T Nation

Gov't Spends 10 Yrs, 2.5 Bil. Testing Herbs


#1

They're all bunk.

http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&ct2=us%2F0_0_s_1_0_t&usg=AFQjCNG3kWVmfmvRXSIJcLmS3bauBWopWQ&cid=1258605200&ei=pUcxSvjSAeGdlQf-6oxz&rt=SEARCH&vm=STANDARD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonpost.com%2Fwp-dyn%2Fcontent%2Farticle%2F2009%2F06%2F10%2FAR2009061001501.html

It's all over the news. Nice link at the end. Not sure where to get the full list of herbs that were tested if anybody wants to do that and share.


#2

Not proven.

Here’s a quote from the article:

[quote]
"“There’s been a deliberate policy of never saying something doesn’t work. It’s as though you can only speak in one direction,” and say a different version or dose might give different results, said Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired physician who runs Quackwatch, a web site on medical scams. [/quote]

Um, hello. Someone doesn’t understand basic statistics. You can’t run an ANOVA, find no statistically significant difference, and then claim there truly is no difference. The test defaults to find no difference. So. . .with ANOVA or other basic parametric tests, you CAN only speak in one direction.


#3

While an ANOVA test or other form of hypothesis testing lends itself to a yes/no answer, the truth is that there is a 0% chance that anything does nothing (anyone who has taken a continuous probability course will know this). If there was a nonzero chance of these supplements doing nothing by chance alone, there would also have be nonzero chances for any quantifiable affects by chance alone. An infinite number of outcomes with nonzero associated probabilities means that the sum of the probabilities of the outcomes is greater than 1 (in fact, it would be infinite).

Fancy pants stuff like ANOVA and any of the other practically uncountable other tests that could be run need to be taken with a grain of salt. Human error, random error, too small or even too large of samples will all skew results. These specific tests should be taken with multiple grains of salt since they are about natural remedies to conditions, not necessarily what a bodybuilder is looking for. IMO, it is safe to say that there are natural things that will boost performance (caffeine, for example, is natural).

so to be a dick… Um, hello. Someone doesn’t understand upper level statistics.


#4

Whatever, 99% of the stuff doesn’t work at all. It’s nothing but magic pixie dust.


#5

[quote]E99_Curt wrote:
While an ANOVA test or other form of hypothesis testing lends itself to a yes/no answer, the truth is that there is a 0% chance that anything does nothing (anyone who has taken a continuous probability course will know this). If there was a nonzero chance of these supplements doing nothing by chance alone, there would also have be nonzero chances for any quantifiable affects by chance alone. An infinite number of outcomes with nonzero associated probabilities means that the sum of the probabilities of the outcomes is greater than 1 (in fact, it would be infinite).

Fancy pants stuff like ANOVA and any of the other practically uncountable other tests that could be run need to be taken with a grain of salt. Human error, random error, too small or even too large of samples will all skew results. These specific tests should be taken with multiple grains of salt since they are about natural remedies to conditions, not necessarily what a bodybuilder is looking for. IMO, it is safe to say that there are natural things that will boost performance (caffeine, for example, is natural).

so to be a dick… Um, hello. Someone doesn’t understand upper level statistics.[/quote]

ANOVA doesn’t need to be taken with a “grain of salt.” You can either rationally conclude something from a result, given the assumptions built into the model and by the design of the experiment, or you cannot.

If you use ANOVA (as most of these studies do) and find no difference, you cannot immediately conclude there truly is no difference. That is not a rationally valid interpretation given the assumptions of the model.

Random error is by definition not an issue since it is not systematic and therefore does not bias the results. In fact ANOVA lets you tease apart the random and systematic variation.

Human error – I don’t know what that would be.

A reasonable level of power can be calculated.

The problem isn’t the tools, it’s how the researchers use (or don’t use) the tools.


#6

Another problem is that useful effects that might potentially exist could not be expected to be detected in many studies that are done, though differing studies likely could detect them.

Not that I’m a fan of HMB (as personal opinion I think useful effect, if any, must be quite mild) but back in the early '90s when Bill Phillips was really touting HMB and getting completely slammed in Internet discussion on the matter, I put up a post, which I didn’t expect to get anywhere though it was a good idea, suggesting a means of resolving the question.

Phillips could have provided HMB and placebo bottles to the UF Dept of Exercise Science, and I had a professor in mind who I was pretty sure would have liked the idea, and certainly would have been able to do it, of running a study where several hundred weight training subjects drawn from the student population would be put in matched groups and allowed to train and eat ad libitum. (You are not going to be able to either obtain this many subjects if you demand you control their diet and training over an extended time, plus the costs of managing that would be huge.) Duration of the study: say six months. Body comps say pre, mid-study, and post.

If there were an average effect to use of HMB such as improving LBM by say 3 or 4 lb in 6 months, which for all I know it may do, I expect this sort of study would be able to establish it to reasonable significance, thanks to the large number of subjects.

If however that is all that HMB does, I’d completely expect an 8 week study with 10, 16 or whatever subjects per group to fail to resolve such a small effect.

Of course it wasn’t done, and to this day I expect we still don’t know for a reasonable fact whether HMB may have a small useful effect such as that, or not.

In the case of the herbs, I expect that many useful effects if of the magnitude that might reasonably be expected would be indetectable by the methods used.


#7

Sounds like a lot of straw grasping going on around here. Lets all just face the facts that the stuff does not work and any possible effect is minuscule at best.


#8

You actually think NO herb does anything and that that is a fact. From the government saying so based on their described failure to find anything. Or some other reason which in fact has no proof behind it.

Wow.


#9

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
You actually think NO herb does anything and that that is a fact. From the government saying so based on their described failure to find anything. Or some other reason which in fact has no proof behind it.

Wow.[/quote]

No I think that none of the herbs they tested do anything except ginger. I don’t like the “well maybe if they did this” or “if the moon was in line with Jupiter then maybe this could work” theories you guys seem to be pushing.


#10

Perhaps the difference is you are going only by the things named and are saying you doubt that any of those 7 work. Or actually you say you think they don’t.

If your statement is limited to 7 herbs that is reasonable.

If the government spent 2.5 billion to research only 7 herbs then that is flatly ridiculous. I had been working under the assumption the reporter did not bother to provide the full list.

It would have been very easy for the government to come up with naturally derived substances for which benefit could be found, and this would be predictable because of studies already done, but the point would be to establish to greater certainty. For example, pomegranate extract to slow development of atherosclerosis or in some cases actually reverse arterial placque.

Or is your point not merely against the 7 (or whatever small nunber) of named herbs in the article, but what I had thought that you meant, that no herb does anything?