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Consuming more olive oil may protect against strokes

Rating

3 Star

Tags

Consuming more olive oil may protect against strokes

Our Review Summary

This story didn’t mention anything about the limitations of observational studies.  One competitor wrote almost 200 words about such limitations. This story didn’t even quote the editorial, which provided an easy-to-access independent perspective.

 

Why This Matters

Journalists could do a better job of educating readers about research if they consistently drummed home the point that not all studies are equal.  In this type of case, it’s a matter of communicating that statistical association does not equal causation.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  The cost of olive oil is not in question.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story cites a 41% lower stroke risk for intensive users of olive oil, but doesn’t give the context of the actual numbers.  How many compared with how many? This may inflate the sense of the benefit or risk reduction.

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

Not Satisfactory

This is the main weakness in the story.  There was not a word about the limitations of such an observational study.  Nothing about the flaws inherent in a study reliant on surveys about recollection of consumption habits.

By comparison, see what a Reuters Health story reported:

“We need to remember that this is an observational study,” said Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York who wrote an editorial published with the study.

The study found a correlation between people’s olive oil use and their stroke risk, he told Reuters Health — but that doesn’t necessarily translate into cause-and-effect.

“People who use a lot of olive oil may be very different from people who don’t,” Scarmeas said.

Olive oil users may, for example, have higher incomes, eat better overall or exercise more often than people who never use the oil. The researchers on the new study, led by Cécilia Samieri of the French national research institute INSERM, tried to account for those differences. And after they did, olive oil was still linked to a lower stroke risk.

But it’s impossible to fully account for all those variables, Scarmeas noted. What’s needed, he said, are clinical trials where people are randomly assigned to use olive oil or not, then followed over time to see who suffers a stroke. Such clinical trials are considered the “gold standard” of medical evidence.”

 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease-mongering of stroke in the story.

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

Not Satisfactory

No one is quoted. No independent perspective is given to evaluate the findings.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

At least the story mentions that “scientists are still assessing the roles various portions of the (Mediterranean) diet and lifestyle play” – making clear that there are potentially other prevention methods at play.

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  The availability of olive oil is not in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story at least states, “Other studies have linked he Mediterranean diet with a lowre risk of heart disease.”

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable only because we can’t be sure of the extent to which the story relied on a news release.  We can’t be sure because no one is quoted.  The online story doesn’t even link to the abstract of the journal article.

Total Score: 3 of 6 Satisfactory

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