A few days ago WebMD reported that two chocolate bars per week can prevent strokes in women. I always love hearing good news about the benefits of chocolate. Pass the Hersheys please!
But not so fast...the story has missed a few things, according to HealthNewsReview.org. They found a better report from Reuters which mentioned the limitations of the research, cautioning against causal inference.
HealthNewsReview has a multidisciplinary team of reviewers from journalism, medicine, health services research and public health. They review news reports in mainstream media, and rate them on several criteria, including:
- Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?
- Is there evidence of disease-mongering?
- How harms of the treatment/test/product/procedure are covered in the story
- Is there an independent source and were any possible conflicts of interests of sources disclosed in the article?
... and 6 more criteria. Based on the ratings, each news story is assigned 1 to 5 stars.
The WebMD report described above got only 3 stars, while the Reuters report got 5.
Is this going to discourage me from eating chocolate? Probably not. But it certainly erodes my rationalization that chocolate is a health food, and the more the better. 😉
HealthNewsReview addresses all sorts of health topics, with a few mental health related stories tossed into the mix. For example, they gave 4 stars to a story in the LA Times, "Debate over cognitive, traditional mental health therapy," and zero stars to one in the New York Daily News, "Eating light on the Mediterranean diet may prevent depression."
Given the huge number of health news reports published every week (some of them contradictory) it's difficult for most of us to keep up with what's useful and what's junk science. Next time you hear about a "breakthrough" report on some health issue in the news, check out the review at HealthNewsReview.org. And encourage your clients to do so as well.