Note to our followers: Due to a lack of sufficient funding, will cease daily publication of new content at the end of 2018. Publisher Gary Schwitzer and other contributors may post new articles periodically. If you wish to donate, your gift might help keep the site available to the public for a few more years, by defraying costs of web hosting and maintenance. All of our 6,000+ published articles contain lessons to help people improve their critical thinking about health care. Read more about our change in status. And here's how to make a donation.

Question mark health journalism

Posted By


Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has talked about how journalists must feel they can get away with saying anything in headlines or teases, as long as they follow it with a question mark. Example: ABC Good Morning America’s story “Can Your Purse Make You Sick?”

Screen shot 2010-01-07 at 12.57.55 PM.png

That routine came to mind when a journalist wrote, asking me to comment on an Ivanhoe Newswire story headlined, “Pomegranates Prevent Breast Cancer?” The journalist wrote to me that this was a misleading headline and “a pretty poor piece of health journalism.”

Should women go out and start popping pomegranates however and whenever they can?

Not so fast. This is one case where a news release did a better job than a “news story.”

An American Association for Cancer Research news release quoted an expert saying:

“This is an in vitro study …It’s not clear that these levels could be achieved in animals or in humans because the ellagitannins are not well absorbed into blood when provided in the diet.”

Hmmm. Ivanhoe, which has a product called “Medical Breakthroughs,” never told us this was only in the lab – not in human research.

That makes the ? in the headline loom pretty large.

And if you were interested enough to look up the journal article, Ivanhoe tells us it’s in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. I couldn’t find it on that journal’s website. I called the Journal office and the associate editor said it didn’t sound familiar.

Maybe it’s not in that journal.

But a study on the same topic by the same authors was published on January 5 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. The Ivanhoe story was published January 6.


You might also like


We Welcome Comments. But please note: We will delete comments left by anyone who doesn’t leave an actual first and last name and an actual email address.

We will delete comments that include personal attacks, unfounded allegations, unverified facts, product pitches, or profanity. We will also end any thread of repetitive comments. Comments should primarily discuss the quality (or lack thereof) in journalism or other media messages about health and medicine. This is not intended to be a forum for definitive discussions about medicine or science. Nor is it a forum to share your personal story about a disease or treatment -- your comment must relate to media messages about health care. If your comment doesn't adhere to these policies, we won't post it. Questions? Please see more on our comments policy.

Comments are closed.