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Research lends new meaning to science fiction

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Dolly Withrow Dolly Withrow

A retired English professor, Dolly Withrow is the author of four books, including "The Confident Writer," a grammar-based college textbook. Contact Dolly at ritewood@aol.com.

He was a scholar. I knew that because he sported a beard and leather elbow patches on a British tweed jacket. Approaching the table where I was autographing books, he said, "I don't read fiction. I read only scientific and technical writing." 

I know several persons who claim they do not read fiction (it's beneath them), and one nonfiction reader said recently, "The problem with some people is they don't trust science." She quickly added that scientific research had produced enough evidence to prove the reality of global warming. Of course, other scientific research has contradicted the global-warming studies. Even as I write this, eco-friendly professors and scientists are conducting further research in Antarctica. Mother Nature, though, can show her ironic side. She has encased the researchers' ship in solid ice — ice that is now about 13 feet deep. The ironic Mother has also halted rescuers, for they're also stuck in unyielding ice. Several years ago, according to several supercilious scientists, all that ice was supposed to have melted by this time. Scientific research has resulted in so many contradictions that those of us outside the lofty circle of scholarly studies hardly know what to believe.

Consider the scientific results of studies on drinking coffee. Research at one time indicated caffeine in coffee increased heart rate and, therefore, should be avoided. Now, studies maintain that one or two cups per day will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and even enhance brain activity. Research also has revealed coffee to be a diuretic. But wait. Later research claimed it would hydrate the body.  

How about fluoride in drinking water? First, it was beneficial because researchers said it would lessen the occurrence of tooth decay. Later studies claimed it would increase the level of lead in our blood. Another scientist conducting a fluoride study has criticized the research methods of the previous study. He said scientists failed to verify. 

Researchers claim that ingesting fish or capsules containing Omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, decrease inflammation and reduce the risk of heart attacks. Hold it. New studies have indicated there is a harmful ingredient in the coating of some brands of those Omega-3 capsules. Moreover, those who suffer from angina or congestive heart problems should avoid Omega-3 acids because they may increase the chance of sudden cardiac death. Of course, there is also mercury in fish, and that could drive us all as mad as hatters.

Several years ago, I took Fosamax tablets to increase my bone density. Now, I've learned that doing so may cause my femur to break, and the femur is the strongest bone in the human body. With respect to osteoporosis, studies have claimed that just 15 minutes in the sun will give us more Vitamin D than anything else, but I remember a poster on my dermatologist's wall that had this warning: "The first sign of skin cancer is a good tan." I had been told to stay out of the sun, so I took Fosamax. Now, I'm on the vitamin D bandwagon and have been told I can't take too much of the good vitamin. 

Australian scientists conducted a study on the link between balding men and cancer. They concluded there is a connection between balding and prostate cancer since the two are linked to the male hormone. Fellows, don't worry if you have a receding hairline. You can throw your trust on the side of the American scientists, who claim if you are balding before the age of 30 you are less apt to develop prostate cancer. 

You should eat eggs and genuine maple syrup each morning. Eggs are now good for you because studies claim the yolks have the same unsaturated fat as olive oil, and real maple syrup contains antioxidants, which zap those free radicals running around in our bodies. I still don't know what free radicals are, but I want them zapped if studies say they should be zapped. Recently, a doctor stated on the "Dr. Oz" show that butter is heart-healthy. An Amish "doctor" told me never to eat margarine. He said I should eat real butter, which I could purchase right there in his store. 

Another study claims one-third of Americans are stressed. Another says 47 percent, and still another says eight out of 10 are stressed. By this time, I think we're all stressed.  

Now back to the scholarly gentleman who approached my signing table, the one who said he didn't read fiction. He was mistaken.  He had read fiction — science fiction. We are left to wonder what the New Year will hold for us as researchers conduct more hasty studies in search of truth.