Can You Believe Clinical Studies

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Believe Clinical Studies

The “Secret” About Clinical Studies Nobody Is Telling You

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney


can you believe clinical studiesIt is so confusing. You get lots of advice in today’s world.

  • Your friend shares a new diet they read about and tells you how well it worked for her.
  • Your trainer puts you on a diet his sports guru recommended.
  • You read Dr. Strangelove’s health blog and decide you need to throw out all the foods in your refrigerator.
  • Your doctor tells you what you should eat and whether you should take supplements.
  • You decide to follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association or American Diabetes Association because they are the experts.

The problem is you are told all this advice is based on clinical studies – AND – most of the advice is conflicting. You don’t know who to believe, and, even worse, you are starting to wonder whether you can believe clinical studies.

I have covered the source of much of this confusion in my two books “Slaying The Food Myths”  and “Slaying The Supplement Myths.”  The Cliff Notes summary from these books is:

  • The placebo effect approaches 50% for things like feeling good, energy and mood.
  • Reputable scientists ignore testimonials and look for clinical proof.
  • What works for your friend or trainer may not work for you.
  • Any extreme diet that eliminates foods and food groups from your diet will cause short-term weight loss and improvements in health parameters like cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
  • Reputable scientists look for studies documenting the long-term health outcomes of those diets. Some diets that look healthy short-term are unhealthy long-term.
  • Advocates of these fad diets emphasize short-term successes of their favorite diet and don’t even look for studies on long-term health outcomes.

Every clinical study has its flaws.

  • can you believe clinical studies doctorReputable scientists recognize this and don’t base their recommendations on individual studies. Instead, they base their recommendation on the preponderance of evidence from multiple studies.
  • Strangelove and other bloggers don’t understand that. They select studies that support their viewpoint and ignore the rest.
  • Some clinical studies are better than others. In fact, some really bad clinical studies get published.
  • Reputable scientists know how to distinguish between good studies and bad studies. They ignore bad studies and base their recommendations on good studies.
  • Strangelove, other bloggers, and the news media aren’t scientists. They don’t know how to distinguish between good and bad studies. They simply report the studies that support their viewpoint.
  • Strangelove, other bloggers, and the new media prefer audience over accuracy. They measure success by the number of readers rather than the accuracy of their articles.
  • “Man bites dog” stories gather the most readers. Dr. Strangelove and the media focus on studies that challenge the advice you have been getting from the health and nutrition establishment. The studies may not be accurate, but they attract a lot of readers.
  • Responsible scientists will give you the boring truth, even if it doesn’t attract many readers.

In my books I help you navigate through the world of conflicting clinical studies, so you can base your decisions on the very best clinical studies. However, there is one more “secret” you need to know. It is one that every scientist knows, but the public almost never hears about.

However, before I tell you the secret, let me set up this discussion by talking about glycemic index and use one food, the lowly banana, as an example.


Glycemic Index – How Sweet It Is

can you believe clinical studies glycemic indexIf you are a diabetic or are following one of the many low-carb diets, you probably know all about glycemic index. You probably have a glycemic index list in your kitchen or on your phone. You probably consult that list often to determine which foods you can eat and which you can’t. (If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is simply a measure of how big a blood sugar increase each food causes).

What if I were to tell you the glycemic index list you are relying on may not apply to you?

Then there is the lowly banana. You have probably heard from your trainer or favorite nutrition blog that you should avoid bananas because they are too high in sugar. However, if you were to consult a nutrition expert, they would tell you that bananas are a great choice. Bananas are nutrient powerhouses. In addition, a ripe banana has a glycemic index of 51 and anything under 55 is considered low-glycemic.

What if I were to tell you that the advice about bananas that both your trainer and nutrition experts give you is correct for some people? You just need to find out which advice applies to you.


The Secret About Clinical Studies Nobody Is Telling You


can you believe clinical studies secretNow, you are ready to learn the secret. It is this: Clinical studies are based on averages, and none of us are average. Because of that, even the very best clinical study results may not apply to you.

In a way, this reminds me of “The Wizard Of Oz.” You remember the story. If you were sitting in front of the curtain, the wizard was impressive. He was all powerful. He was making learned pronouncements about the way things should be. But, behind the curtain, the reality was quite different.

The authors of most clinical studies and most nutrition gurus make learned pronouncements about the life changes you should make based on the results of their study. They seldom let you peak behind the curtain to see how much the results vary from one individual to the next.

One exception is a recent study that reported individual variation in blood sugar responses to various foods. There are lots of examples from that study I could share with you, but I will use bananas versus sugar cookies as an example.

When they reported average values, bananas had a glycemic index of 51 and sugar cookies had a glycemic index of around 59. Both of those values are very close to what you find in most glycemic index lists.

