Junk (food) journalism!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This week's award for a daft headline goes to the Express: “Experts say you DON’T need to ditch the junk food... and THIS is why”.

This study this refers to was funded by a pharmaceutical manufacturer and looked at a very specific group of adults with heart disease many of whom were also taking an experimental drug. Therefore, the results don't apply to the general population, or even to all people with heart disease. All it shows is that a good diet can benefit people in a very specific high-risk group, we knew that anyway. The researchers didn’t specify what a ‘serving’ of food might be so those eating a giant meat pie might have called it one portion!

The study suggested that the occasional Western-style ‘treat’ might not pose as much of a risk for people with heart disease as previously thought. They looked at 15,482 people with serious heart disease from 39 countries and scored their diets for ‘Mediterranean diet’ elements, (wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, fish, alcohol and some meat). They then scored them for ‘Western diet’ elements (refined carbohydrates, sweets and desserts, sugared drinks and deep-fried foods).

After an average of less than four years, those scoring highest for a Mediterranean-style diet had suffered fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths. However, Western junk foods didn’t appear to increase the risk of these events expected in this group of unwell people. The researchers concluded that eating more healthy foods may be more important for secondary prevention of heart disease than avoiding unhealthy foods typical of Western diets. That is NOT the same as saying you don't need to ditch junk food which is how this study was reported.

The study was carried out by researchers in the US, New Zealand, Sweden, France, Denmark and Canada and was funded by pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. The study analysed data in the STABILITY trial which was designed to test whether a new drug called Darapladib (not yet licensed in the UK) would prevent major cardiovascular events in this high-risk group. Some of the group were taking Darapladib, while others were taking a placebo. The study was published in the peer-reviewed European Heart Journal.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death both in the UK and worldwide. It’s responsible for more than 73,000 deaths in the UK each year. About one in six men and one in 10 women die from it. Find out how you can prevent and even reverse heart disease simply by changing your diet in our informative Have a Heart guide. 

Links to the headlines:

Express: “Experts say you DON’T need to ditch the junk food... and THIS is why”.

The Daily Telegraph: “Junk food not harmful to heart when eaten with Mediterranean diet, study finds”.

Mail Online: “Heart disease patients 'no more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke if they eat a fatty Western diet after being diagnosed'.”

The Guardian: "People with heart disease have a lower risk of heart attack and strokes if they eat a Mediterranean-style diet".

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