Dirty Rotten Tricks Video #2: The Clinical Study Scam
When they’re trying to convince you that their product is the absolute best on the market and you really should buy it right now, retailers have absolutely no hesitation in “pulling out all the stops.” They will stop at nothing to get the sale, and they will say just about anything to do so.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to suggest their product is backed by credible scientific studies—”clinically tested” is something that’s popping up on a lot of labels lately. There’s good reason for that…
When it comes to “levels” of proof, the clinical study is right up there at the top. Most prospective customers are suitably impressed by products that appear to be backed by clinical research, especially if the retailer can throw in the name of an official sounding journal in the advertising copy (i.e., “a recent study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine”…).
At this point, it’s probably not going to surprise you to learn that for the most part, the term “clinical study” doesn’t mean a whole lot when it is used by supplement retailers. To demonstrate why, let’s look at some of the more deceptive ways the term is used…
1. Retailers may simply lie about a clinical study being performed on their product or its key ingredients, because it’s very rarely that anyone actually checks up on this.
In 2008, a lawsuit was filed against the makers of Akavar 20/50 – Dynakor Pharmacal, Basic Research and its directors. One of the allegations is that they simply “made up” the fact that the product’s effectiveness was validated by peer reviewed clinical studies. Hard to argue this one, since no clinical study on the topic seems to be published anywhere we looked.
2. Retailers may neglect to mention the study was performed on laboratory rats.
While positive animal studies are a critical first step in establishing the effectiveness of any compound, they are only that; a first step. Study results obtained in animals are not necessarily transferable to humans.
3. Retailers will “forget” to mention the referenced clinical study is an “in house” study.
This means that the study is conducted by the people who have the greatest to gain financially from a positive outcome. While this does not mean the results should be dismissed outright, it does mean they should be viewed with a hefty dose of skepticism, at least until the results can be confirmed by independent studies.
4. Retailers may neglect to mention the study is performed by an individual or individuals who have a financial conflict of interest.
This is not necessarily the same as #3. As an example, consider African Mango. Everyone—including Dr. Oz, who featured it on his show—is going on about what promise it shows for weight loss, and the fact that its “effectiveness” is backed by clinical studies. What no one has bothered to mention is that the lead author on all the published studies, Julius Oben, has a patent on African Mango for weight loss.
That’s a conflict of interest.
Does that mean we should dismiss the studies results? No… after all, African Mango is in essence a fiber supplement, and fiber supplements have well-established benefits for dieters, including minor weight loss, plus lowered cholesterol and lipid profiles. But until we receive independent corroboration of its effects, we have to remain skeptical of claims based solely on the existing research.
5. They will neglect to mention that the study’s results, although statistically significant, were not dramatic, and are not reflective of the claims made for their own products.
Here’s something you should know about “statistically significant”…
For a study to show “positive” results, all that the researchers need to do is show that the tested compound shows “statistically significant” results.
This sounds awfully impressive, but in the world of scientific studies, “statistically significant” does not mean what you think it means.
What it sounds like it means, of course, is that the results are pretty impressive. However, when applied to clinical studies, “statistically significant” just means the results obtained were unlikely to have happened by chance. Yes, that’s right; whatever positive effect was observed probably wasn’t a complete fluke.
6. They neglect to mention that their product doesn’t contain anywhere near the amount or potency of the compound shown to be helpful in the referenced clinical study.
We’ve said it a million times on this site and we’ll say it again; the medicinal plants, food compounds and herbs that are typically found in weight loss products are much like pharmaceutical drugs; they need to be present in a potent enough dosage to have any effect. Because they are not drugs, that usually means a larger dosage. It’s a very common tactic to put 20 mg of an ingredient in a product, reference the clinical data that verifies it “works”, and conveniently forget to mention that the study results were obtained with a dosage one hundred times greater.
At the end of the day, here’s what you should know about “clinical studies”..
- Be wary of any advertising that references them.
- Recognize that rarely do natural supplements exhibit the sort of dramatic action reported in a product’s sales copy.
- Be aware that more often than not, products do not contain the exact amount and potency of the ingredient shown helpful in a study.
Follow these directions and you’ll never get taken in again!