“There are lies, there are damn lies and there are statistics” Mark Twain (1845 – 1910)
This quote from one of America´s favorite authors really caught my eye and as I read it over and over again, something popped out. Here is this man from the 19th century stating that statistics can be bigger lies than just lies and damn lies. I asked myself “How bad could statistics have been in the 19th century?I mean, weren´t people more simple and therefore, more honest back then? Then I thought: “Imagine if Mr. Twain was alive today.” What would he say about today´s statistics?” Today´s world is run on statistics…from politics to economics to the social media to health and nutrition. Where doesn´t statistics have it´s finger in the pie?
CAN WE DEPEND ON STATISTICS?
If we go back to Mark Twain´s time, during the 1800s, we find that one use of statistics was to show the unemployment rate in the U.S. These statistics however were based only on people who were actively looking for work. It did not include people who stopped looking or, in fact, were not working at all. In other words, it did not reflect the total unemployment rate of the country, which would have been higher. Why was it done? Well, because it functioned well politically. Interestingly, that same system of determining the unemployment rate, is still being utilized today…150 years later. Manipulation?
STATISTICS AND NUTRITION
So how do those tactics relate to what´s happening today in the world of nutrition? Well, there are multi-billion dollar industries that have so much invested in their products that they can´t afford to lose clients and profits. Their stockholders won´t tolerate that. Just as the tobacco companies manipulated statistics, during the mid-20th century, to battle the thousands of studies showing the link between smoking and cancer, today there are numerous corporations and industries doing similar things. If their bottom line is being threatened, they can finagle the statistics in order to convince their customers that things are humming along just fine. Because the stakes are so high, the ends are often justified by the means. For me, just as important as it is to read the ingredients listed on the foods we buy, for health reasons, we should also question who the authors or sponsors are behind nutrition research and studies. Why? Because of the problem of bias.
IN THE END THINGS SHOULD MAKE SENSE TO US
Since Whole Food Plant Based nutrition is my passion and I have a genuine desire to help people improve their health, I am concerned about how statistics are confusing us? With so much conflicting information, from health care professionals, our family, friends and especially the social media, how can we be sure if the information is valid. This is especially important when we need to make important decisions regarding our health. Yes, statistics are important but what´s equally important, in my opinion, is that our decisions are based upon what “makes sense” to us. When it does, a decision that may have appeared complicated and doubtful at first, all of a sudden, becomes simple and clear. For, when something makes sense to us there´s an understanding that touches us in such a way that we can say with conviction…yes “That Makes Sense!”