I frequently mention in my posts that I find interesting papers by trolling through the medical literature. It dawned on me that maybe others would like to do the same, but really don’t know how to access or search the medical literature. I looked around on some academic sites and found an easy tutorial so that anyone interested can learn.
Before we get to the tutorial, let’s take a look at how I go through the literature. I have a number of journals that I look through every month (or every other month or weekly or however often they are published). Most of these journals are listed in alphabetical order on the Journals Page of our Protein Power website. By clicking on any of these journals you will be taken to the journal’s website and be able to read the abstracts of all the articles. Some of these journals make full text versions of their articles available after a time, usually a year. Most of these journals have an email service for their table of contents that you can sign up for, then you will receive an email listing the table of contents (or TOC, as they refer to it) whenever the newest issue of the journal goes online. If you keep up with these journals, you will be abreast of 90 percent of all the newest nutritional research.
I’m often sent links from articles in the mainstream press about new research. If you find an article you would like to know more about or see if the reported reported it correctly, you can use PubMed (a government-funded data base available free to anyone that contains all the medical literature) to get to the abstract from the journal. Here is an easy way to do it.
Within the last few days I’ve received links from readers about a recent study showing that a lifetime of carb abuse kills of the appetite-suppressing cells in the brain, leading to overeating with aging. (Here are a couple of links.) Usually the press reports have a statement from or somehow identify the lead author of the paper in question. In the case of these reports, the author is identified as Zack Andrews. PubMed can be searched by author. We put Andrews Z in the search line and hit ‘search’ and we come up with a list of papers that include Andrews Z as an author. In this case, the first paper listed is the paper in question. If you click on the highlighted authors’ names, you will be taken to an abstract of the paper. Since this is a recent paper in Nature, you won’t have access to the full text.
If you look at older journals, however, you often will have full text available to you. Here is the link for a famous paper published about 12 years ago that compares the Zone diet to the Protein Power diet. If you look in the upper right-hand corner, you will see a box that says ‘Full Text Free Links.’ Click there and you will be provided with the full-text pdf of this article. You should print this article for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a good article showing the difference between a low-calorie, higher-carb diet (Zone) and a low-calorie, low-carb diet (Protein Power) in terms of numerous parameters. The change that stands out the most is that the PP diet reduced insulin levels by about 50 percent whereas the Zone diet reduced insulin levels by about 8 percent. (I say this study represents the PP diet instead of the Atkins diet or a generic low-carb diet because the carb content is precisely what we recommended in PP.) The other interesting thing about this paper is its title: “Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets.” At the end of the study the weight loss differences were increasing but hadn’t reached statistical significance yet. But virtually every other parameter evaluated changed markedly for the better on the low-carb diet. So why the title? Why not ‘Low-carb diet markedly decreases fasting insulin’ or any of the other titles that would have been accurate. I suspect it’s because this is the title the peer reviewers wanted. Wouldn’t want the title to say anything positive about low-carb diets, now would we?
If you don’t have an author’s name or you don’t have a specific paper in mind, then you have to search PubMed the regular way. Here is a great little tutorial that shows you how to do it. Once you’ve gone through this, you’ll be able to find just about anything you need found in the scientific literature. In the audio sessions, when the woman speaking tells you to go to the Galen Homepage and select UCSF PubMed just go to PubMed and take it from there.
Once you’ve gone through this tutorial and learned how to find articles you want to find, you’ll be better able to keep me on my toes. We’ll both be the better for it.
Easy way to learn to search the medical literature