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June 20, 2005

Separating the Cream from Medical Hype

Catch the latest Milk vs. PMS advertising campaign? Where boyfriends and husbands sheepishly scour the land to gather up as much milk as they can, at any cost, to stock up on the miracle nectar which promises to rescue them from their pre-menstrual domiciles.  Or, the new 24/24 milk campaign which encourages 24 oz. of milk a day to keep the fat away - from around your middle.

Although the science seems to be more about calcium, they're both very effective pitches for milk. There's an abundance of information that tells us calcium is necessary in our diets, for a variety of reasons, but is there really sound scientific methodology applied to this newest finding about milk, PMS and belly fat - or is it just another very clever advertising campaign?  In this case there may very well be, but generally how do we know?

Luckily, in the next month or so, there will be a healthy lifestyle website, the patientINFO project that will offer consumers a place to go where they can read the most up-to-date and important research available about the diagnosis and treatment of major diseases, cancer, heart disease and diabetes with more diseases and health related organizations to eventually join. Participating groups are the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.

PatientINFO will offer medical journal articles and provide explanations in layman's terms to show what studies mean, how they compare with what's already known - allowing patients to make more educated decisions when it comes to their own medical treatment.

You can find a comprehensive account of the website, the medical groups involved and how they will communicate their findings in an article written by Laura Landro of the Wallstreet Journal.

In the meantime, here are some key things to look for in any medical study:

  • Was it a randomized controlled trial? One group receives the new therapy, a control group receives standard treatment or placebo, and subjects are randomly assigned.
  • Is the study double blinded? Neither patients nor researcher know who is in which group.
  • Was there a large sample size?
  • Were subjects followed for a long time?

Posted by Cindy on June 20, 2005 | Permalink



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