Monday, January 3, 2011

Conflicting health stories can cause confusion

Conflicting headlines involving the dos and don'ts for how to stay healthy were discussed by a panel in Louisville late last month, The Courier-Journal's Darla Carter reports.

"In January, I heard that if I eat fish, it's good for my heart because fish fat helps protect my heart," Dr. Alan Altman, right, a Colorado-based consultative gynecologist, said. "Oh my god, now it's November, and they tell me I'm going to get mercury poisoning if I eat a lot of fish."

Altman also discussed the differing views regarding drinking coffee; the conflicting opinions concerning hormone therapy for menopausal women; and the changing screening guidelines for prostate and breast cancers.

Experts said the public should read the latest health news with a degree of skepticism. "It's important not to get too upset or necessarily get swayed by individual reports," said Dr. Donald Miller, director of the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

Many health stories are based on studies published in scientific journals. But these studies can be biased or otherwise problematic, experts cautioned. Moreover, health stories in the news media don't always include enough information or can be prematurely conclusive. "The media, God bless them, treat each study as a completed puzzle, and that's where the confusion comes in," Altman said. (Read more)

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