Correlation, causation, flaky science and trust

Debunking Food MythsA recent article on the weight loss benefits of eating breakfast says

That doesn’t mean particular breakfasts can’t help some people control their appetites, or bring other benefits like energy. Schlundt’s study was tiny. But it shows how easy it is to simplify the complexities and limitations of nutrition science and cherry-pick the findings.

The point of the article is that choosing a single study to prove a point is easy. When you’re looking at a “fact” a single data point is not enough. The reason peer review is so important in science is that being able to repeat a study is critical.

While in some cases that can be difficult – getting identical subjects for a nutritional study is an example – we can look at lots of similar research to point to whether something claimed in one study is valid.

So, when you consider a new type of workout or nutritional plan look for its basis in science.

The paleo diet trend is based largely on one piece of misused research.

Don’t accept a single report as being absolute. Be critical and ask questions about the motivation of the researchers and their funding, whether the study is applicable to you (most studies don’t include women), and check if the research has been verified independently and that it has been conducted on a reasonably large, reprenstarove sample.

Science is important. But it is a human endeavor and humans aren’t perfect.

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