Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Express, dementia and chocolate

Another day, another 'miracle cure' on the front page of the Express:

The article - by Jo Willey, of course - begins:

A daily does of cocoa could be the secret to halting Alzheimer's, researchers claim.

So while the headline says 'can', the story says 'could' - par for the course for such stories.

It is worth comparing the Express - 'Chocolate can halt dementia' - with the first line of American Heart Association press release which says:

Eating cocoa flavanols daily may improve mild cognitive impairment...

The Express fails to mention who was behind the research:

Mars Inc. funded the study and provided the standardized cocoa drinks.

It is also worth noting that:

this study was not done with chocolate, but with lower-calorie, nutritionally balanced drinks rich in cocoa flavanols.

The Express includes quotes from the research leader, Dr Giovambattista Desideri, which are more cautious than that front page headline:

"It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function. Larger studies are needed to validate the findings..."

But the Express does not include this quote:

"Based on the current explosion of obesity, which is particularly evident in children, we should be careful when recommending chocolate ingestion to our patients...In real life, the progressive increment of body weight due to an unbalanced diet is likely to counterbalance the positive effects of cocoa on vascular function."

There's an important quote - in the final paragraph of the article, of course - from Alzheimer's Research UK:

“It would be useful to see more long-term studies to investigate the lasting effects. Ultimately we would need to see the results of large-scale trials to know whether cocoa flavanols could help prevent or delay dementia.”

Dr. Sam Gandy, from the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, told HealthDay:

"the lifestyle intervention with the strongest science behind it is physical exercise. I would recommend physical exercise before I would recommend chocolate...the study is interesting but requires replication before it can be taken seriously."

Or put on the front page of a paper?


  1. And they get bonus points for continuing to use dementia and Alzheimer's like they are interchangeable.

  2. Daily Telesgraph running this story, but referring to a "nice cup of cocoa", rather than chocolate. No mention of Mars sponsoring the research.

  3. I have to say, that front page is almost the archetypal Express front page, it almost has it all: Murdered woman, Dubious medical advice, celeb gossip and moaning about the weather. All it needs is a picture of royalty and some kind of comment on housing prices and you could substitute it for any Express front page for the last few years!


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