7/26/2010

Enzyme Woo Woo and Press Releases: Buyer Beware

Have you noticed that press releases stand in for news? I bet that a fair number of folks miss this and think that these "news" reports are genuine. Both Medical News Today and Science Daily provide the press releases, usually with no commentary and no fact checking, as seen in this snafu last month with the IVF and autism rates in Israel.

There's a problem with press releases replacing journalistic investigation, and it's no wonder that journalists do such a bad job, on average, with science reporting. It's no wonder that bloggers pick up on the press releases and run uncritically with them. Some of them already believe the sky is falling and that big pharma is to blame for that. These websites masquerading as news sites really don't help folks exercise critical thinking skills.

Medical News Today passes on  Enzymedica's press release and lets people think, if they choose to simply accept press releases at face value, that good science has been done. What's the harm in the uncritical passing  along of press releases on sites like Science Daily and Medical News Today? People confuse these press releases with peer reviewed substantiated science.

That's not what they are, though, most times. If you go to Enzymedica's site, you can take a test to see what enzymes you are deficient in. Don't let it bother you one little bit that this little test can't do that. Enzymedica will give you your results and their product recommendations, too. Hey, do you like carbs or sweets? You have a deficiency in amylase. Seriously, it's what the results say, and they can't be wrong:

"
Amylase Deficiency:
Breads, pastas, or desserts might be your favorite foods; they may be taxing for your body to digest. Inconsistent energy levels, blood sugar irregularities, inability to concentrate, and allergies or sensitivities are all trademarks of an amylase deficiency. Amylase is the name for a family of enzymes that is responsible for breaking down sugars, carbohydrates, and fiber. Our bodies also produce amylases that help to support healthy amounts of histamine and keep our blood sugar balanced."

Oh, well, there you go. How can I fix that?

"Focus on whole grains, vegetables, and protein based snacks. Many amylase deficient types are vegetarian; emphasize nuts and seeds, soy and beans to get the protein you need to support stable blood sugar levels. Replace refined carbohydrates such as white flour, white rice, and white sugar with whole, unrefined grains. Fruits and natural sweeteners such as agave, brown rice syrup, and stevia are healthy choices to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you are one of the many amylase deficient types who craves sugar you are not alone! You will notice that as you move toward a less refined, more whole foods diet you will crave sweets less and less. It is a process, so be patient with yourself and have fun exploring alternative ways to satisfy your desire for sweets!"
 Hey, this company should get with Mercola, don't you think? Now, what products do they sell that they think will heal me?

I need Digest. A month's worth will run me about 30 bucks. What else do I need? According to my test results, I need Pro-Bio, Allerase, and Virastop. Pro-Bio runs 24 dollars a month; Allerase will set me back 24 bucks a month. Virastop will run me 29 bucks a month. Shew. Enzymedica recommends four different products all ranging 24 to 30 bucks a month a piece, but I can get free shipping for orders over 75 dollars.

Gosh, can you imagine me actually buying this stuff? Well, how many parents read that press release on Medical News Today, took the 143 parents surveyed and misconstrued that as good science, and then got down to ordering products for their kids? After all, Enzymedica covers this in their faq:

"34. My child is autistic, what products do you recommend?
First we recommend researching other parents similar results through the website www.enzymestuff.com and the book Enzymes for Autism by Karen DeFelice. Product recommendations begin with the “low and slow” dosing method. Lacto digestively with meals and Virastop therapeutically between meals. Slowly building up tolerance to enzymes, increasing potency, ultimately to Digest Gold with meals and large mounts of Virastop if necessary between meals. If there is gluten intolerance – ½ GlutenEase and ½ Digest Gold."
 Consumers of scientific literature are faced with what seems like an insurmountable amount of information on a daily basis. Failing to realize that a fair amount of that "news" are in fact press releases designed to sell products can cause unsuspecting individuals to spend money on woo, all in the misguided belief that the information in those press releases is legitimate scientific information.

Buyer beware, indeed. The internet is a dangerous place for desperate individuals looking for cures.

3 comments:

Emily said...

Kim, Science Daily exists as a repository of news releases for the media to use when they're looking for stories. "We" all know that it is strictly news releases, usually verbatim from the sources (any changes are noted at the end of each piece as is the provenance of the piece under the heading "Story Source"). It's "our" job to be sure to simply use the releases as a starting point for real journalistic reporting. Science Daily is widely acknowledged as a great place to go for the breaking releases in science news. Medical News Today, don't know as much about.

Of course, regular folk probably don't know these things about Science Daily et al. But I love it because of its rolling headlines that update frequently--if you're looking for fun science, it's a great place to go.

KWombles said...

Thanks, Emily.

It appears several autism bloggers don't know that about the sites or notice they're simply press releases; they run with them like they're monkey studies. :-)

Lyn said...

Wow. and folks say big pharma companies are after the money...
But it seems like these supplement sellers are after money too.
Huge quantities of it a month...