watch out for the contradictions

Last week there was a study published in several periodicals about how taking vitamin E and selenium had actually increased the risk of certain men to get prostate cancer. Of course the study was only one control group AND, it’s a big and, we don’t know what the study didn’t tell us.

The bio doctor who has advised me to take a few different herbal supplement for the next couple of years had also recommended vitamin E and selenium. I therefore sent him a copy of the study to which he responded that there are many contradictory studies, especially in the medical field, and that it is safe to continue to take a complex E up to 1000 iu and selenium up to 600 mg daily.

The contradictory studies sure do make you think twice about believing what you read or hear. There have been studies that show coffee causes cancer and other studies showing coffee prevents cancer. You can believe either one or neither one. Wasn’t it Benjamin Disraeli who said “there are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.

We know that with statistics, you can prove almost anything. And from a study with lots of data, you can pick out the right data and prove one view and with the data from the same study, prove the opposite view. It’s kind of like magic.

I recently saw a talk by a doctor/scientist, in the business of analyzing medical studies, who said that industry studies, particularly from the pharmaceutical industry, are four times more likely to show favorable results than private studies. However, looking into those studies, the industry studies were qualitative better. The only problem, the industry studies left out important data in the majority of their conclusions. In other words, they used just the data they wanted to prove an outcome.

The result is that these studies are published and promoted to doctors and the medical community and they are not entirely correct. In some cases, they can be downright incorrect.

Even data experts come to incorrect conclusions because they don’t look at the entire picture. One example is looking at the simple logic of flipping a coin. One would think it logical that if one flipped a coin thousands of times, that the percentage of times you would arrive at the sequence of head-tails-tails, is the same as it would be finding head-tails-heads. But in fact it’s not. HTH will happen more frequently. It’s not logical on its face, but true.

You can claim whatever you want with statistics, data and numbers. The same holds true with economics. The Left follows the Keynesian logic that government spending will jolt the economy. We just had two economist win the Nobel price for espousing the opposite. We fight viciously over this. But that’s another topic for another day.

For now, I’m going with the bio guy. Normally I’d not take supplements. But since I’ve had some extreme treatment, I might be erring on the right side by taking some minimal natural supplements. At the very least, they’ll serve as positive placebos. I hope that’s not too much of a contradiction. Still, I had better watch out.

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