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European Society of Cardiology added to News Release Wall of Shame

The press office of the European Society of Cardiology has been busy with the organization’s big annual meeting that concludes its 5-day run in Barcelona today.

But I regret to announce that I’m adding them to my News Release Wall of Shame for one of their news releases headlined, “Drinking tea reduces non-CV mortality by 24 percent.”

The news release was about an observational study – the kind of study that can show a statistical association between drinking tea and mortality, but cannot establish cause and effect.

So, the statement that “drinking tea reduces mortality” is ill-advised. How can you make a statement of fact that you’ve reduced mortality when you haven’t established cause and effect?  The research is not unimportant; a big statistical association in a big study is nothing to sneeze at.  But it is does not provide the proof that the news release suggests it does.

It was also ill-advised to let the researcher get away – unchallenged – with saying:

“I think that you could fairly honestly recommend tea drinking rather than coffee drinking and even rather than not drinking anything at all.”

To avoid being nominated for our News Release Wall of Shame, it only takes a few words when writing about observational studies, such as:  “association does not necessarily imply causation.”

And there was no attempt to do that in this release.

And the news release clearly influenced many journalists to get it wrong in headlines that claimed:

Now back to my coffee.

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Comments (4)

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Jana Funkhouser

September 4, 2014 at 10:45 am

It is a shame that a rigorous and complete research study was not undertaken. It would have upheld the theoretical question “why drinking tea may allow you to live longer.” I hope someone who KNOWS how to conduct a rigorous study will follow through on this particular topic.

Jana Funkhouser RN, M.S.N., F.N.P.-c