Problems with Scientific Research – Part 2


Scientific research bias isn’t a new thing; we, as the consumer are aware that “money talks”, but are we aware at the extent of which this occurs? Last week, I spoke about the valuable lessons I learned during an extensive research assignment this semester; you can read all about this here. Today, I wanted to talk about the application of scientific data and the problems that may arise.

Part two of this assignment was to apply the results of our research paper to the treatment of the client’s case. Given that the research I collected and analysed was slightly skewed by financial bias, I went searching for more. What I found, was that the application of scientific data focused only on one part of the problem, i.e. weight-loss was a result of leptin resistance, not a client’s diet or their mental health; or that PCOS was with because of insulin resistance, not diet, lifestyle and/or external stressors. As such, these individual studies viewed the human body as a piece of well-oiled machinery, where by a kink in our chain, or a malfunction of our machinery, results in illness. The danger of this mentality is that we step into a world where we are constantly searching for the spare part/pill/supplement/kale to fix everything when the machine breaks down, instead of looking at the body holistically. 

Does this approach work? Yes, in some cases it does, but not all.

There is more to the human body than just parts; there is a charge, an energy. Ancient cultures have understood this for centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine calls it Qi (Chi), Ayurvedic Medicine calls it Prana. They work on the principles that when the flow of this energy blocked, things start to go a little pear-shaped; even some Chiropractors function in this realm. This energy flow is the one thing that sets us apart from machinery; it’s the one thing that makes us human. As human beings, we are greater than a “single solution” offered by individual scientific studies, we are complex beings, with a whole lot more going on. 

Think I’m going a little woo-woo? Bear with me…

Bruce Lipton’s latest research into epigenetics delves into the science (oh that word again!) that demonstrates that our thoughts can switch our genes on and off. Yep, we’re heading into a world where it’s considered possible to change your genetic health through your actions (i.e. diet, lifestyle, connection to the environment) but more importantly, your thoughts, feelings and energy. Machines can’t do that; supplements and/or medications can’t do that, only living things can. Do the individual studies take this into consideration? No. Is it essential in understanding how to restore wellness? I believe so. 

Still with me? Let’s focus on something a little more ‘tangible’…

Focusing solely on scientific studies leads us all down the garden path of a ‘one size fits all’ approach, where any aspect of bio-individuality was/is never taken into consideration. This became evident in my research paper where some of the trials claimed a particular dietary approach was “unsuccessful” and therefore should not be used in practice; however after pulling apart the study, 19% of patients actually saw incredible improvements in their health and wellbeing. Unsuccessful? Not entirely. Unfortunately, science works in the realm of percentages and in doing so, eliminates the fact that some people work differently to others. What does this do? It sends us all down the same path, when others need to go left, right or turn around altogether.

But wait, there’s more…

Small sample sizes make it difficult to extrapolate data to a wider population, lack of random double-blind controlled trials creates room for error, lack of mental and physical health evaluation prior to commencement of trials questions reliability of data… the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, there is GREAT science out there that really is changing the way we understand health and wellbeing, but unless we have the time to sift through paper after paper, who really knows what we’re being sold? 

What I wanted these posts to do was encourage us to question our NEED for scientific research. Just because someone shoves a PubMed article (the home of scientific literature) under your nose, doesn’t mean you should accept it as the truth and rest easy; stay sceptical, think about the bigger picture and know that we are more than the sum of parts, we, as living creatures, are greater and more complex than you could ever imagine.

NOTE: My practice is based upon both evidence based medicine and a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. I completely understand the need for evidence based medicine and will continue to practice this way going forward; however I wanted to share my thoughts and concerns regarding the validity of some scientific studies in a bid to inspire us all to think more critically about the information we’re sold.


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Meet Alyse

I’m a qualified Nutritionist who believes an evidence-based approach to modern nutrition is severely under-rated. Patients are so often left in the dark when it comes to health-care and as a firm believer in the old saying “knowledge is power”, my ultimate goal is to provide my readers, students and patients with clear and actionable advice that ultimately helps you reach your full potential.