Last week, via health news watchdog Health News Reviews, we told you about a press release from the University of Maryland announcing preliminary findings that Fifth Quarter Fresh — a higher-sugar, higher-protein chocolate milk — can help football players recover from concussions faster.
While the data is still preliminary, some high schools have already purchased this product in bulk.
Now, the plot thickens. Former CNN Medical Correspondent Andrew Holtz (contributor and reviewer for Health News Reviews) shares the latest.
- “My first step when doing one of these reviews is to read the original research report. But there was no journal article cited in the release. Searches of the university web site and PubMed came up empty. I emailed and called news office contacts for the university/industry R&D program, Maryland Industrial Partnerships program (MIPS), that put out the release and the UM School of Public Health, home of lead researcher Prof. Jae Kun Shim. I also emailed and called Prof. Shim. While waiting to hear back, I proceeded with my review of the release, sans study article. (The final review found the news release to be “Not Satisfactory” on all but one of 10 criteria.)”
- “The next morning I received a call from the MIPS news office contact listed on the news release, Eric Schurr. What I heard astounded me. I couldn’t find any journal article because there wasn’t one. Not only wasn’t this study published, it might never be submitted for publication.”
- “The next day things took a turn. I received an email from Schurr that said in part, “Thank you for reaching out and following up regarding the Fifth Quarter Fresh study. Since this is a preliminary study, we have learned it will make more sense to speak with you once there are more conclusive research results.”
- “I asked Schurr for a chance to speak with him about the decision to issue a news release on a project that suddenly was too “preliminary” to talk about.”
- “So it appears that the school is ready to change student-athlete nutrition based on research that is not available for independent review.”
- “A final note… the purpose of reviewing news releases is to offer constructive criticism. News releases, especially from sources such as the University of Maryland that are widely perceived to be acting to benefit the community, are increasingly passed along to the public with little or no scrutiny.”
- “Here are some the questions I’d like the University of Maryland to answer:What is the relationship between the company and the university and its researchers? What was the company’s involvement in the design, conduct, analysis and presentation of the study and its results? Does UMD have any policies about disclosure of potential financial or other conflicts of interest? If so, how were they applied in this case?”