The Physics Police

The Physics Police

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Turmeric and Depression

It's bad-science-o-clock!

Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

The study concludes:
This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD...
This is a lie, of course, because the study's flawed design makes this conclusion impossible.

Instead, it effectively tests the placebo effect, substituting a sugar pill for a pill full of turmeric.

So, what is flawed about the design? Well, the study consisted of 60 participants, in three groups of 20 people. The first group was given Prozac, the second group was given turmeric, and the third group was given both (presumably, two separate pills).

At this point, it should be immediately obvious why the title of the article is fallacious. There is no placebo control group, without which, the efficacy of turmeric, or any drug, cannot be tested. You can't call this a "controlled trial" at all. It's a "comparative study" where Prozac is pit against turmeric.

To be conducted correctly, this study would have to include a placebo group, given a sugar pill.

Because the placebo effect is so strong, there's no statistically significant difference:
The proportion of responders as measured by the HAM-D17 scale was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups; however, these data were not statistically significant (P = 0.58). Interestingly, the mean change in HAM-D17 score at the end of six weeks was comparable in all three groups (P = 0.77).
Basically, the study tests for nothing, and finds precisely that.

I guess that's what passes for science in the Government Medical College at Bhavnagar.

I'm sure it's a coincidence that this study, like turmeric itself, comes from India...

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