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Study hints multivitamins aid women’s heart health

Rating

3 Star

Study hints multivitamins aid women’s heart health

Our Review Summary

This is a story reporting on the results of study that looked to see whether regular consumption of multivitamins had any impact on how likely it was that a woman would have a heart attack in the future.  The study found and the story reported that multivitamin use by women who already have heart disease did not appear to be associated with the likelihood they would have a heart attack.   On the other hand, multivitamin use by women who did not have heart disease appeared to be associated with lowered risk of having a heart attack. However, the claims about potential benefits in the headline and lead are undercut by an author of the study who is quoted at the end of the piece as saying it is really still an open question as to whether multivitamins have any benefit.  The story includes some statistics that are helpful, but also others that may confuse readers

 

Why This Matters

Multivitamins and the controversy over whether to take them for prevention of heart disease or cancer is important because it affects a large segment of the population and there is potential for harm.  

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

 There was no insight about the costs of various multivitamin formulations.

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

Satisfactory

The story provided the numbers so that readers could calculate the absolute reduction in heart attacks in the group of women taking multivitamins who did not have heart disease (with multivit = 2.6%; without multivit = 3.4%).  However, it is unfortunate that instead of choosing to report that there was  a1% reduction in heart attacks, a decision was made to report it as a 27% reduction in heart attacks.  While a 27% difference sounds pretty exciting, it is a bit misleading.

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

Not Satisfactory

 There was no discussion of possible harms associated with the use of multivitamins.  In an era where so very many foods are fortified with various nutrients, the consumption of yet another source of micronutrients may not be without potential down sides.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story failed to adequately explain about the type of study conducted and the quality of the evidence.

Since the study was observational and, as the story noted, it could not rule out other factors in the women’s lives that might explain the results, it is inappropriate to tell readers that it provided evidence that vitamins can boost health or cut risk. The study had limitations, including a lack of information about the types and quantities of vitamins the women were taking as well as the potential that other health behaviors may have been responsible for the differences seen.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

 The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

 No independent sources appear to have been used to put the current study results in context.  Comments from experts in the field could have shed valuable light on this topic.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

 There was no discussion of the impact of other lifestyle choices beyond consumption of multivitamins that have demonstrate effect on reducing the risk of heart attack.  Adopting other risk reduction behaviors is a more powerful way to reduce risk of heart attack.

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

Satisfactory

The availability of multivitamins is assumed. However, the researchers did not collect deatiled data about which vitamins the women took or in what amounts, so it is unknown whether the results truly reflect on typical multivitamins or possibly other products.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

 The story accurately conveyed the lack of novelty of this treatment studied.

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

Satisfactory

The story includes quotes from one of the researchers.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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