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Researching Health - Using Science

7 Steps How to Research Health Information

There is an increasing concern over the prolific confusion of information since the dawn of the internet superhighway.  Type in just about anything and you’ll get seemingly hundreds of conflicting information on that same subject.  But you know, truth doesn’t change and neither does true science.  It is our interpretation of science or the way the experiment or study was done.  But you don’t have to be a doctor to figure out a general idea of whether something is good or bad, right or wrong.  I have been researching health for over 15 years and have my Nutritional Counselling diplomia and well as other university science courses. I LOVE researching. I love digging deep into the studies, looking at the stats, etc. I've learnt how to research and how to find the real answer from pages of materal.

How do you know what to choose and who to believe when it comes to health?  Many take the ‘Doctor’s’ word for it, or worse yet some book toting a cure all. Doctors and authors, yes, even myself, are still human.  We still make mistakes.  You can't even trust Google or Wikipedia so who do you trust?  So lets look at a few ways to make sure you are in charge of your health and are getting the truth. It's not hard, but it does take time.

Before we get into the 7 Steps how to research health.  Be sure you have looked at the obvious. What does the Bible say on that topic or does it have a principle that covers it.  (For those of you who are Seventh-Day Adventist) See Part 1 - click here.

So, what about "health" controversies or conflicting info: Like hundreds of blogs saying soy is bad for you or canola oil, chocolate or whether or not to take vitamins.  We need to turn to the source of information.  Science.  But first we have to understand something about health principles, logic, and research.  The health principle I'm refering to is: What may be harmful to one person may not be for another.  This is NOT because the principles change, but because we are created different and we have different DNA.  Some people are allergic to soy and when they quit eating it they are so happy they write a blog on how much better they feel not eating it.

Before I get into the steps in researching health, you may want to know can't you just turn to a qualified scientist or nutritionist who has all ready done the research for you. Yes, but.... who do you choose to believe?  A Dietician, your GP, a famous Doctor on TV?   Often we just believe the one we want to believe.  Ok, I know most of us would never admit to something so shallow, but unfortunately it is very true.  If at this point you are willing to just take the experts opinion that is fine, not everyone can do mountains of research.  There is nothing wrong with reading a good book and making changes in your life based on that book.  BUT remember that is your choice to listen to a particular doctor.  You can’t tell others to choose the same, because Dr so and so says so.  If you intend on sharing the health message, you need to be sure what you are presenting is done in such a manner as to not lead others to believe God has endorsed this idea as a principle or law. 

So, for those of you who want to know for yourself the answer to a health question, like 'should we take vitamin supplements' or 'is soy bad', you will have to do research yourself (I have shared my research on chocolate and canola oil if you don't want to search for yourself).  For those of you who aren’t interested in research, I think the principles can still help you so I recommend you keep reading.

 

Here are the 7 Steps How to Research Health in scientific literature.

            1. Collect many sources for information.  Books, internet, calling professionals, etc.

            2. Be sure the sources are qualified.  There are hundreds of people discussing thousands of topics, but they are just giving their opinions, stories, history, and suggestions.  Your source needs to be an unbiased qualified professional.  That means a neurosurgeon saying you should take Vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis is not a valuable as a Orthopedic surgeon saying the same thing, the Orthopedic has studied that subject.  Medical Doctors are not trained in depth on nutrition, so just be careful.  Sometimes scientists or even research students are a much better source. So, check: Is this an actual study or a quote from a study? Is it the original study or an interpretation of the study. Was the study done by someone in that field or at least for a significant about of time. Was it a 'blind' study or just a compilation of a Dr.s many patience testimonies? Well that leads us to point #2.

