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Drink wine, don’t get sunburned


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Drink wine, don’t get sunburned

Our Review Summary

If you’ve been following this site long enough, you can do this review yourself.  We only need to show you the lead paragraph:

  • “Important health tip for the summer: Drink more wine! A better protection against harmful sunburns might be a healthy dose of SPF sauvignon blanc, suggests a new Spanish study.”

How do you think it did?

If you need help, keep reading.


Why This Matters

We know this column is supposed to be cute, oddball stuff.

But often it’s not.

It’s often briefs that make claims about ideas without doing a bit of work to analyze the evidence.  This is the kind of daily drumbeat of meaningless health news that turns people numb to the stuff that really matters.

Each piece ends with the tease: “Want more weird health news?”  Our answer is “No.”


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Costs weren’t mentioned.  That’s the least of our issues with this story.  We’ll rule it Not Applicable.

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

Not Satisfactory

We’re not told the degree of protection, the success rate of the experiment – nothing about the scope of perceived “benefit” or success.  Yet the story boldly proclaims: “Important health tip for the summer: Drink more wine!”

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

Not Satisfactory

Absolutely no evaluation of the evidence.  The story spouts the following line from the scientists:

  • “The flavonoids found in grapes work to halt the chemical reaction that kills skin cells and causes sun damage. Here’s what happens: When UV rays hit your skin, they activate “reactive oxygen species,” or ROS, which then oxidize big molecules like lipids and DNA. This activates particular enzymes that kill skin cells.But grapes’ flavonoids work to decrease the formation of the ROS’s in skin cells that were exposed to UVA and UVB rays.”

But was the work done in the test tube?  On human cells?  On mouse cells?  We’re not given a clue.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent expert on skin protection was interviewed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There was no comparison with other research about skin protection.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story playfully mentions SPF Sauvignon Blanc.  But it doesn’t answer if the effect is seen from all grapes and all grape derivatives.  Of course, since the story links to a news release it appears that no one interviewed the researcher or read the study.

The story states that “this finding may lead to better sun-shielding drugs and cosmetics” without giving any sense of how much research has been done down this path or how far away such a projection might be from any glimmer of reality.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

MSNBC’s attempt to tell the broader story about beneficial effects of wine is to link to 3 unrelated stories that have appeared on their site in the past, on wine being found “to fight Alzheimer’s, ward off prostate cancer and even prevent cavities.”

But nothing about whether this grape flavonoid work is novel – or about any other research in the field of skin protection that may be further along than this

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

Not Satisfactory

The story links to a news release, which we can safely assume was the sole motivation for the story.

Total Score: 0 of 7 Satisfactory


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