October 10, 2017

Avocado is the new chocolate

Q: Did you see “Just one extra banana or avocado a day could prevent heart attacks and stroke”

A: Hmm.

Q: It’s the potassium

A: Uhuh

Q: New Research Suggests

A: The effects of higher-potassium foods on blood pressure aren’t ‘new research’.  Look at what the American Heart Association says, or Harvard Health.

Q: Those sites don’t mention avocados, though. Is that what was new about the research?

A: No, that’s probably to meet the day’s quota for avocado stories.

Q: But at least the health message is real? They quote the researcher “The findings demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular [hardening]”. With proper brackety things like we tell students to use.

A: We might prefer students to quote the rest of the clause , as the story does later: “demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis-prone mice” (emphasis added)

Q: So it probably wasn’t bananas, either.

A: No, high-cholesterol, high fat mouse food with high or low potassium.

Q: But the high-potassium mice lived longer? They had fewer heart attacks and strokes?

A: This is a lab experiment. It’s never going to end well for the mice. But they had stretchier arteries while they were alive.

Q: So what was the point, if we already knew higher-potassium diets with lots of fruit and veg are good for blood pressure?

A: The point was to find out how it works — which genes and proteins and so on.


Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient

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