As caregivers, we are always interested in reading the latest and greatest study on whatever condition our loved one is afflicted with. For me, I read a lot about Alzheimer’s and other dementia forms, as well as colon cancer, because those are the two conditions that claimed my parents’ lives.
Since I also work as a journalist, I know all too well how the latest studies become alarming headline fodder to generate page views. Recently, I wrote how a new study was completely misrepresented by certain media outlets, which ran with the headline, “Is Alzheimer’s contagious?” or some variation of that theme.
The scare study of the week is about processed meats and increased cancer risk. “Bacon is as bad for you as cigarettes” was a typical headline I saw today. But a deeper dive finds that the World Health Organization doesn’t actually rank what they determine to be carcinogens, so while cigarettes, processed meats, and asbestos may all be defined as known carcinogens, the risk of disease and death likely varies.
WHO does track death statistics and those would indicate that smoking still claims more lives than those eating hot dogs. So is eating hot dogs probably bad for you? Yes, if you indulge on a daily or regular basis. And while yet another recent study indicates that food can be addictive (pizza being the most addictive), cigarette smokers are likely to smoke many more cigarettes than people will eat slices of pizza or scarf down hot dogs on a daily basis. The more you are exposed to a carcinogen, the higher your risk of cancer, studies would suggest.
Another interesting twist on parsing these studies comes from the New York Times, which analyzes a study about how honey is no better for health than sugar. Despite the tantalizing headlines, the study group was alarmingly small and the study was very short-lived, making the results less reliable.
My mom disliked processed meats and red meat. She ate little meat, and was mainly a vegetarian. She didn’t smoke. Yet she ended up with colon cancer, which is the main cancer associated with these processed meat studies. So diet is no doubt important, but it isn’t everything. Sometimes, disease strikes at random.
You don’t have to be a health nut to know that bacon and hot dogs are not the healthiest nutrition choices. Enjoy in moderation, and instead of reading and worrying over the latest health study, get out and exercise or enjoy your favorite hobby.
2 responses to “Medical studies are important, but results may be deceiving”
You know, Joy, I heard about this on the news and thought … why don’t we just stop eating altogether? I mean, everything is bad for you. Even fruit that isn’t grown organically, and how does one know for sure unless they grow it themselves? Coffee was bad for you, then it wasn’t, then it was, then it wasn’t. Where did we leave off on that one? What about eggs and all that cholesterol? Now they aren’t as bad as they thought? The latest (aside from processed meats) is gluten and GMO’s.
My family history is also colon cancer as well as coronary artery disease. My mom has had two different kinds of cancer she has beaten (bladder & breast), and is always going in for re-tests. The doctors told her the bladder cancer was a direct cause of her smoking, which has also left her with COPD and emphysema.
I have a completely radical perspective on this entire subject. I rarely speak it, because people will think I’m nuts. But, here it is … if it is ingrained into us that something is bad for our bodies and our minds believe it is, then it will damage our bodies. Like a placebo effect, if we believe something is good for us, then it won’t damage our bodies. Sure, there are some obvious known harmful products, like cigarettes and drugs. As far as food goes, gluttony and indulgence is what’s unhealthy, not food.
I have never known anyone who died of old age. People die of something that their body can no longer fight off because it’s aged.
Sorry for the long soapbox. This topic hit a nerve. 😉 In case you couldn’t tell.
Great perspective! I totally agree that we can end up worrying ourselves to death, instead of enjoying life’s pleasures in moderation.