Most people don’t want to waste their hard-earned money and time, hoping a treatment will work, only to discover it hasn’t.
But this happens all the time.
How to avoid this?
In this article you will know how to tell the difference between science and hype.
When choosing a business or a product to help you with a problem, you want to know it works, right? You want to know that it works and that you trust what you are taking is safe and won’t do you any harm.
So how do you know if the product you are choosing works?
- You may have had it referred to you by a friend or seen a testimonial.
- You may have seen some advertising promoting its benefits.
- Does it fit for your specific needs, or is it for a general purpose?
- Is it backed by science?
Pitfalls of a friend’s referral, testimonial or forum.
Knowing someone has had a product work for them is encouraging. There is an incentive to try it for yourself, especially if you have the same problem.
People, like medical problems, can be complex and do not have a “one size fits all” solution.
People with a solved medical problem have the benefit of their personal experience. If 1000 people say this product has helped them, that is great. It doesn’t mean that it will help you, only that it could if your diagnosis is correct.
There is a big difference between a doctor and a patient making a judgment on a medical solution.
Doctors see thousands of patients. Many patients may have the same diagnosis, but different reasons for the problem. An individual may only be aware of their own circumstances but apply that to everyone else. Differential diagnosis is the process of differentiating between two or more conditions which share similar signs or symptoms. This is what medical professionals do, but patients cannot, due to lack of expertise.
Forums are a great place to hear stories from other people. They are also the worst place to get medical advice. Doctors may know 50 shades of a medical problem, and how to treat them, an individual may only know the one they experienced.
What works for one person may not for another. This is where science is useful.
You may have seen a product recommended by a friend also written up in a magazine or publicised in the media. You may see people promoting the health-giving benefits of a product. You may also look at these people quoting the science behind it.
Most people will believe a product if it has science behind it.
- Do you know if the reports of science back up the marketed benefits?
- Do you read the referenced scientific publication?
- Have you clicked on the link to read the research paper?
- How do you know if the research done is good quality?
- Do you know how to interpret the data and understand the conclusions?
How to understand scientific papers.
Things to look for…
- Is the product only tested on mice?
- Has science tested the product on people?
This is very important. You are a person, not a mouse.
Many medical models show that testing on lab mice can have real-world outcomes for people. The real test of this is that there is research testing the results on people. This is real-world proof, not lab-world proof.
If the product has been tested on people: how many is a good number?
This is where the ‘power’ of a study comes in. Testing a product on 20 people divided into two groups is an ‘underpowered’ study. This means that there are not enough people tested to determine the difference in results. If a study examines 200 people, it is likely to be well powered and the results more accurate.
Scientists starts with an idea and then research tests how wrong the idea is. This is called the ‘null hypothesis.’ Instead of proving they are right, they try to prove that they are wrong. How wrong they are is reflected in the p-value.
When you see a p-value > 0.05, this means the probability of it being wrong is less than a 5 in 100. If you see a p-value > 0.005, it means there is 5 in 1000 chance of being wrong.
Statisticians love P-Values. Reality does not.
There is great value in statistics, but once again the real world comes crashing in. Studies that quote a p-value of 0.05 are more likely to be 23 – 50% wrong. A study with a p-value of 0.01 falls between 7 – 15% wrong.
You need a high powered study with one thousand participants to get an accurate p-value. Few studies involve these many participants.
The easy way to understand what scientists say about their research.
Read the abstract at the start of a research paper. This is a great way to get an idea of what the study is about and what they found. Often it is so condensed that it makes very little sense to the uninitiated. Reading the conclusions can make much more sense. It is best to read as much of the introduction as you can handle, and then jump to the conclusion section. These areas contain why they are doing the study and wrap up the findings.
If the conclusions in the studies match the advertised benefit – you are on a winner. When conclusions say it works for mice, but there were no differences for people – that should ring alarm bells.
If a study says “there was no significant difference between the people who took it and people who did not” you are wasting your time taking it. It does not mean you have a 50/50 chance of it working.
Studies that show positive outcomes in people taking a product should be paid considerable attention. Products that have only been tested on mice and then sold straight to people should be regarded with caution.
You may end up a victim of smart marketing, not good science, and be wasting your money.
When you come across a product designed to solve a problem – check the research behind the opinion. Make sure the advice is referenced and accessible. Read the abstract, introduction and conclusion.
You will be able to make sense of it.
If you can’t find the study go to www.googlescholar.com and put in the title of the article. If you see something like “PQQ the new super anti-aging secret for your eggs! Improve egg quality” then www.googlescholar.com “PQQ egg quality” or “PQQ fertility” and see what comes up. In this example, when you read the website, it looks like there is an excellent product on the market. When you read the scientific publication, you realize the promoter’s conclusions are way off target.
Make sure the science says it works on people, not just mice.