Slightly different approach to Thinking Cap Thursday

I was flipping through some articles looking for something interesting to post, and I came across an article entitled An Investigative Study Into the Influence of a Commercially Available Carbohydrate-Protein-Electrolyte Beverage on Short Term Repeated Exercise Performance. Thinking it could be interesting, I started skimming the abstract, only to discover that the sample population was 16 healthy, fit males between the ages of 19-40. I found this dumb-dumb enough that I commented to Tim about it. His immediate response was “How did such a stupid study get published?”. Didn’t know. However…he then asked (keep in mind he’s getting is Masters in Public Health and just recently went through a research class) “Were the findings positive?” Why yes they were. “I bet the company funded it”. No, it says it’s an independent study. “But they could have still funded it”. AND THEY HAD!! Naive me knew perfectly well that companies pay outside researchers to evaluate their products (“objectively” of course), but I didn’t realize they could claim it was an independent study if they were the ones providing the financial backing.

Why am I making you all read my rant about an essentially useless study? Pretty much just as a warning to anyone who is not used to looking at research-or those who, like me, read it fairly frequently but are still unclear about many of the funding and contribution rules. Just because it is published in a scholarly journal, or has lots of confusing stats and terminology, does not make it valid. Sometimes it is not so obvious, but in cases like this it can be very easy to spot and common sense is all you need. Easiest check to do-look at the sample population. Ask yourself if the sample is representative (that is, representative of anything other than the company’s target population for marketing, like in this case). How many people reading this right now are healthy, fit males between the ages of 19-40? Take out Tim and I’m thinking we’re down to approximately zero.

Big picture-all of the “studies” that are quoted in the media, or to validate the newest natural remedies, miracle weight loss drugs, etc, might not be as reliable as we would like to think. I’m certainly not saying we should automatically discount everything we hear or read-there are many wonderful studies out there that contribute a great deal of knowledge and insight into a variety of topics. Just please be careful and make educated decisions about what you choose to believe.

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