Despite some cautious caveats, the story leaves readers’ heads spinning: Is this a product that “might boost memory” or is it too “difficult to make a clear cut statement about the value of the product”? The story says both. It also leaves us wondering why people can’t simply eat a diet higher in these compounds.
This was a story about an industry-funded study with many of the quotes coming from an inventor from an institution that holds the patent on the product.
The quotes from the VP of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer’s Association were important.
But what are readers to make of this?
Readers might be better able to make sense of it if the story provided more data, but numbers and details were lacking.
It’s Alzheimer’s Disease – that’s why it matters. And when you put “drink might boost memory” in the headline and let the inventor say existiing data now suggests that it may be possible to receive something that will sustain cognition” – then you’re going to get peoples’ attention. Is this worthy of attention? The story didn’t make the case clearly enough.
The story states “There are no plans to market Souvenaid, so the cost hasn’t been established.”
The results were only discussed in broad, general terms – no quantified details were provided.
The story only paraphrased the researchers saying “there were no serious side effects.” That’s not good enough. What did the data show? What was observed? In how many people? Then let readers or independent observers judge what is serious or not. At a minimum, the percentage of people in the trial with any side effects should be given.
The Alzheimer’s Association spokesman offered this:
Medical foods do not have a requirement for FDA premarket approval, but they do have a requirement for having a scientific foundation and some evidence of efficacy,” he said. “But they don’t have the kind of data we would find for a medication.”
That makes it difficult to make a clear-cut statement about the value of the product, he said.
“There isn’t a clear diet that prevents you from getting Alzheimer’s disease or improves your memory,” Thies said.
In addition, medical foods for Alzheimer’s most likely won’t be covered by insurance, he said.
“You are making a judgment without the protections you have when dealing with a medication,” Thies said. “You’re going to be making a decision using your own funds and we would advise anybody to make sure they understand what the product offers and make sure they understand what it’s going to cost.”
That section of text above was the best part of the story because it draws attention to the functional/medicinal food vs drug difference in the eyes of the FDA.
There was no disease-mongering of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association spokesman added some needed perspective. Manufacturer support for the study, and MIT’s patent on the product, were disclosed. It would have been better to additionally have a scientist who studies nutrition and neurodegenerative disease comment on the study.
There was no discussion of any other research in the field of memory boosting. A brief nod to what is known (exercise, stimulation such as puzzles, etc.) about reducing cognitive decline would have been appreciated.
The fact that there were no plans yet to market the product was explained.
The story briefly mentioned earlier animal and human clinical studies.
The story did not rely solely on a news release.