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Eating Fish May Be Good for Brain Health


4 Star

Eating Fish May Be Good for Brain Health

Our Review Summary

The story allows the researcher to say, “More fish, more brain, less Alzheimer’s.”   Pithy.  Quotable.  But simplistic and not proven by this study.


Why This Matters

At least the competing HealthDay story interviewed an independent source who wondered about other possible confounding factors in the research and stated, “For now, the connection must be viewed as an association, rather than a cause-and-effect.”

So even though the WebMD story scored better, the HealthDay story did slightly better on this critical piece of analysis. (The HealthDay story had its own flaws – for example, burying that “association” line instead of placing it high in the story and overwhelming it with cause-and-effect language throughout the story.)


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The cost of fish is not in question.

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

Not Satisfactory

Even more than the competing story by HealthDay, this story focused only on the surrogate marker of what brain scans showed.

Did that make any difference in anyone’s actual cognitive abilities? The story never said.

At least HealthDay mentioned – although inadequate in its brevity – that those who ate baked or broiled fish showed better “working memory” enabling them to more effectively execute routine tasks.

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


Better than the competing HealthDay story, at least WebMD reminded readers:

“The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish and limiting albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week because of concern about levels of mercury in these fish.”

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

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t even hint at the limitations of observational studies.

It used boilerplate language at the end about the limitations of drawing conclusions from talks at scientific meetings, but that doesn’t get at the heart of evaluating the evidence being reported.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering of Alzheimer’s disease.

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


The story turned to the chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association for comment.  But the quote used from him didn’t contribute much to an evaluation of the study.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story at least hinted at “other risk factors for memory loss that could affect the results, including age, gender, education, obesity and physical activity.”

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

Not Applicable

The availability of fish is not in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story at least stated that “the new study is the first to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer’s risk” and that “Several studies have linked a diet rich in certain fish to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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


It’s clear that the story did not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 6 of 8 Satisfactory

Comments (1)

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Terry Zeta

December 5, 2011 at 9:33 pm

This post is great, very informational. More fish, more brains. LOL! Thanks for the post. :)