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Women’s weight-loss surgery may help kids


3 Star

Women’s weight-loss surgery may help kids

Our Review Summary

This story covers the potential role that maternal weight loss surgery can play in breaking a family’s cycle of obesity.

It would be difficult for news consumers to independently scrutinize the claims in the story because the study has only been published online for subscribers and for media who are granted access.

The general public won’t have access to the study or its data until the November edition of the journal is printed.

For now, the general public can only read a journal news release that said the paper had been accepted for publication in November.

The story stated, “The study was published last week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.” We wish that the newspaper would have been more clear about what "published" really meant in this case. It’s NOT published for the general public to be able to access.

In the increasingly competitive world of medical journals, we don’t know why the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism would distribute a news release about something that won’t be publicly available for two months – except that it is an increasingly competitive world of medical journals and journals seem to love the publicity they get from published articles.

Savvy readers and consumers who want to scrutinize the claims that appear in the news release and in news stories will have to wait until the full study is published in the traditional sense – meaning anyone can access it – and that’s two months away.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

This story did not provide information on the cost of weight loss surgery or indicate whether it is covered by health insurance.

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


This story accurately summarizes the benefits for children. Benefits include improved cardiovascular markers such as insulin sensitivity and lower cholesterol and that children were 3 times less likely to be obese compared to their siblings born before weight loss surgery. The article also lists maternal health benefits such as not gaining as much weight during pregnancy and lower risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.

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

Not Satisfactory

Fetal malnutrition is the only potential adverse effect of maternal weight loss surgery that the story mentions. A quote from the lead researcher states that fetal malnutition is not a concern for women who have had weight loss surgery before pregnancy. While this may have been the case in the research being referenced, there are not a lot of data to definitively support this statement. Other possible complications including anemia or bleeding in the stomach or intestines were not mentioned.

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

Not Satisfactory

This article states that the information presented is based upon a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. What it did not explain is that it was only published online for subscribers of the journal and for media. News consumers who do not subscribe to the journal (how many would?) do not have access to the complete data and won’t have access to it until it appears in the printed publication in November. So all the general public can access is a news release that said the paper had been accepted for publication.

A fact omitted from the story but contained even in the press release is that the women in the study had a less common form of weight loss surgery called biliopancreatic diversion. So there was no discussion of whether the same risks and benefits of this type of surgery would apply to women undergoing the more common gastric bypass surgery.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


Obesity is a significant public issue. This story appropriately discussed the risks of obesity and significant weight gain during pregnancy on the mother and child’s health.

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


The story includes quotes with the lead investigator and with an independent researcher.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story references first line behavioral treatment options including education about the risks of obesity, exercise and diet. The story should have listed weight loss medication, but rates satisfactory in this category because it indicates that more aggressive treatment may be needed if behavioral approaches fail.

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

Not Satisfactory

No information on the availability or prevalence of weight loss surgery for women of child-bearing age was given. And no information was given about how common is the particular method of biliopancreatic diversion surgery that was used in this study.


Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story quotes the lead investigator: “To our knowledge, our paper is the first to demonstrate that dramatic maternal weight loss causes metabolic improvements in their children."

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


The newspaper (and other media and journal subscribers) got access to an online posting of the study. The general public won’t have access to that study and its data until it’s published in print in November.

It does appear that the paper interviewed the author and an independent source, so we’re going to give the story the benefit of the doubt and rule it satisfactory.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory


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