Health News Review

We get a buzz from stories like this – not a good one.  Maybe it’s from more than 35 years of seeing stories like this regarding Alzheimer’s disease.  But it’s an example of why people get turned off to "on again/off again" health/medical/science news coverage.

Our Review Summary

Look at that headline – "Coffee buzz protects brain from Alzheimer’s." 

Think of how many coffee stories you’ve seen. 

Think of how many Alzheimer’s stories you’ve seen.

Then appreciate that this work was in mice – and that the story goes out of its way to not only pump up the mouse findings but to project about human data that no one has yet seen. 

And then you can understand why readers get turned off to preliminary research stories that hype extremely preliminary findings.


Why This Matters


Criteria

Not Applicable

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable – the cost of coffee not in question.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The story states: "Amazingly, the equivalent of four to five cups of caffeinated coffee every few days led to much improved memories in the Alzheimer’s mice." 

All the mice?

All the time?

Did any fail to respond? 

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

Just a simplistic, formulaic introduction states: "For years we’ve been told that caffeinated coffee was bad for us. It’s unhealthy and addictive, doctors warned." 

But it’s precisely these kinds of "once it was bad for you but now it’s good for you" stories that turn people off to health/medical/science news.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

This is the nut graf, as it were, of our review.

There wasn’t one word about the limitations of such mouse research.  In fact, the piece went out of its way to anticipate reactions like ours and to counter it, when it concluded: 

"Lest you dismiss this study because it’s just in rodents, Arendash says he’s got new data in humans. That data is still being analyzed, he says, but so far it looks like caffeinated coffee has the same impact in people as it does in mice."

So you give the researcher carte blanche credibility for data we haven’t seen?  We don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interests. 

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease mongering of Alzheimer’s disease.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The piece promoted one researcher’s work with no insight provided from anyone else in the vast field of Alzheimer’s research.

We warn readers: single source stories don’t cut it in health/medical/science stories and be wary of any you see.

 

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

No comparison is provided – not even a line – about any other research studying possible methods of protection from or prevention of Alzheimer’s onset.

Not Applicable

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable – the availability of coffee not in question.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

At least some context was provided about other, prior research in this field.

Not Applicable

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure of the extent to which the piece relied on a news release.  But we can be sure that no independent perspective was provided.

Total Score: 2 of 7 Satisfactory


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