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Why do health studies always seem to contradict each other?

Studies say that having red wine and dark chocolate in your diet will help you live longer one week and kill you the next. So, who's right?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — I’ve worked on different morning shows in different cities. There’s one thing that never changes: the daily health headline on some “study” on a food or drink we nom all the time. It seems like the three that pop up the most are red wine, dark chocolate, and coffee. They’re in morning shows everywhere every other day it seems; the only thing that changes is whether they are going to give me everlasting life, or cut my life shorter with every sip.

This is a headscratcher, right? I mean, I assure you, we’re citing real studies whenever we put one of these headlines in one of our shows, but what should we be making of all this as consumers? I posed that question to Dr. Katie Pohlgeers with University of Louisville Family Medicine.

“What I always tell people is to look at it, read it, really try to analyze it, and say, ‘where is the data coming from?’” Dr. Pohlgeers said. “It’s a lot different if it’s a social media company that’s sponsored by a liquor company versus something coming out of the New England Journal of Medicine. And the other thing I say is: bottom line, we don’t 100% know the long-term effects of all these things. And it’s ok to say we don’t know.”

The key thing to remember here is that there’s a difference between correlation and causation. In other words, a group of people in a study drink red wine, and see health benefits. Maybe that’s the wine directly helping them. Or, maybe it’s the fact that people drinking red wine are also more likely to socialize with their friends and de-stress on the weekends, which is also good for their health. Or, maybe, it’s a combination of both.

At the end of the day, Dr. Pohlgeers says it’s ok for us to keep up with the latest medical headlines, as long as we’re never looking for any magic cures and we’re applying practically in our daily lives.

“We don’t recommend, if you don’t drink now, to go ahead and start drinking for your health,” Dr. Pohlgeers said. “I think it’s more or less… whatever your lifestyle is, how to maximize that. How to make the most of it while still trying to live your best life, not necessarily being miserable.

“And this may be completely over-simplistic, but I think with regards to just about everything, the key is moderation.”



Want to know "WHAS upwith something? Rob Harris is your guy. He's talking to some of the smartest people in our community to find out more about science, history, urban legends, local quirks, and more. 

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