Though we may laugh about health headlines that tell us something that we thought everyone already knew, or even complain over wasted taxpayer dollars, researchers say it’s unfair to assume that at least some of these studies aren’t warranted. After all, what reporters choose to write about — and the headlines editors write — doesn’t always represent the full scale of the study, explains Steven Woloshin, MD, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H. “Just because it makes a stylish headline doesn’t mean that was the main focus” of the research, he says.
Secondly, scientists don’t assume they know how the world works. They rely on their test results to prove it. That’s a good thing, because common knowledge isn’t always correct, says Della Hann, PhD, Deputy Director of the NIH Office of Extramural Research. You’ll recall, after all, that the world was once thought of as being flat. That’s why sometimes it takes proving what we already know to discover something we didn’t.
Here are the favorite “health studies” for 2011 — and what we might actually learn from them.