The study Dr. Oz claimed showed weight loss effects from green coffee bean extract was too shoddy for even the scientists who conducted it.
I Have Evidence! I Think.
Remember Dr. Oz’ Senate hearing where he was asked about green coffee bean extract, the supplement he said was a “magic weight loss cure for every body type”?
He cited one specific study as proof and that he had several more showing the same.
We’re still waiting for the latter, but for now he has to strike at least that one from his list of evidence.
Already in 2012, when I first wrote about green coffee bean extract, I noted the study was bad, which only in part was due to it being sponsored by Applied Food Sciences, Inc. A company, what a coincidence, that happened to sell green coffee bean extract supplements.
Connected to the Senate hearings, the FTC got on Applied Food’s trail and now reached a settlement over $3.5 million with them. The press release announcing it makes for some juicy reading:
The FTC complaint alleges the study was so hopelessly flawed that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it. The flawed study, which purported to show that the product causes “substantial weight and fat loss,” was later touted on The Dr. Oz Show.
A bit later on they get very specific about how bad the study was:
The FTC charges that the study’s lead investigator repeatedly altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, and misstated which subjects were taking the placebo or GCA during the trial. When the lead investigator was unable to get the study published, the FTC says that AFS hired researchers Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham at the University of Scranton to rewrite it. Despite receiving conflicting data, Vinson, Burnham, and AFS never verified the authenticity of the information used in the study, according to the complaint.
Could Dr. Oz have known about this? He is a medical professional, a TV personality of serious standing and without a doubt well-connected. When I, a lowly blog owner, write about a study and I’m not sure of its results, I try to contact the people behind it. Could Oz have contacted Vinson and Burnham?
On The Validity Of Data
But no matter, those two now thought the waters got a little too hot. They published a retraction of their study:
The sponsors of the study cannot assure the validity of the data so we, Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham, are retracting the paper.
Ah, it’s the sponsors that can’t make sure the data is correct, not them. Of course, when a company comes up to you and says, “look, we can’t get this paper published, make it look good,” the last you do is question why they have those problems.
You put your names under it and then title the thing a “randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, linear dose, crossover study,” which in research-speak are the hallmarks of high-quality research.
Teaching Research Methods
I looked up Professor Burnham and came upon his personal homepage, where he states his interests:
I regularly teach courses and labs in Statistics, Research Methods, Cognitive Psychology, and Sensation and Perception, and I have interests in advanced courses in statistics, human attention, decision making, and cognitive neuroscience.
He teaches “research methods”? We can only hope for the best for future generations of researchers. I won’t even ask why a psychologist was involved in the study of a weight loss supplement.