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Lies, damn lies and scientific studies…

By Marcus Santer

The title for this post is taken from this saying popularised by Mark Twain:

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics”

And it’s something you need to be aware of.

Because there are perilous number traps you need to be familiar with if you want to avoid being taken for a ride by the headlines and advertisements you’re bombarded with on a daily basis in the news and popular media.

Take this one for example published in the Wall Street Journal:

It’s a famous example of the power of numbers to mislead and bamboozle.

Look at the headline:

Lipitor reduces risk of heart attack by 36%

Now that’s a claim that demands your attention right?

But not so fast.

You see, before you get carried away, you need to ask Critical Question #6: What was the difference?


Okay, here’s a very quick explanation.

Numbers can easily be manipulated to create an appearance of an impressive result from a test or study.

Here’s an example based on the Lipitor headline…

There was a 10 year study of a large group of men already identified as having a high risk of heart disease.

A sub group of the main group was split in two.

One group was given Lipitor, the other was given a placebo.

Here’s what the study found:

The absolute change in this study is calculated like this:

3.05 – 2.0 = 1.05

So in this study, if you took 100 men already identified as being at a high risk for heart disease and gave them Lipitor every day for 10 years… In theory you would prevent 1 heart attack.

That’s not very impressive is it?

So where the hell did they get the 36% from used in the attention grabbing headline:

Lipitor reduces risk of heart attack by 36%

Here’s how.

It’s by using the same numbers to calculate relative change.

And you calculate it like this:

  1. Take the smaller number and divide it by the bigger number.
  2. Subtract the result from 1.0
  3. Multiply by 100 to get a percentage.

Which works out as:


And there you have it.

By the magic of relative change you’ve sexed up your results enough to give you a mathematically valid – yet very misleading – headline. Stick a picture of a doctor on it and you’ve just got yourself a very lucrative cash cow.

Shocking huh?

And yet it happens regularly.

The key is this…

Before you get excited about relative change, you need to know what the absolute change was first.

Got that?

Now unfortunately there are many other ways to mislead you.

And the trouble with the ZEN+ Daily is, I don’t have enough room to share some of the other big ‘sleight of hand’ used by researchers and mainstream media to spice up their news.

So in November’s ZEN+ Journal I’m going to share the 10 Critical Questions I use when evaluating the merit of any study.

Whether it’s reported in popular media or a scientific journal.

And if you want to avoid being hoodwinked, fooled or taken for a ride by the latest scientifically backed health craze, drug or medical research…

You need to arm yourself with these 10 Critical Questions.

In fact this whole subject of critical questions and faulty thinking is so important that if you become a ZEN+ Journal reader today I’ll send you October’s copy of The Journal for free.

In it I covered:

  1. Why I’ve been taking a lot of my own medicine recently
  2. A simple way to manage what I call The Inner Voice of Doom (TIVoD)
  3. What TIVoD is a very good signal of
  4. Why you need to focus on the things you can control (and what they are)
  5. A subject I’ve wanted to write about for a long time – Faulty thinking
  6. An awesome example of faulty thinking and why I think The Secret is BS.
  7. Even more examples of faulty thinking
  8. Why humans are so prone to faulty thinking
  9. How to protect yourself from too much self induced unhappiness brought about by thinking traps
  10. How to get a 3-month head start on everyone you know when it comes to getting whatever it is you want.

To become a ZEN+ Journal Subscriber go here now.

Bye for now


P.S. Is The Journal any good?

I’m so confident you’ll be delighted with The ZEN+ Journal that you’re covered by my two month, better than risk free guarantee.

And if you’re a new reader you’ll also get a copy of my PERFECT Qigong system (PQS) book and DVD.

I usually sell this for £65, but as a thank you for trying out The Journal, you get it for free.

It’s all laid out for you here.

​So what’s the worst that could happen?

Subscribe today and if in two months you’re not totally delighted at being a ZEN+ Journal subscriber simply let me know and here’s what’ll happen:

And you get to keep everything:

£90 worth of Journals and my £65 PQS book and DVD = £155 of true value.

As you can see all the risk is on me to produce the goods.

​You risk nothing.

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