CAM News Spin Fail of the Month Award – October 2012: The Alliance for Natural Health

Having missed Septembers News Spin due to other commitments, I almost missed Octobers as well. That was until this little shop of horrors landed on Halloween which simply demanded comment. Yep, it’s another example of the Alliance for Natural Health ignoring the bulk of the facts and using insinuation and conspiracy theory to paint a picture which fits the established narrative.

The article titled Altered images: Two tales of corruption or conspiracy? looks at the story of Dipak Das a Professor from the University of Connecticut who has been charged with research fraud. The main focus seems to be published papers which relate to the ‘red wine’ molecule resveratrol which natural health advocates claim has a number of significant health benefits.

The article is classic ANH. Weak arguments fight for space amongst logical fallacies and it ends, as its audience demand, with a visit from our lizard overlords. Hurrah!

So ANH take it away…

Following a tip-off – anonymous, of course – in 2008, his University undertook an, “Extensive research misconduct” investigation, announcing in January 2012 that Das was guilty of 145 counts of research fraud and data falsification. As of September this year, 17 papers have been retracted by the publishing journals – with resveratrol the topic of most of the retractions. Das’ career is now in freefall.”

I’m not really sure why the source of the tip-off is so important, what really matters is whether the subsequent investigation found that the allegations had merit. I think it’s safe to assume that the three year investigation by the University resulting in a 60,000 page report detailing evidence of at least 145 counts of research fraud – which led them to begin procedures to dismiss him – adequately bore out that suspicion.

“It’s impossible, as of today, to understand the exact nature of the allegations against Das, since the full 60,000-page(!) report hasn’t yet been released by UoC and links to the 49-page summary no longer work for reasons that are unclear.”

The ANH unearth clear evidence of a large scale cover up. Or alternatively IT problems.

“To get a full flavour of this developing story, we recommend checking Retraction Watch, watching Prof Das’ video rebuttal and reading the pro-Das articles written by veteran natural health journalist Bill Sardi, while bearing in mind that Sardi is managing partner for resveratrol manufacturers Longevinex.”

To get an even fuller flavour I would recommended reading Prof Das’ rambling and incoherent response to the investigation which attributes the motivation behind it to be a

“…conspiracy against Indian scientists…”

The ANH make no mention of this whatsoever.

I’d also suggest not worrying about any conflict of interest in Bill Sardi’s pro Das articles. Despite the fact that his company produce Longevinex (a resveratrol supplement) and he has much to gain by defending Das’ work (and did suggest a witch hunt) he has also been quoted as saying

“We have now had opportunity to read the entire report by the University of Connecticut and find it particularly disturbing in its details and implications. As a company we do not wish to be associated with scientific research that does not meet the highest level of scientific standards. We stand with the University of Connecticut in its efforts to root out any scientific fraud.”

None of this of course deflects the ANH from asking questions such as

“Why, for example, would a tenured professor of high academic standing suddenly get a taste for research fraud after a long career, including nearly 30 years at UoC?”

I don’t know. Reputation, vanity. Maybe the difficulty in getting federal research grants – like the $890,000 in grants that the University has returned in the light of Das’ fraud.

“…And is there any motive for people with vested interests to rubbish the career of a high-profile researcher into a antioxidant with a long list of potential health benefits…that could one day cause huge damage to drug profits?”

Bearing in mind he publishing in low impact Journals this would seem to be a rather ineffective strategy, and would need the University of Connecticut to be in on it.

“We think the last one answers itself. And it’s particularly interesting that the anonymous tip-off that started the Das affair came from the Office of Research Integrity, an arm of the US government – which is, as we all know, no fan of food (dietary) supplements.”

So it wasn’t an anonymous tip-off then? Or racism, or drug companies? Jeesh I’m lost again. I’ve had enough of this, just take the CAM News Spin Fail of the Month Award for October and let that be a (Western) blot on your copy book.

Note: You don’t get to keep it if you win three times.

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