18 March 2016

Enjoyment Matters

Dr Joe Kosterich

Over the weekend I read a research report showing a component in red wine helped stabilize a biomarker in Alzheimer’s disease. Like many of these studies I doubt we will ever hear more about it.

Yet it confirms the pattern often seen that studies, particularly about nutrition are contradictory. No wonder we get confused.

In another study 50 random ingredients in recipes were selected and a search done on studies involving them. In 43 out of 50 there were an equal number of studies showing an increase and decrease in rates of cancer associated with the item in question.

Coffee gets a lot of attention. Recently I saw three studies on the effects of coffee on the medical newswires on the same day. Not surprisingly the findings are contradictory – the headline of “Caffeine both good and bad for menopause” said it all.

The third study claimed that it was a myth that caffeine impaired athletic performance in hot conditions. Funny, I always thought caffeine was a potential performance enhancer.

When being bombarded by the latest research, bear in mind that most of what is claimed to be a breakthrough is not. And it will never be heard of again.

Claims of a certain food or activity being “linked” or “associated” with something are highly suspicious. It is very easy to make statistical linkages. But the fact that two things may happen at the same time does not mean one causes the other.

Correlation does not equal causation.

You might as well correlate menopause symptoms (to return to the example above) with which TV news coverage those women watched. You could get a statistical correlation with little effort.

Not everything we eat or drink has to be seen through the prism of whether it is good for us or not. In the main we need to eat real rather than processed food. But we can also enjoy treats for no reason other than we enjoy them and eating it makes us happy.

So for those who enjoy coffee, simply enjoy your cuppa and pay no attention to the latest research.