Surprising New Diabetes Data

Posted on February 8, 2008  Comments (5)

Surprising New Diabetes Data

But these measures are only surrogates for disease. And in many cases, the connection between “better” numbers and better health is tenuous. In the case of cholesterol, many people won’t see a health benefit from lower numbers.

Now comes yet another sobering reminder that lowering a surrogate marker doesn’t necessarily bring better health. On Feb. 6, the National Institutes of Health announced it was halting a key trial for diabetes. Researchers had hoped the trial, dubbed ACCORD (Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes), would show that more aggressive lowering of blood sugar would significantly reduce deaths. Instead, the opposite happened. More people in the intensive treatment group died than in the group getting standard care. “A thorough review of the data shows that the medical treatment strategy of intensively reducing blood sugar below current clinical guidelines causes harm in these…patients,” says Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute.

Scientific study often results in less than clear conclusions, especially in complex systems. There is great difficulty understanding what is actually going on, what interactions are present, what factors are significant, etc.. One of the great problems with the low level of scientific literacy in the USA is so many people think science is about simple absolute truth.

Scientific inquiry, especially related to health care, must attempt to gain insights from confusing signals. To gain scientific literacy one must understand basics concepts, like data is a proxy for what you aim to understand. To understand yourself you need to accept that science is not math. For a long time we are going to have to do our best to build up our understanding of human health (and other complex systems) as best we can. We need to be able to sort out what are solid conclusion, what are guesses, what seem like reasonable explanation and what level of confidence we can have in statements.

It is not enough to learn facts we need to be able to think scientifically and comprehend the subtleties surrounding the advances in scientific understanding. Some criticize newspapers and popular science for providing too simplistic a view of new scientific knowledge. While this can be a problem I really see the problem much more serious if people read obviously overly simplistic articles and don’t understand that it is just scratching the surface. The reader needs to take responsibility too. I enjoy many great articles that gloss over many of the details but provide a quick view of intriguing new breakthroughs.

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5 Responses to “Surprising New Diabetes Data”

  1. Curious Cat Science Blog » Diabetes Up 90% in USA Since 1997
    October 31st, 2008 @ 11:22 am

    “Type 2 diabetes is up 90% since 1997… Obesity, the CDC says, is the major risk factor for diabetes…”

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Statistical Errors in Medical Studies
    March 14th, 2010 @ 10:59 am

    [...] Are False, How to Deal with False Research Findings, Medical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof), Surprising New Diabetes Data). This post collects some discussion on the topic from several blogs and [...]

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Taste Cells in the Stomach and Intestine
    March 21st, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

    [...] Waste from Gut Bacteria Helps Host Control Weight – Surprising New Diabetes Data – Reducing Risk of Diabetes Through Exercise – Drinking Soda and Obesity by [...]

  4. Aerobic Exercise Plus Resistance Training Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes: Curious Cat Science Blog
    November 28th, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

    Diabetes is a huge and growing problem. Exercise is a good strategy to remain healthy. It is best to exercise and avoid becoming sick…

  5. jay
    May 20th, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    One one hand I think its great we have these studies to challenge our current perceptions. The study could be flawed in how it was executed which corrupts the data. Or could be we dont fully understand the role of blood sugar levels in our body as well as we thought. Nevertheless we need to keep plugging away at it

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