Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Overturning political correctness in medicine

Yesterday and today, many of the nation’s leading scientists and experts on women’s health met at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD to celebrate the legacy and probe the findings and future directions of the Women's Health Initiativve, the largest and most comprehensive study of postmenopausal women’s health ever conducted in the United States. And not only the largest, the WHI is aguably the most far-reaching in terms of documenting flaws in our understanding of accepted medical "knowledge" on everything from the effects of a low-fat diet and calcium/vitamin D supplements to the dangers of hormone replacement therapy. In all these cases, WHI reseachers have turned on their head logical hypotheses supported by at least some observational studies. We now know that low-fat diets don't make much difference, nor do calcium/vitamin D supplements, and that hormone replacement therapy creates an increased risk of breast cancer and that, overall, risks from use of the hormones outweighed the benefits. “The WHI has replaced conventional wisdom about women's health issues with evidence-based research findings, and reminded us that there aren't always simple, universal answers to complex questions,” said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the NIH, announcing the celebration. Hopefully, NHLBI director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., who also spoke to the gathering, recognized the application of Dr. Zerhouni's comments to the salt and health research funded by her agency. Several days earlier, yet another study of a massive federal nutrition and health database found risks of low-salt diets outweigh any health benefit. NIH has more on WHI on its website.

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