This is little gem of a story—a 454-word précis that lays out a succinct history of the research on garlic’s purported success in lowering LDL cholesterol (lab and animal studies), describes the methods and results of a new randomized trial in adults who have moderately high cholesterol, adds the voices of four sources representing a variety of viewpoints and interests, and entertains the reader in the deal. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t perfectly satisfy all of our criteria: In another 50 words or so it could have mentioned the costs of supplements, the incidental “harms” of consuming garlic (bad breath and body odor) and alternative methods for lowering cholesterol (e.g. exercise, diet, and drugs). Fortunately, many readers will be familiar with these. The story might also have added one more caveat (noted in an accompanying editorial): that atherosclerosis is an extremely complex problem involving much more than cholesterol — and that, conceivably, garlic might help trim some other risk factor important to our cardiovascular health. (Charlson M, Arch Intern Med 2007;167:325-6)
Though the article does not mention costs or compare costs of garlic and garlic supplements with other treatments, many readers will be familiar with these.
The story reports that the consumption of garlic in any of three forms (raw, powdered supplement, aged extract supplement) had no effect on LDL cholesterol or triglycerides. To quantify this non-effect in mm/dL is unnecessary, and would have been numbing for the average health news consumer.
A majority (57%) of individuals in the trial who ate garlic-laced sandwiches reported bad breath and body odor, a “harm” the story neglected to mention.
The article reflects an appreciation for the hierarchy of evidence, noting that “there was good evidence in test-tube and animal studies” that garlic could lower LDL cholesterol, and explains the randomization methods in the new clinical trial.
No obvious elements of disease-mongering.
The article cites four sources and provides sufficient information about their potential conflicts of interest.
The article fails to mention alternative methods for lowering cholesterol, though many readers may be familiar with these (most prominently exercise, diet, and drugs).
Most readers will be familiar with the availability of the health interventions studied—raw garlic and garlic supplements.
The story rightly notes that garlic is not a new “treatment” for high cholesterol.
No obvious use of text from a press release.