Sunday, June 22, 2008

Under pressure to publish? Publish a coffee study!!!

[Click on Post Title for Link to External Article]

Honestly! Trust me. You can never go wrong with coffee. Many people drink it, sell it, swear by it and some also swear at it. This should be enough to confound anyone and anything. And, to publish and see your name in the "scientific" press, you don't have to spend much. Just make a few guzillion pots of coffee!!!

Many moons ago, in 2004 to be precise, I was interning for a blood glucose monitoring startup and it was also the time when "Google Alerts" became the "in-thing". As a result, I had an alert set up for diabetes. And that's where the saga began.

I soon started seeing so many of these coffee studies pop up in relation to diabetes:

1. Coffee causes Type II Diabetes

2. If you drank more than x, y or z cups of coffee a day, you will not get Type II Diabetes

3. Coffee causes Type I Diabetes

4. Coffee does not cause Type I Diabetes (and in fact it doesnt, and there may never have been a study of this sort, but there were so many coffee studies, who can tell anymore?)

5. Coffee "may" cause Diabetes

6. Coffee "may" not cause Diabetes

7. Coffee and Diabetes "may not" cause Diabetes

8. Coffee messes with your testicular production quotas! (We haven't seen one dismissing this yet. But to date, this is my most favorite study ever. They had a bunch of men drink coffee and, er, counted 'em soldiers!? I suppose...)

Coffee studies have become the mainstay of pointless and needless publications. This one takes the "cream" I suppose.

You follow people for years and years and have them fill up a survey. What method could generate better results? What other scientific form of study could be superior to this?

If you spend a few minutes past the cynicism, here are a list of reasons why I have a problem with this "coffee" study:

1. "Coffee consumption has been linked to various beneficial and detrimental health effects, but data on its relation with death were lacking,"

- Yes, because, not many people pop after they drink coffee. Maybe the guy in the photo on Science Daily is going to, one of these days...

2. Coffee consumption was not associated with a higher risk of mortality in middle-aged men and women.

- Dissociation is not causation either. Coffee consumption was not associated with higher mortality, because you could not, based on your own assertion in 1 above.

3. The possibility of a modest benefit of coffee consumption on heart disease, cancer, and other causes of death needs to be further investigated.

- Insert the "Are you kidding me" cliche here! Heart Disease, Cancer and other causes of death? What is this, MOAS (Mother of All Studies)?

I don't understand what the thought process for this was. Cardiovascular risk is associated with any number of problems from congenital defects to a sedentary life-style, diabetes, alzheimer's, side effects from drugs?! and so on.

Cancer causes death through complex biological mechanisms.

And other causes of death? Hmm...let's see kidney failure, influenza, the hit-by-a-bus-while-reading-stupid-coffee-study-reports syndrome....

How is it that they could casually send out a bunch of questionnaires over a 20 year period and expect this to be a study with conclusions of any positive value?

Why is such drivel getting past "peer" review? Maybe the reviewers weren't drinking enough coffee?

And yes, if your head aches, get a little coffee...the caffeine helps get rid of a headache. That much we know. About hot flashes, alien landings and death....I am sorry, we haven't had a good study yet.

But, if you want to publish, you know what to do...whip out those survey monkey questionnaires, now that we have "modern" technology to bungle the same scientific reasoning principles...

1 comment:

Bernard said...


Like you I've got several alerts related to diabetes. It shocks and terrifies me to see what some places are suggesting as ways to control or 'cure' diabetes. This is where social networking sites help folks to distinguish real approaches that work from fiction.