Science doesn’t understand? Or doesn’t ask?

A blog post on how exercise experiments that replicate on men don’t on women ends with the observation:

[W]hen it comes to women, there’s a great deal that sports scientists “just don’t understand.”

As if they’ve tried and tried and tried, but women are somehow outside the realms of understanding.

Which is bullshit.

As the blog post put it:

Scientists know, of course, that women are not men. But they often rely on male subjects exclusively, particularly in the exercise-science realm, where, numerically, fewer female athletes exist to be studied. But when sports scientists recreate classic men-only experiments with distaff subjects, the women often react quite differently.

Science only knows what it studies, and studies repeatedly, with consistent results.  If you don’t study women, you aren’t going to know, and you certainly won’t understand.

Science can’t find the answers when it doesn’t ask the questions.

8 thoughts on “Science doesn’t understand? Or doesn’t ask?

  1. Funny how that works.

    I remember reading about a study once to determine the effect of diet on breast cancer. The really interesting thing? The entire sample was THREE MEN.

    Now I’m completely in favor of studies to help understand breast cancer in men as well as women, since men do get it, too, though at a much lesser rate. I have no problem with seeing if a connection can be made between what food is eaten and how a particular cancer reacts, either. But three people is not a sample. And since the idea was to see how diet affected a cancer that mostly occurs in women, all three of them being men is not the most useful choice, I would think.

    I also read a number of years ago that most drug companies don’t test most of their drugs on women, even when the drug is more likely to be taken by women because the hormonal cycling in women makes the results less predictable, making the studies more expensive and less likely to give a clear, straightforward result.

    I hope that things have improved since then, but I’m not counting on it.

  2. So much truth in what you wrote. Many of us, myself included, believe that the research MUST have been done ethically, thoroughly, and fairly for its outcomes to be applied to actual human beings. Sadly, this just isn’t true. I learned a long time ago in college that any research, any numbers, any outcome can be skewed to fit the expectations of the interpretors of the data collected by just crunching the numbers differently. Back then, I believed that most scientists were bound by ethics to present the truth as it stood, and I’m certain some of them still do. If they didn’t, then how would they ever have found out that Viagra helps with erectile dysfunction? ha ha

    The pick and choose mentality of many researchers who do ridiculous things like exclude women as representatives of the human race, just reinforce my suspiscions of the science in the first place. As a woman and a fatty, I didn’t need anyone to tell me that eating less and exercising more as a permanent and effective way of losing weight was not true in every case. Nor did I need scientific support that men lose weight more easily and quickly than women due to more muscle mass and a bigger bone structure. I could draw those conclusions from my own experiences. But it sure is nice to have scientific data to back it up.

  3. I think in this particular case, the lack of studies with women subjects in exercise is not intentional sexism. I’m guessing it was just naive assumptions. I’m astonished that protein uptake after workouts is different between men and women. I would have bet my arm that whatever other biological differences the sexes have, our metabolic use of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are identical.

    Thanks for the link. This was really interesting to me. Just one more indication that nutrition and exercise sciences are less advanced than we’re led to believe.

    • I think in this particular case, the lack of studies with women subjects in exercise is not intentional sexism

      Not in the sense that “Women are scum and we want to keep them down”, no. But in the sense that “Most athletes are men and it’s easier to recruit male subjects and how different would they be?” , very possibly. AKA it’s not an individual failing, it’s a cultural failing.

      • Okay, then I agree – a cultural problem. In this particular case, not an intentionally sexist one. (As opposed to employment laws, reproductive rights, legal protection from abuse, etc… etc… where men still possess a significant advantage.)

  4. The questions asked or not asked are often very telling. Does anyone do experiments to find out if thin people are more likely to get or succumb to certain diseases? It seems as if they find out these things accidentally, then call it an “obesity paradox”.

  5. Good point. Research is done by people coming from the conviction that thinner is always better, so that when they find, as they often do, the fat people do not drop dead young of everything & in fact live longer & thrive better than thin people in many situations, they shake their heads in disbelief & label it ‘a paradox.’

    I got a newsletter this morning from a company from whom I had purchased a cane (I have arthritis & cerebral palsy & have balance issues) talking about edema & how there is an ‘epidemic’ of leg swelling & more people need to walk regularly (with which I have no argument, since, at nearly 61, I still walk regularly & have logged at least 60,000 miles in my life.) They stated that leg swelling is happening as much to thin people as to ‘overweight’ ones, then go on, near the end of mailing, to state categorically that ‘being overweight is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Obesity leads to a wide range of ailments…heart disease, hypertension, diabetes…yadda…yadda” you know the drill by now, making totally unproven claims, turning correlation into causation, etc. I unsubscribed to their newsletter, as I don’t need ‘health advice’ from people spouting that kind of crap.

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