the latest research, take it with a “pinch of salt”. It may not be too distant in the future before you find that the same research has reversed its findings.
Adele and Ely have had a combined 80 years of experience in the health field as both Medical Doctor and Chiropractor. So they have had first hand experience in dealing with the health issues of seniors and retirees. Over the past 30 years they have travelled extensively to 38 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia, including 43 U.S. states. This has given them insights and experience in counselling others regarding their travel needs. Their latest book is: Relationship Secrets For Sexy Seniors