Clinical research in the lay press: Irresponsible journalism raises a huge dose of doubt

Department of Internal Medicine, University of Cologne, Köln, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Clinical Infectious Diseases (Impact Factor: 8.89). 11/2006; 43(8):1031-9. DOI: 10.1086/509116
Source: PubMed
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  • Clinical Infectious Diseases 06/2007; 44(10):1298-306. DOI:10.1086/514352 · 8.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recently, antioxidants have taken centre stage in media and advertising messages. While 80% of Canadians think they are well-informed about nutrition, many are confused about the health effects of specific nutrients. Forty-six percent of Canadians seek information from newspapers and books, and 67% of women rely on magazines. We examined the content and accuracy of antioxidant health messages in Canadian women's magazines. The top three Canadian magazines targeted at women readers were selected. A screening tool was developed, pilot tested, and used to identify eligible articles. A coding scheme was created to define variables, which were coded and analyzed. Seventy-seven percent of 36 magazine issues contained articles that mentioned antioxidants (n=56). Seventy-one percent (n=40) of articles reported positive health effects related to antioxidant consumption, and 36% and 40% of those articles framed those effects as definite and potential, respectively (p<0.01). The articles sampled conveyed messages about positive antioxidant health effects that are not supported by current evidence. Improved standards of health reporting are needed. Nutrition professionals may need to address this inaccuracy when they develop communications on antioxidants and health risk.
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