Health Studies – What and How Much Should We Believe?

20 Sep

PRactitioner Anjana Kovoor suggests a sane and practical approach to handling the results of health studies.

Health studies and their credibility

Until recently, if a health study were to be published, I would read it carefully to see what was in it for me. Was there something in it that I needed to follow, avoid, or pay a little more attention to? But today with the quantity and quality of reports that are being churned out, I wonder how credible they are. We are so confused with all the findings, many of which go against previously validated or popular theories. Recently, in one of the largest studies till date on organic food, researchers from Stanford University concluded that there is “little evidence of healthier benefits from organic food over those grown conventionally.”

This definitely clashes with our long held belief that organic food is just better – for the body and the environment. Who wouldn’t be confused after having this questioned by the likes of Stanford?
So that leads us to the question: “Can we believe all the health studies out there?”

For example, let’s take a look at some of the press that coconut oil has received over the years. Here’s a sampling of conclusions from studies on this tropical commodity:

  • Refined coconut oil raises cholesterol level and increases the risk of heart attack
  • Saturated fat in coconut oil leads to obesity
  • Coconut is sweet and its oil is not good for diabetics
  • Coconut oil is a good moisturizer and rich in antioxidants
  • Coconut oil can relieve dry skin and hair, prevent wrinkles and sagging of skin

Clearly, the findings have mostly hinged on coconut oil’s dietary or cosmetic effects. Several research studies have concluded that its consumption raises cholesterol levels and increases the risk of heart attacks. However, in many of these studies, hydrogenated coconut oil was used as the basis for testing. Consequently, the results were skewed and somewhat misleading. But they led to a largely negative perception of coconut oil in the diet that is easing only now with increasing evidence that it is not the villain it has been made out to be.

In fact, there are several ways in which coconut oil helps the body and skin. It has been shown to aid stress relief, cholesterol regulation, proper digestion, metabolism, better dental health, weight loss, and stronger bones. It can also play a part in warding off kidney problems, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Lastly, it can protect against a slew of skin ailments, including psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema.

The above study of coconuts and coconut based products are but examples – there are a huge number of studies out there and a new one makes headlines on a daily basis. How do we know if we should take it seriously or not? Are some of these driven by a marketing agenda? You can neither discount these studies entirely nor take them completely at face value. In many cases, you may not know enough about the parameters of the study to evaluate its merits. The best thing we can do is to draw our own conclusions based on our own experiences. So try the tested product or approach for yourself and see how your body reacts. Better still, when in doubt ask a medical practitioner, just to be doubly sure!

2 Responses to “Health Studies – What and How Much Should We Believe?”

  1. Mohit Ravi September 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Your obsession with coconuts has helped you finally.

  2. MinusQuota September 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm #


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 399 other followers

%d bloggers like this: