[HEALTH] Wrong Question, Wrong Answer

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through my years of school, practice, consulting, writing, and speaking is that there is no right answer to the wrong question.  This lesson is also one of the biggest frustrations because people, the media, and medicine takes that wrong answer and runs with it.

One example for you to ponder is the whole phenomena of lowering cholesterol.  Millions of people are on cholesterol lowering drugs to lower their cholesterol.  Seems logical right?  If having low cholesterol was the objective, then the correct answer is YES.  If the objective is to lengthen life and decrease your chance of dying early, then the answer is an absolute NO.

Much, if not most of ‘scientific’ research asks the wrong questions.  In the cholesterol case, they didn’t ask if lowering cholesterol saves lives.  If that was their question, then their research would be an utter and complete failure and would have to be stopped and never tried again.  Instead, they asked if taking drugs to lower cholesterol lowers cholesterol.  In this case, they are successful.

The crime is that the media, medicine, and pharmaceutical companies have convinced us that cholesterol is a bad thing.  What’s worse that going in the wrong direction?  Going in the wrong direction…enthusiastically.  Do some digging and you will find out what I’m talking about.  Just analyze Lipitor’s ’17 years of research’ and it’s blatant that for 1 less person to have a heart attack, 100 people need to be on their medication to benefit for at least 3 years.

Cholesterol is not what has me fired up today, though it does have to do with heart disease.  The British Medical Journal released a study on May 27, 2010 that followed close to 12,000 Scottish men with an average age of 50.  The objective of the study was to see if there is a correlation between heart disease and brushing one’s teeth.  From a wellness standpoint, where everything in the body is tied together, it piqued my curiosity.

The study followed these men over an average of 8 years.  Over those 8 years, there were 555 cardiovascular disease events of which 170 were fatal.  74% of those cardiovascular events were coronary heart disease.   The participants with reported ‘poor oral hygiene’  were at higher risk of those heart disease events.  So the conclusion and what your dentist, toothpaste manufacturer, and American Dental Association will say is that ‘brushing your teeth will prevent a heart attack.’

Ri-freakn’-diculous.  The researchers and ‘scientists’ will try and connect the inflammation of gum disease to the inflammation of your arteries, and that the #1 one way to reduce the inflammation of gum disease is to brush, floss, rinse.  But I guarantee of Jaba the Hut had clean teeth, he would still have a heart attack.

Problem #1:  It was a national survey.  These people got a piece of paper to fill out in the mail.  This questionnaire probably asked for height, weight, age, ethnic background, medical history, and a bunch of questions regarding their oral hygiene.  This does not constitute science.  It would be like me handing you a survey asking if you have been diagnosed with diabetes and if you comb your hair with a conclusion that combing your hair is linked to diabetes.

Problem #2: If the researchers actually studied the healthiest populations on the planet, the hunter gatherer populations, they don’t brush their teeth and don’t have tooth OR heart disease.  How could this be?  They eat, move, and think in a manner that is congruent with our genetics as a human species.  For a real outcome, they need to compare those Scottish men with the modern day hunter-gatherer society ‘!Kung.’  Surely they would find no connection between oral hygiene practice and heart disease.

Problem #3:  Science doesn’t study health, they study sickness.  In the survey, the average age was 50 years old.  By the time we’re 50, the poor choices and bad habits have accumulated to the point where heart disease is diagnosed in every other person.  It wouldn’t be hard to find a correlation for heart disease in the average 50 year old male and any habit you wanted.  We could try nose picking, wet vs. dry shaving, or wearing tighty-whiteys.

Problem #4:  The research is drawing a conclusion by asking the wrong question.  Instead of asking these men if they brush their teeth, they need to ask health questions related to fitness levels, eating patterns, and social structure.  In this type of study, it’s absolutely fraudulent to conclude that by brushing your teeth, you may be reducing inflammation, which will lower your risk of coronary heart disease.

Could poor dental hygiene be a risk behavior for heart disease?  Absolutely.  But I’m going to take a wild guess and state that someone in modern day society that doesn’t brush their teeth is also apathetic to eating right, having daily exercise, and loving their neighbor.

If you learn anything from my monthly column, I hope to teach you to ask the right questions.  By teaching you how to ask the right questions, you will always conclude the right answer.  Health is a choice and always a choice but it’s impossible to choose correctly based on the wrong question.

In creating health, make sure you ask and answer this question.  If this is good for me, is it good for my kid?  If it’s good and promotes health in an adult then it should do the same for a child.  If it’s good for a male, it should also be beneficial to female.  Choose wisely, but first ask the right question.  If you need help, contact me.

Image credit: Dominik Gwarek

Leave a Reply