Friday, 16 September 2011

'Overly optimistic'

The front page of Wednesday's Daily Express saw the paper proclaim another 'miracle cure':

A 'pill to beat alzheimers'. The paper's health correspondent Jo Willey explained:

A daily 10p vitamin pill could prevent millions of people being struck down by Alzheimer’s disease.

Research has found that vitamin B can help protect the brain from dementia.

A large daily dose of a combination of three types of vitamin B has been shown to slow mental decline in the elderly who suffer from mild memory problems.

Only a few months ago, Willey and the Express were claiming 'cake' was a 'cure' for dementia. That article claimed:

cinnamon, used in everything from cakes to curries, could be the “holy grail” in slowing or even eradicating dementia in patients.

Now it's Vitamin B:

The breakthrough could lead to a simple new treatment for people at risk of dementia which would be the “holy grail” of research into Alzheimer’s.

Skip to the end of the article and there's the inevitable clarification:

Professor Robin Jacoby, research author and Alzheimer’s Society trustee, said: “These studies add weight to the argument that vitamin B is good for our brains.

“However, people shouldn’t rush out and empty the shelves of vitamin B tablets. More research is needed to establish if it could prevent dementia.”

And the NHS Behind the Headlines team express further doubts:

While its results look promising, this small, well-conducted study does not show that vitamin B can help prevent dementia. However, it suggests that high doses of the vitamin may help some people with MCI, which sometimes develops into dementia. A larger trial is required to explore the possible role of the vitamin in slowing progression to dementia.

They add:

Newspaper coverage of this research has tended to be overly optimistic about the study’s findings. For example, the Daily Express described vitamin B supplements as a “Pill to beat Alzheimer’s”.

The Express also listed some “natural ways to beat dementia”, which include eating meat, fish and vegetables.

This information is misleading, as none of these foods has been found to prevent dementia. While the foods listed in the Express can be dietary sources of vitamin B, the amount of vitamin B in the pills used in this study was extremely high, and the study’s authors have been quoted as saying that they should be considered to be medicines rather than regular vitamin supplements.

The Mail, Mirror, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent also covered this research.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.