The news article reports on two research studies that attempt to establish the most common microorganisms found in the human digestive system. The news story does a good job of presenting the scientific results in an accessible manner, but it unfortunately made health claims not backed by the evidence.
Establishing a “normal” gut microbiome profile may be beneficial for many future clinical studies yet remains under-investigated.
These were not “treatment” studies so discussing costs is not relevant. However, the way the story is written could make readers think they should start buying more wine and coffee, which isn’t what the findings showed.
There is nothing in the news story that quantifies the benefits of the claim made–that drinking wine or coffee is “great for your microbiome.” This is a major problem with the story, as it’s making a claim not found anywhere in the findings.
Because this story puts forth the idea that certain foods (especially coffee and wine) are good for microbial diversity–and that’s a health claim–there should be an acknowledgement that these foods also can carry harms. There was no mention of the size of the dose–how much coffee? How much wine? And people may take that lack of dosing to mean whatever they want, including having more than is beneficial and veers into unhealthy or dangerous.
The research is purely observational in nature–as explained earlier, we cannot conclude that increased consumption of wine and coffee leads to greater microbiome diversity, nor if that is even important for overall health. In some ways, the story acknowledges this, by stating certain behaviors are “associated with” microbial diversity. But in other ways it reverts to cause/effect language. Example: “the scientists found that consuming fruits, vegetables and yogurt positively influenced microbial diversity in the gut. So did drinking tea, wine, coffee and buttermilk.” The story needed a clear disclaimer regarding the limits of this type of research.
There is no disease-mongering.
There do not appear to be any conflicts of interest. However, this story did not include independent sources.
Given the context of the research, this is not relevant.
Same comment as the “Compare Alternatives” section.
The news story did establish the novelty of the research with this quote:
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to systematically assess such a broad range of host and environmental factors in relation to gut microbiome and at such a large scale,” said Jingyuan Fu, a systems geneticist at the University of Groningen who worked with Zhernakova.
Because it appears to have original statements from one of the researchers, the story does not appear to have relied solely on a news release.