Zucchini Noodles with Baked Shrimp & Rainbow TomatoesAugust 11, 2017
Note From Dr. CAugust 16, 2017
What is “bro science”? Do you need to avoid it, can you use it to do some good? There is definitely a lot of talk about this term, and today I want to uncover what it means and how you can easily spot it when you are looking for the truth from your science. Need a helping hand when it comes to perfecting your researching skills? Let’s talk bro science today.
What is “Bro Science”?
This term was introduced to contemporary readers from the fitness, bodybuilding, and training realm. It is used, in a derogatory way, to refer to data that is merely anecdotal. It is like a story that you might have heard about your one friend who was successful on a particular diet, and therefore everyone should blindly do the exact same as that one person.
What this is, though, is an anecdotal report – or, what others might call a “study of one.” Someone has a positive personal experience, and from that, they want to extrapolate information and make recommendations based on that experience.
Key Insight: I would want to take this one step further when it comes to creating a “formula” for bro science. What I have noticed is that bro science is typically a combination of anecdotal information, and a test tube or animal study. Therefore, bro science = anecdote + an animal of test tube study.
The thing that I have found so crazy about bro science is that there are so many animal or test tube studies that were really done to answer questions and screen information. They do not mean anything by themselves, but there have been so many that have been done, they are easy to find for just about any position out there! It does not mean that it is right, but it does mean that the low-level investigatory data has been done on anything you can imagine.
Bottom Line: Somebody said it, and there is a random animal study that backs it up – that is the key to unlocking bro science in your own backyard.
When can you rely on bro science?
It might sound a little out of the blue, but is there a scenario where you can actually rely on bro science in some way, shape, or form? When we think about hierarchies of evidence, the first step would be someone’s basic idea. This might be followed by:
- An expert’s idea
- Test tube studies
- Animal studies
- Human research
Let’s stop right there and wonder when we want to rely on lower levels of evidence: when we do not have any evidence that is higher. While the top of the top might be randomized, controlled sets of data and research, that is not always available for every question, problem, or situation that one might find themselves in – so they are left focusing on lower levels of data and building from there.
Bottom Line: If it is a relatively harmless change, and if there is a low level of cost, it is perfectly rational to rely on bro science in place of higher levels of research. Research builds over time, and it takes proving something right – or proving it wrong – in order to reach a definitive answer.
When should you not rely on bro science?
Here are some of the reasons that you might not be able to rely on bro science, and where you can safely say it is not good enough to rely on when it comes to making long-term changes in your health or livelihood:
Basically, you cannot rely on bro science whenever we can see higher science at work. When there is good and objective data, it eliminates the need for anecdotal and lower-level forms of research. If the research has been done, you should feel safe enough to rely on it – instead of a story you have heard, substantiated by a study you have never seen before.
What if someone told you to stop doing something good for your health, simply because of an experience they had one time? If you were doing something that was good for your body, you should not just give it up full-stop without a good, solid, and well-researched reason to stop doing it. When bro science tries to get you to make a “big change,” you need to know that it cannot be relied upon.
Even though results might be very “real” during anecdotal research, it is incredibly difficult to determine the long-term effects of that kind of research.Think of it in terms of understanding the potential risk one might have of having Alzheimer’s disease. There is nothing you can do today, no matter how good it makes you feel, that can give you a full, solid understanding of how it will change your life decades down the road. You could guess and have strong expectations, but there is no way that you could definitively know what is going to happen.
There is also the issue of variable metrics – thyroid antibodies (1), for example, being a big case in point. If you ever did check your thyroid antibodies, every day, for one month, you would never (or, very rarely) see the same score twice. Your body, your immune system, and lab variabilities do not always yield the exact same results. It is inherently variable, so it is ineffective to assume the cause for the change in between testing for those types of metrics.
When we talk about bro science, we are typically talking about results from research that are incredibly subjective. These might include:
It is harder for us to understand a universal scale for these types of symptoms, which makes the effects of bro science incredibly hard to track. It all comes down to the weight that we place on short-term experiences and results.
The case is such that even I do not trust personal experience – even when it is my own. Back when I was trying numerous different diets or supplements, back when I was younger, had you asked me why if they worked or not my answer would be totally different based upon whether it was in the first few weeks or long afterward.
Oftentimes, during the first few weeks or months of a new diet program, I was wildly enthusiastic and was certain that I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail. Yet, after seeing this excitement dissolve as the apparent benefits wore off, I finally realized that much of this was just the benefits from simple enthusiasm – which was more of a placebo effect, to begin with.
Bottom Line: Personal experiences are not only incredibly difficult to track, they are also wildly subjective for everyone. Sometimes, we get wrapped up in the short-term results and how they make us feel, but oftentimes those things fizzle and can leave us feeling worse than before. It is very easy to get emotionally invested in an idea, and have that play a large role on your symptoms and how you feel.
Feel like you know more about bro science, and ready to take it out into the world? The next time you hear someone talking about anecdotal evidence, based on unsubstantiated research, you can start to question whether or not they are simply majoring in bro science. The point of bro science, though, is that even though it can have interesting benefits to your life – or it can start to get you asking questions, it is definitely not in place of higher-level evidence and research.
More Science, More Results
Ready to learn even more about your overall health? Skip the bro science, and take the Thyroid Quiz (2) today to learn a little bit more about your health and your body today. Is it time you did a little bit more research into your body and got the real results you deserve? Skip the anecdotes, and start your own personal research today.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.