Tuesday, August 4, 2020
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Possible conflict of interest in chocolate milk study

A study by the University of Maryland that claimed a certain brand of chocolate milk helped improve the cognitive and motor functions of high school football players, even after suffering concussions, may not have been properly vetted before the university released news about the findings, the Associated Press reports.

The university will conduct a review of its practices concerning the release of preliminary results from investigations, especially those sponsored by the manufacturers of the products being tested, and will distance itself, as much as possible, from the current study.

Pat O’Shea, vice president of research at the University of Maryland, told the AP that people shouldn’t rely on the results, which reached the possibly premature conclusion that chocolate milk produced by Fifth Quarter Fresh improved recovery of high school football players after they suffered a concussion. The milk was provided for free to three of seven schools in a “study” while no products were provided to the remaining four schools.

The results were not published and have not been subject to peer review at this point. But the company, Fifth Quarter Fresh, is already using the University of Maryland study on its website, despite the fact that the study hasn’t been reviewed and there is a possible conflict of interest, only now being reported, in that no other products were tested alongside the chocolate milk from Fifth Quarter Fresh:

Protect the Brain

Preliminary findings from a recent study at the University of Maryland suggest that football players who drank Fifth Quarter Fresh after practices and games improved cognitive and motor function for some measures over the course of a season as compared to those who did not.

The university is distancing itself from the study, but news of the so-called scientific research still appears on the company’s website, used as the propaganda quoted above.

But, “We value our reputation and we value the advice we give to the public, and I believe this is not characteristic of what a leading, respected university should do,” the AP quoted Mr O’Shea as saying.

Jumping from unverified results of a small study to “protecting the brain” is too great a leap for this company to take, and high school athletes are cautioned to look for further research before investing in any one product like chocolate milk. Despite the obvious sham these findings represent, the company repeatedly references the University of Maryland on its web pages. In another place, we find the following:

Proven Results

A separate preliminary University of Maryland study showed that natural, healthy Fifth Quarter Fresh outperformed leading commercial post-workout recovery products for recovering endurance (post-exercise) by 13-17 percent.

Again, the results have not been made available for peer review, and we caution football players against relying on any product that says it “protects” the “brain,” as this one does. There is very little regulation in this field, and for a product to claim it protects the brain is possibly in error.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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