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Summary of dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet study leaves us hungry for details

Yes Please to Yogurt and Cheese: The New Improved Mediterranean Diet

Our Review Summary

dairy productsThis news release summarizes findings from a recently published study on the effects of a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet on heart disease risk factors in 41 high risk patients.

The news release neglects to provide readers with important study details like the types of dairy products consumed, while misreporting others, like how much dairy was consumed on average each day. It also neglected to note that the study was partially funded by an industry trade group (Dairy Australia) or to provide any context on the effects of the dairy-supplemented diet on heart disease risk factors leaving readers in the dark about the diet’s ultimate effectiveness.

 

Why This Matters

According to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the leading cause of death globally. Several lifestyle factors contribute to heart disease risk with one being diet. Making healthy dietary choices can significantly lower heart disease risk but individuals need accurate and comprehensive information in order to make these choices.

If a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet was proved effective at reducing heart disease risk that would be useful for the public to know. Unfortunately, readers won’t find the details of the study in this news release.

Criteria

Does the news release adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The news release doesn’t discuss the costs of adhering to a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet. However, many people know the costs for typical Mediterranean diet food items like nuts, fruits, and fish and dairy products like milk and cheese.

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

Not Satisfactory

A statistically significant reduction in blood pressure doesn’t always translate to a clinically significant reduction. This release doesn’t make that distinction for readers. It mentions that a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet significantly improved blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, mood and cognitive function, but it doesn’t describe how much each outcome improved.

Does the news release adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The release doesn’t address harms from a dairy enriched diet.

Since the release is encouraging greater dairy consumption, including up to 4 servings of cheese a day, it would be important to mention that there are potential harms from consuming more saturated fats found in many dairy products.

Does the news release seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The research involved a randomized crossover design but there’s no mention of this in the news release. There’s also no discussion of the small sample of 41 volunteers which limits the generalizability of the findings.

Additionally, readers don’t learn what types of dairy products were consumed, such as Greek yogurt and full and reduced fat cheese slices. The release also misreports the number of dairy servings consumed per day. It was not 2-3 servings per day as listed but 3-4 servings per day with participants averaging 3 servings per day, according to the study.

Finally, the study was just 8 weeks long. Findings from such a short study may be considered surrogate endpoints, not clinical ones. To claim a clinical benefit would require a much longer study.  

Does the news release commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There is no evidence of disease mongering in this release. The release provides useful context on the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Australia and globally.

Does the news release identify funding sources & disclose conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The news release didn’t include funding information. It should have noted that the research received funding from Dairy Australia, an industry trade group, as well as government and foundation grants.

Does the news release compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There’s no discussion about how the effectiveness of a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet might compare to a traditional Mediterranean diet as it relates to heart disease risk. The release claims a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet “is more effective” than a low-fat diet but offers no data to back up the claim.

Does the news release establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Applicable

Although the news release doesn’t discuss availability, it’s generally understood that items for a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet can likely be found in many grocery stores.

Does the news release establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The news release doesn’t explain how the diet is novel or discuss whether other research has examined how a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet impacts heart disease risk.

Does the news release include unjustifiable, sensational language, including in the quotes of researchers?

Not Satisfactory

The news release begins by stating that a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet “will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease – and it’s even more effective than a low-fat diet.” However, a definitive statement like this should not be made based on a single randomized trial with a small sample. (And without an explanation of what “significantly” actually amounts to.)  More appropriate language would be that a dairy-supplemented Mediterranean diet may improve the risk of heart disease.

Total Score: 1 of 8 Satisfactory

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