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We read a lot of articles and are thrown a lot of statistics and studies that tell us what to believe. We also read a lot of articles and are thrown a lot of statistics and studies that tell us not to believe what these other articles say. So how do we decide what is relevant information?

Gary Taubes makes a good point when he writes in his article, “Ultimately we’re left with a decision about what we’re going to believe: the observations, or the experiments designed to test those observations.” However, flaws can be found in almost all experiments, and observations of correlations are not always causations. But I think that the best way to read is with a holistic approach, never reading an article just in search of whether the claim that they are making is true.

It is better, instead, to read these studies in search of the smaller details that allow you to build on your knowledge of food and how we consume it. Because in the end it is about you, and not about whatever reasons the author has to write their paper.

In Hu’s study, he concludes that, “Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality.” That is a pretty bold conclusion based on the fairly obvious errors pointed out by the two other articles that we read. Does that mean that eating red meat doesn’t kill you? Maybe. But it doesn’t mean we should completely ignore the findings.

The study shows there are correlations between death rates and lack of activity, low cholesterol, BMI, smoking, diabetes, and calorie and alcohol intake. Which is fairly obvious, but still kind of cool to see in a large scale study. It also shows that preventing flaws in an epidemiological study is difficult, and we should be wary of large scale studies with no significant associations. In a similar way, even if all of the science in Forks Over Knives might not be accurate, we can still learn something from the different lifestyles and ways of eating.

I would caution completely disregarding studies and articles  that seem to be flawed and unreliable, because we can still find important information that adds to our knowledge as a whole. I think we can learn from all scholarly articles, even if we don’t agree with the author.

Questions for class:

1. When we read an article that has a convincing counter article published, do you completely disregard the information from the original article?

2. Like the situation in the debates, if we have two studies that prove two opposite claims, how do we decide who is right?

One Response to “How Should We Read Articles?”

  1. laurenspiel says:

    I also agree that just because a study may have some flaws does not mean we should completely disregard what it is telling us. Instead, I think if it is a topic concerning our health we should look into more credible reports to get more information on it. When we read two studies with opposite claims, it is important to take away from each of the studies, instead of disregarding the information from one completely take a more holistic view. I agree with Taubes that we must read with a holistic approach. We may not agree or find flaws with studies but it is important to take information from all studies we’re reading to get the best picture of what is going on. I don’t think necessarily there is a right or wrong to any of these debates, it is more a personal choice of how we want to live our lives and what we want to take from the information we gather.

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