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According to the Latest Conflicting Study...

By June 18, 2008

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It seems like everyday there is a new health study that hits the media. "Eat this to live longer." "Don't eat that, it doesn't do anything." "Drink seven cups of coffee." "Eat 1 teaspoon of cinnamon." "Do this. No, wait a minute, don't do that, do this." If everyone lived by the results of all of these studies, they'd be spinning in circles in no time. Does anyone else feel this way?

I don't think it's the fault of the studies as much as the media blaring short bursts of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" at us from everywhere. The actual studies are usually sound and present all the data and percentages of positive and negative outcomes. I can tell you that tracking down the original studies and plowing through the statistics sometimes takes the better part of my day. Many people don't have time to do that and rely on what they hear in the news for information.

By the time the studies reach the media, they've been grossly over-simplified, and reduced to basically an attention-grabbing headline. Busy people who scan the headlines everyday can quickly become overloaded with what looks like well-meaning health advice which if it was followed would have us eating or drinking nothing but that day's new miracle substance.

Does anyone else feel like they're being flooded with way too much conflicting health advice? Does the media over-simplify the results of studies? How do you feel, as a person with a chronic disease, when you read these almost daily headlines about the latest medical "silver bullet"?

Post your comments at the bottom of this blog or email me, your Diabetes Guide at diabetes.guide@about.com.

More from About.com's Patient Empowerment Guide, Trisha Torrey...

Photo courtesy of Damian Russell/Getty Images
June 19, 2008 at 11:39 am
(1) Paul Foreman says:

The amount of conflicting information on diabetes is not only disheartening but dangerous! I blame our brothers at the ADA that, in my book, do almost nothing to vet the study reports and give us sufferers useful information. It seems like eveytime one of these studies comes out the ADA fails to supply the next and most useful piece of information that is how we in the field can actually apply or implement information that may or may not have a meaningful effect on our lives.

I often wonder, if the ADA really wants us to be independent and take responsibility for our disease or they want us to remain simple fawning invalids afraid that we will die tomorrow?

Think about it what info has the ADA actually put out that makes any daily difference in our lives. My feeling is the ADA should have a paid staff in a “war room ” that daily reviews the almost endless stream of study information and then supplies the following info to those of us afflicted:
A. Consider or disregard this study
B. It can or cannot be implemented by the patient with or without medical support
C. It is likely to have the following positive effect_____

Anything else is academic and is of little use to we sufferers. I can tell you this, if Bill Gates was a T2 sufferer, we would already have a device that would monitor and control our glucose!

For me I am sick of it all! My T2 is supposedly controlled with an A1c of 6 via diet and exercise but I have neuropathy, right bundle block, hearing problems and though my doctor(s) disagree probably Kidney problems. In short I, just like every other T2 sufferer, is facing an expedited death and when it happens, my Dr. will stand over me and say to my wife and family, “gee, you can take some comfort in that his T2 was under control”!

June 19, 2008 at 12:40 pm
(2) Vikram Reddy says:

This is a question for the prvious post. Paul how long have had uncontrolled diabetes and controlled diabetes. Do you know why you have nerve damage and the other problems although your A1C is under 6? Do your sugars fluctuate a lot during the day?

I am also a T2 with an A1C under 6. My A1C when i was first diagnosed and for 5 years were over 8! Made a lifestyle change and lost weight and it has been under 6 for the last 5 years. However, I easily slip into a state where my daily sugars fluctuate due to diet. Although I do not have any symptons I am concerned that I should have tighter control of my sugars and keep the daily levels low!

June 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm
(3) PCS says:

I’m a great reader and do find this all rather conflicting, especially when the headlines say more than the study really did. Nevertheless, I’d rather wade through all of the “news” and be discerning than have it censored.

June 19, 2008 at 3:11 pm
(4) Gord Richardson says:

I’m retired and theoretically, ‘have all the time in the world.’ Like PCS, I prefer to get it all unfiltered/uncensored and where conflicting reports or advice emerge, try and track down the originating study or review. I often find my days are consumed by what some friends refer to as my medical obsession and other important functions, especially social ones, get short shrift. I’m bummed out by this but feel guilty when I unsubscribe from a TOC or digest. I’m bewildered but can’t break free. And I just complicated that scenario by subscribing to the Cochrane Library! Am I very stupid or very enlightened? I find it hard to discern when ‘adequate information’ becomes TMI. Another reason to be proactive and keep fit and healthy! Argh!

June 19, 2008 at 5:20 pm
(5) Paul says:

For Vikram;
T2 Since 2003: I have never had uncontrolled Diabetes. I had an A1c of 7 one time at diagnosis. In fact I was testing up to 12-times a day and the Dr. finally told me to stop and test twice a week in the morning (typically 83-89) as my readings were always in acceptable ADA limits. The problem is this, for somebody like me who takes no medication there is little ability to influence an immediate glucose reading. I am in agreement with a recent study that indicated the best possible outcome for a newly T2 diagnosed would probably occur via immediate insulin intervention. The dirty little secret about T2 that the ADA and the medical community that treats this disease rarely mentions is that if one of the complications does not kill you then you will eventually be on insulin anyway! Why wait until your organs have been compromised one at a time? Now try and convince your primary care physician, Endocrinologist or the ADA that this the way to proceed. My Dr simply shakes his head. The ADA’s standard answer to everything is more study needs to be done! When was the last time any of us actually heard good news from any source about treatments or progress on this disease that can actually be translated into useful action by us unfortunates?

June 20, 2008 at 10:33 am
(6) Pat Cater says:

The Cinnamon sold in the US is actually Cassia. There is a chemical called Coumarin in Cassia that could be toxic.

Please click the link under my name to read more on coumarin

June 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm
(7) Steve Parker, M.D. says:

One of my pet peeves is “lack of perspective” regarding these new study results. The following is hypothetical:

“A recent study found that ingestion of one teaspoon cinnamon daily reduces the incidence of somnambulism by 50%.”

Not mentioned is that somnambulism occurs in just two out of every 500,000 people. [I just invented this number.] A reduction of 50% means only 1 person would somnabulate, not two.

So prevention of one case of somnambulism requires 499,000 people to take one teaspoon cinnamon daily without any benefit to them. Most would say it is not worth it.

This is an example of “relative risk reduction” versus “number needed to treat.” Many drugs are FDA-approved based on relative risk reduction without regard to “number needed to treat.”

-Steve Parker, M.D.

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