Newspaper article

Charges of Scientific Fraud Add a Bizarre Twist to the Controversial Resveratrol Story

Newspaper article

Charges of Scientific Fraud Add a Bizarre Twist to the Controversial Resveratrol Story

Article excerpt

As I've pointed out here before, despite all the marketing and media hype about resveratrol, the health claims for it remain scientifically shaky. No one has actually proven that this compound, found in the skin of red grapes (and, thus, in wine), will protect you against heart disease, cancer, arthritis, dementia or anything else.

In fact, the initial research that launched the resveratrol frenzy -- the finding by Harvard University biologist David Sinclair that the compound extended the life of laboratory rats -- has been seriously challenged.

Yet scientific skepticism about resveratrol's touted health benefits hasn't stopped companies from selling resveratrol pills, capsules, powders and creams to gullible consumers. In 2009 (the last year for which I could find sales figures), American consumers alone spent more than $31 million on resveratrol supplements of one kind or another.

Sinclair himself created a company in 2004 to develop resveratrol- based anti-aging drugs -- a company he sold to the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in 2008 for a reported $720 million.

Bizarre turn

Last week, however, the news about resveratrol took a truly bizarre turn, one that raises even more questions about the health claims being made in its name. Here's what happened, as reported by Scott Hensley of National Public Radio:

After a three-year investigation, the University of Connecticut Health Center has told 11 scientific journals that studies they published by resveratrol researcher Dipak K. Das may not be trustworthy.

In 2008, the university got a tip about irregularities in Das' work. The subsequent investigation identified "145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data," according to a UConn statement. ...

To be sure, there haven't been retractions of Das' published work. But the university is freezing research in his lab that is funded by outside groups and is refusing $890,000 in federal grant awarded to Das. UConn is also moving to dismiss him from the faculty.

A quick distancing act

Since the report was published, resveratrol companies and researchers have been distancing themselves from Das as fast as they can. …

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