Health News Review

Another story that was apparently just a re-packaged news release. 

Our Review Summary

 The headline of the story – "Coffee, Tea May Stall Diabetes" – gets the story off on the wrong track.   The active verb "stall" – even with the qualifying "may" still implies a causal link.  If you can stall it, you must have proven the link, right? Wrong.  Observational studies can only point to an association, not establish causation. 

The story allowed the researchers to promote their findings, even allowing them to say "the implications for the millions of individuals who have diabetes mellitus, or who are at future risk of developing it, would be substantial" – without including any independent expert perspective. 

For a comparison, readers (and WebMD editors) may want to look at a shorter Reuters story that did a better job on the same study.


Why This Matters

Especially when self-intererested researchers make bold projections on observational studies (which have their limitations), independent expert comments are necessary.


Criteria

Not Applicable

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

 Costs weren’t discussed, but most people know what coffee and tea costs.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

 The story provided several data points about potential benefits, but never discussed the limitations of drawing conclusions from observational studies. 

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

 There was no discussion of the potential harms of drinking large quantities of coffee or tea. 

Not Satisfactory

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

 While this story included a fair number of data points, it neglected to adequately explain that this was an observational study that can only point to statistical associations – not to established causes.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story gives no source for the projection that "Researchers say the number of people with type 2 diabetes is expected to increase by 65% by 2025, reaching an estimated 380 million people worldwide."

Not Satisfactory

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

 No independent experts in the field were quoted to provide context for the information presented.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

 There was not adequate mention of what has been demonstrated to reduce the chance of developing type II diabetes.

Not Applicable

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Applicable

 The availability of coffee and tea is not in question. 

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

 This story stated that, "several studies have suggested that drinking coffee may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and others have shown that decaffeinated coffee and tea may offer similar benefits, but there has not been a recent review of the research on the issue."

Not Applicable

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

The story appears to draw entirely from a journal news release.  The concluding quote in the story is exactly the same as the concluding quote from the news release.

Total Score: 1 of 7 Satisfactory


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