In the mid-1950s, American tobacco companies publicly claimed that there was no connection between cigarettes and cancer!
One of their claims was – you could not isolate cigarettes as the sole cause of cancer at a time when a person is also exposed to so many other things.
In other words, unless a person was only ever exposed to cigarette smoke and developed lung disease or cancer, you could not attribute that ailment to cigarettes!
And that is why I have a massive issue with “Studies” or “Polls”.
For one, they never really tell you that the reason their studies show things like “90% Indians believe we invented the airplane” or “Cow urine increases life expectancy” is because the data set is ridiculous!
They never tell you how many people they polled – was it 10? 100? 1000? Just their uncle?
The only thing you hear is the result, which is not even a real result – but a twisted, convoluted way of presenting the observation that supports their original point.
Then there’s the whole “funding” of studies – anyone who feels that studies are independent should ask two simple questions:
- Who funded the study?
- What is their stand on the subject matter?
The moment you have this information, you will know why Almonds are the new super-food or why eating tomatoes can cure cancer or any other incredible claim that you might come across on the Internet.
The process of raising funds to conduct a study is very similar to raising money as an entrepreneur and trying to run/grow a business.
First, you need a list of potential investors.
Then, you need a pitch like, “We would like to find out why Sweet Potatoes are the chosen Carbohydrate amongst bodybuilders”, and how you will go about conducting the study (or spending their money).
And then come your credentials as to why you are the right person to conduct that study.
You go from one investor to another, until you find someone who is willing to find out the answer – probably because they own hectares upon hectares of sweet potato-producing farms and would love a little burst of sales.
And that’s the anatomy of all these studies you read about in papers or on websites.
Fact is, studies focus on very specific subjects and proving/disproving that specific point can be rather easy if you choose the right approach.
Let’s take the heading of this article, for example: “If you eat breakfast, you are likely to have a car accident.”
Most people eat breakfasts before they leave for work and most accidents happen after they’ve left for work – so the conclusion is simple – eating breakfast can cause accidents, right?
Thing is, there is absolutely no correlation between breakfast and accidents but if you go and ask 10-accident victims if they had eaten breakfast on the day of their accidents, 9-might say yes!
And we can easily draw a correlation between the two – stupidly so but easily!
And that is something similar to what Mr. Mahesh Sharma, our esteemed Minister of State for Environment, has done in the Rajya Sabha!
At a time when air pollution is on the rise, Mr. Sharma decided to conclude that there was no conclusive data on direct correlation of death or disease with air pollution.
His enlightened answer came when responding to a question whether Indians were the worst affected by pollution in the world, as per a Lancet Medical Journal study.
The study, published in December, 2017, stated that five leading risk factors for Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) were:
- Child & Maternal Malnutrition
- Air Pollution
- Dietary Risks
- High Systolic Blood Pressure, and
- High Fasting Plasma Glucose
Mr. Sharma took Air Pollution to heart because he came out vehemently suggesting that the effects of air pollution on health were due to the presence of other factors like food habits, occupational habits, socio-economic status, etc.
He was, however, gracious enough to state that air pollution “could be” one of the triggers for respiratory ailments and associated diseases.
In other words, Mr. Sharma is towing the “cigarette-company line of defence” where unless a person is only and only exposed to air pollution, they cannot attribute their lung disease to the horrid quality of air they’re breathing in.
Clearly there is ‘only a chance’ that the air pollution you see and (literally) feel outside is actually damaging your health.
I must say though, Mr. Sharma has definitely convinced me that air pollution is harmless.
Also I have stopped eating breakfasts now, so no more car accidents for me either!!!