‘Scientific’ explanations for surprising findings…

ScientificDr. Michael J. O’Connell, New Hampshire, stated that the recent questionnaire-based study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) demonstrating that sedentary lives are probably unhealthy, was not at all surprising. Even though nothing more than an elaborate ‘correlational’ study, not a ‘causal’ study, it can be readily understood that sitting all the time leads to more obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  It fits with our larger paradigm.  However, the finding that even folks who are sedentary, but who regularly exercise after a day of sitting, are similarly (though less significantly) unhealthy, is hugely surprising, indeed rather alarming.

The authors puzzle over why this should be.  Why should exercise not negate the adverse effects of sedentary work habits?  They offer several rather implausible explanations.  Frankly, I can’t explain this finding either.  I doubt anyone can.  It doesn’t easily make sense.

My general rule is that if scientific findings don’t seem rational, if they are not intuitive or rather simply explained, then such findings are often found to be spurious in later/better Scientific 9studies.  Not always.  But often.  I place this JAMA article in this category.  This profoundly weak study is based on subjective answers submitted by humans.  There is no way to verify the veracity of the answers.  The most likely explanation is that some of the study subjects cScientific 5onsciously, or subconsciously, fibbed about the amount of exercise in which they engaged, or even whether they exercised at all.  What would motivate a case subject to lie on such a questionnaire?  Embarrassment at not doing what they know to be good for their health….maybe?

My point is, before leaping to awkward ‘scientific’ explanations for surprising findings, first question the conclusion. Be suspicious of ‘scientific’ articles whose results don’t seem to fit.


About Dr. Michael J. O'Connell, New Hampshire
Dr. Michael J. O'Connell of Barrington, New Hampshire, has forged a distinguished career spanning over three decades, as entrepreneur, physician, businessman, philanthropist and healthcare consultant. As former owner, administrator and CEO of a 225+ employee multi-specialty medical practice, Dr. O'Connell has dedicated his entire professional life to helping patients with family medicine and especially those experiencing chronic pain and all aspects of addiction. Since selling his family of healthcare businesses, he has never once contemplated retirement despite his rich and fulfilling journey, but instead has turned his focus to consulting in an industry starved for courage and creativity. Having weathered many political, technological and legal challenges, there is hardly a storm he has not confronted, a tempest he has not quelled, an urgent need he has not met. While the talking heads and self-proclaimed experts in the field have assumed the conventions and standards of the times, Dr. O'Connell does not believe in merely reflecting the herd mentality, but rather in leading the charge. Eschewing political correctness, Dr. O'Connell says and does what needs saying and doing, and not what the mindless masses expect. In addition to the continual education afforded by his variegated life experiences, Dr O'Connell earned his BS in Biochemistry at the University of NH in 1975, his Medical Degree from Dartmouth College in 1981, interned at Walter Reed Medical Center in 1982, Residency/Fellowship at UCSF in1986, and finished his Masters in Healthcare Administration at UNH in 1995. Dr. O’Connell enjoys many outdoor activities, including rock climbing, snowboarding, hiking, and golf. Through the decades Dr. O'Connell has supported many non-profit charities to include the St. Charles Home in Rochester NH, the Tri City VNA and Hospice, Hyder House, and Cocheco Valley Humane Society. To the latter organization alone Dr. O'Connell has donated over $180,000 and pledged another $250,000 in the “Bring-Us-Home” campaign for a new building. His “Matching Donations Christmas drive” has generated over $175,000 in charitable giving from the community. In addition Dr. O'Connell has participated in many dozens of other volunteer and donation efforts locally as well as in Africa and the Dominican Republic. For a listing of how I gave back to the community during my career and continue to do see: https://michaeloconnellmdnh.wordpress.com/

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