Danger! Danger! or “Well, it’s probably not the best thing for you …”

So, I love some things that are bad for me. We all do, but I have a tendency to embrace things wholeheartedly. For better or for worse, I dive right in.

One of the things I love is diet Mountain Dew. It’s like this sweet nectar of deliciousness. And I drink a LOT of it. A lot lot. And, apparently, that’s really bad for me. But, just how bad, that’s the question.

“They” just came out with this study, that DIET SODAS ARE VERY VERY BAD. Now, I’m sure diet sodas are not, well, GOOD. It’s not like diet Mountain Dew and water are duking it out for “healthiest drink.”

But I was thinking, as I often do … studies are expensive. Time, scientists, lab-rats, they all add up to $$$$$. Who said one day “I’m going to pay money to find out if diet soda is bad for you.”? Probably not Pepsi or Coke. Maybe … the dairy council? Someone who represents sugar growers? People with orange groves? In short, the only people who are going to spend money to prove that something is bad for you plan to get that money back when everyone shies away from the newly-discovered “bad” thing.

Or at least the “most recently in the news for a day” bad thing.

So they pay the money, they are going to get the results. Right?

Statistics are an interesting thing. They can be used to prove pretty much anything. Numbers, while seemingly well-behaved on the surface, have a surprisingly adaptable nature, sneaking around and mutating when you’re not looking.

A friend of mine, and generally all-around good-guy, Dr. Patrick Neustatter, just started an awesome medical-information blog, and one of his posts was about this very thing. It’s not precisely geared toward studies like this one, about a product, but more about medical procedures and their effectiveness. However, the theory is the same.

What sounds like a really bad percentage of risk is probably actually pretty mild. Here’s the link:

Numbers You Need to Know: Number Needed to Treat and Number Needed to Harm

Maybe I’ll contemplate running the numbers myself this morning. First, though, a nice cup of coffee. Now, where did I put that Splenda?

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