[Ip-health] 'Lack of evidence' that popular sports products work - Glaxo & the Euro Food Safety Auth

Riaz K Tayob riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Wed Jul 18 23:47:32 PDT 2012

[Of course, like cosmetics these things get to be marketed, but if you 
want to market traditional medicines then all hell breaks loose 
regarding evidence based health... EU joins the US FDA in junk 
science...And let's be clear, the conflict of interest reporting in even 
the BMJ still leaves a lot to be desired..., ]

19 July 2012 Last updated at 01:23 GMT

  'Lack of evidence' that popular sports products work

Consumers could be wasting their money on sports drinks, protein shakes 
and high-end trainers, according to a new joint investigation by BBC 
Panorama and the British Medical Journal.

The investigation into the performance-enhancing claims of some popular 
sports products found "a striking lack of evidence" to back them up.

A team at Oxford University examined 431 claims in 104 sport product 
adverts and found a "worrying" lack of high-quality research, calling 
for better studies to help inform consumers.

Dr Carl Heneghan of the Oxford University Centre for Evidence-Based 
Medicine led the independent research into the claims made by the makers 
of sports drinks, protein shakes and trainers.

"Yet another fashion accessory for exercise... and a rather expensive 
way of getting a bit of milk"

Nutrition Expert Mike Lean on sport supplements

In the case of Lucozade Sport, the UK's best-selling sports drink, their 
advert says it is "an isotonic performance fuel to take you faster, 
stronger, for longer".

'Miniscule effect'

Dr Heneghan and his team asked manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for 
details of the science behind their claims and were given what he said 
scientists call a "data dump" - 40 years' worth of Lucozade sports 
research which included 176 studies.

Dr Heneghan said the mountain of data included 101 trials that the 
Oxford team were able to examine before concluding: "In this case, the 
quality of the evidence is poor, the size of the effect is often 
miniscule and it certainly doesn't apply to the population at large who 
are buying these products.

*"Basically, when you look at the evidence in the general population, it 
does not say that exercise is improved [or that] performance is improved 
by carbohydrate drinks."*

*In response, GlaxoSmithKline said they disagreed with the Oxford team's 

*"Over 40 years of research experience and 85 peer-reviewed studies have 
supported the development of Lucozade Sport and all our claims are based 
on scientific evidence that have been reviewed and substantiated by the 
European Food Safety Authority."*

GSK is also the manufacturer of the Maxinutrition range of sports 
supplements, which is endorsed by some of Britain's top athletes, 
including the Olympic triathalon team and English Rugby Union.

Some of GSK's supplements in the Maxinutrition range contain branch 
chain amino acids which are found in muscle protein. The company says 
these amino acids "help hard-training athletes recover faster after 
intense exercise". The supplements sell for as much as £34 a tub.

'Expensive milk'

But the Oxford research team and the British Medical Journal said the 
science does not back up that claim.

Dr Heneghan said: "The evidence does not stack up and the quality of the 
evidence does not allow us to say these do improve in performance or 
recovery and should be used as a product widely."

*Nutrition expert Professor Mike Lean of the University of Glasgow 
described what little evidence there is that certain amino acids, which 
form part of proteins, may improve muscle strength as "absolutely fringe 
evidence and I think that that is almost totally irrelevant, even at the 
top level of athletics".*

Prof Lean said the market for supplements is "yet another fashion 
accessory for exercise... and a rather expensive way of getting a bit of 

*GSK said in response: "We stand by the evidence that branch chain amino 
acids can enhance performance or recovery."*

But the company said it accepted recently revised rules from the 
European Food Safety Authority about what claims manufacturers can make 
about their sports products and supplements and said it will "revise our 
label accordingly while we gather further evidence required to 
substantiate the claims we believe can be made".

In the case of trainers, the Oxford team examined the claims made by 
Puma that their shoes - endorsed by Olympic champion Usain Bolt - are 
"designed to... minimise injury, optimise comfort and maximise speed".

Dr Heneghan said his team could find no evidence to back up the 
company's claims and Puma declined to provide his research team with any 
studies to prove that their shoes can deliver on those claims.

Lucozade Sport is a major sponsor and popular with professional athletes 
and amateurs alike

"That should be really underpinned by good quality evidence... I cannot 
quite understand how you get from the evidence to that claim. If you 
can't find research for it, how can you then make that claim?"

Puma declined to reply to the BBC about the Oxford team's findings.

Professor Benno Nigg of the University of Calgary in Canada, has been 
studying the biomechanics of running for more than 40 years.

He said the conventional thinking was that cushioning and control were 
the key health benefits of running shoes - but that idea has been proven 
wrong by recent studies that showed no difference in injury rates if 
runners were prescribed structured shoes meant to control how their foot 
lands as they run.

"The most important predictors for injuries are distance, recovery time, 
intensity and those type of things... the shoes come very, very later as 
minor contributors."

Prof Nigg's advice to runners is to find something that fits.

"If you can find a shoe where you just enjoy that activity and you are 
comfortable, that's all you need."

*Panorama: The Truth About Sports Products, BBC One, Thursday, 19 July 
at 20:00 BST and then available in the UK on the *BBC iPlayer 

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