School for scandal
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the scandal surrounding resveratrol research. In case you haven’t been following it closely, here’s the general gist: A University of Connecticut researcher has been charged with more than 100 acts of data fabrication and falsification regarding his findings on resveratrol, which has become the most famous antioxidant in history.
Of course, all the headlines that followed this scandal cast a huge shadow on resveratrol itself, and left people wondering if it was really any good for you at all. So, today I’d like to set the record straight.
This whole fiasco is the result of one researcher who committed more than 100 acts of data fabrication and falsification.
And while falsifying data is a terrible thing, it’s actually not uncommon in the field of scientific research.
I don’t know if you have ever heard the term, “publish or perish” but it is the motto that academics live by. Without research grants, scientists wouldn’t have money for their salaries…And if their research doesn’t get published, they don’t get those critical grants. So, unfortunately, some researchers will go to any length to make sure their study results are journal-worthy.
Now, I am certainly not justifying this behavior. What I am saying is that this type of thing occurs–and that’s why scientific research is performed in many different places, with funding spread across many researchers.
It’s also why the same study is often performed more than once–to make sure the result wasn’t a fluke (and that the chief researcher wasn’t a flake).
And I’m not just talking about research on nutrients like resveratrol. In fact, I would venture to say that this sort of thing probably occurs even more frequently with pharmaceutical research. Let me give you an example…
Synthroid, one of the most successful brand names in pharmaceutical marketing history, became as synonymous with thyroid replacement to generations of American primary care doctors as Kleenex is with tissues. And the reason for its rise to fame?
Synthroid told everyone that their product was the safest and most stable–and essentially just withheld any study that contradicted those claims.
And no one was any the wiser until 1997, when the FDA called for all levothyroxine drugs (the class of drugs Synthroid belongs to) to be classified as “new” drugs, which meant they had go through a new drug application–and submit all the available research.
If you ask me, this was a more egregious act–by far–than what just occurred with resveratrol. At least with resveratrol, there isn’t just one person or one company funneling all the findings, and only presenting the ones that suit them.
The bottom line here is three-fold:
- Don’t get swept up in the media hype.
- Look at any study–whether it is for a pharmaceutical drug or for a nutritional supplement–with a critical eye.
- Don’t throw your resveratrol out with the bathwater.
There are many, many other studies that did not use this particular defamed researcher’s data and still showed tremendous health benefits from this powerful antioxidant. It still ranks on my list of “Desert Island Supplements” and I generally recommend 500mg per day. Just make sure to look for trans-resveratrol, which is the most potent and active form.