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More On Cholesterophobia

A few weeks ago I said that we don't do enough science when it comes to heart disease, and may confuse correlation with causation. Here's another interesting bit of data that reinforces the notion that cholesterol levels don't necessarily cause heart disease.


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Jeff Mauldin wrote:

On the other hand, I've read (in the South Beach Diet book, I think) that many heart doctors get themselves cholesterol reducing medicine, sometimes even if they don't have high cholesterol to begin with. This information, according to the book, was coming from the heart doctor who was writing (or being ghost written). That makes it appear at least that cardiologists are pretty convinced as a group.

Jeff Mauldin wrote:

Hmmm... I think the drug the cardiologists are using are statins, and apparently these might reduce heart attack risk. There's no direct proof that, although they lower cholesterol, they actually reduce heart attack risk by lowering cholesterol. It might be due to something else.

Rand Simberg wrote:

That's not really another "hand." The fact that a group of doctors have convinced themselves of something doesn't render it scientifically valid.

Jeff Mauldin wrote:

Very true--tellingly true, in fact.

Since none of us have time to become an expert on everything, we often rely on people who are taking the time to become experts on something to advise us. Sometimes this turns out to be a very bad idea.

It seems that a lot of really interesting stuff comes from where the experts are wrong. It's often not trivial to puzzle out where the experts might be wrong, unfortunately. Is fusion "hard?" Is the polywell fusion reactor going to work? That's not where most fusion experts are working right now, but I sure hope it pans out. How about plate tectonics--not on the radar of the geologist experts at one time, right? That gravitational anamoly you mentioned recently presents some interesting places where current experts might be wrong. How about some weirder stuff. "Cold fusion--" a lot of people still think there's something there, don't they? Are they all just quacks? How about the claims that Aids isn't really something caused by the virus we associate with aids?

It sure would be handy to have a perfect filter that would separate "weird but true" from "just stupid."

In this case (cholesterol), you've taken the time to track down the claims and the studies and see that there is actually no proved causal relationship between cholesterol and circulatory problems. Most people most of the time are just relying on the experts--who ought to be the ones trying to establish or disprove said causal relationship. And, in fact, everyone only has finite time to use and many people don't have the right kind of interest or skills to even ask the right questions.

I think I had a point somewhere, but I seem to have lost it...

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 5, 2008 10:32 AM.

With Friends Like This... was the previous entry in this blog.

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