University backtracks on inflammatory headline but still misses the mark according to CRN
12 Dec 2022 --- The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is calling out the University of Missouri for releasing a provocatively titled press release regarding a recent study on the supplementation of nicotinamide riboside (NR) to immunocompromised mice. Though the university has released an updated version of the press release, the organization states that it still does not present all the facts.
The university’s original press release, published on 14 November, read “Study: Popular dietary supplement causes cancer risk, brain metastasis.” The title and other parts of the press release were amended on November 18.
According to the CRN, the new title, “Study: New imaging technique in the animal study gives insight to popular supplement’s potential role in cancer progression,” is better, though it still omits important information.
“While the release has been updated with information clarifying the study was conducted in small animal models, it still omitted that the mice were immunocompromised and does not provide a factual and accurate overview of the study,” says a representative from the CRN.
“The original press release headline falsely linked NR with cancer and the updated version does the bare minimum to rectify the false claims.”
A troublesome title
In addition to the CRN’s stated inaccuracies with the title, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Carles Cantó from the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in Switzerland, agrees that the press release title is wrong.
Cantó tweeted that “the title of the news article ‘Popular Dietary Supplement Causes Cancer Risk and Brain Metastasis’ is clickbait material and totally inaccurate from a scientific standpoint. The experiment in Maric et al. does not allow for this conclusion.”
“Other publications point in the opposite direction,” Cantó continued. “Therefore, such dramatic headlines are worrisome and should be avoided until more conclusive studies are performed.”
Of mice and men
A side-by-side comparison of the two press releases shows that the university removed the phrase reading, “high levels of NR could not only increase someone’s risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer but could also cause the cancer to metastasize and spread to the brain.”
The updated release included new wording to show that these findings were based on imaging models conducted on mice and notes that “these findings have not been studied on humans.”
CRN highlights that the press release, though updated, still does not provide the whole story. Though the release and title both reflect that this was an animal model study focused on imaging technology, the organization states that it does not include or address its assertion that the mice used were immunocompromised.
According to the CRN, the mice used in the study were “injected directly in the heart with genetically engineered aggressive breast cancer cells.” Moreover, the CRN stresses the importance of understanding that these findings have not been studied in humans. Rather, the organization holds that there is a large body of published work on the benefits of NR.
Some of these benefits include supporting cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure and stiffness of the aortic artery. Moreover, it is stated to be a key nutrient for healthy aging by boosting the immune system and helping to alleviate mental and physical stress.
Edited by William Bradford Nichols
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