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Study: Vegetables may keep brains young

Rating

4 Star

Study: Vegetables may keep brains young

Our Review Summary

This story presented the results from a recent study which found a slower decline in mental sharpness in older people who ate 2.5 or more servings of vegetables per day than in people who ate 0 – 1.1 servings of vegetables per day. The story said the effect came with “more than two servings of vegetables per day” – which is too imprecise. In addition, the benefit to be obtained through increased vegetable consumption was characterized as people appearing five years younger at the end of the six-years or having 40 percent less mental decline. It would have been more helpful to frame for the reader the amount of mental decline typically seen in the age group studied, what the decline represents in terms of function, and the amount of potential for benefit to be gained through increased vegetable consumption. The five-year appearance change estimate comes directly from the discussion section of the research paper though the authors of that paper did not provide details on how they arrived at the estimate.

It was useful that the story pointed out that the research found an association between vegetable intake but not for fruit intake.  Although the standard wisdom is to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, this story provides a distinction between these two for readers to consider. It would have been useful for the story to provide a little more clarity about the definition of ‘vegetable’ for the reader.  This study was interesting in that, unlike the USDA, it did not include potatoes in its vegetable count.  In addition, it should be pointed out that whereas the FDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the equivalent of four to 13 servings a day of vegetables and fruit in a typical 2,000 calorie diet, the benefit in this study was seen at a much lower level –  2.5 servings/day of vegetable consumption.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

There was no discussion of costs of vegetable consumption. Although this could be considered general knowledge, mention of typical costs for vegetables would have been a nice addition.

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

Not Satisfactory

The research on which this story was based compared increasing amounts of vegetable (or fruit and vegetable, or fruit) intake with intake of 0 – 1.1 servings per day.  The study actually only found a statistically significant improvement in the rate of decline for individuals eating 2.5 or more servings of vegetables per day.  The story said the effect came with “more than two servings of vegetables per day" – which is too imprecise. In addition, the benefit to be obtained through increased vegetable consumption was characterized as people appearing 5 years younger at the end of the six-years or having 40 percent less mental decline   It would have been helpful to provide some idea of the difference this actually represents.  The five-year appearance change estimate comes directly from the discussion section of the research paper though the authors of that paper did not provide details on how they arrived at the estimate.

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

Not Applicable

This story was not actually about a treatment per se but rather about the possible association between an eating pattern and age-related decline in function.

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

Satisfactory

This story reported on a prospective study of cognitive decline in older individuals.  Although it did not explicitly mention the nature of the study design, the story included the caveat that the findings don’t prove that vegetables reduce mental decline, but add to mounting evidence pointing in that direction.  The story would have been stronger if it had included information on the methodology for assessing dietary intake.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No obvious elements of disease-mongering

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

Satisfactory

The story used several different sources.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This story did not discuss other means to delay or diminish the rate of cognitive decline with age.

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

Satisfactory

This story reported on a study of vegetable and fruit consumption in older adults in the Chicago area – vegetables and fruits that are clearly widely available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story begins, "New research on vegetables and aging gives mothers another reason to say 'I told you so.' "  Clearly, this is not a new idea, but the story is about new evidence. 

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

Satisfactory

Because the story used multiple sources, it does not appear to have relied solely or largely on a news release. 

Total Score: 7 of 9 Satisfactory

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