Friday, April 27, 2007

Science Fried days, hope and hype edition

One thing you learn from turning over all the rocks: the science and the reporting of science are two very different enterprises. I really wonder why one particular, and not terribly emphatic "result" was lifted from the obscure ACS Journal on Toxicology to the attention of the Washed-up Times readers.

The Washington Times is NOT where you go to read solid science reporting.
So here is a mystery: why do press releases or citations to Washed-up Times occupy the first page of Google hits when you search for the author of the paper mentioned in this story in ScienceDaily copied from UPI?
Neither ScienceDaily nor WT mention which science journal published the study. My first suspicion is that Pharma industry lobby who help fund work at the lab where Joshua Lambert works are not the best friends of the nutritional supplement industry, a less trusted, tested and financially intensive industry and are not above buying a little bad news for the herbal remedy salesmen. But this Rutgers lab looks like its on the up and up as far as its sponsor list is concerned. So I dug further to see if Lambert himself had done any other respected work. This publication for the nutrition supplement industry has its biases and found a rebutter for the results. But they do cite the actual article, which is in a perfectly respectable journal:
Chemical Research in Toxicology
2007, Volume 20, Pages 583-585
"Possible controversy over dietary polyphenols: Benefits vs risks"
Authors: J. Lambert, S. Sang and C.S. Yang

Articles generally favorable to use of compounds naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables are in that same journal issue, as well as the details of some dangerous and misused herbal supplements. When you read the article itself, its a review of previous studies of polyphenals and a report of investigations that hint at dose-dependent oxidative effects of certain polyphenals. The oxidative effects aren't necessarily bad since one of their results is killing cancer cells and, ironically, addition of the once-touted anti-oxidant superoxidedismutase [SOD] to the cultures inhibited this beneficial oxidation. This is hardly what one could call a clear picture though the tone of caution on using supplements is warranted. The results are heavily qualified and its conclusions a mild "further study is needed":
Herein, we will review the available data on the toxic potential of polyphenols as a prototypical class of dietary phytochemicals. As specific examples, we will discuss the prooxidative vs antioxidant potentials of tea catechins, the hepatic and intestinal toxicities of high doses of tea catechins, and the potential DNA damaging.... More in-depth studies on the potential adverse effects of dietary phytochemicals are required in order to assess the potential toxicities and to determine their potential usefulness as disease preventive and treatment agents.
What does Rev. Moon have against green tea anyway?

That is why I quit reading science news from anything but the original publications. You always have to be a little skeptical but when you go straight to the journals themselves, you get to be the first kid on the blog to see a really cool result like this detection of highly correlated genes involved in schizophrenia. These findings in the genes fit with tantalizing hints about connections to autoimmune diseases found by completely different methods of research into schizophrenia.

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