Check the Label and the Science, Too

What pomegranates say about a corrosive research practice.

Pomegranates, an ancient Persian fruit, now come with a vast array of scientific-sounding health claims:

POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice may improve erectile dysfunction
Published research on POMx shows similar health benefits to pomegranate juice
Study found no drug interference with pomegranate juice

What often gets overlooked is the origins of these studies and the ties academic researchers have with the companies supporting their research. As Martin Robbins writes on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog, this trend of "publication by press release" undermines legitimate science.

Claims that may not even have passed peer review are presented to the public with the gold seal of scientific respectability attached, while the supporting research is difficult to track down or may not even have been published. It is a corrosive practice that delivers short-term gain, but in the long term may undermine the credibility not just of those involved, but also of science in general.

Arguably, the practice becomes more insidious when celebrities endorse questionable science, as we've seen with Morgan Spurlock, who's been curiously silent about the Federal Trade Commission's recent crackdown on POM Wonderful's claims.

Checking the label, as he urges below, might be a good first step, but clearly it's not the only thing necessary to uncover the obfuscated origins of various health claims.


Photo(cc) Forest Starr & Kim Starr