Understanding Scientific Research

The internet has made it possible for anyone to look for scientific studies online. YOU, yes you, could learn more than your doctor knows about some specific condition you have thanks to the internet.

I’ve spent countless hours on research websites reading through scientific studies. Sometimes studies contain results that your allopathic main stream family physician is unaware of.

I am sure you noticed news stories about health that contradict each other. Conflicting medical reports can make even the most educated consumer confused about what to believe and what to do.

Many people are interested in managing their own health or researching conditions and confirming what their health practitioner recommended. Nowadays,  consumers can get health information from thousands of health-related books, videos, CD-ROMs, magazines, newspapers, television, other people, and off the Internet. However, with so much information, it could be difficult to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information, information and misinformation.

I am amazed how main stream MDs seem to be lagging behind today’s research. To make matters more challenging, news health reports on television, newspapers and magazines, despite seeming credible cannot be taken on face value.

Next time you hear or read about medical research, you should find the research and read it to interpret it. Many epidemiological  studies can be subject to misinterpretation  of biased interpretation.

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This article offers some info to help you get started reading studies and understanding them.

Peer Reviewed?
Some medical journals use the peer-review process to evaluate the importance and quality of original research manuscripts. Journal editors select the peer reviewers, who are considered experts in a certain area of medicine. Peer-reviewed research articles are considered highly credible medical research because they have undergone scrutiny by experts who are knowledgeable in the topic.

Types of Studies:
• Laboratory Experiments – studies of animals, living tissue, cells, and disease-causing agents
• Epidemiologic Studies – search for risk factors, or predictors, of diseases
• Controlled Clinical Trials – studies that compare an experimental group with a control group

Study Design:
There are several types of study design. Knowing how the study was conducted helps investigators, editors,
and journalists to determine how strong the research is and how reliable the results are.
• Randomized Controlled Trial – testing a drug or some other treatment by comparing at least 2 groups:
an experimental group that is being tested and a control group that is observed for comparison; often the
studies are double-blind, so that the researchers and the participants do not know the treatment
assignments; considered the best type of scientific research to determine effective treatments
• Crossover Trial – participants receive 2 or more treatments 1 after the other and act as their own
controls for comparison of drug treatments
• Cohort Study – follows a group of people over time to determine who develops a disease or other
outcome; can be prospective (the outcome studied has not occurred yet) or retrospective (information is
collected after the outcome has occurred)
• Case-Control Study – retrospective study in which participants with a disease (cases) are compared with
those who do not have the disease (controls) to study risk factors for the disease
• Cross-Sectional Study – studying a group of people at a given point or period in time; can be used to
determine if variables are associated with each other but cannot be used to determine cause
• Case Series – describes the characteristics of a group of patients with a particular medical condition or
patients who have undergone a particular medical procedure
• Meta-Analysis – systematic review of studies that pools the results of 2 or more studies to obtain the
answer to an overall question of interest
• Cost-Effectiveness Analysis – compares the benefits of a treatment with monetary costs

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