Individualization; “Normal Values” vs Your Norm


What’s the idea of “normal values” that we try to fit people into in standard medicine? What does the concept of double-blind controlled studies have to do with an individual with a complex of troubles?

It has been a hobby of mine since medical school to study scientific studies underpinning so-called “normal values.” Mostly they are not really based in valid science, The are flawed by too few observations (often in the range of half a dozen to a few dozen, and not taking into account gender or ethnic differences). Often they don’t take into account whether subjects are “healthy” or have illnesses. If you are female, would you want your thyroid values to reflect numbers gleaned from studies on males? Similarly, do you want your blood count to be compared with patients on skid row?

For a long time normal body temperature was considered to be 98.6º based on inadequate observation. Finally in the early 1990s, several East Coast universities decided to study body temperatures throughout the world in all genders, races, and at all ages. They discovered that normal body temperature is 97.6º, though there is variation amongst various subsets. Despite this, have you noticed thermometers showing a different “normal” value? No.

Besides, even with so-called “normal” values, there is a bell-shaped statistical distribution.


Suppose you and your family’s genetics run at the +1.5 point when the standard deviation is set at +1.0 and is considered the upper limit of the normal range. Are we improving your health if we move you to the 0 point in the middle of the range? No.

What is normal for you may well not match this statistical distribution. So looking at these values as if we are engineers trying to normalize a machine does a disservice to optimization of the individual.

In our next blog, we will consider the relevance of double-blind controlled studies.

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