I am constantly amazed at medical research. In truth, all research is amazing. I would love to meet some of the people who do research for a living. I would also like to know exactly what the process is for determining what research to do and how researchers come up with their hypotheses. Because some scientists seem to devote the best years of their lives to studying things like ear wax.
Also, there are individuals who devote entire careers to doing what is called “longitudinal studies.” This means that they spend YEARS following the groups of people that they are wondering about. Decades! I cannot imagine how boring it must be to interview the same groups of people, year after year, to find out if the ones who weren’t breastfed actually develop nervous tics.
A lot of research is devoted to what I classify as insignificant subject matter. For instance, there can’t be very many people who actually care whether or not getting divorced before the age of thirty contributes to low self esteem. I would not want my tax dollars to fund the study of whether or not sugarless gum settles the stomachs of chimpanzees. Do researchers have brainstorming sessions? “I bet oatmeal lowers cholesterol!” “That sounds stupid. But I think that if you drink a lot of cranberry juice, you won’t get bladder infections!” And then one of the other guys wearing a lab coat says, “Yeah? Why don’t you prove it?”
There is social research that compares the habits of various cultures and then draws conclusions about mankind. I guess this is positive. I just am a bit confused as to how loving opera or not shaving one’s legs has anything to do with war or joining gangs. I may have gotten my studies confused, but I swear there is a sociologist or anthropologist somewhere who is keeping track of how bikini waxing impacts global warming.
I started thinking about all this when I got out the dental floss this morning and felt very smug because research has shown that people who floss regularly have a much lower incidence of heart disease. At the rate I am going, my heart will remain stalwart well into my golden years…but wait! Who on earth decided to study the linkage? How did that hypothesis get formulated? Did the researcher wonder why none of the dentists in his tennis group had heart attacks? Did he/she worry about having a heart attack and cast around blindly for some sort of empirical evidence to soothe these fears and seize upon dental floss? Did somebody’s grandmother tell them that “a clean mouth means a strong heart,” and decide to prove it?
It’s a mystery to me. But I continue to floss, I eat oatmeal for my cholesterol, I try to drink eight or seventeen glasses of water a day, I take at least one cleansing breath weekly, and I have forsworn any foods containing red dye number two, three, or four. I hold my cell phone at least a foot away from my ear and yell into it.
But I draw the line at coffee enemas, the Gwyneth Paltrow cleanse, or wearing an Asphidity bag. The research is still pending on those.