Science in Action: Omega-3 (flaxseed oil vs. nothing 3)

I blogged earlier about comparing flaxseed oil and nothing: here are the balance and arithmetic results. I also used a paper-and-pencil memory-scanning task that I described earlier. Here are the flaxseed vs. nothing results from that task:

memory scanning results

The difference was even clearer — t = 8 — than with the other measures (balance, t = 7; arithmetic, t = 6). It took about three days of no flaxseed oil before its effect completely wore off, but only one day of resumption to reach full strength again — the pattern seen several times earlier.

The test took 5 minutes/day, twice as long as the arithmetic problems but only half as long as the balance test. The equipment demands are mild: printer, pencil and paper (in addition to computer).

I’ll discuss the implications in a later post.

6 Replies to “Science in Action: Omega-3 (flaxseed oil vs. nothing 3)”

  1. It will be interesting to see what kinds of results you see (if any) when you start blinding the tests. Any good ideas on how to go about doing so?

  2. By me, no. I prefer to do experiments where I am less sure of the answer. Most placebo-controlled experiments are, in my opinion, poor experiments. They are poor from both a pure-understanding and a practical point of view. From the pure-understanding point of view, they are bad because the manipulation is so crude: the conditions being compared differ in dozens of ways. From a practical point of view, they are bad because the knowledge they provide is almost useless: The interesting practical comparison — the comparison that interests consumers — is not between Treatment A and a placebo, it is between two plausible treatments.

  3. Good point! Have you seen David Burns’ critique of clinical trials of psychiatric medication? See chapter 4 of his newest book entitled WHEN PANIC ATTACKS. The chapter is called”Placebo Nation: The Truth about Antidepressents and Anti-Anxiety Medications.” Essentially, the two of you are agreeing.

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