Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Better Watch Out for Those Hot Dogs, says Dr Hu

Does anyone remember the professor/researcher at Harvard Medical School, Dr Frank Hu, who came up with the conclusion that if a person was overweight, exercise did not help them at all?

In 2005, Frank Hu and JoAnn Manson (Harvard) published a study in the JAMA "proving" that an overweight person cannot be physically fit even if they regularly exercise.

This was an epidemiological study (notoriously inaccurate) but it hit the news in a big way. Not surprising since the news thrives on this sort of headline.

Dr Hu and associates have again hit the news with a study which will be published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition".

This study concludes that if you eat red meat at all and especially hot dogs, you have a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes. (the risk factors quoted in the news range from 21% greater risk to 50 percent greater risk).

If we get picky about things, there is a big difference between lean steak and a hot dog but no real proof that either, eaten in moderation will be our demise.

As is with all epidemiological studies, the numbers of the cohort are impressive but we must remember that not enough information was collected specifically for this study. That is, you can prove pretty much anything with an epidemiological study done with an existing cohort - even likely prove that as much as eating a hot dog can raise the risk for diabetes so can that risk be increased by riding a bicycle (assuredly most in the cohort have done both!) :)

But making headlines is what researchers want to do because it assures them of continued funding and the news doesn't want to see what science really comes up with i.e. possibilities that this or that might be true but rather foregone conclusions.

"Scientists", reminds Dr Roy Spencer, PhD and author of "CLIMATE CONFUSION", "are human too", doing what is necessary to obtain funding. Coming up with an attention getting headline is a good way of assuring continued financing for other studies.

The problem is, that some folks perhaps, take studies like this seriously, which isn't a good idea. Rather, it's best to smile and move on and eat our hot dogs and red meat with no worries. Dr Hu's study proves nothing except he likes to get paid, and coming up with a sensational news story is a good way to do that.