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Study: Taking B vitamins can prevent vision loss

Rating

4 Star

Study: Taking B vitamins can prevent vision loss

Our Review Summary

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common cause of vision loss in the elderly. There is no cure for AMD and once the vision is lost it cannot be regained. However, there is hope that AMD can be prevented or the rate of loss slowed using vitamin supplementation.

This story reports on a new study showing  that women who took a specific combination of b-vitamin supplements had a lower risk of developing AMD after 7 years. The story does a good job of describing potential conflicts of interest of the quoted experts, one of whom is not involved in the research or funded by the vitamin manufacturer. The story adequately represents the availability and novelty of the supplements, although it is not clear if this particular combination of vitamins is available and if so, if they are available over the counter or by prescription only.

The story quantifies the number of cases of AMD in the vitamin group as well as the control group. The story should have provided a denominator for these numbers so that the reader can get a sense of the size of the risk.

The story could have been improved by describing the cost of the vitamins as well as potential harms. While vitamins are generally safe, the FDA does not regulate supplements and therefore there is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of the product. Furthermore there are some important contraindications and consumers should talk with their doctor before taking the vitamins.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the cost of the vitamin supplements.

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

Satisfactory

The story quantifies the number of cases of AMD in the vitamin group as well as the control group. The story should have provided a denominator for these numbers so that the reader can get a sense of the size of the risk.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any harms of b-vitamin supplements. While they are generally safe, the FDA does not regulate supplements and therefore there is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products. Furthermore there are some important contraindications and consumers should talk with their doctor about before taking the vitamins.

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

Satisfactory

The story adequately describes the current study and discusses some of its strengthes and weaknesses. The story does a particularly good job of describing the study design, the sample size and duration of follow-up.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not exaggerate the seriousness or prevalence of AMD. The story should have explained that there are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD is more common, progresses more slowly and may respond to vitamin supplementation, whereas wet AMD, although more rare, progresses rapidly and may not respond to vitamins.

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

Satisfactory

The story quotes an expert who is not related to the study or employed by the vitamin manufacturer. The story does a good job of describing potential conflicts of interest of the quoted experts.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story mentions smoking cessation and laser treatment as alternatives. The story however might have mentioned the other prevention methods listed on the National Eye Institute website: control of diet, exercise, weight, and blood pressure.

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

Satisfactory

Clearly vitamin-b supplements are available, however the story should have described whether this particular combination of vitamins is available and if so, if they are available over the counter or by prescription only.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story adequately represents the novelty of taking vitamins for AMD, which is not a new idea.

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

Satisfactory

Given the fact that an independent expert was interviewed, it’s safe to assume it did not rely solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory

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