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.