Where’s the Evidence? A Top Ten List of Cochrane Reviews

Every day new health research studies are covered in the media worldwide. One day you may read that coffee is bad for your health; the next day you’ll hear that the same cup of java reduces your risk of disease. How can you sort through the complex and often conflicting world of scientific research to make sound health decisions? And where can you find accurate and reliable information written in plain language? Try Cochrane Library.

Cochrane Library contains more than 5,000 research reviews produced by Cochrane, an international network of over 28,000 research experts and consumer representatives from more than 100 countries. Instead of focussing on single studies, Cochrane Reviews present a synthesis of all the research available on a specific health question. These syntheses attempt to present a “big picture” view of all the evidence.

Cochrane Canada coordinates the activities of Cochrane in Canada, supporting the contributions of Canadian researchers and consumers in the global effort to make available the best health research evidence. The Canadian branch is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as part of its mission to facilitate evidence-based health decisions.

Cochrane Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research are pleased to present a top ten list of Cochrane Reviews that have helped clarify health questions that concern many of us.

Stay tuned as each of the Top Ten will be presented one by one!

1. Vitamin C and Echinacea don’t help fight colds, but zinc might

The common cold is one of the most widespread and burdensome illnesses. Cochrane Reviews have showed that vitamin C and Echinacea were not effective in preventing or treating colds, but zinc showed promise.

2. Cranberries prevent urinary tract infections

Cranberries have long been known to prevent urinary tract infections in women. A Cochrane Review confirmed that drinking cranberry juice prepared from extract helped prevent urinary tract infections in healthy females.

3. Antioxidant supplements show no benefits

Some people may take antioxidant supplements such as beta-carotene, or vitamins A, C, or E, in the belief that they improve health or longevity. A recent Cochrane Review found no evidence supporting the use of these supplements in general or to prevent certain diseases.

4. St John's Wort helps treat depression

St. John’s Wort is a widely used herbal treatment for depression. A Cochrane Review showed that St. John's wort was as effective as standard antidepressants with fewer side effects.

5. Drugs relieve labour pain, but little evidence on non-drug approaches

Women have various drug and non-drug options available to them to manage the pain of childbirth. An overview of research reviews published in The Cochrane Library found better evidence for the effectiveness of drug-based approaches for relieving labour pains than non-drug approaches, including water immersion, massage, and relaxation.

6. Cutting salt doesn’t decrease risk of dying

People are often advised to reduce their salt intake to reduce their risk of heart disease. While it does lower blood pressure, a Cochrane Review could not find enough evidence to show that cutting out salt actually reduces the risk of death or heart disease.

7. Speed cameras reduce road traffic injuries and deaths

Road traffic crashes are a major cause of death and disability. While some drivers dislike them, a Cochrane Review showed that placing speed cameras on roads reduces the number of road traffic injuries and deaths.

8. “Scared straight” programs lead to more, not less, criminal behaviour

Programs like “scared straight” are designed to discourage youth from engaging in criminal behaviour by showing them what life is like in prison. A Cochrane Review showed that these programs not only fail to deter crime, they lead to more offending behavior.

9. Team-based care improves stroke recovery

When doctors, nurses and therapists work as a team, they can greatly improve outcomes for patients. A Cochrane Review showed that stroke patients who receive team-based care are more likely to survive their stroke, return home and become independent.

10. School-based programs reduce childhood obesity

Childhood obesity can cause social, psychological and health problems. A Cochrane Review showed that school-based programs that encourage healthy eating, physical activity, and positive attitudes to body image reduce levels of obesity in children.