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Want to Cut Cancer Risk? Try Munching Pistachios

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Want to Cut Cancer Risk? Try Munching Pistachios

Our Review Summary

This is the kind of story that comes with the daily drumbeat of health/medical/science research stories – a story that gets a brief light-hearted comment at the watercooler because of the cute headline – "Want to Cut Cancer Risk? Try Munching Pistachios."  But it’s a story that delivers almost no meaningful information.  Why?

Because it:

  • was based on a very small, very short-term study
  • didn’t explain the limitations of drawing conclusions from such a study
  • appears to have come directly from a news release without any independent reporting.
  • included no independent perspectives on whether the findings were important or not.
  • doesn’t explain that this study – because of small size and short duration – may not have a meaningful impact on the literature about dietary factors and cancer prevention.

 

Why This Matters

Lung cancer is the top cause of cancer death in men and women in the US.  So prevention is an important issue that demands better attention than this.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The cost of pistachios isn’t in question.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story stated that the " pistachio group showed significantly higher blood levels of gamma-tocopherol"  What does that mean?  And what difference could it mean in peoples’ lives?  Of course, not much can be said about such a small, short-term study, which makes the entire discussion of potential benefit – and the newsworthiness of the story – questionable.

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

Not Applicable

There was no discussion of potential harms, but we will grade this as Not Applicable because this is not an intervention likely to cause harm.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story never comments on the limitations of drawing conclusions from such a small (18 people in each group), short-term (4 weeks) study.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story says that "Eating pistachios every day might reduce your risk for lung cancer and other malignancies."  What other malignancies?  The story never explains.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent sources were quoted in the story.  Again, everything seems to have come from a news release. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t give any context about nutritional approaches to reduce cancer risk.

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

Not Applicable

The availability of pistachios isn’t in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

No context was given about any other past research looking at vitamin E or  gamma-tocopherol. And there is a substantial body of literature on this topic already from large cohort studies across the world. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story appears to rely entirely on a news release.

The researcher’s quotes are the exact same quotes that appear in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research

There is no evidence of any independent reporting having been done on the story.

Total Score: 0 of 7 Satisfactory

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