[NAFEX] Fw: mychorizal fungal rip off?

Road's End Farm organic87 at frontiernet.net
Sat Mar 28 11:52:43 EDT 2009


On Mar 28, 2009, at 10:05 AM, William C. Garthright wrote:

> And yes, there's a big problem with negative results not
> getting the publicity of positive results. But none of that is any big
> surprise, is it? What else would you expect? And if multiple 
> independent
> researchers confirm the results, what difference does it make who 
> funded
> the original study?

Suppose 100 independent studies are done.

Suppose 10 of them show a benefit. Suppose 10 of them show harm. 
Suppose 80 of them show a wash (no overall benefits or harm), or 
results too confusing to get anything from.

If all 100 are published and equally accessible, then any reasonable 
person can tell that not enough is known about the subject to come to 
any conclusions yet (and can probably also tell that either at least 
some of the studies were poorly set up; and/or else not enough is yet 
known about the subject to design the studies properly).

However, suppose only the studies that show a benefit actually get 
published? Then you have what looks like a clear conclusion that there 
is a benefit. Look, it was replicated 10 times!

If you're trying to produce cold fusion, things may be clearer. 
However, in the area of human nutrition, there are huge numbers of 
variables, many of them almost impossible to control for. Different 
people digest things differently. Different people have different 
genetics, different activity levels, different exposure to other 
environmental factors, different other items in their diets. The item 
being tested is also highly variable: different strains of blueberries, 
blueberries grown under different conditions (climate, particular 
weather, farming techniques), blueberries harvested at different 
degrees of ripeness, different weather, even possibly at different 
times of day; blueberries treated differently after harvest according 
to huge numbers of other possible variables -- all of these factors can 
affect the balance of the nutritional compounds in the specific 
blueberries used in the study.

This means that even skilled and non-biased scientists, with unlimited 
money and the best will in the world, are likely to get different 
results from different studies. As humans can't be treated like lab 
rats, portions of this problem are very hard to control for. As our 
knowledge of how different nutritional aspects interact with each other 
is, to put it mildly, incomplete, other aspects of the problem are also 
very hard to control for.

All of this doesn't mean that we can't find anything out. But it does 
mean that it's going to take considerable time to actually get good 
evidence from which we really understand the results. This problem, 
which is inherent to the situation, is made worse by the facts that a) 
some (not all!) of the people doing studies are biased and/or 
incompetent  b) some (not all!) of the people choosing what to publish 
are biased and/or incompetent c) there is a built in bias against 
spending money and time to publish studies that are inconclusive, even 
though the percentage of studies that are inconclusive is crucial 
information in itself d) most news outlets reporting on studies either 
understand none of this or don't care; their bias is having something 
to publish that looks interesting. "Nutritional science doesn't 
understand this yet, more work needs to be done" doesn't make much of a 
headline.

--Rivka
Finger Lakes NY; zone 5 mostly
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