Monday, May 12, 2014

Problematic Paradox Sees Paradigm Shift


Nutrition research is notoriously difficult to conduct, in part because it takes decades for chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to manifest. That, and it's nigh unto impossible to get accurate dietary data for those decades to show cause and effect relationships between dietary patterns and health outcomes.

So it should come as no surprise that a group of researchers have found that perhaps red wine, specifically its resveratrol, is not as cardioprotective as once thought. That's not to say that it's not beneficial, it's just that the nature of the research makes it very difficult to say with much if any certainty that there is a genuine benefit to drinking red wine.

In the BBC article reporting the 'bad' news, reporter Michelle Roberts notes that "many studies have sought to explain why there is a low incidence of heart disease in France, despite many of its inhabitants eating a high-fat diet." This is the so-called 'French Paradox.'

Ironically, the paradox may not exist at all, since, as noted in two recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and NPR, fat consumption may not be related to heart disease, as long hypothesized.

The French Paradox, then, may have existed only in the minds of researchers suffering from a fat-phobic paradigm, and this may explain why researchers are struggling to see any benefits to drinking red wine.

Spurious, but Funny, Correlations

I never knew cheese could be so dangerous.

As anyone who's taken a first-year statistics course ought to know, correlation is not causation. That's because, as this website humorously shows, almost any two things can be nearly perfectly correlated and yet have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Who knew statistics could be so funny?

(Hat tip: Nathan Yau, of FlowingData)