Lest anyone think we’re unfair to blogs or that we don’t appreciate the brevity embraced by many blogs, please note that this 1-star story ran 474 words. Earlier today we posted a 5-star score for a story that ran only 262 words.
It is the quality – not the quantity – of the words that matters.
It’s hard to get by the opening line of this blog piece that says "Blueberries may be one of nature’s wonder drugs." Evidence that comes largely from observational studies – or studies like the ones reported on here that included only 32 or 66 people – is not evidence that should be touted as proof of "wonder drugs."
Not applicable. Costs of blueberries – or of the "daily dietary supplementation of bioactives in freeze-dried whole blueberry powder" – were not given. But we don’t think this is a major issue.
No quantification of benefit in the first study described – only that "participants’ insulin sensitivity increased." How much did it increase? What clinical significance did that or might it have? This is what readers need to know – not just some surrogate marker.
Regarding the second study, the story said "researchers saw a seven- to eight-point drop in the systolic blood pressure of patients who had been drinking the blueberry beverage." Everyone got a 7-8 point drop? Or was this the average decline? And a decline from what starting point? None of this was explained. That’s inadequate.
Not applicable. No harms were mentioned, but we’re not sure there were any worth mentioning in these small, short-term studies. But we can’t give a satisfactory score for what wasn’t reported.
First, the story never explained that the first study used not blueberries but "daily dietary supplementation of bioactives in freeze-dried whole blueberry power." More than a matter of semantics, this raises questions about the whole premise of the article about "eating blueberries." These study subjects did not eat blueberries. That should have been explained.
Second, the story never mentioned what the researchers themselves wrote, that this study was not conclusive and that studies of longer duration were needed.
Third, the story never explained that the first study involved only 32 people – only 15 whom got the blueberry bioactive concoction.
Finally, the story never addressed the inherent limitations in drawing any conclusions from such a small sample.
The second study mentioned in the story – the one about blueberries in people with "pre-hypertension" – never mentioned the significant concerns that have been raised in some corners about disease-mongering of "pre-hypertension." Note, for example, the recent article in the BMJ by journalist Ray Moynihan, "Who benefits from treating prehypertension." The story could have at least nodded in the direction of controversy about this diagnosis, rather than touting it as one more disease to be prevented by blueberry consumption.
No independent sources were quoted – only the lead researchers.
In addition, the first study was funded partially by the United States Highbush Blueberry Council, something the story should have explained.
There wasn’t even a line about other methods of lowering risk in those at increased risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure. It wouldn’t have taken but a few words to satisfy this criterion.
The story stated the newer study was of "daily consumption of blueberries." That’s inaccurate and it’s pertinent to this availability criterion. It was a study of "daily dietary supplementation of bioactives in freeze-dried whole blueberry powder." How available is this stuff outside a research setting? What difference might that make over consumption of blueberries? More than splitting hairs, this is an important clarification, and one this story didn’t provide.
The story at least tried to put two newer studies into the context of "the body of research supporting the benefits of eating blueberries." But we also think this phrase is too simplistic and potentially misleading. Nonethless we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Not applicable. We can’t be sure of the extent to which this blog post may have relied on a news release. We know we saw some of the exact same quotes in other places, suggesting they didn’t come from interviewing the sources.