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Milk for Mom May Lower Baby’s MS Risk

Rating

3 Star

Milk for Mom May Lower Baby’s MS Risk

Our Review Summary

This piece reports on an unpublished, observational study, which found that daughters of mothers who reported a high intake of vitamin D while pregnant have a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). This story has numerous flaws, the biggest of which was relying exclusively on the press release. Two other major flaws were not including the caveat that this research has yet to undergo peer review and not explaining the limitations of such an observational study. 

 

Why This Matters

News stories should use caution when reporting on research presented at scientific meetings. The results are generally preliminary and can change. Furthermore, it has not undergone a rigorous review process to make sure the evidence is sound.  In short, the research might not be ready for primetime. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

A discussion of cost is not necessary on this topic in this context.    

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

Not Satisfactory

The story only presented the results in terms of relative risk, rather than absolute risk (56% lower than what?).  Additionally, the story suggests that daughters of mothers who drank 4 glasses of milk per day had a lower risk of MS compared to those whose mothers who drank 3 glasses of milk per day.  However, we’re not told whether this difference is statistically significant.

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

Not Satisfactory

We don’t know if any of the mothers who reported a high intake of vitamin D experienced adverse effects; however, it’s worthwhile to mention that excessive intake of vitamin D supplements is associated with harms, including nausea, vomiting, constipation, and weakness. Additionally, information about how to safely get enough sun exposure to convert vitamin D to its active form would have been helpful.

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

Not Satisfactory

This story failed to point out the limitations of having the mothers answer questions about their diets during pregnancy many, many years after the fact. The story also should have emphasized that only daughters were included the study, and it’s unclear whether this same protective effect would be seen in males.

 

Furthermore, the story mentions that the researchers will present these findings at the upcoming American Academy of Neurology’s meeting, but does not explicitly state that the research has yet to be published in a medical journal. Unlike published articles, this study has not gone through a rigorous review process.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story did not exaggerate the prevalence or seriousness of MS.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent experts were interviewed for this story.   

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

There was no mention of vitamin D supplements, but the story discussed main sources of the vitamin, including milk, fish, fortified foods, and sunlight.  

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

Satisfactory

The story lists common sources of vitamin D, all of which are widely available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story indicates that other studies have found a link between vitamin D and MS. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The information in this piece was taken directly from the American Academy of Neurology’s news release  There is no sign of any independent reporting.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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