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It sounds like an epidemiology study - following a population of people over time with occasional questionnaires or the like. Epidemiology studies are useful for spotting large effects (like smoking and lung cancer) but tend to be misleading for smaller effects. It is too hard to tease out what is cause and what is effect, even if the correlation is real and not noise.

Epidemiology studies told us that hormone replacement therapy was protective against heart disease. As soon as a double blind test was done, the reverse turned out to be the case. This is not at all unusual. THat os why things are good for you one week, bad the next, and back to good again. We are mistaking noise for signal.

Very well said.

I would add: specifically OBSERVATIONAL studies (whether the sample is a large population as used in epidemiological studies, or a smaller group). These are NOT clinical studies or experimental studies. Observational studies are based on self-report and human memory (I can't even remember what I had for lunch Wednesday, let alone how many diet sodas I drank, or how often, over the past 20 years). This is why we should NEVER make medical decisions and lifestyle changes based on Observational studies. It is a shame that the media thinks they need to report every observational study. Observational studies should always be further developed into higher level studies, such as a clinical trial, experimental study, or comparative study of some kind. The information from observational studies is best used by researchers, not media, general public or medical personnel.

And then, the higher level study should be repeated several times......

(and.......any study, even clinical trials and experimental studies, can be manipulated to show anything the researcher wants it to show...)
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