            3. Be sure the source is unbiased.  This can be more difficult.  I did research on caffeine and found a seemingly good source saying it is NOT a diuretic. Several Dieticians and Doctors were quoting the study.  So I went to the source (as I don’t always trust doctors).  It turns out it was a VERY small study funded by cola-cola. Is this book trying to sell you something or do they share multiple sources for what they recommend? And it brings us to another principle of research, look for more than one source. Also consider LOOKING outside the USA for material. The pharmaceutical companies have a very tight grip in the USA in treatment, legislation, and research. The documentary "Hot Coffee" is a real eye opener in regards to how money talks. Not particularly on pharmaceuticals but I encourage you to watch it.

            4. Look for more than one source, and be willing to look back on the subject in the future.  If you can only find one source, one quote (true of S of P too.) that is simply not enough to base and entire doctrine on.   Keep looking and praying for the answer and don’t give up.  For a long time I couldn’t find anything on B12 in food, but little by little I found when certain vegetables, beets are one of them, are grown organically, in nutrient rich soil, the plants can absorb B12 from the soil.  The plants don’t produce it, but they are now a source of B12 from absorbing it.

            5. Be sure you have the original source, and that your 5 different sources are really different.  We might find 10 people saying you can't overdose on vitamin B12, but if you trace them back they point to one article.  While several other really different articles/studies say you can overdose.  Make sure you are at the source!  This may take some digging, emailing, or even phoning.  Don’t quote an article unless you are sure it is the original source or is directly word for word quoting the source. (I've seen many, many health professionals on the internet and in person quote a study, only to find out they quoted the 'findings' of the study which were skewed.)

            6. Be sure you have the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Make sure you take the source in context.  If you find an article that says “You can live just fine for 2 days without water” check out the whole story!  Perhaps it is an article on surviving on a deserted island and it is a tip for staying calm and giving hope.  Stay in context.  Learn why was the study done and what is the main thrust of the article.

            7. Take the average, leave the extremes - use common sense.  If one study or source say you don’t need vitamin D and another says it cures everything, you can be sure neither is correct.  Find the mainstream, common sense, average information and omit the extreme fanatics.  Even if there is a possibility they are correct, you are better off with certainties in research.  In fact I often judge health by results, I check out what the Centenarians are doing. MOST Centenarians (not just one or two) – people who live past 100 in active, healthy lifestyles, as a rule eat it regularly, it is likely safe.(And get this two major groups of Centenarians, Okinawans and Adventists, eat soy!) Case in point, how can soy be so harmful if, according to several studies including Harvard and National Geographic, 1000’s of people living over 85 (in their own homes, walking, and living life to the fullest) eat soy? Doesn’t add up.

So, you can see it’s a life long process.  NEVER say NEVER unless it is in the scriptures.  After than, each individual much take responsibility for their own choices and we must give them the freedom for those choices.   It is not up to use in the health message to clear up all the grey areas.  It is our responsibility to point them to the source of health, Jesus and teach them how to think for themselves. 

To summarize, here’s my basic rule of thumb in 2 points:

1. Use REAL science. Find the dates for the studies, Were they blind studies, did they sample many people or just a few, who oversaw the research? -- Look for actually studies not people who quote the studies or testimonies or anecdotal evidence or logic and find out WHO sponsored the study. Avoid basing your decisions on wikipedia and most of the blogs and internet sites founded by ‘individuals’. Many are motivated by their own agenda, well intentioned, but biased. That’s not to say they may have good ideas, but you can have 100’s of blogs all repeating one study incorrectly. I’ve seen it so many times. I spend weeks researching a statement I found over and over in many medical blogs that turned out to be false once I got to the source. The source has been mis-quoted and all the other ‘professionals’ just referenced the mis-quote. So just because Google comes back with a couple hundred blogs and websites say soy is bad is NO evidence it is. For sure you should research it, but make sure you are reading REAL documents and not interpretations. Truth NEVER conflicts!!!

AND 2. If MOST Centenarians (not just one or two) – people who live past 100 in active, healthy lifestyles, as a rule eat it regularly, it is likely safe. If a food or health practice meets both these requirements it is beneficial no matter what others may claim.

For part 1 click here.