Tips to Help You Evaluate “New Study” Research

By AltMed1-Peggy  

How often have you read articles that report on the findings of new research “Study shows that…” “New research raises questions about… “According to the authors of a new study…” or “Study finds …” ?

Readers of this blog have seen variations on those phrases many times because one of our goals here at AltMedForYou is to report on new research that involves any aspect of alternative medicine.

Publications like to use the word “study” in headlines because it adds credibility and importance to whatever they’re reporting. But there are many different kinds of studies, and they’re not all equally useful in terms of applying the findings to you and your health concerns.

That doesn’t mean that the studies that are not directly applicable to you are no good or that they should be ignored. It just means that they don’t fit you.

What’s the best? For drug testing, that would be a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized multi-center trial, which many experts have told me (in interviews for other articles) is widely considered to be the “gold standard” of medical research. It is an excellent way to test new medicines. 

Let’s break that down to see what the name means:

* placebo-controlled tells you that some patients in this study were given a placebo, or what some call a “sugar pill” or “dummy drug,” instead of the real drug the study is testing, while others receive the real drug. Ideally the placebo looks so convincing that neither doctors nor patients can tell which is which.

 

* double-blind means that neither the doctors (or other staff involved in the study), nor the patients participating in the study know who is getting the real drug and who is getting the look-alike placebo. (Think of it as putting a blindfold on both the doctors and the patients, with no peeking allowed.)

* randomized means that selecting which part of the study each patient will be assigned to is done on a random basis, without influence from the people running the study, the patients participating in the study, or the doctors and other medical staff involved in treating those study participants. Participating in a randomized study is like going to a potluck supper—you get a meal but nobody can pre-select what will be on your plate.

* multi-center means, as the name suggests, that this study was done at several medical facilities which many be in multiple cities and states. That can be a good way to eliminate any regional factors that might otherwise color the test results.

 

There are many articles online that give concrete tips and how-to information to help you judge whether a study is valid or not. Here are two samples … more to come tomorrow.

 

What makes a research study valid

How to determine the research validity of a research analysis

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