The glycemic index of a banana is only 13% less than the glycemic index of sugar cookies. However, since the cut-off between high and low glycemic indices is 55, bananas are classified as low-glycemic and sugar cookies are classified as high-glycemic. According to conventional wisdom, bananas are good for you and sugar cookies are bad for you. But, what about individual variation? Does that wisdom really apply to you?

can you believe clinical studies blood sugarBased on the range of blood-sugar responses reported in the paper, I have created the scatter plot on the left to help you visualize the range of individual responses. The horizontal line represents the average glycemic index for sugar cookies and bananas. The dots represent the glycemic response of individuals in the study. For some people in the study the glycemic response to bananas was greater than the average glycemic response to sugar cookies. For other individuals the glycemic response to sugar cookies was less than the average glycemic response to bananas.

You can see the extent of individual variability even more clearly in the figure on the right, which was reproduced from one of the figures in the paper. The authors reported that for some individuals, bananas caused no increase in blood sugar while sugar cookies caused a big spike in blood sugar (the response most people would expect). However, for other individuals, sugar cookies caused no increase in blood sugar while bananas caused a big spike in blood sugar.

can you believe clinical studies glycemic loadNow you understand why I told you the glycemic list you are relying on may not apply to you. You also understand why I said the advice you have been given about bananas might not apply to you.

Lest you think this just applies to bananas, the same study reported that individual blood sugar responses varied by:

  • 4-fold for sugar-sweetened soft drinks, grapes, and apples.
  • 5-fold for rice.
  • 6-fold for bread and potatoes.
  • 7-fold for ice cream and dates.


Can You Believe Clinical Studies?


can you believe clinical studies provenI used glycemic index as an example. The same principle is true for almost any clinical study.

Let’s consider clinical studies looking at the effect of diet on health outcomes such as heart disease.

  • The headlines may say that a particular diet significantly decreases your risk of heart disease.
  • When you read the paper behind the headlines, you discover that the diet decreases heart disease by 15%. That result may be statistically significant, but it is hardly life changing.
  • If you could peak behind the curtain you might discover that the diet cut heart disease risk in half for some individuals and had no effect on heart disease risk for others.

Clinical studies looking at weight loss are another example.

  • You might be told “Clinical studies show people who follow diet X lose 12 pounds in 6 weeks”.
  • That’s an average value. If you could peak behind the curtain, you would discover that nobody lost exactly 12 pounds. Some lost more. Some lost less. Some may have actually gained weight.

I am not saying that well-designed clinical studies are useless. They are a good foundation for general nutrition guidelines. What I am saying is that not every nutritional guideline applies to you.

What Does This Study Mean For You?

Some of you may be saying: “What does this mean for me?” When you carry the concept of individual variability through to its ultimate conclusion, the bottom line message is:

  • Conclusions from clinical trial results are based on averages – none of us are average.
  • Daily Values (DV) are based on averages – none of us are average.
  • Nutritional recommendations for optimal health are based on averages – none of us are average.
  • The identified risk factors for developing diseases are based on averages – none of us are average.
  • Glycemic index lists are based on averages. None of us are average.

That means lots of the advice you may be getting about your risk of developing disease X, the best diet to prevent disease X, the best foods to keep your blood sugar under control, or the role of supplementation in preventing disease X may be generally true – but it might not be true for you.

So, my advice is not to blindly accept the advice of others about what is right for your body. Just because some health guru recommends it, doesn’t mean it is right for you. Just because it worked for your buddy, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Learn to listen to your body. Learn what foods work best for you. Learn what exercises just feel right for you. Learn what supplementation does for you.

Don’t ignore your doctor’s recommendations, but don’t be afraid to take on some of the responsibility for your own health. You are a unique individual, and nobody else knows what it is like to be you.


Final Thought: Glycemic Index Versus Glycemic Load

Since I used glycemic index as an example in this discussion, I feel obligated to discuss the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load. Glycemic index is based on the blood sugar response to 50 gm of carbohydrate in various foods. Glycemic load is based on the blood sugar response to a serving of that food. In some cases, that’s a big difference.

Glycemic index can sometimes be deceiving. Let me give you two examples. Carrots and watermelon are often found on lists of high glycemic foods. If that sounds a bit weird to you, it is.

One serving (one medium carrot) of carrots has 6 grams of carbohydrate (of which, only 2.9 grams is sugar). To get 50 grams of carbohydrate, you would need to eat 8 carrots. Watermelon is, not surprisingly, mostly water. One serving (a 1-inch thick sliced wedge or one cup) of watermelon contains 11 grams of carbohydrate (of which, 9 grams of sugar). To get 50 grams of sugar, you would need to eat 4.5 cups of watermelon. For both carrots and watermelon, their glycemic load is a more accurate measure of their effect on your blood sugar than is their glycemic index.

