Five-Star Friday (and a few frustrating flops)

Michael Joyce is a multimedia journalist and writer/producer for He tweets as @mlmjoyce.

Great journalism shouldn’t go unnoticed, which is why we take time every so often to recognize outstanding efforts with our Five-Star Friday feature.

In the time-honored (but futile) pursuit of that utopian concept called “balanced journalism,” I have opted to append a few Frustrating Friday Flops to this week’s selection of highlights.

If there was a food pairing we would recommend while reading this it might be popcorn and beer … or oil and vinegar … or white wine with red meat … or (you guessed it), red wine with whitefish.

Let’s start with the 5-Star fodder:

  • Simple Understanding is Simply Better 

    … at we stand by our mantra that – when it comes to navigating the complex world of medical news and information – improving critical thinking, public dialogue, and informed decision-making might just improve our lives. So when we see a story like this – Confusion Reigns Among Health Insurance Shoppers – we take notice. Admittedly, we don’t know the validity of the survey cited, but the very notion that “a new survey of 2,000 adults in selected major cities, including Houston, found that only 4 percent of Americans understood four basic insurance terms” then Houston we DO have a problem! Those terms, by the way, were: deductible, co-payment, co-insurance and out of pocket maximumNo wonder nearly half of those surveyed did not feel confident they could pick the right plan. Appropriately enough, the article ends by defining the 4 terms with simple clarity.

  • What’s Affecting the “Angelina Effect”?

    – kudos to Sharon Begley (@sxbegle | StatNews) for digging deeper on a Harvard Study published in the BMJ which reinforced other studies

    CC Image | Wikipedia

    showing more women getting genetic testing for the cancer-causing BCRA mutation after celebrity Angelina Jolie announced her double mastectomy in response to a positive test. But this study showed no increase in subsequent mastectomies,  and Begley adds compelling reasons why this might be the case:  just because a study subject did not get a mastectomy within six months of BRCA testing doesn’t necessarily mean she did not eventually get a mastectomy; no mastectomy doesn’t automatically imply a negative BRCA result; and a  negative BRCA result certainly doesn’t mean a woman should not have pursued testing. Her verdict? “That’s a long chain of inference … and it makes for a shaky conclusion.”

Now for the frustrating flops:

CC image | theamaria | Flickr

  • Discovery of a New Organ!

    (insert drumroll) … The Mesentery! … brought to you in living color in a 60-second video from CNN which tells us: “After all these years the wondrous human body still has the capacity to surprise” thanks to a recent report from the University of Limerick (just 100 kilometers north of the Blarney Stone) that “is finally giving the mesentery the credit it deserves after all these years!” It’s the ultimate in news you can’t use, because as the story eventually points out, we’ve actually known about the mesentery since the time of Leonardo Da Vinci.   Apparently, the mesentery “helps coordinate our immune system to defend us from the spread of disease and prevents our intestines from collapsing on our pelvis when we stand up and walk around”. Go ahead, stand up and try it. Then you’ll probably agree that the closer to the video is a deft touch when it claims: “(the mesentery) has been hiding in plain sight being taken for granted.” OK, I admit it. Guilty as charged.

  • Size Matters in Scotland … a University of Edinburgh study published in Neurology  clogged the news feeds late this week with claims “that older people who followed a Mediterranean diet retained more brain volume over a three-year period than those who did not follow the diet as closely.” A 3-year study of around 400 people over age 70 in Scotland received a variety of headlines: “Diet Prevents Brain Atrophy … “A Mediterranean Diet Could Save Your Brain” … (and my favorite) “Diet Reduces Pensioner Brain Shrinkage.” One author of the study commented that the diet “may offer long-term protection” for the brain. Many media outlets made the assumption that larger brain size directly translates to increased cognitive ability, better memory, and somehow provides a buffer against dementia (a more in-depth review of the study by HealthNewsReview can be found HERE).

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