Question mark health journalism

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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?”

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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.

Sheesh!!!

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