Thursday, September 16, 2004

It's the Fitness, Stupid

It's the Fitness, Stupid

By Sandy Szwarc, RN, BSN, CCP
Published 09/16/2004

Consumers were left more confused than ever when the media reported on two obesity-related studies from the Journal of the American Medical Association last week. One seemed to find it was more important to be fit than thin for your heart health; the other that it was more important to be thin than fit to prevent diabetes. As Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle wrote, the two studies disagreed and settled "nothing" in the debate over what matters most to a person's health: his overall fitness or his weight.

But in fact, the controversy has already been repeatedly answered in the scientific literature. The trouble is, it's not what a lot of people want to hear...and others without science backgrounds don't realize.

These side-by-side JAMA studies provided an invaluable opportunity for the media to help consumers sort through medical information and come away with a very important message: not all studies are created equal.

Most anything can be and is called a "study" nowadays and many aren't actual clinical studies or even examining real people. That surprises many consumers. Medical news is all too often taken at face value. But before believing headlines or making any changes or decisions about one's health, it's important to know that some studies are sounder and have more validity than others. So those "should have more influence," said Dr. Peter Jones, an associate professor of medicine at Baylor. A study also needs to be considered in light of the entire body of scientific evidence.

When we look at these two JAMA studies, their differences quickly become apparent.


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