Part 1D: Human Studies

human studiesThis blog series began as a discussion about the potentially harmful effects of high doses of antioxidants, synthetic antioxidants in particular, and because most scientific studies and supplement ads promote the benefits of antioxidants to human health, I thought it would be beneficial to investigate the various types of scientific studies and explore how to discern the veracity of claims made by these studies. This has been a rather long discussion, one that is not as interesting as some other topics that we could be cover, but it is in fact very pertinent! Because in order to determine the benefits or risks of any product we put into our bodies, we must first understand how conclusions are reached through scientific studies as well as some of the games that are played with statistics!

There are at least a dozen types of Human Studies, but we will only cover two main types in this blog: Observational Studies and Clinical/ Experimental/ Treatment Studies (3 names for the same thing). In this installment of “The Devil’s Advocate on Antioxidants,” we will only have enough time to discuss the first type:

1) Observational Studies-- are divided into two main sub-types of studies that both follow a group of people over time:

So, as you can see, these types of studies have their advantages, but there are equal disadvantages as well. In fact, no study is without its disadvantages! Next time, we will discuss the final type of Human Studies: Clinical Trials-- and this is where it will get interesting because we will analyze the question that precipitated this blog series: “Are antioxidants bad for your health?” Stay tuned for the final verdict!  Meanwhile, check out this article for more information about How to Make Sense of Clinical Research, including a Glossary of Terms that is helpful to refer to when learning how to analyze studies.

L'chaim-- To Life!


1      In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan