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Fruitful news from tart cherry studies

Rating

3 Star

Fruitful news from tart cherry studies

Our Review Summary

This was an easy story to read:  well-written and engaging.  But there was no meat – just a dessert-like cherry topping of tidbits of a potpourri of a recent abstract from a conference and past research on cherries and purported health benefits.

 

Why This Matters

The cutesy top to the story – “Take two slices of cherry pie and call me in the morning” – conveys a message that is not backed up in the story itself.  “It might make a sliver of sense”?  Perhaps only if you define a “sliver” as what you can glean from tiny, short-term studies in people – or some stuff in rats.

And the sentence –  “Cherry pie contains the same sort of anti-inflammatory compounds as aspirin…” – is misleading. The pie does not contain the compounds, the cherries do. No proof is given that the cherries retain their beneficial compounds if they are, in fact, baked in a pie, because the studies are conducted with cherry juice. This might seem trivial, but it’s misleading.

Accuracy and context matter.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The cost of cherries is not in question (although one of our reviewers recently got a spouse-scolding for NOT checking price and coming home with $18 worth of cherries!)

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

Not Satisfactory

Many different claims were made in the story from several different studies over time.  But only vague descriptions of benefit were provided – no quantification.

The claim that the women “who got the real stuff” had significantly less inflammation, as measured by C-reactive protein (CRP), as compared to those who drank a placebo, is not accurate.  The researchers only saw the decrease in CRP in a subset of 12 of the women who had active inflammation and thus elevated CRP.

What’s not mentioned in the story is that in the study on women with OA, only 1 of the 4 serum biomarkers of inflammation (TNF-a) showed a statistically significant decrease.

This is another example of a news story reporting on a surrogate marker (read our primer on this topic), but not on an outcome such as “What difference did that make in their everyday lives?”

 

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

Not Applicable

Not applicable. We don’t know what the harms of eating cherries might be.

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

Not Satisfactory

There wasn’t any independent evaluation of the evidence.

  • The women and osteoarthritis section didn’t say anything about the limitations of such short-term (3-week), tiny sample (just 20 women) research.
  • No evaluation of any of the other collection of studies cited.  The sleep study cited was an even shorter-term (7 day) tiny sample (again just 20) study.
  • There was a brief acknowledgement that some work has been done in people and some in fat rats.  But no analytical evaluation of any of this research.

And why don’t such stories include links to at least the abstracts of such papers? (The sleep abstract is here. And the fat rats abstract is here.)

 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No evidence of any disease mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story should have mentioned that Dr. Kuehl appears on the Cherry Marketing Institute’s “power team.”

And there was no independent perspective quoted.  Only one author saying his work “could someday provide an alternative treatment” and another author saying “there are some interesting and potentially exciting results on the horizon. Stay tuned.”

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

In just an additional line or so, the story could have included something about alternatives for inflammatory osteoarthritis. It also could have mentioned other foods that are rich in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds.

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

Not Applicable

The availability of cherries is not in question.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story attempted to paint a broader picture of other cherry research that’s been conducted.

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

Satisfactory

It’s unclear how much the story may have been affected by this news release from The Cherry Marketing institute.

Because more than one researcher was interviewed, we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt.

Total Score: 3 of 7 Satisfactory

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