Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Path To Medical Knowledge

As long as one has a body, one should pursue to be informed, educated and entertained about one's personal body-life.

One author of a book claiming to tell people how they should not eat in discussing her book and stated that she thought carrots are the most dangerous food a person can eat !
Most of us think carrots are safe and healthy and do not feel in great danger when eating them.

Critical Questions:
How did this author know that carrots are the most dangerous food that we can eat?
Was there evidence to support her claim?
Had she collected data on the health status and life expectancy of carrot eaters compared to people who don't eat carrots?
The answer is no!

She had a theory about carbohydrates and proteins and fats that allowed her to deduce the great danger of eating carrots. She had not done a double-blind prospective randomized controlled study comparing people who eat carrots with those who do not, which would be the way to prove her belief.

Authors of health-related books ask people to buy their books and live by their guidelines after assembling a hodgepodge of theory, data, and opinion. In all fairness to the 'carrot is danger lady author', it would be very difficult to study every point and to collect data on every possibility.

This blogger here do not claim to have scientific proof of every point contained here. In this post, I want to explain to the reader how people arrive at medical knowledge, the uncertainties of that knowledge, and the lack of predictability in medicine.

The scientific method can be used to answer questions that confront both patients and their physicians. The scientific method can be simply stated in two words : test assumptions.

Hypotheses are generated from observations and experience. These hypotheses are tested in experiments. The results are then used to modify or reformulate one's assumptions.

Physicians now strive to practice evidence-based medicine. Research is constantly modifying our assumptions about various procedures and therapies embraced by physicians.

There are serious limitations to evidence-based medicine. There will never be a research database large enough to give a rational answer to the multiple situations encountered in matters of health and disease. the evidence-based medicine database will always lag behind new approaches, new discoveries, and new therapies.
Further, medical data is always given in percentages so that in their decision making, physicians must play the odds.

Case reports and then case series are at the bottom of the ladder of medical knowledge. A retrospective study that enrolls patients after the fact is only a little better. A prospective study is one that enrolls patients before the outcome is known; it has more validity. The highest level of validity is a double-blinded case-controlled randomized study, but very FEW questions and recommendations achieve that level of proof.

Perhaps the greatest intellestual debate of the 20th Century was between the atomic physicist and Nobel laureat Niels Bohr and the founder of relativity and Nobel laureate Albert Einstern.

Einstein succinctly expressed his side of the debate with his famous proclamation that God does not throw dice. Bohr argued that nature is innately probabilistic, that God does throw dice.

Einstein proved that quantum physics leads to absurdities, but lost the debate anyway when experiments demonstrated that the absurdities predicted by quantum mechanics do happen. If Einstein has studied medicine, he would have had to face the role of chance in nature every day.

How about you, respected Healhty Wealth regular visitors and first time visitor have to comment or contribute to better health and wealth for all of us here?

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