Completely unnecessary medical and nutritional research

Sublime, Meet Ridiculous

Junk science is on the march!

I’ve read some recent commentary questioning the usefulness of medical and nutritional research that might qualify as (to put it politely) completely unnecessary.

So today I’ve got a couple of prime candidates for the ‘Why In The World Did They Bother?’ award.

Chow time

We’ll start with this headline from a media outlet that specializes in medical news:

“Dangerous Comb Fatty Diet Plus Rush-Hour Pollution”

Now what should we make of that? Maybe it means that we shouldn’t eat French fries while driving in heavy traffic. Or maybe it means that air pollution is especially bad for you if you happen to eat nothing but high-fat mouse food (the article concerns a mouse study).

Or maybe it’s just another way for researchers to pander to the mainstream mindset that a diet high in animal protein is bad for you.

Let’s cut to the chase and look at the hilarious highlights of this study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, no less. (Warning: These highlights may not be amusing to readers who love mice.)

Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York divided 28 mice into two groups. For six months, one group was fed “normal” mouse chow, while the other group received high-fat mouse chow. Half the mice in each group spent the study period breathing filtered air, and the other half from each group spent six hours a day, five days a week, breathing air that contained soot, smoke, dust, car exhaust and power plant emissions.

Results? Not hard to predict: A significant number of mice that ate the high-fat chow and breathed that cocktail of gunk were inclined to have clogged arteries. About 13 percent of the normal-chow group who breathed filtered air developed arterial plaque.

The first problem with this study is the high-fat chow. As we know, there are good fats and bad fats. So, what was in the high-fat chow? I’m going to guess bad fats.

The second problem (ready for the kicker?): All the mice were bred to be genetically inclined to develop heart disease! Geemaybe that solves the mystery of why 13 percent developed clogged arteries while breathing clean air and eating “normal” chow.

I don’t know who funded this study, but apparently they had nothing else to do with their money.

Stop that racket !

So now that we’ve learned that pollution from traffic exhaust and other sources isn’t good for your heart (especially if you’re a mouse who can’t lay off the potato chips), we’ll turn our attention to a study that reveals another problem with traffic: noise.

This one comes from Berlin’s Charite University Medical Centre where researchers interviewed more than 4,000 heart attack patients about environmental and work noise annoyance. Results showed that exposure to chronic noise (such as auto traffic) may be linked with “mildly to moderately” increased risk of heart attack.

Were any of the subjects smokers? Did any subjects have family histories of heart disease? What were their exercise habits? Did any of them consume diets rich in high-fat mouse chow? None of these important variables were addressed in the study. Just noise.

One more variable was disregarded: Among the subjects who had chronic exposure to traffic noise, wouldn’t chronic exposure to car exhaust be a factor?

I only ask because I happen to know of some mice who didn’t react well to exhaust, soot, dust, etc.

“Long-Term Air Pollution Exposure and Acceleration of Atherosclerosis and Vascular Inflammation in an Animal Model” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 294, No. 23, 12/21/05,
“Dangerous Comb Fatty Diet Plus Rush-Hour Pollution” Jeanie Lerche Davis, WebMD Medical News, 12/20/05,
“Noise Burden and the Risk of Myocardial Infarction” European Heart Journal, published online 11/24/05,