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GRE Argument Essay; Milk And Dairy Products Are Rich In Vitamin D And Calcium—with A Free Essay Review
Prompt: "‘Milk and dairy products are rich in vitamin D and calcium—substances essential for building and maintaining bones. Many people therefore say that a diet rich in dairy products can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that is linked to both environmental and genetic factors and that causes the bones to weaken significantly with age. But a long-term study of a large number of people found that those who consistently consumed dairy products throughout the years of the study have a higher rate of bone fractures than any other participants in the study. Since bone fractures are symptomatic of osteoporosis, this study result shows that a diet rich in dairy products may actually increase, rather than decrease, the risk of osteoporosis.’ Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.”
First of all, the author implies a link between a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium and the risk of osteoporosis, since a long-term study found that a large number of people who consistently consumed dairy products throughout the years of the study have a higher rate of bone fracture than any other participants in the study. To test the veracity we need evidence about whether all test subjects started with the same health condition. For instance, as mentioned in the argument, osteoporosis is linked to genetic factors. Therefore, we need to know, from among these people who consistently consumed dairy products but showed a higher rate of bone fractures, how many had family members who suffer from osteoporosis. If the evidence shows that many of them have family histories of osteoporosis, then, the observed bone facture is due to genetic factor, and there would be no grounds for author’s argument that a diet rich in dairy products may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
The other evidence we need to evaluate the implied link is whether these test subjects have similar working and living environments or not. Since environmental factors can also contribute to the risk of osteoporosis. If the evidence shows that the majority of these subjects who consitently consumed dairy products experienced intense physical work everyday, then, the author’s claim would be significantly weakened, because the bone fractures may very likely be due to other environmental factors.
Finally, the author argues the a diet rich in dairy products may actually increase the risk of osteoporosis, because the study showed people who consistently consumed dairy products showed higher rates of bone fracture. However, the author equals bone fracture to osteoporosis, since osteoporosis can cause bone fracture. It is possible that many other factors, such as accidents and injuries, can result in bone fracture, too. Thus in order to validate the argument, we need evidence to show that majority of these bone fracture found in the study are due to osteoporosis.
To sum up, we need evidence to control the potential variables that can lead to the increase of bone fracture and we need to know whether these bone fractures are due to osteoporosis or not.
You begin by asking whether those who suffered a higher rate of bone fractures began the study with "the same health condition" as others. That's a good point. Your first argument, then, is that a person having a family history of osteoporosis would mean that her or his suffering fractures would be "due to genetic factors." This is not completely true. The existence of a family history of osteoporosis would, however, increase the likelihood that the fractures were due in some part to osteoporosis to which the person had a genetic predisposition. Your argument is not true because it assumes that the fractures were caused by osteoporosis. The fact that fractures are symptomatic of osteoporosis, however, doesn't mean that you cannot get fractures without having osteoporosis, as you later recognize; it just means that if you have a fracture, that's an indication of possible osteoporosis.
Your next argument is basically fine, so let me turn to your last argument. You say that we need evidence that those who suffer from a higher rate of bone fracture actually suffered from osteoporosis. That seems like the kind of evidence that you would have heard about already if it were available! Why study fractures, after all, when you can just see whether they have osteoporosis? In any case, as you previously argued, the presence of osteoporosis would not be ironclad evidence of a causal link between dairy consumption and osteoporosis, so the evidence you seek would not certainly "validate the argument." You are right of course to insist that there can be fractures in the absence of osteoporosis. It seems to me that the evidence you really need is the kind that would explain both the increased number of fractures and its evident correlation with dairy consumption without the need to postulate a link between dairy consumption and osteoporosis. Evidence that heavy-dairy consumers are, for example, obese or are, for some reason, more likely to take part in physically intense sports, would help explain both sides of the correlation without needing to suppose osteoporosis had a hand in the results.