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Drug doubles endurance, study says

Rating

1 Star

Drug doubles endurance, study says

Our Review Summary

On the surface, this story appears to be reporting some medical research news.  However, it does so in a manner that is not critical about the information being presented nor mindful about balance.  There is an important difference between the results from a few research studies in animals and and demonstration of efficacy in people.  The story would have been strengthened by providing more sources with healthy skepticism to balance the overwhelming enthusiasm from other sources, several of whom had ties to the drug companies promoting the substance.

It is true that recent published work about reservatrol demonstrates beneficial effects in mice and the story presented these well.  But the story did not go on to question any of the researchers' claims in a critical fashion.  Good outcomes in mice do not necessarily lead to good outcomes in people.  The fact that scientists who have a financial interest in a compound report that they ingest the material does not provide any insight about evidence of benefit in people. 

Another probelm with the story was that the interpretation of the results observed was included without question.  One example is the observation that the mice fed high levels of reservatrol had increased numbers of mitrochondria, which was presented as a benefit.  However, in the process of energy generation by mitochondria, the release of free radicals occurs.  Unchecked, free radicals can damage biologically important molecules that can affect function of those molecules and can result in disease processes (e.g. damage of DNA by free radicals is postulated to lead to mutations leading to cancer).  This possible downside to reservatrol consumption might take several years to be observed.

This story did little to present the information about reservatrol in a context for readers to understand what the hype is about, what the quality of evidence might be, and what sorts of studies need to be done in order to determine whether this compound will live up to its potential.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no estimate of costs for any reservatrol product – real or imagined.  However, the web site of the company mentioned as selling reservatrol, states that a 30 day supply (which is actually much less reservatrol than was fed to the mice in the study) is $34.95.

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

Not Satisfactory

The opening statement of the story, discussing 100% improvement in performance takes results observed in a single study of mice and extrapolates to humans.  Later in the story, there is mention of a 30% increase in lifespan in mice, though these results are again from a study of a single strain of mice. (Strains of mice are genetically identical individuals and therefore results observed in a single strain need confirmation in several strains before it can be concluded that the results are generalizable to the entire species.)

Mention of a genetic analysis of different forms (alleles) of a human gene and energy expenditure was based on a very small study and in itself should not be seen to imply that the mechanism in mice and humans was the same as stated in the story.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story stated that there were uncertainties about the safety of reservatrol in humans.  In fact, to date, no clinical trials with this compound have been completed.  At this time, a single trial looking at safety in colon cancer patients is recruiting subjects.  The story should have emphasized the need for safety testing humans before any claims can be made. With some nutrients, such as Vitamin A, we know that small doses provide benefit, while large doses can be harmful.  The story would have been strengthened by providing more sources with healthy skeptism to balance the overwhelming enthusiasm from other sources, many of whom had ties to the drug companies promoting the substance.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story did include a caution that nothing is currently known about how much reservatrol a human can ingest nor what the effective dose of reservatrol might be.  But the evidence from mouse studies was presented without an appropriate admonition that the benefits seen in mice need to be tested in other mammalian species and even then, it is not conclusive that the results are applicable to humans.

The story minimizes the complexities of "metabolism", whether mice or human metabolism, and it is over-simplification to suggest that investigators understand the pathophysiology.  The overenthusiastic tone of the story is unwarranted based on the limited available evidence to support the claims. One expert quote is laughable: “The fact that investigators in the field are taking it is a good sign there is something there.”

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story portrays aging as a disease that could be treated with a pill. 

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

Not Satisfactory

While the story quoted several scientists not directly associated with the particular studies or companies mentioned, there was no balance to the perspectives represented.  The story would have been greatly imporved if it had included some serious comment about the ramifcations of the scientific observations reported.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This story did not provide information about other ways for a person to attain the benefits mentioned for reservatrol such as protection from weight gain, increased longevity, or avoiding degenerative disease. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story did not mention that reservatrol is not a substance approved by the FDA.  It mentioned an available capsule product but then mentioned that this product's volume of resveratrol "would have to be gulped in almost impossible quantities for a human to obtain doses equivalent to those used in mice."  So the true availability issue was unresolved.  

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

This story reported on the results of some new scientific studies on the effects of reservatrol.

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

Satisfactory

Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 2 of 10 Satisfactory

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