Q&A– Trusting Health News

Question:  You often say “studies show” when giving an information.  There are so many experts giving so many opionions how do  I know  who to trust?  I hope you are not offended that that I question your sources, but I read  so many things.

Answer: No offense taken! The validity of studies behind skin care and health recommendations is a super important question– and you are not the first to ask it.  Last week I got some  good info  on studies  at a  Beauty of Data event for beauty editors and bloggers hosted by Ortho Dermatologics, the makers of Retin A Micro.  Since I look at the studies for Retin A  as the gold standard for anti-aging research, I felt it would be a reliable source of information. 

Dr Eric Schweiger, a dermatologist associated with Mount Sinai Medical Center   presented three great tools to evaluate any study, not  just those for beauty:

1.  Look at the number of patients in a study.  If its  just 10-20 people, results are interesting but should not be used to change current standard treatments.  For  reliable results  researchers agree that a study should have at least 100 participents to be taken seriously by the medical community.

2.  The study should be published in a peer reviewed journal.  This means that before it is published, the study has been evaluated by  doctors in the same field.  So if its a study on the effect of soy  on sun damage, it needs to be reviewed by  doctors  who have also studied the impact of soy on health.

3.  A peer reviewed journal  has an editorial board and publishes original research.   The articles are all written by doctors ( MD’S or PHd’s)  who are affiliated with a research center or university.  The journal is often associated with a national medical society.  For example the journal Chest is  published by The American College of Chest Physicians.

So what does this look like?  For example I often quote the NHANES nutritional study which compares diets to a wide  range of health issues. For 10 years  it followed 32,000 men and women in the US.  The research was done at  first tier univeristy medical centers throughout the US and the authors of the published papers were all academics.  It has been published in  some of the most prestigious medical journals including The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA.  So when they reported that higher carb  intake was linked to more skin wrinkling, I put down that cookie.

 Health articles in newspapers and consumer magazines usually don’t provide  their sources of info about  articles.  If  you read something that deals  with something that impacts your life, you can often track down the original article online to see if its something that you can trust.  If you need help  finding a source, just send  me a email and I can try to track it down at a medical library online service.  There is so much info   available– both valid and sketchy– and the  challenge is determining which is which.

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