Take research conclusions with pinch of salt

The researchers have called for further studies, suggesting that pesticide residue in green tea leaves could play a possible role.
The researchers have called for further studies, suggesting that pesticide residue in green tea leaves could play a possible role.PHOTO: ST FILE

In this day and age, one must constantly be sceptical about the conclusions derived from scientific research (Study links green tea with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes; Jan 8).

With enough financial incentives or other ulterior motivations, scientific research can be skewed to prove just about anything.

One also needs to understand that dietary research is notoriously difficult to conduct, with comparable double-blind studies being almost impossible to achieve due to being clouded by ancillary factors.

Given that people in China traditionally drank green tea and had low rates of diabetes, it seems to go against epidemiological and cultural observations to conclude that the consumption of green tea is linked to an increased risk of diabetes. It was only with the adoption of a Western diet rich in sugar, dairy and meat, combined with the Asian staple of rice, that the diabetes rate shot up exponentially among Asians.

Surely this link is more intuitive than the one between diabetes and green tea?

And if dietary research is already so fraught with complications, what more retrospective studies of in-utero nutrition (Why some people are born to have a beer belly; Jan 8)?

Is there really a need to invoke the spectre of in-utero malnutrition just to absolve beer drinkers of the sin of excessive calorie consumption in the form of alcohol?

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2019, with the headline 'Take research conclusions with pinch of salt'. Print Edition | Subscribe