Durham fish oil (non)trial and science by press release: it’s unclear what the children were taking

In their continued efforts to provide a textbook example of why science by press release is a very bad thing, Durham Council’s press releases about their fish oil (non)trial even manage to muddy the water as to which Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) were in the capsules that Durham gave to their schoolchildren. Their latest press release on the issue refers to the “Omega-3 tablets” the children were taking. However, back in 2006 Durham’s press release implied that Equazen’s Eye Q capsules (not tablets) were being used: it quoted Equazen’s Managing Director saying that

the eye q formula can really help enhance achievement in the classroom

Eye Q does not just contain omega 3 fats: it also contains “Omega-6 Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) from evening primrose oil and its metabolite Arachidonic Acid (AA)”. However, as well as Durham’s latest press release, recent coverage by the BBC referred to “fish oil” and Omega-3 supplements. The Northern Chronicle also referred to “fish oil capsules”. Ironically, it took an otherwise pretty poor article in the Daily Mail to point out that evening primrose oil was also given to the children.

It might seem like I’m being pedantic, but Equazen clearly view Evening Primrose Oil as significant, claiming that this “also plays a structural role, assisting in normal nerve function, especially learning and memory.” If we’re going to have ‘pill solves complex social problem‘ stories, people could at least be clear as to what is in the pills.

Ridiculously, Durham Council’s practise of letting information on this (non)trial trickle out by press release has even muddied the water as to what was in the pills they gave to their schoolchildren. While I find the widespread use of omega 6 supplements in the UK peculiar*, if the pills used in Durham contained omega 6 fats as well as omega 3 then this needs to be made clear. To bring this farce to an (overdue) end, Durham need to make all methodological information, data, reports and analyses of this (non)trial publicly available ASAP.

* The ‘typical’ Western diet means that most of us will eat a good bit more omega 6 than we need, and if we don’t eat enough omega 6 there are plenty of food sources.

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8 Comments

Filed under Equazen, fish, omega 3, supplements

8 responses to “Durham fish oil (non)trial and science by press release: it’s unclear what the children were taking

  1. Without reference to fishy burps, I find this whole saga incredibly distasteful. This was mass experimentation on children for purely PR means and with zero scientific value. (Irrespective that the products are Generally Regarded As Safe).

    I honestly think that someone on Durham Council should swing for this – it stinks of abuse of power, interference of private money in local government and hoodwinking of parents and children as to what was actually happening.

    Rotten to the core.

    T

  2. pv

    Doesn’t Equazen, it’s founder or a significant relation thereof, have previous history with Evening Primrose oil?

  3. pv – I think Equazen was owned by Adam Kelliher and Cathra Kelliher (née Horrobin). Her father David Horrobin was, apparently, a very smart cookie with an, um, interesting history in fatty acids. He also edited the journal Medical Hypotheses and his obituary in the BMJ caused quite a stir.

    Obit; Rabid Responses; a bit about Equazen and Horrobin

  4. Pingback: Durham (non)trial fails to show any benefit to fish oil (Equazen EyeQ) supplementation « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  5. why has the report not been published for the consumer? On the website it says that after 15 weeks one can see results? I am confused because even though this is a food supplement I would expect that if people are spending their money on this product that the box should still provide the scientific report so people know the benifits and any adverse effects…..am I being silly but it feels like the non-scientific people out there are not being given the right infomation to allow them to make an informed decision. The trial should be done on adults.

  6. The report has been – oddly – put on the BATH website [PDF]. Not easy to find, though – and don’t think I’d have found it if I didn’t already have a draft of the report. The report finds that the initiative failed to show benefit from supplementing with Equazen EyeQ.

    We have doubts about the quality of the report and the underlying statistical work. You can read it online and make your own mind up, though.

  7. Pingback: Durham’s ground breaking Equazen EyeQ/fish oil initiative report released « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

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