Watch out

Great recent article for the new year on the online site, Medscape, from its editor, Eric Topol.

He listed 15 of his favourite scientific articles from 2018, studies that, he says. were meant to “challenge the dogma” of established medical theory and practice.

And among them were the following.

From the journal, Cell, a study that concluded that probiotics given with antibiotics may actually slow the healing of the gut rather than speed healing.

From the Lancet, a study that concluded that on average, populations that consume whole-fat dairy products are actually likely to live longer and have less cardiovascular problems than people who avoid whole-fat dairy.

Again from the Lancet, most of us can probably take in a lot more salt than the experts claim without raising our risk of stroke.

From the venerable New England Journal of Medicine, a study showing that use of low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes – as millions of people are doing – “resulted in a significantly higher risk of major hemorrhage and no significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease than placebo”.

And finally, from The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology , taking vitamin D supplements – as millions of people are also doing – does not “prevent fractures” or have any “meaningful effects on bone mineral density.”

So much of what we do in this business – most often because some preliminary studies suggest there may be a small benefit from doing that so millions of people rush to do it before all the evidence is in, or just because that’s what we’ve always done so there must be a benefit to it, right? – is speculative, and way too many people are either not helped, or worse, harmed before we realize the real consequences of these actions.

Watch out. Always.