The next time you hear about interesting findings from the latest scientific study on health, be sure to pay attention to the subject of the study. Was it done on mice? Then don’t get too excited and don’t immediately change your lifestyle because of it.
Mice (and rats, fruit flies, zebrafish, roundworms – all common experimental subjects) are not people. Sorry to be so obvious but it’s easy to miss this when the news anchor on Good Morning America is just so enthusiastic. Results from experiments on them do not necessarily translate to results in humans. Human trials are an additional step – one that is difficult and expensive – so experiments on animals will occur first to provide data and decide whether to move ahead to human trials.
Here are some examples of studies that got widespread press coverage with headlines the sounding promising. But, the fact that they were done on mice might have been missed.
Of course, it’s a normal reaction to get excited about results that give us good news about promising treatments. However, putting too much emphasis on results from animal models can lead to false hope and people asking their doctors when they can expect to benefit from this new “breakthrough”. It’s going to be a while and, maybe, it may never come to fruition.
Check out: Why Many Mice Studies Are Meaningless
Be an advocate for everyday skepticism: If you find out that the headlines would have more applicability in the “Daily Rodent” instead of the “Huffington Post”, express your sentiments to others who tout it by saying “It was a study on mice, we’ll have to wait a while before we will seen benefits, if any.” And remember, one study that gets lots of media attention does not mean it’s confirmed. Health policy, standards and decisions should be made based on a large collection of results that trend towards confirming a positive result. One study doesn’t cut it.