An Institute of Medicine report on salt earlier this week sparked a lot of controversy. The report concludes that there’s no evidence to support current efforts to lower salt consumption to less than 2,300 mg/day. Unfortunately, the press coverage offered little insight into the science behind the issue. On the Knight Science Journalism Tracker blog, Faye Flam deftly uncovers the almost universal shallow coverage in the media.
The one exception, the one story worth reading that “dug into the science,” according to Flam, is Gina Kolata’s story in the New York Times:
Click here to read the full post on Forbes.
Don’t believe the the hype! That’s the cardinal rule to obey when reading health news. “Breakthroughs” and “cures” are rare, and should always be viewed with caution and skepticism.
This week was a great example. Last Sunday, the New York Times, the major networks, and a host of other media outlets (including this one) reported on a paper in Nature Medicine about the discovery of a novel and potentially significant pathway linking red meat to heart disease. Briefly, the research suggested that carnitine, which is found naturally in high concentrations in red meat, can lead to atherosclerosis when it is converted by gut bacteria to a chemical called TMAO. Almost immediately I received a lot of comment from experts who raised serious questions about the research. Then today, a separate study was published with an entirely different perspective on carnitine. Although the two studies don’t directly contradict each other, they suggest that the real truth about carnitine is likely to be quite complex and will never be adequately summarized in a headline.
Click here to read the full story on Forbes.
After undergoing more than two dozen cardiac procedures over a period of twenty years at St. Joseph Hospital in London, Kentucky, a patient was told by an outside cardiologist in Lexington that a recent procedure had been performed unnecessarily on an artery that was barely blocked.
“I would have not carried out this procedure,” the cardiologist, Michael R. Jones, wrote in a letter to the patient. The story is recounted in an article published on Sunday in USA Today and the Louisville Courier-Journal, about the latest and perhaps the biggest case yet to surface over unnecessary cardiac procedures.
Comment: By sheer coincidence, on the same day, the New York Times published a news analysis by Barry Meier about the scandal over Johnson & Johnson’s hip implant. “Doctors Who Don’t Speak Out” focuses on the failure of physicians to report problems with devices and drugs, but clearly the issue has even larger implications. A quote from Harlan Krumholz in the story– “Questioning the status quo in medicine is not easy”– could easily apply to the many recent cases of egregious overuse of cardiac procedures and devices. Imagine how recent history might have been different if colleagues of Sandesh Patil and Mark Midei had raised earlier questions about borderline procedures. Cardiologists and other physicians complain about the intrusive and burdensome role played by the legal system, regulators, and insurance companies, but they have only themselves to blame if they refuse to police their own ranks, and indeed tacitly participate in a system that provides lucrative compensation to high-volume proceduralists.
Click here to read the entire post on Forbes.