A popular study from the 1970s that helps sell millions of dollars’ worth of fish oil supplements worldwide is deeply flawed, according to a new study being published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
The original study, by Danish physicians H.O. Bang and D.J. Dyerburg, claimed Inuit in Greenland had low rates of heart disease because of their diet, which is rich in fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids from eating fish and blubber from whales and seals.
“I reviewed this original paper and it turned out to be that they actually never measured the frequency of heart disease in [Inuit],” said Dr. George Fodor, the new study’s lead researcher.
Published medical science is deeply flawed. More often than not, when I’ve looked up a study claiming X, the statistics are deeply problematic. I suspect poor training and poor refereeing are proximately to blame, but there must be some deeper absence of incentives. It’s a shameful state of affairs.
Political science and economics are (a little) better, but as I teach my students, the first thing you should say to yourself as you open every book or research paper is, “This is almost certainly wrong.” Depressing but important. Welcome to science.