Political correctness destroys medical research

I have just finished reading a just-out report of a generally very careful body of medical research that stretched over a 12 year period. (Assessment of Risk Factors and Biomarkers Associated With Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Women Consuming a Mediterranean Diet by Ahmad et al.). The work that went into it must have been immense.  Yet it is in the end no evidence for or against anything.

The auguries surrounding it were bad from the start.  It was a "Mediterranean diet" study and the Mediterranean diet myth was visibly wrong from the outset.  Countries like Australia have longer lived populations than any Mediterranean country despite having nothing like a Mediterranean diet.  A normal Australian diet, for instance, includes lots of fried steak, sausages, chops, sausage rolls, fries and burgers.  It's about as UN-Mediterranean as you can imagine. If national diets were a guide to health (a silly proposition in the first place), everybody should be eating lots of fried steak and sausages along with a generous helping of fries. But, still, the Mediterranean myth lives on. 

Anyway, this latest study of a large number of Americans who ate a more or less Mediterranean diet did report some benefit from that diet.  As soon as I saw that, I said to myself "Aha!  What's going on here?".  That was only a rhetorical question, however as I knew what I would find:  A TOTAL lack of demographic controls. I had to read right through the article twice to assure myself of that but it was so.

Yet probably the most consistent finding in medical research is that the poor have worse health.  And it's not much of a guess to say that poor Americans are the least likely to comply with a Mediterranean diet regime.  So what the research most probably showed was in fact the oldest finding in the book: That the poor have worse health.  There was no need to invoke diet at all to get the results reported.

So why was the research design so crashingly stupid and ignorant?   Political correctness.  Under the Leftist dogma that all men are equal, all talk of social class is deadly dangerous and probably "racist".  You could end your career by discussing it too frankly. So best not to mention it at all.  And medical researchers do regularly skip over it.  They do not even attempt to gather data on the income of the people they study. I gathered income data in my survey research career so it can be done.

So the majority of epidemiological research might as well not have been done.  By failing to apply basic demographic controls the authors rendered their conclusions moot.  We do not know whether their conclusions were right or not -- though a suspicion that most of the findings were simple class effects and not the effect of anything dietary or medical would usually be the safest conclusion.  All that work for nothing!

And I am not overgeneralizing from one study.  For 9 years I ran a blog that looked daily at the latest epidemiological research reports -- and, with very few exceptions, income was not controlled for.

1 comment:

  1. On one hand a study is presented as how things are, yet lacks the courage to be honest due to what is hard to digest for some. You on the other hand cling to bias and preference in order to block out actuality and the real world. Disagree? Well, you are biased but fortunately objective observation comes to the rescue.

    The matter of disgusting meat is simple and a less than pleasant example is bacon. Everybody knows that bacon is to the taste buds what the average IQ of sub-Saharan African immigrants are to the long term prosperity of the West. Yes, it is a conflicting and manipulative example, but at least the words shithole countries come to mind.

    Conclusion: maybe not all, but at least a part of everybody + knows = case closed. Mediterranean DIEt is good for you.


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