Read Original Story

Seaweed supplement may aid weight loss: study


5 Star

Seaweed supplement may aid weight loss: study

Our Review Summary

This was a very complete analysis of an intriguing, but limited, research finding.  The story addressed all 10 of our criteria.  The strong caveat in the second sentence – and others later – leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind.


Why This Matters

It’s OK to report on preliminary findings when you question the quality of the evidence as clearly as this story did.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story explained that alginate as an aid to weight loss is already available in pill form, selling for around $45 for a seven-day supply.

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


The story quantified the weight loss, with caveats about “no significant difference between the two treatment groups when all 96 original participants were included in the analysis.

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


The story was clear about the unpleasant nature of the supplement – and how it contributed to study dropouts. And the story mentioned concerns about long term safety – with some study participants having bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.  The story also noted that blood pressure did not drop as much in the supplement group as with placebo, perhaps due to the sodium content of the supplement.

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


Excellent job explaining the caveats and limitations of the research.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering.

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


Two independent sources were quoted.  Industry funding for the study was disclosed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


There was an important reminder that “just feeling less hungry due to a supplement won’t make you lose weight unless you eat fewer calories.” The story could have mentioned other evidence-based weight loss approaches including behavioral weight loss counseling.

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


The fact that alginate is already available in pill form – and that the FDA does not regulate such supplements – was mentioned.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


References to past research on seaweed supplements were made.

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


It’s clear the story didn’t rely solely on a news release.

Total Score: 10 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments (2)

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

Kip Hansen

June 15, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Excellently done — kudos to the new Science Journalist! A++


Linda Bacon

June 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I’m a researcher who specializes in weight regulation. Normally, I find myself very much aligned with your critiques. But not here. I think you need to consider different standards when considering weight loss claims, for so many reasons, the largest being that while many, many things can result in short-term weight loss, all studies conducted over the long term show that the majority of people regain the lost weight (and sometimes more). You may want to consider that if something is showing short term weight loss like this study, that may actually be a sign that it is damaging, the idea being that most people will regain the weight and that weight cycling poses health risk. If you’d like to learn more about how to evaluate weight loss studies, there are two (peer-reviewed) articles I recommend: Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a paradigm shift ( and Validity of claims made in weight management research (