Leaving individual variation out of consideration, here is a simple guide for choosing low-glycemic foods if you are trying to control your blood sugar levels.

  • Foods with a low glycemic index are generally a good choice.
  • Many foods with a high glycemic index also have a high glycemic load.
  • If you are uncertain about some foods on the high glycemic index list, also check their glycemic load.


The Bottom Line

Clinical studies are the bedrock on which we build recommendations for diet, exercise, and supplementation. In the article above I discuss how to distinguish between good and bad clinical studies. I also discuss how individual variability influences the interpretation of clinical studies.


For more details read the article above.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Headache Relief By Treating Your Shoulder

Posted June 18, 2019 by Dr. Steve Chaney

A Headache Remedy Can be Treating Your Shoulder

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney



When you experience the debilitating effects of headache pain, you just want headache relief.

headache relief from painYour head throbs. It’s hard to think. It’s hard to enjoy life.

What should you do?

  • You could take Tylenol or some other drug, but that offers temporary relief at best.
  • You could see a chiropractor, but it may take multiple visits to correct your problem.
  • You could get a massage, but the headache will probably come back.

What you really want is a natural protocol you can use to make the headache go away whenever it occurs. There is such a protocol. It’s called muscular therapy, and I teach people how to perform it on themselves whenever a headache or joint pain occurs.


What Is The Difference Between Massage And Muscular Therapy?

There is a difference between massage and muscular therapy as a headache remedy, and both are worthwhile.  Massage is great for moving the fluids (like blood and lymph) through your body and getting muscles to relax. It’s perfect if you’re under stress and you feel like you’re going to explode.  A good massage therapist can have a positive impact on your nervous system and blood pressure, and you’ll come out walking on air.

Muscular therapy, the way I do it anyway, is more focused than it is general.  You’ve heard about spasms, but most people can’t visualize a spasm, so they ignore the term. You probably have an idea that a spasm may be painful, and it isn’t a great thing to have, but what is a spasm?

What is a Spasm

headache relief muscle knotsI explain it as a knot in the muscle.  Through some very complicated physiology (that none of us need to know about) the muscle forms a knot in the thick part of the muscle, and it’s putting a strain on the two ends.

Both ends are attached to a bone, so the pressure causes a strain on the end points and you have pain at the bone.  Most of the time the end points are just after the muscle crosses over a joint, so you end up with joint pain.


Too often people think this is arthritis and they are stuck suffering or taking strong drugs to mask the pain.  But in the majority of cases it’s not arthritis, it’s just tight muscles pulling on the bones of the joint and preventing them from moving freely.

But, all you need is to know where the knot (spasm) is, and then apply direct pressure on it.  Hold the pressure for 30 seconds or so, and then let go.  Keep repeating this until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Headache Relief

headache relief shoulderLet’s say you have headache pain.  There are so many muscles that impact headaches that it would take a book (like my book: “Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living”) to discuss each of them.  So, let’s just look at one muscle, the Levator Scapulae.

The Levator Scapulae is responsible for lifting your shoulder up.  In fact, the nickname for the Levator Scapulae is “the shrug muscle.” But look at this graphic and you’ll see where the knots form (the round red circles) and where you feel the pain (the red shaded areas).

You may not think to press on your lower neck/shoulder when you feel headache pain.  This muscle also causes the pain you feel in the middle of your back, between your shoulder blades.


And self-treatment is so easy!


headache relief shoulder muscle workYou can put your opposite thumb into the front of your shoulder as shown in this picture, and your fingers in the back of the muscle. Then squeeze your thumb and fingers so they pinch the entire muscle.


headache relief shoulder muscle pressure using wallOr you can put the perfect ball on the very top of your shoulder and then lean into the corner of a wall as shown in this picture.


What you are doing is forcing the acid (as in Lactic Acid) out of the muscle fiber so blood can fill the void and heal the muscle fiber.  As you do this you are untying the knot and the pressure is removed from the joint. In most cases the joint can now move more freely and without pain.

All the self-treatments in my book are just this easy!

Most people have significant pain relief, and I am happy to say many get total and permanent pain relief.  Try it yourself, self-treatment is easy.  The worst thing that can happen is nothing, and the best thing that can happen is regaining normalcy.

Why stay in pain when it’s so easy to find the muscular source of the problem and eliminate it?

pain free living book coverGet Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living . It is filled with over 100 pictures and descriptions proven to show you how to find and self-treat muscle spasms from head to foot!

Join the 1000’s of people worldwide who have discovered that tight muscles were the true source of pains they thought were from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other serious conditions.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by releasing tight muscles.

Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living is your step-by-step guide to pain relief!


Wishing you well,


Julie Donnelly

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.