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Resveratrol May Slow Aging in Humans

Rating

1 Star

Resveratrol May Slow Aging in Humans

Our Review Summary

An egregious headline shouts "Resveratrol May Slow Aging in Humans."  But 10 people took the active substance in the trial  and the only outcomes reported in the story were intermediate or surrogate markers – blood levels of various "pro-inflammatory markers."  Read Dr. Michael Kirsch’s excellent blog post, "Evidence-based Medicine in Disguise:  Beware the Surrogate!" This is exactly the kind of story he describes when he wrote, "Why do some medical studies, which achieve breaking news status, often fall so short of our expectations?"

 

Why This Matters

Gullible people may jump at anti-aging stuff in the news.  This study is far from being ready for prime-time – and so was the story.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of the cost of the supplements used in the study. Doesn’t cost matter?

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

Not Satisfactory

How many of the 10 people taking resveratrol had changes in "pro-inflammatory markers"?  All of them?  Half of them?  How big were the changes?  How meaningful were the changes?  We weren’t told any of this. 

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

Not Satisfactory

Anything we put in our mouths has the potential to cause harm – a concept not recognized in this story.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story called the study results "promising" and said, as a matter of fact, that "resveratrol suppresses inflammation."  But deeper in the story one of the researchers said "something in the extract other than resveratrol" may have been the reason for the anti-inflammatory effects.

So which is it? 

The story never addressed the limitations of drawing conclusions from a study that had just 10 people in the active arm of the trial taking the resveratrol supplements. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

Intermediate endpoints or surrogate markers – such as blood levels of "pro-inflammatory markers" do NOT equate to "may slow aging" as the headline suggests.  Yet the story made the leap to say that "resveratrol reduces inflammation in humans that could lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes."

But let’s drop back to a bigger picture:  Shouldn’t we introduce at least a line in the story about whether aging is a disease requiring treatment? This is the way the story was framed – appearing in WebMD’s "Healthy Aging Health Center" with four mentions of aging in the short story.

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

Not Satisfactory

Only two authors of the study were quoted – no independent expert source was cited.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Since the story framed this primarily as an anti-aging therapy – with possible impact on heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes thrown in – it would have been helpful for readers to be reminded about proven approaches to any of these conditions.  But the story gave no such comparisons.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story says that resveratrol can be found in common food sources.  But the study was about resveratrol supplements in pill form and the story never explained to readers whether these were available.  Are they at the corner drug store or health food store?  Are they experimental?  The story should have explained.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story discussed a little bit of past research, suggesting that interest in resveratrol is not new. 

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable because we can’t be sure of the extent to which the story was influenced by a news release.  We do know that no truly independent source was quoted in the story.

Total Score: 1 of 9 Satisfactory

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