Do Concealed Weapons Keep People Safer?

Today, all 50 U.S. states allow residents to carry concealed weapons in public, and eight states extend this right without requiring a special permit.

Laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons in public places (often called right-to-carry or RTC laws) were passed over the past several decades as gun advocates argued that they would promote safety. The perspective is based on the premise that everyday citizens who carry handguns will be able to fight back against armed criminals. [Read more…]

Are the benefits of grit exaggerated?

relay-race-655353_960_720Over the past decade, researchers have focused on the idea that determination and consistency can lead to success – even more so than traditional factors such as talent or I.Q. [Read more…]

The evidence on salt? The jury is still out

salt-shaker_300To most people across the globe, salt tastes delicious. It’s the reason most people crave foods like potato chips, peanuts and pretzels. There’s also a sizeable dose of salt in most processed foods, such as soups, frozen entrees and store-bought sauces. Salt even turns up in foods you wouldn’t expect, such as Corn Flakes and cookies. [Read more…]

Is science reliable?

research ready graphicHere at EBL, we’re written before about the pitfalls of science reporting in popular media.   Even well-researched, comprehensive scientific reports often draw conclusions that we later learn are inaccurate. [Read more…]

How old is your heart? It matters for your health!

heartIn recent years, public health researchers have developed a novel framework for identifying the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It’s called “heart age.” [Read more…]

Deciphering the evidence on mental health in youth

kid-and-stressWe often hear in media reports about the rise of autism and attention disorders in our society. A few years back, New York magazine ran a feature article titled, “Is Everyone on the Autism Spectrum?”  that described the “cultural epidemic” of identifying with an autism-spectrum disorder such Asberger’s, obsessive-compulsive disorder or attention deficit disorder. But are these maladies really growing at alarming rates? And are our youth at risk? [Read more…]

How to measure childhood obesity

childhood obesityObesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Now a new systematic review has found that even more youth may be classified as obese. [Read more…]

Part 2: Obesity and stress – plus a lesson about reviews

Last week, we summarized a literature review that explained how stress leads to overeating and ultimately contributes to weight gain.

This information didn’t come from a meta analysis, but from a different kind of large-scale study called a literature review. We asked Janis Whitlock, a research scientist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Transnational Research and Director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, to explain the difference. Here’s what she had to say: [Read more…]

An evidence-based birthday

By now, our regular readers know that here at EBL, we value systematic reviews above other forms of evidence. That’s because these reviews collect all of the available evidence on a given topic to provide a summary of what we know and an assessment of the data quality. In short, they’re the best way to find a definitive answer about what does and doesn’t work.

[Read more…]

Medical studies: Evidence you can trust?

Evidence-based Living is built around the idea that scientific study should guide our lives – in decisions we make for our families, in community initiatives, and of course in choosing medical treatments.

A new review this month is the Journal of Oncology raises important questions about the validity of medical studies.  The report reviewed 164 trials of treatments for breast cancer including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery conducted from 1995 to 2011.

It concluded that: most of the studies were clouded by overemphasizing the benefits of the treatment, or minimizing potential side effects.

For example, they reported on 92 trials which had a negative primary endpoint – which essentially means the treatment was not found to be effective for the main goal of the study. In 59 percent of those trials, a secondary end point – another goal – was used to suggest the experimental therapy was actually beneficial.

And only 32 percent of the studies reported severe or life-threatening side effects in the abstract – where medical professionals who are scanning the report might miss them. Studies that reported a positive primary endpoint – meaning the treatment was effective for the problem that researchers were targeting – were less likely to report serious side effects.

What does all of this mean?

Elaine Wethington, a medical sociologist at the College of Human Ecology, says the review reveals some important findings about medical studies.

“I would speculate that the findings are due to at least three processes,” she explained.

“First, trial results should be published even if the primary outcome findings are negative, but it can be difficult to find a journal that will publish negative findings,” she said. “As a result, there is a tendency to focus on other outcomes that are secondary in order to justify the work and effort.

“Second, presentation of findings can be influenced by a variety of conflicts of interest. There is a lot of published evidence – and controversy — that scientific data collection and analysis can be affected by the source of funding, private versus public.

“Third, this could also be explained as a problem in scientific peer review.  Reviewers and editors could insist that this type of bias in reporting be controlled,” Wethington said.

In short, she sees the publication of this review as an important step in improving the scientific review process.

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