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Study fuels low-fat vs. low-carb debate


5 Star

Study fuels low-fat vs. low-carb debate

Our Review Summary

This article summarizes a recent research study comparing the long-term effects of three popular diets: low carbohydrate (Atkins style, unlimited meat and fatty foods), Mediterranean (high in olive oils, whole-grains, fruit, wine), and low fat (conventional American Heart Association diet).  This study was done to fill in missing information about these different diets, specifically whether one was better than another for weight loss and to examine whether the non-conventional low carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets are safe.  Previously, safety was a particular concern among the medical community as it was thought that weight loss resulting from non-conventional diets might be at the expense of increase heart disease risk.  This is a 5-star article.  Accurate, balanced, reliable, and well written. 


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

We wish the story would have at least mentioned whether there were any cost differences among the three diets.  Was there a cost to the workplace cafeterias to offer these diets in the specialized manner in which they delivered them?  We also wish the story had mentioned whether the study subjects had to pay, or were paid, to participate (a criticism of another diet study). 

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


This article does a very good job of documenting the absolute and relative benefits of each of the three diets. Also see Evidence comments.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


This article addressed the safety issue of of the three diets, which was a main outcome of the research study.  There had been concern among medical and health professionals that low carbohydrate diets like the Atkins Diet, which allow large amounts of meat and cheese, could cause harmful increases in LDL ("bad cholesterol") and increase the risk of heart disease.  An important message of this article is that alternative dietary approaches can be safe and beneficial to reduce serious health risk of overweight and obesity.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


This article receives high marks for accurate presentation of medical evidence.   This article devoted enough space to adequately cover the study methodology, e.g. the study setting, participant characteristics, calories and composition of each of the three diets, etc., which is not always provided in the such stories.  This article did a thorough job in presenting detailed results of the three diets for several outcomes in addition to weight loss: blood lipid profiles (LDL "bad cholesterol", HDL "good cholesterol", triglycerides), blood sugar levels, and adherence to the diets.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


This article article does not pander to popular fad diets. Obesity is a significant health problem that has reached epidemic proportions among all segment of the population.  Current dietary guidelines do not appear to be helping Americans maintain a healthy body weight. 

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


This study accurately summarized the results of the New England Journal of Medicine article on weight loss with three popular diets.  This article provided a good balance of commentary by independent experts representing alternative opinions and interpretation of the results.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


This article concludes with the bottom line for weight loss, cutting calories and exercising are the key, regardless of the type of diet.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The three popular diet plans discussed in this article are widely available and have been used by thousand of people in the U.S. and elsewhere.  This article does due diligence in pointing out that the dieters in the study received support in the workplace to help them stick to their diets.  In addition, the study dieters had the advantages of purchasing meals in their work cafeteria  with color-coded menu information corresponding to their diet requirements.   

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


These diets are not new or novel and are not presented as such in this article.  This article is clear that the new information being presented is the comparison of health benefits. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Because of the number of sources and perspectives represented, it’s safe to assume this story did not rely solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory


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