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Monday, September 7, 2015

How to Know Whether to Believe a Health Study

By Austin Frakt
The New York Times - The Upshot
Originally posted on August 17, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for careful examination of studies by experts. Yet, if you’re not an expert, you can do a few simple things to become a more savvy consumer of research. First, if the study examined the effects of a therapy only on animals or in a test tube, we have very limited insight into how it will actually work in humans. You should take any claims about effects on people with more than a grain of salt. Next, for studies involving humans, ask yourself: What method did the researchers use? How similar am I to the people it examined?

Sure, there are many other important questions to ask about a study — for instance, did it examine harms as well as benefits? But just assessing the basis for what researchers call “causal claims” — X leads to or causes Y — and how similar you are to study subjects will go a long way toward unlocking its credibility and relevance to you.

The entire article is here.
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