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Study finds Echinacea useless for colds

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by RobertR, Jul 28, 2005.

  1. RobertR

    RobertR Well-Known Member

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  2. D. Scott MacDonald

    D. Scott MacDonald Well-Known Member

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    I thought that a study several years ago already proved this. On the other hand, another study found that zinc provided a small benefit, but only if taken consistently every four hours or so from the time that the cold first starts.
     
  3. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Well-Known Member

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    Not registered with the LA Times so couldn't read the article, but that stuff sure does dry up my sinuses (mouth and everything else) for some reason when I've taken it in the past. Haven't had a cold in the last four or so years so I haven't had the occasion to take it in a while.

    Mort
     
  4. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Well-Known Member

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    You can "prove" anything with a study. Aren't there studies showing cigarettes are good for you?
     
  5. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Well-Known Member

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  6. RobertR

    RobertR Well-Known Member

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    Chris,

    Saying some studies are flawed is far from a sufficient critique of this one. What specific criticisms do you have of their methodology? It looks sound to me.
     
  7. andrew markworthy

    andrew markworthy Well-Known Member

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    The short answers - no you can't and yes there are, but I still wouldn't smoke.

    The long answer:

    You can only 'prove' anything with a study if the study is badly constructed or downright fraudulent. If a study is properly controlled and the sampling is correct, then it should be accurate. By 'properly controlled' we mean that in addition to the experimental question being asked, other possibile explanations have been addressed. The classic case is studying effects of drug treatments. Suppose you have drug X that is supposed to cure disease Y. The most obvious experiment is to give a bunch of people drug X and see if they get better. Obvious, but wrong. Even if the participants all get better, you haven't proved that X cured Y because the participants could have got better even if they hadn't been treated. So then you run a study where you look at people with disease Y, and only treat half of them with X. Then you see who gets better. If you find that the untreated group don't get better but the group receiving X do, you still haven't proved that X cures Y, because there could be a placebo effect. Therefore, you redo the experiment, this time with a no treatment, a placebo treatment and drug X treatment. Suppose you find that only the drug X group get better. You still haven't proved that X cures Y because perhaps the people observing the patients are biased and so classify the participants they know are getting X as better, even though objectively there is no difference. Therefore, you have to redo the experiment yet again, this time running a double blind procedure (where neither the participants nor the observers know which group anyone belongs to).
    You will appreciate that I am describing a simple experiment - the more complex ones are of course a lot more convoluted. In many instances you not only have to deal with the experimental variables in front of you but also have to allow for confounding variables. A simple example - suppose that you find that obesity in linked to a disease. Can you say that being overweight is the prime cause of the disease? No - because obesity is associated with many other factors, such as lack of exercise, social class (the lower the socio-economic group, the higher the proportion of overweight people), etc. So obesity may only be associated with the disease, not cause it.
    And then you have the issue of sampling. You can't usually test the entire population of people with a particular medical condition, so you therefore take a sample and then conduct statistical analyses to see if what you find in the sample is likely to be true of the population from which it's drawn. However, unless your sample is accurate to begin with and also you are good at choosing the right statistical techniques (and in my experience medics aren't terribly good at this) then the results are likely to be faulty.
    Which all leads to the conclusion that if everything is done properly, then the results should be accurate, but there are potentialy pitfalls. However, that is not the same as saying that you can prove anything with a study.

    There is also the argument that some people seem to buck the trend. Although a study says one thing for the general population, they are the reverse. This in no way disproves the validity of a study. Statistics usually only tells us what is true for a group. Exceptions to most things can be expected. For example, I have a naturally 'high' temperature - that doesn't disprove statements about what is a normal temperature range.
     
  8. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Well-Known Member

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    How silly. Everyone knows you starve a cold and feed a fever!
     
  9. BrianW

    BrianW Well-Known Member

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    Brian
    Actually, my understanding is that this is not a recipe for treatment, but an admonishment: If you starve a cold, it will get worse, and you'll end up feeding a fever -- much like, "A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips." In other words, it's not what you should do, it's what you should avoid.

    In any case, I doubt whether this admonishment is worth heeding. Everyone knows that all such sayings are just made up stuff that never works. [​IMG]
     
  10. RobertR

    RobertR Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG] That reminds me of Fonzi's flawed logic in a Happy Days episode:

    Fonzie: My fiance is a virgin.

    Richie: How do you know?

    Fonzie: She told me.

    Richie: Maybe she lied.

    Fonzie: Virgins don't lie.
     
  11. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Well-Known Member

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    There was a Virgin's Day parade in New York but no one showed up. One girl was sick and the other didn't want to go without her friend [​IMG]
     
  12. John Alvarez

    John Alvarez Well-Known Member

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    Was this a Plackett Burman D.O.E. with full factoral and no confounding factors? What were the factors and how many variables?

    Please someone give me some answers.....[​IMG]
    Just send me the Minitab files.
     
  13. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Well-Known Member

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    Cigarettes may cure Alzheimers! read more HERE
     
  14. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Well-Known Member

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    this is very interesting news to me. when i start getting a sore-throat, i go on a super-ech regimen -- taking about two full dropper-things with a small amount of oj (or water if i don't have anything else) every 4 hours (or so).

    it has worked so well in the past that i don't plan on stopping anytime soon. within a day or two, my sore throat is gone.

    now, i've always known it could be a psycho-somatic (sp?) response, but do i care? nope...not one bit. as long as the end result is a non-sore throat, then i'm a happy camper.

    but now knowing about this test ... it'll be interesting to see what happens next time.
     
  15. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Well-Known Member

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    Scientific study gives me a headache. That's why I don't do research. I applaud all the scientists out there who are willing to take up the task of publishing papers. Too many damn loops to jump through. On the other hand, they do use slave labor aka graduate students. [​IMG]

    Back on topic, I'm still looking for that scientifically sound alternative medicine fad. I don't think it's going to happen soon.
     
  16. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Well-Known Member

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    Try the clam strip routine and bet the headache goes away in 2 days.


    p.s. Ted, I hope you don't take the above as a personal attack. I was just talking in general.
     
  17. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Well-Known Member

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    but then i'd be tired of clams! [​IMG]
     
  18. D. Scott MacDonald

    D. Scott MacDonald Well-Known Member

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    I certainly understand the sentiment. Many studies are poorly done, or start with a premise and then pull whatever "data" they can out of their butts to prove it. However, it appears that this study is not one of them - it has been well documented, peer reviewed, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Certainly no "cigarettes are good for you" studies can say this.
     
  19. andrew markworthy

    andrew markworthy Well-Known Member

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    ... and grad students are what give us academics a headache. [​IMG]
     
  20. TheoGB

    TheoGB Well-Known Member

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    Why do you care, though? Is your wife spending $4000 a year on the stuff? Placebos can work so in that sense there's little wrong with someone using it if they believe that it will work, especially when we're talking about something as trivial as a common cold. [​IMG]

    I'd rather see the quacks from L'Oreal, Clinique, et al. driven out with their 'anti-ageing', 'free-radical'-blocking crap at 50x the cost of echinacea, to be honest... [​IMG]
     

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