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Why do medical studies give conflicting information?

Anyone who reads newspapers, surfs the Web or watches television is likely aware of the prevalence of conflicting medical studies. An obvious example is food studies: Eggs, once believed to be dangerously high in cholesterol, are now considered a health food; margarine, once a healthy alternative to butter, is now known to contain potentially dangerous trans-fats and has been put on the "avoid" list. The same holds true for many medications and devices, as some studies raise alarms about risks while other studies underscore benefits.

Sometimes these reports can be the source of good solid information about the latest medical advancements, helping consumers safeguard their own health or the health of others. But just as often, results from these studies can be exaggerated, misinterpreted or over-generalized, or they may be based on flawed or inconclusive research.

In sorting through the confusion, it is important to realize that the latest study is often just that - the latest in a long series of findings. As such, each new set of findings represents a piece of the puzzle, not the final word.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.