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Sweet news for chocoholics

Rating

3 Star

Sweet news for chocoholics

Our Review Summary

This story reported on the latest study, among "mounting evidence", that suggests that small amounts of dark chocolate may slightly lower blood pressure. But the story never explained how much blood pressure dropped in the study.  It never explained anything about how the research was done. It didn’t cite the source of the new evidence.  It didn’t interview anyone involved in the research, nor did it reflect any meaningful input from anyone knowledgeable about this area of research. (CBS did interview a Center for Science in the Public Interest spokesperson, but the clips they chose to use from her interview didn’t add much.) 

While this report at least hinted that portion size control was an important factor, the story contained a very limited amount of factual information for consumers to use for decision making. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The story didn’t discuss costs, but most people know the cost of chocolate products, even ballpark costs of more expensive imports.

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

Not Satisfactory

The benefit reported was a "slightly lower blood pressure in people with hypertension." But it didn’t say how much. 

The study was conducted in a group of individuals who were prehypertensive or had stage-1 hypertension; there was no benefit in terms of blood pressure reduction at 6 weeks, however after 12 weeks of dark chocolate consumption, there was a statistically significant nearly 2.5 mmHg reduction in systolic pressure and by 18 weeks, it was nearly 3.0 mmHg lower. Why not tell viewers just how much BP dropped?

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

Satisfactory

Although not explicit, this piece did allude to weight gain as a potential problem with advocating consumption of chocolate.  It could have mentioned that with the portion of dark chocolate used in the study, no weight gain was seen during the 18 weeks of study.

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

Not Satisfactory

This report did mention that while there have been several published studies which found an association between reduction in blood pressure and consumption of small amounts of dark chocolate, the study which prompted this piece was one not sponsored by chocolate manufactorers.

However, it did not include any mention of where this study was published.  (It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 4, 2007, vol 298).  This detail might help viewers weigh the credibility of the health claim being made. The story also failed to give any indication of the kind of study undertaken. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease-mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

The only "expert" interview in the story was with the nutrition director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  But the interview bites they used from her didn’t add much to the piece, so we’re left yearning for some expert interpretation of the findings. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This report did not mention other methods for obtaining comparable reductions in blood pressure such as adhering to the DASH diet http://dashdiet.org/, exercise http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/19233.htm, or medications.

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

Not Satisfactory

The study that this story reported on found one particular type of dark chocolate (Ritter Sport Halbbitter) had an effect on blood pressure.  While the story was helpful in that it included information about portion size in terms a typical consumer could understand (i.e. about one and a half Hershey’s dark chocolate kisses), it failed to provide information about the availability of the chocolate used in this study. Is it common?  Is it found in many other products? 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

This piece appropriately mentioned that the study reported on was part of a growing body of evidence that finds consumption of small amounts of dark chocolate has a blood pressure lowering effect.

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

Satisfactory

Does not appear to rely solely or largely on a press release.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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