Read Original Story

Calcium and Osteoporosis

Rating

2 Star

Calcium and Osteoporosis

Our Review Summary

This television morning show “Health Watch” segment discusses results of a recent study which showed that calcium supplements are effective in preventing fractures. These results seem to contradict the much publicized recent results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which found that calcium supplementation does not have any affect on the risk of fractures. This story does adequately highlight the main difference between these two results – this study looked at the subgroup of women who were at least 80% compliant, whereas the WHI study looked at the overall study population.

While this story attempts to clear up the confusion in the seemingly contradictory results, the story doesn’t quantify benefits and it exaggerates the seriousness of osteoporosis and osteopenia (low bone mass). When we are told that “34 Million Americans have low bone mass,” there is no information on how is this defined. What is the seriousness of this condition? We are also told that “1 in 2 women will suffer a fracture in her lifetime.” How many of these fractures are attributable to osteoporosis or osteopenia? While these two statements may be factual, the manner in which they are presented overstates the problem and only serves to alarm the viewer.

The story does not mention if the supplements are available, if they are available over the counter and if you can buy them in the formulation used in the study (600mg twice a day). There are a lot of different kinds of calcium supplements available and the story should have provided the viewer with some guidance about which to choose. No harms are mentioned. In the study, the researchers found that constipation was a side effect of taking the calcium supplement. The story does not mention if the supplements are new or different from existing supplements.

The story does mention diet and weight bearing exercise as alternatives to calcium supplementation. However, more information about the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives should have been provided. Other options, such as exercises to improve stability and interventions to prevent falls, could also have been mentioned. No costs are mentioned and no independent sources are quoted.

People in television news may say they don’t have the time to address all of these issues. But between the words spoken on the air and those displayed onscreen in graphics, there were about 800 words in this story. We have five-star-rated stories elsewhere on this site that had as few as 529 words. It can be done.

Criteria

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

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t quantify benefits in any way.

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

Not Satisfactory

No harms are mentioned. In the study, the researchers found that constipation was a side effect of taking the calcium supplement

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

Satisfactory

The story does provide information about the nature of the study being reported. The story explains that this was a large, controlled trial and that benefits of calcium were found only in the compliant group, not in the overall study sample. The story also explains why these results are different from recent results from the Women’s Health Initiative.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story exaggerates the seriousness of osteoporosis and osteopenia (low bone mass). When we are told that “34 Million Americans have low bone mass,” we have to wonder, how is this defined? What is the seriousness of this condition? We are also told that “1 in 2 women will suffer a fracture in her lifetime.” How many of these fractures are attributable to osteoporosis or osteopenia? While these two statements may be factual, the manner in which they are presented overstates the problem and only serves to alarm the viewer.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent sources are quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story does mention diet and weight bearing exercise as alternatives to calcium supplementation. However, more information about the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives should have been provided. Other options, such as exercises to improve stability and interventions to prevent falls, could also have been mentioned.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention if the supplements are available, if they are available over the counter and if you can buy them in the formulation used in the study (600mg 2x/day).

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention if the supplements are new or different from existing supplements.

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.