Evaluating Medical Research Results
What Makes a Study Legitimate or Valid?
There are several components of a scientific study that should be looked at if you are thinking of changing your lifestyle based on a medical research study. Many studies are done on humans, but many are also done on animals, like rodents.
If you hear or read news about about new medical research on some food, a new medication or a new medical treatment, do you take it at face value? Will you quit eating a particular food or try a new over-the-counter medicine that is new?
It could be important to your health for you to find out just how carefully the study has been conducted. Unfortunately, some studies have too few participants or it may have been conducted in a very short time period.
National Institute of Health Findings
According to the NIH, “There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, important. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias."
Components of Good Medical Research:
- Was the research done on people or animals?
- What was the sample size?
- Was the study peer reviewed?
- Did they look at race, age, ethnicity, and medical history?
- Did researchers get enough patient information?
- How was the research funded?
- Be aware of any biases of researchers.
Company funded research can be a conflict of interest. As a simple example, if a candy company states their candy is healthy due to a scientific study they funded, there could be a conflict of interest. Additionally, science actually means measurement. If measurements are incorrect, then obviously the data obtained is invalid.
Validity and Reliability
Any type of study, whether medical or on any other topic, requires validity and reliability. “Validity is defined as the extent to which a concept is accurately measured in a quantitative study.” In a quantitative study validity or reliability is essential. As an example, if a researcher’s goal is to study depression, but they include patients with anxiety issues then the research is invalid.
In layman’s terms a study is valid if it studies what it was designed to study. Reliability means “whether an assessment instrument gives the same results each time it is used in the same setting with the same type of subjects.” Credible assessment instruments must be used, so thorough validity and reliability provide unmistakable results.
Assessment tools include:
- Clinical simulation observer ratings
- Needs assessment
- Resident feedback survey
- Course evaluation
- Written tests
- Teacher evaluation
JAMA Study for Coffee Consumption
A brand new ten year study by JAMA in the United Kingdom found that drinking between 2 and 8 cups of coffee daily will help you live longer. Through the years we have been told “Do not drink coffee”, Drink decaffeinated coffee”, and “No, drink caffeinated coffee.”
Erikka Loftfield from the National Cancer Institute stated that individuals who drank 2-3 cups of coffee daily had a 12% lower risk of dying. This study included people from age 38 to 73, which showed coffee might be linked to better health. The study included 9.2 million people and did include specific demographics, such as lifestyle and genetic data. The number of people who were coffee drinkers in this study was 78%. At least this study seems meet all the criteria to be considered valid.
Do You drink Coffee?
Are you a coffee drinker?
We have heard that the Mediterranean diet will increase your longevity and decrease your risk of strokes.
Many studies have questionable data as their research may not use enough participants, or there the study may not have lasted long enough. It has been very confusing through the years to make a healthy chose.
In 2000, 5000 girls from 14 to 21 were studied to assess weight gain as it relates to internet time, sleep hours, coffee intake and alcohol. The results stated that older girls should sleep more with less internet time, plus no alcohol is recommended. While this may be a valid study,
I think this is kind of a no brainer! I wonder what this study costs?
As for coffee drinking, most recent studies do conclude that caffeinated coffee is probably healthy. Other interesting studies have been completed on the benefits of dark chocolate.
We have also heard of several studies being funded by the government, and sometimes they seem like a waste of taxpayer money. However, the wonderful new medical technology and medicine that has rapidly grown over the past several years has saved numerous lives.
© 2018 Pamela Oglesby