Saturday, April 25, 2009

Math is hard

I know that many of my posts seem to be about medical studies, or about how grains are just flat out bad for you.

I think it's important that people know that studies lie, and that the information that's out there right now -- the information that mainstream doctors are using to treat people in this country -- is not necessarily accurate.

I think that's an essential part of starting to understand just why the SCD works for people, and why it's one of the healthiest diets around.

So bear with me. *grin*

This article from the Fat Head blog explains what kind of scare tactics researchers like to employ while talking about their latest study results. Have an excerpt:

Multiplication and division can produce big, impressive-sounding percentages that are in fact nearly meaningless. Here’s an example that helped enshrine the “cholesterol kills” theory:

After a major study with the acronym MRFIT was concluded, the researchers announced that people with high cholesterol were over 400% more likely to die of heart disease. Ohmigosh!! Get me into an Ornish program, now! I must reduce my cholesterol!

That’s a big, scary number. Let’s see how they came up with it.

Over the course of the study, 0.3% of the men whose cholesterol was below 170 died from heart disease. Meanwhile, 1.3% of the men whose cholesterol was over 265 died of heart disease. Over 265?! Dead man walking! Buy your casket now and save!

And in fact, since 1.3/0.3 = 4.33, you could say that 1.3 is over 400% higher.

Now flip the numbers and look at the actual difference. In the low cholesterol group, 99.7% did not die from a heart attack. Among the very high cholesterol group, 98.7% did not die from a heart attack. That’s a difference of 1.0%. In other words, if you go up the scale from low cholesterol to very high cholesterol (nearly 100 points higher), the real difference is that an extra 1 in 100 men died of heart disease. Not quite such a scary number, is it?

and one more quote regarding statins...

"In the study cited by Pfizer, men with known risk factors for heart disease took either Lipitor or a placebo. In the placebo group, barely more than 3% had a heart attack. In the Lipitor group, 2% had a heart attack. Use division, and you get that impressive 36% reduction. But the difference, once again, is 1 in 100, or 1%. Boy, that’s worth giving your liver a major smack-down.

And by the way, the difference in the heart-attack rate for women who take statins and women who don’t is: zero. You can multiply that difference, divide it, square it, triangle it, stick it inside a trapezoid, whatever … you still can’t come up with a reason for women to take statins - ever."


Caitlin said...

One of the reasons I read your blog is because you are so knowledgeable. One of my sisters is a vegan, but has developed all sorts of problems with her health. I have suggested that perhaps grains and the tofu she eats have caused some of her issues. She flutters her eyes at me and affirms that her Doctors have agred with her, and I just sit helplessly by watching each new health drama unfold with her.
As for the math...what's the old saying..? statistics don't lie, but liars use statistics. I have fallen for a few "statistics" along the way too in my quest for health, but my doctors know I'm too wily to fall for the statin caper.

The SCD girl said...

Hi Caitlin,

Thanks for leaving a comment. You always brighten my day. :)

Tracee said...

I love it! I really enjoy your site.

The SCD girl said...

Thanks Tracee! I know I haven't updated in a while... I'm trying to get some photos from my camera onto the blog! :)