Are you a researcher? Or do you actively look at research study results? Probably not — at least not intentionally. But in this modern era of information overload, you are receiving bits of research data, along with lots of opinion, almost nonstop: a news blurb will cite some study such as, “scientists from XYZ Center found that people who eat coconut watch 20% more TV.” That sticks in your mind, and now if you eat coconut you may have an urge to watch some TV. But how good is the research that was cited? Was the study unbiased? Did they “cherry-pick” the data? Was there funding from a special interest group or governmental agency behind the research? Are there opposing studies out there that the news is not considering?
Thanks to mass media, we are all consumers of research, unless we tune out. We are “informed” about global warming, political and social trends, new drugs, diseases, and nutrition from a combination of mass media and social media. You can accept the information uncritically, you can try to get news from other sources to “balance” the news, you can distrust everything you are hearing — but you are being bombarded with information. How do you discern truth in all of that overload? And when it comes to your health, how do you get trustworthy information out of all the noise? Here are some things to look for when considering the next piece of news or research….
Bias is everywhere. Even the most stringent clinical research studies start with a premise, and then limit the number of variables in their studies to test the premise. In doing so they may cut out important, real-world variables which the researchers consider unimportant. That’s because all people have a “worldview” — a set of assumptions by which they see everything around them. In the medical field, the most common worldview is that our bodies developed with some evolutionary process that could have easily made mistakes, therefore medical and drug interventions are fully appropriate and that we can supersede nature with our science. Many studies start with this premise and assume that we can do better than nature. Out of this worldview comes an emphasis on drugs to fight disease by overcoming natural deficiencies, thus much research goes into drug therapies.
Simply put, research is costly, and the money has to come from somewhere. Drug research is well funded, because it may lead to new drugs that can then profit the drug manufacturer. Governmental grants are another major source of funding, but those funds are often provided to get certain results, which injects politics into the funding and thus the results. Natural health options are not great money makers, and garner a lot less research funding. This leaves private funding. Universities and nonprofit organizations are important breeding grounds for research that considers natural alternatives.
What used to be done quietly is being done now openly: social media outlets are proudly censoring postings and specific people who put forward articles that these outlets deem inappropriate or incorrect. Radio and TV media pick and choose their content to cater to their audience rather than try to find truth. If you want proof, take the subject of global warming: believe what you will, but there is plenty of evidence on both sides of this issue — yet you have to dig harder and use some independent sources to find the articles that don’t support the premise that rampant global warming is occurring. They are there, but often squelched.
All these factors make it hard for you to receive unbiased information about health options. And conventional health practices are very successful when it comes to treating acute injury or trauma. But when it comes to chronic disease and health challenges, natural health has something that remains a challenge for conventional medicine: its track record. This is perhaps the only reason you hear anything about natural health: despite all the factors stacked against it, natural health has a great success rate, especially when the patient is highly motivated.
Published in eLife, researchers at the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience of Radboudumc studied brain maps from nearly 60,000 people across the world to determine what are normal and abnormal brain scans in people from from infancy to old age. They made an “atlas” of what should be normal brain development, and believe they can use this atlas to note deviations which could be used to predict disease development. They are using an amazing modern tool — MRI imaging — to see brain development. So far so good, right?
Taking a random 60,000 scans only gives you an idea of the average brain development. Since chronic disease is rampant, and since most people do not follow good plant-based diets, regular exercise programs, good sleep patterns, stress reduction, and good hydration, these scans of what is “normal” brain development actually show a standard that is less than desirable. We don’t want to be average when the bar for average is so low, and we don’t want to have a brain scan that deviates from this average to be used to take us to that normal questionable health state. You see the same problem happening with typical blood tests: what is considered as normal range for a reading may actually be reflective of a disease state, because the normal range is set to an average with many non-healthy people as part of that average.
In contrast, in a study published in the British Journal of Sport Medicine, researchers at the University of British Columbia examined MRI’s from women between the ages of 70 to 80 who were showing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) before and after a six month exercise program to measure hippocampal volume (the area of the brain mostly responsible for memory.) The results? They observed an almost universal, significant increase in hippocampal volume after the exercise programs completed. In this research, a premise that natural aerobic exercise could reverse disease led to a verification that MCI could be reduced without drugs or artificial means — just through exercise.
Here’s another brain study: published in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine studied the effect of diet on brain atrophy. They used MRI scans to assess the impact of diet on Alzheimer’s Disease (AD.) Their enhanced diet was the Mediterranean Diet, which is a well-known mostly plant-based diet. They created two groups: one which adhered strongly to the Mediterranean Diet, and the other which ate the more typical standard American diet. Their MRI scans were of the areas of the brain most associated with AD: entorhinal cortex (EC), inferior parietal lobe, middle temporal gyrus, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Cortical thickness for these regions were greater for the group that stuck closely to the Mediterranean Diet, indicating that the diet definitely had a positive effect on retaining brain integrity and reducing AD risk. So again, a good health habit, over time, had a significant positive impact on brain health.
Your personal health
While you can’t easily avoid being inundated with information, whether useful or useless, a dose of healthy skepticism is crucial. Just about any point anyone wishes to make can be framed to sound believable, and media is configured to play off of emotion and hype rather than finding the truth. But what do you believe? Can you agree that our bodies are a magnificent design, far above what we could create on our own, or do you think we are random accidents of nature? If you believe the former, then it makes sense that working with that design will bring you better health than trying to circumvent it. If you start from that premise, there is plenty of supportive and useful research out there — perhaps harder to find, but it’s there. Truth has a way of breaking through, if you are open to receiving it. Research as much as you like to convince yourself, but don’t just sit back — your health is too important.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
Research is a very interesting area but also very problematic. If a person wants to research a topic properly they have to be able to drop any preconceived belief or opinion about that topic, and have nothing to gain or lose but information to fuel the next step of research. The issue that is never addressed in research is the biggest factor in inflammation and disease: the mind, including the conscious and subconscious mind. The mind generates thoughts constantly and if those thoughts are positive and uplifting that is going to minimize the secretion of inflammatory molecules into the system, but if those thoughts are negative this will increase inflammatory molecules circulating throughout the body. These are the biggest factors in health and healing and are not even addressed in most research or treatment programs with people. Much research is done on lab animals like mice because they are mammals and have somewhat similar physiology to us. They test medication success by giving these animals cancer or another disease and then see how their drug fares in aiding or hindering the healing of the disease. There is one very big problem here — can you guess what it is? Mice do not have conscious and subconscious stress programs causing inflammation systemically. So even if a medication cured every mouse of cancer it does not mean it would do anything in a person, because each person has a certain percentage of their full body’s inflammation, which is causing disease, coming from the mind. So you see how blood tests, MRIs, and other tests that are done are accessing only a small part of your health — not the big picture. What I like about the research we presented today is that everyone is an individual with different mental and emotional blockages and stress program stored. Only if you address these along with every other aspect of their health will they truly heal. So looking at 60,000 brain scans doesn’t mean too much because of all the variables that are not taken into consideration — especially the mind. What does mean much is the other two studies that showed if you exercise and eat well your brain and your body can heal. These are two of our Seven Basic Steps to Total Health and Longevity.
Remember you are not normal, you are a son or a daughter created by your Father in heaven. Stop being who you appear to be and start being who you ARE.
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