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D. The Simple Truth about Scientific Studies

Narrator: This is Science Today. It's not uncommon for the findings of a scientific study to be later contradicted by a follow-up. In fact Dr. Andrew Avins, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, says that's just how science works.

Avins: Everybody who does this kind of work knows that we're always at risk for finding things that may not be true. That's just the reality of this kind of work and we know that our results have to be confirmed by other scientists and that frequently, because of these chance effects they're not confirmed.

Narrator: When it comes to matters that could affect our health, Avins says this can be very frustrating not just for the public, but also for doctors and clinicians.

Avins: Because we don't get nice pat, simple answers. But the fact is the human body is an enormously complex organism and it is very resistant to providing very neat, pat answers.

Narrator: In his own work, Avins has come up with contradictory findings to another study that had suggested trigylceride levels in men can predict heart disease.

Avins: So I understand the frustration of individuals and clinicians who are trying to make sense out of this, but the reality is, these aren't simple matters.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.