You may have thought after reading this post’s title, “I know that already.” But in science, you can’t say A causes B without double blinded prospective randomized placebo-controlled studies. Even then you can’t say definitively that A causes B—all you can say is that there is a very high likelihood that A is associated with B.
In the fields of sleep medicine and ENT, I see occasional studies that are similar to the water curing dehydration title. For example, in one article, “The nasal decongestant effect of xylometazoline in the common cold,” the authors show that applying an over the counter topical decongestant spray can help you breathe better. Here, a double-blinded placebo-controlled study was performed, where the placebo was nasal saline. Other common titles that I see frequently go something like this: “CPAP improves quality of life in patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” or “Lack of sleep is associated with drowsiness and poor concentration.”
There are many well-intentioned investigators that publish good papers, but sometimes you have to question the value of some of these studies. How does it help you and me, now? Of course, for three reasons, no one will ever do a large, expensive prospective study on the merits of giving water for dehydration. First, it’s just common sense that it’s true, and two, there’s no profit in marketing water for dehydration. Third, you can’t say that something cures or helps a medical condition without FDA approval. Essentially, mothers are practicing medicine without a license by giving water, an unapproved “supplement,” to their young children whenever they get dehydrated from diarrhea.
If you scan the health news headlines, it’s the same old stuff – exercise can reduce your weight, or lowering stress can prolong your life. Yes, there’s been tremendous advances with technology, but why is it that as a whole, our country is sicker than ever?
I think this is one of the major reasons why there’s not too much progress in medicine. We continue to perform studies to confirm previous confirmed studies which confirm previous confirmed studies, and so on. For this reason it’s rare to ever see a radically new approach to treatment.
Do you think our current scientific method is adequate for our health care needs, or de we need to revamp the entire system?