Randomizing our ignorance.

This post has no solid focus or topic. Today’s philosophizing over breakfast concerns a little bit of this and that, starting in a way with the other side of the coin from last my post.

It may be frustrating that the outcomes of experiments and established results in the scientific community are not accurately communicated to the general public. I think that it often relates to the process of ‘translation’, where something may be realized/found/established, but, and maybe particularly within the field of health, be difficult to translate into general advice since it would require long-term change from people. Most people are not very willing to entertain novel ideas, particularly if these pose as a challenge to favorite ways of thinking and acting.

However, there is also frustration that relates to how conclusions are arrived at within the sciences themselves. It is generally considered that randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the most reliable studies, where there are two groups being studied; one which receives some kind of intervention, and one that does not (the control). In the end, all factors except for the preconceived factor of interest is balanced out, so that the effect(s) of that one factor can be quantified. Why do we investigate single causes instead of combinations? Clearly, it becomes more complex and possibly even impossible to arrive at comprehensible/manageable results that can be translated into some form of advice or action. The variation across populations in terms of susceptibility, risk, lifestyles, and demographic data is in a RCT evenly distributed across the two groups (because participants are randomized), so that the influence thereof (being too complex for us to comprehend) can be considered to be controlled, allowing us to fix our little gaze on radically reduced areas of interest. Then, we use the data on that little grain of sand and use it to draw conclusions about the whole beach.

That data is also used by industries with zealous economic motivations. Big pharma is a splendid example, that plays on the tendency of many people to go for gimmicks as opposed to instating relevant lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong, or doesn’t live up to expectations due to.. well, ignorance. An example thereof is this one drug where the active ingredient is called Tamoxifen (discovered by AstraZeneca) which is administered to prevent breast cancer. However, in about every three women that do not develop breast cancer due to this drug, two will instead develop uterine cancer (endometrial). The American Cancer lists this drug as a known carcinogen.

Now, certain breast cancer cells need estrogen to proliferate, and the way that this drug works is that it also binds to the estrogen receptors, but unlike the actual hormone does not activate it [the receptor]. It can be likened to a key and lock, where the metabolites of Tamoxifen are keys that become broken off in the lock. As it happens, it appears that certain compounds in for example soy products do the same thing… And as far as I’m aware of, consumption thereof has not been linked to endometrial cancer.

There’s more to the soy story. The protein present therein has a particular affinity for lowering your LDL cholesterol levels (which probably holds for many other proteins from plant sources). Animal-sourced proteins, on the other hand, have an uncanny ability to do the opposite. I know that I’m pushing for plants ad nauseam, but I suppose I’m waiting for the tipping point where it becomes generally realized and recognized that a healthy diet does not equal a boring and unappealing diet; that health, or the absence thereof, (mostly) is the result of long-term habits and actions; that there is nothing to be gained from animals that we cannot obtain from plants; that the increasing consumption of animal-derived products (world-wide) is one of the main human behaviors that perpetuates the continuation and escalation of global warming; and that a significant reduction in personal consumption of the mentioned products is not a big sacrifice – in fact, it’s not a sacrifice at all.

Ok, that’s all for now. Laterz

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