Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Coffee And The Heart – Researchers Are Getting Paid Way Too Much To Rehash Old Data

This week, coffee seems to be good for the heart:

“People who are moderate coffee drinkers can be reassured that they are not doing harm because of their coffee drinking,” said Arthur Klatsky, the study’s lead investigator and a cardiologist at Kaiser’s Division of Research.

These “surprising” data are to be presented at the AHA meeting March 5th. (You’ll have to wait until then to get the REAL scoop, it seems.)

But a quick Google search on Dr. Klatsky’s earlier studies using the same questionaire database shows the problems with using questionaire data to make such sweeping conclusions. Take, for instance, these findings from 1973:

“Coffee drinking is not an established risk factor for myocardial infarction.”

And yet a bit later, in 1990, there’s a flip flop:

Because of conflicting evidence about the relation of coffee use to coronary artery disease, the authors conducted a new cohort study of hospitalizations among 101,774 white persons and black persons admitted to Kaiser Permanente hospitals in northern California in 1978–1986. In analyses controlled for eight covariates, use of coffee was associated with higher risk of myocardial infarction (p=0.0002). (By the way, British researchers failed to find a similar correlation in instant coffee drinkers)

So what, really, do these data from the Kaiser questionaire data regarding heavy coffee consumption and the heart say?

What they say is:

  1. Questionaire data crunched to suggest correlations are insufficient to mean causation, irrespective of how the media parses it.
  2. Questionaire data are subject to significant sampling and reporting biases.
  3. Rehashing the same old questionaires using the same samples with newer data can dramatically alter prior findings.
  4. Researchers are getting paid way too much to keep rehashing the same data for large health systems.
  5. On the lighter side, college undergrads and medical students should note that they could use these types of questionaire data to justify significant caffeine consumption along with alcohol to protect themselves from developing cirrhosis.

* Sigh *

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »