Health News Review

The September issue of Prevention magazine inaccurately headlines a story, “4 Ways Coffee Cures.” There’s no solid proof that coffee cures anything – unless some of you cure bacon with java, which I don’t want to know about.

What the story (below) did was to try to present a cute little graphic summary of observational studies that show a statistical association between increasing coffee consumption and fewer early deaths, fewer deaths from heart attack, fewer cases of dementia and fewer cases of type 2 diabetes.

But such observational studies (they actually never cite the source – I’m just giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’re citing observational studies) can NOT establish cause and effect therefore it is inaccurate for the story to use terms like “cure…protective…lowers (or reduces or slashes) your risk.” Besides being inaccurate, such stories fail to educate readers. They mislead.

We ask the editors of Prevention to read and understand our guide, “Does the Language Fit the Evidence? Association versus Causation.

Prevention coffee cures.jpg

Comments

ed long posted on September 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm

They won’t read your guide. It has long words in it. Everyone knows that long words are only for confusing people…

Gary Schwitzer posted on September 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Ed,
Thanks for your note.
Here’s a short word in response: Ha!
(I have others I could have used but didn’t want to overwhelm, offend OR confuse.)

Ken Leebow posted on September 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Scary stuff. The Alzheimer’s one caught my attention. I know you don’t review the garbage on TV, however, they had someone who presented fruits and veggies (and chocolate too)as a way to reduce the occurrences of Altzheimer’s.
In my presentations about diet and health, I refer people to your site for credible information…since there are so many incredible claims elsewhere.
Thanks.

darigan posted on September 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I drink several cups of coffee each day and can clearly state that I have not yet died of, or been rendered in any way disabled or incapacitated, by any of the cup graphic list disease things above…. clearly the research is sound.
Something they should probably note (with perhaps a graphic of five cups) are the regular comfort breaks required with said intake of coffee.

Gregory D. Pawelski posted on September 2, 2010 at 9:13 am

Perhaps they can apply some Bayesian adaptive randomization to this? It may make it easier to understand.

zombielogic posted on September 3, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I have been in a process of giving up caffeine for two months. My head misses it something terribly. I really can’t shake the conclusion that I’m better off just using it. But I have a bad habit of drinking diet soda and drinking way too much. No in between. I miss it.
http://www.zombielogicpress.com

stop smoking information posted on September 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm

This problem is rampant on so many so-called medical websites. I believe they are more like health-entertainment websites. They say cute and fun stuff to pander to a large audience (like my mother-in-law), but there’s no meat behind their conclusions.
I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve had come up to me and tell me they were going to start this or that because they read it in some rag or on some website.
I wish more health-related websites had a bibliography page like I do. I believe that would only add to their content’s credibility.