Health News Review

Maintaining an objective tone, this WSJ piece managed to communicate the silliness of claims being made about raspberry ketone supplements.

Our Review Summary

Turning to three different experts in the areas of weight loss counseling, natural remedies, and obesity research, this story brought home the point that there is virtually no evidence to support the use of raspberry ketones for weight loss. Even the hypothetical explanation of how these supplements might work doesn’t seem to make much sense.


Why This Matters

Despite an almost total lack of supporting evidence, raspberry ketones have somehow emerged as the hot new weight loss supplement. It’s a testament to the influence of hucksters like Dr. Oz, who has shamelessly plugged the supplements as a “miracle fat burner” on his popular daytime television show. It’s sad to see a professor of surgery at Columbia University engaging in this kind of blatant quackery, and somebody needs to provide the evidence check to counter his wild claims.


Criteria

Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story gives pricing information for some of the supplements mentioned — $3.79 for a month’s supply of one ketone capsule product, and $68 for a month’s supply of ketone/coffee bean extract combo.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

The story emphasizes the fact that the only published studies on raspberry ketones were conducted in rodents. Since the story makes it clear that these studies are inadequate to establish a benefit, we won’t dock points for not quantifying the results of those studies.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

The story mentions an unpublished manufacturer-funded safety study which purportedly found no side effects from one raspberry ketone product. However, it emphasizes the fact that neither the study author nor the funding company would provide a copy of the paper, suggesting that the results wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny. The story also warns that people with cardiac issues or high blood pressure should avoid these supplements, which may produce stimulant effects. It could have mentioned that dietary supplements are not well regulated, and that many products — especially weight loss products — have been shown to contain undeclared drugs and other potentially dangerous ingredients.

 

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

The story makes it clear, through its evaluation of the available studies and comments from independent experts, that raspberry ketones are supported by the flimsiest of evidence. It points out that even the concept that underlies these products doesn’t make much sense biologically if the goal is to achieve weight loss.

If we had to raise one quibble, it would be that the closing paragraph might give some readers the impression that green coffee bean extract has been well studied as a weight loss aid in humans. We dispelled that notion here.

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease-mongering.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

The story recruits three independent experts to bat down unfounded claims about raspberry ketones.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There’s no mention of any evidence-based strategies for achieving and maintaining weight loss — a significant gap considering how useless these ketones are likely to be.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

It’s clear from the story that supplements containing raspberry ketones are widely available.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story doesn’t make any inappropriate claims about the novelty of these products or the related research.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

There’s enough original reporting that we can be sure this story wasn’t based on a press release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory


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