This story reports on a randomized trial examining whether a ketogenic diet can effectively aid in the management of epilepsy in children who have not had an adequate response to antiseizure medications. Because of its length, the story left out important details about the study. The story did not provide adequate detail about the source of the information it reported on. The researchers themselves defined a significant number of caveats that are important to an understanding of the study results but these caveats are not included in the news story.
It may not have given a complete picture of the costs of this approach. It gave an incomplete picture of what can go wrong. The story did not mention any harms associated with the diet. In the particular study reported on, the side effects in the children studied included constipation, vomiting, lack of energy, and hunger. In addition, there have been reports of more serious side effects occurring after longer term use of the diet.
The story was about 500 words in length; affording it another 100-150 words could have resulted in a very good piece rather than one which was just okay.
The story was not explicit about the costs of the diet. The ketogenic diet may involve inpatient initiation of treatment, lots of lab work and a good deal of involvement from the neurologist and dietician. The price of all of this may be offset by reduced drug costs. The listing of the components of the diet gives the impression of a low cost of care which may not be valid.
The story accurately reported on the level of benefit observed in the study it reported on. However, the story should have mentioned that the timeframe of the study reported on was 90 days. This is of concern to readers who might be evaluating the benefits to be obtained through adherence to the diet.
The story did not mention any harms associated with the diet. In the particular study reported on, the side effects in the children studied included constipation, vomiting, lack of energy, and hunger. In addition, there have been reports of more serious side effects occurring after longer term use of the diet.
The story referred to results in a scientific paper that will be published in June. The details reported on may have come from the abstract of the paper which can be found online or from a press release from the hospital at which the study was conducted http://www.ich.ucl.ac.uk/pressoffice/pressrelease_00622
The story should have acknowledged the source of its information.
This story did not engage in overt disease mongering.
Apparently a not-yet-published journal article was one source. Another was an interview with the principal investigator of the study reported on. In addition, there was an interview with a clinician with expertise in the area but who was not directly associated with the story reported on.
Although the story reported that the children in the particular study reported on had failed to respond to at least two antiseizure medications, the story did not provide information about treatment options for children with epilepsy or whether the diet would typically be used instead of or in addition to other treatments for epilepsy.
The story stated that this dietary approach to managing epilepsy is a standard treatment at hospitals and epilepsy centers in the United States and abroad. So we get somewhat of a sense of its availability. But the story doesn’t make clear just how many hospitals and epilepsy centers use this approach, or how many have the necessary cross-discipline resources to manage the approach.
The story mentioned the long history of using a ketogenic diet to aid in the management of epilepsy.
We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release. As noted before, a news story that covers a not-yet published journal article should be more explicit about its sources of information.