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Heart attack relief? The truth about omega-3 fatty acids

Rating

3 Star

Heart attack relief? The truth about omega-3 fatty acids

Our Review Summary

This was an expanded version of a story that aired on the previous evening's newscast.  It did a good job discussion the increasing number of products on grocery store shelves that are fortified with explaining omega-3 fatty acid.  The content about benefits and harms were descriptive and would have been improved by providing estimates of health impact that can be gained from increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption.  They did a good job of pointing out that the amount of omega-3 fatty acid to be gotten from the fortified food was relatively small.  While it was amusing to ponder whether orange juice supplemented with omega-3 fatty acid from fish would taste fishy, the story failed to deliver content that might help the viewer understand the magnitude of the benefits one might realistically gain from increasing dietary omega-3 fatty acid or the level of harm that has been associated with this nutrient.  In addition, the story did not include information about costs.  Inclusion of these pieces of information would better enable consumers to make educated choices at the grocery store. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story did not mention the mention whether the costs for omega-3 fortified foods were typically higher than, equal to, or less than traditional products.

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

Satisfactory

While the story at one point made broad sweeping claims about potential benefits from omega-3 fatty acides, it did point out that it would be unrealistic to obtain one's entire recommended intake from fortified orange juice and that having a glass or two of omega-3 fortified orange juice per day would provide minimal heart benefit.

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

Not Satisfactory

The dietician interviewed as part of this story mentioned caution with respect to overdoing omega-3 fatty acid intake.  But the story failed to provide concrete, evidence-based information about the actual harms and potentially dangerous interaction with anticlotting medication.

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

Not Satisfactory

The dietician interviewed in the early segment of this story mentioned the research showing that omega-3 fatty acids reduce are cardioprotective, good for arteries, lower triglycerides and qualified the benefit one might hope to gain in terms of macular degeneration, arthritis and Alzheimers.   The distinction in the strength of the evidence for cardioprotective benefit and these other potential benefits was stated more strongly.  However, there was really nothing in the story about the nature of the evidence (type of studies, whether the results could be replicated, etc.) demonstrating either cardioprotective or other benefits.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease mongering.

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

Satisfactory

There were several experts interviewed for this story that have expertise about omega-3 fatty acids but without apparent conflicts of interests.  

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the nutritionist who was interviewed as part of this story commented that "[g]etting omega-3s from foods that are rich in them is probably the best way to do it," the story did not provide clear information about the food sources and the portion sizes needed to obtain the recommended levels of omega-3 fatty acids per day.

The story also did not mention nutritional supplements (and the potential issues with them) or cod liver oil as other means of increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption.

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

Satisfactory

It's clear from the story that omega-3 fortified foods are readily available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

As the story states, there is, indeed a new wave of omega-3 fatty acid fortified foods. However, this ought to have been balanced with acknowledgement that omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been around for much longer; and of course that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been around even longer than that.  Because this piece focused on a category of dietary omega-3 fatty acids, it made the story seem more like marketing than news.

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

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to rely solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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