Read Original Story

Hormone boosts mental function in small study


4 Star

Hormone boosts mental function in small study

Our Review Summary

A good example of how to report on potentially promising new interventions while curbing enthusiasm with context and clearly-stated limitations.


Why This Matters

Earlier studies have suggested that GHRH and IGF-1 play important roles in the cognitive decline associated with normal aging and in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.  Recent studies in otherwise healthy older adults have suggested that supplementation with GHRH may improve executive function.  This study provides a bit of additional evidence that GHRH may play a role in the treatment of cognitive decline in older adults.  But the story is far from clear and this work should be viewed as a preliminary step and not the end of the journey.  Because there are no effective drugs to treat mild cognitive impairment, news about any such research demands the kind of careful scrutiny that this story applied


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


Not only did the story estimate cost – $700 for a single shot – but it put it up high in the 5th paragraph along with caveats about “jumping the gun.”

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


We wish the story had quantified the test results a bit more explicitly.  However, the story got the gist right – and, more importantly, added that “it’s unclear how the test differences will translate into real life.”

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


As with the benefits, we wish the story had quantified the side effects observed in the study, but since side effects were acknowledged and since the following caveat was included, we’ll give it a satisfactory score on this criterion:

“…more work is needed to gauge the long-term consequences of GHRH injections. It’s possible health problems could show up down the road, and the mental boost may be short-lived.

“Is it going to work in the long run and is it going to be safe? That is still unknown,” said Petersen. “

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


“Small” study was right up front along with other ample caveats throughout about the limitations of the research at this stage. “It’s too early” and “more work is needed” stands out in the story.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering at play here.

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


A key independent expert was quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


Here’s the relevant adequate section of the story:

“Baker said researchers have failed so far to come up with effective drugs to treat mild cognitive impairment, just as there is no known treatment to stave off the normal memory decline that comes with age.

But recent work by one of Baker’s co-authors hints that nasal sprays with the hormone insulin may have a positive impact on memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease – although that’s far from conclusive yet.”

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

Not Satisfactory

We wish the story had included even a line about how GHRH is used in medicine right now and whether there’s any knowledge of off-label use for mild cognitive impairment.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

We think there could have at least been a line in the story about whether this is groundbreaking research looking at GHRH and mental function or whether there’s been some track record.

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


The story did not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory


Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.