Health News Review

People who smoke cigarettes and drink lots of coffee are less likely to get Parkinson’s disease than their family members who don’t indulge in caffeine and nicotine, a new seven-year study shows.

Our Review Summary

This story attempted to provide a synopsis of the results of a study that examined whether smoking, caffeine consumption and the use of common pain medications might reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. 

The story fails to describe the strength of the evidence: a retrospective case-control study cannot prove cause-and-effect, only association.  This is a study design that is most prone to bias or confounding.  The story should have included some caveats about the strength of the evidence.

There was no mention of potential harms associated with cigarette smoking or coffee consumption.  The story might have noted that smoking is known to be one of the leading causes of premature death and disease.

The article would have been strengthened had there been an expert opinion independent of the study authors.  As it stands, this was a single-source story – never a good idea.

 

 


Criteria

Not Applicable

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Costs not mentioned, but these are common knowledge. 

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The story provided no quantitative estimate of the beneficial effect cigarettes or caffeinated coffee consumption were found to have in the study. This is particuarly important where the seemingly beneficial effect on this one disease must be weighed against known harms of tobacco.  Just how big could the benefit be vs. the known harms?  

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no mention of potential harms associated with cigarette smoking or coffee consumption.  The story might have noted that smoking is known to be one of the leading causes of premature death and disease.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The story did not discuss the strength of the evidence that the study presented.  The story reported about a study, the design of which cannot demonstrate cause-and-effect, only association.  It was a retrospective case-control study, a study design that is most prone to bias or confounding.  

Rather than just passing along the findings a study, such a story needs to provide the reader with information about the strength of those those findings.
Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story appropriately described the prevalence of the disease. 

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

Quotes from the senior author of the study reported on were included in the story.  However, there does not appear to have been any interviews with an independent expert to help place the study within the context of what is known about Parkinson's disease prevention.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of the usual management, treatment or prognosis of Parkinson's Disease.

 

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

The story discussed the results of a study that found the use of two common, readily available substances was associated with decreased incidence of developing Parkinson's disease for those known to have a family member who developed the disease.

 

 

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

This study reported on in the story presented results that are consistent with previous studies, and the story made that clear by saying "previous studies have suggested" much the same thing.  

Not Applicable

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

Not Applicable

We can't be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release. We do know that the story only quoted one researcher who was involved in the study.

Total Score: 3 of 8 Satisfactory


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