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Eating light on the Mediterranean diet may prevent depression


0 Star

Eating light on the Mediterranean diet may prevent depression

Our Review Summary

A 183-word story just can’t do much.  And this story didn’t. 

The NY paper clearly picked up the story from the BBC and passed along erroneous information about basic information such as where the study was published. 

But at the heart of the story was the improper and inaccurate use of causal language from an observational study that can’t establish causation, but only association.  It is wrong when the story states,  "The diet…has a positive effect on mood." 

This kind of research news via briefs and pickups from other news organizations is a waste of time and space.  


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Costs of this diet were not discussed, but that’s ok.

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

Not Satisfactory

We criticize any story that only uses relative risk reduction figures.  This story used only a 30% relative risk reduction figure and then used a quote from the principal investigator saying, "Thirty percent is a large reduction in the risk…"

We expect the story to provide the answer to this question:  "Thirty percent of what?"  

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

Not Satisfactory

Are there any harms of the Mediterranean diet?  We’d never know from this story.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story fails in almost every regard on the evidence, starting with the fact that it couldn’t even correctly state where the study was published.  The story said it was in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  It was not.  It was in the Archives of General Psychiatry.  If any reader/consumer tried to track it down in JAMA – as the story led me to do – that reader would have wasted a lot of time – as I did. 

But the story also failed to say anything about the limitations of such observational studies, or anything about how association does not equal causation.  Yet it used words like "the diet…has a positive effect on mood."  That is wrong.  No causal link can be established by such a study.  

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

No real discussion of depression, so this criterion is not applicable with this story.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent journalism took place.  Only a single source was quoted – and that quote was picked up from another news organization. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

A lot gets left out in a 183-word story.  Forget about putting this idea into the context of other treatments for depression when such little space and effort is afforded the topic. 

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

Not Applicable

The availability of the Mediterranean diet is not in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Applicable

No claims of novelty were made, so this criterion is not applicable with this story.

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

Not Satisfactory

It’s not clear that there was any independent reporting that took place.  The NY paper apparently just picked up the story from the BBC and copied even the erroneous information on where the study was published.  This is as bad as relying on a news release, so we rule it unsatisfactory.  Such 183-word research news via proxy is a waste of time and space.

Total Score: 0 of 6 Satisfactory


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