There are often diet and lifestyle similarities in groups or subgroups of individuals who develop disease. For example, researchers for some time of pointed out the correlation between the consumption of diet soda and obesity and have examined the link between the consumption of fatty foods and increased breast cancer risk.
However, the correlations themselves do not provide evidence of causality and may or may not be a real contributor to the increased incidence of disease. Through time there have been myriads of investigations, often based upon a prospective analysis of an existing database, which identify a potential relationship between a particular factor and a specific condition or disease. Although scientists are generally upfront regarding the limitations of their findings, media reports often fail to explain that a particular link is not necessarily indicative of a cause and effect relationship.
The many unobserved variables can lead investigators to identify fortuitous correlations between multiple factors and effects which are the product of something that is unknown or simply not considered. Despite considerable research, the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown. However, correlations exist between the malady, viral infections, psychological stress and other immune disorders. Yet, no evidence exists which identifies any of these as causal.
All of this said, medical science has a history of advancement by first observing a correlation and investigating the fundamental reason for it. In fact, observed correlations have been key, even foundational, to the identification of the cause of disease and therapeutic treatments. The problem is not medical research but rather the premature reporting of it, before investigators have time to identify the why and the how.
Recently researchers have determined that women with high blood sugar levels are at an increased risk of developing cancer. The study was conducted over 13 years and involved 64,500 people and yet diabetes experts said more evidence is needed to confirm the link. Overall, the research found women in the top 25% range of blood sugar readings after fasting had a 26% higher chance of developing cancer than those in the bottom quarter.
One of the anomalies of the study is that the increase risk in developing cancers was found in women but not in men. In fact, in men, raised blood sugar levels appeared to protect against prostate cancer, though not to a significant degree.
Researchers are investigating and the correlation will be used to uncover a “why” – eventually. In the meantime, the result motivates me to continue to seek a healthy lifestyle and control my blood sugars.