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  • Writer's pictureAdrian J. Boas

On the Reliability of Medical Studies


As a heavy drinker (of coffee, that is) I have found solace in a bout of recently published studies that claim that consuming even fairly large amounts of the beverage, is beneficial to one's health. This is all very fine, but the problem is that every two minutes or so a study is published claiming that something previously considered healthy is dangerous, and alternatively, that things claimed by earlier studies to be positive, are in fact not so. So what are we to believe? Milk, eggs, meat… are they good or bad? Is it healthy to jog? Do sunscreens really provide protection? Even cigarettes have been shown by one study to have health benefits, albeit with a catch. In the 1960s, an epidemiologist named Harold Kahn, analysed the health insurance records of about 300,000 American military veterans, and observed that smokers who had served in the two world wars were three-times less likely to have subsequently died of Parkinson’s disease than non-smokers. Of course, the downside was that they were over ten times more likely to have died of lung cancer.

The twelfth century chronicler of the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, William of Tyre, referred to sugar as “…a most precious product, very necessary for the use and health of mankind.” But in 2013 the head of Amsterdam's health service, Paul van der Velpen made a statement which reflects the general understanding we have today. In his words, sugar is “…the most dangerous drug of this time.” In 2015, the World Health Organisation estimated that there were 1.5 billion overweight adults in the world, around 400 million of whom were obese – and that one of the prime causes for this has been the consumption of sugar. As the manufacture of refined cane sugar was first developed on an industrial scale in the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem from where it was shipped to western ports for consumption throughout Europe, and subsequently became universally popular, we may be not too far off the mark in reaching the conclusion that one of the most lasting contributions of the crusader movement to mankind - is obesity.

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