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Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds


3 Star

Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds

Our Review Summary

This story covers another finding from the Women’s Health Initiative study – this one questioning the impact of low-fat diets on heart disease. The story fails to adequately present the results of the study and what those results mean. Instead, the personal opinions of a variety of scientists are presented with little context for understanding their perspectives. We are told that this study is “likely to be the final word” and that the “overall message is clear” along with “the diet studied turned out not to be protective at all” and “that it doesn’t say this diet is not beneficial.” It is unfortunate that the quotes used focused more on personal beliefs than on evaluation of the evidence.


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

Not Satisfactory

Absolute rates of breast cancer seen in the study are presented but not those for cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer rates.

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


The story includes many questions about whether a low-fat diet is worth the trouble.

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

Not Satisfactory

This article did not adequately deal with the actual data in the studies. The story should have pointed out that small changes in diet (which didn”t significantly improve levels of overweight or obesity, CVD risk factors such as cholesterol levels or blood pressure), in a population that had lower than expected rates for the diseases studied don”t change the rates of heart disease, breast cancer or colorectal cancer.

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


Scientists with a variety of different perspectives and interests are quoted. It is unfortunate that the quotes used focused more on personal beliefs than on evaluation of the evidence.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This article failed to provide context for the study diet in terms of typical diet, intended study diet, and actual study diet. Mention is made that there is more recent evidence suggesting that not all fats contribute equally to cardiovascular disease risk. Failed to mention caloric intake limitation for managing weight as an alternative to solely targeting fat consumption.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story failed to point out how the study goals were different than the existing FDA dietary guidelines. FDA calls for percentage of calories from fat (20-35%) with saturated fat (< 10%) and trans fats (limited intake) as compared to the study goals of less than 20% of calories from fat with no target set for either saturated or trans fats. Why were the study goals different than federal agency guidelines? The audience should be told.

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


There is no evidence that this story relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 9 Satisfactory


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