Fish-oil on trial

Ben Goldacre’s excellent badscience site has an update on the absurd “trial” (now rechristened an “initiative”) of the effects of fish-oil supplements in Durham schools. His piece starts:

I think it’s clear now that Madeleine Portwood and Dave Ford, the leading figures behind the Durham fish oil “trial”, will be providing us with comedy and teaching opportunities for many years to come.

There was no astonishing increase in the GCSE results of those kids who took the fish-oil capsules then? Blimey, what a shock.

3 thoughts on “Fish-oil on trial

  1. There is one thing that really concerns me about this piece of experimentation. I’m a health researcher. If I want to do research involving either adults on children, I need to get full ethical clearance from an ethics committee. In the past, when I have been involved in research involving children in schools, it has had to have explicit ethical approval from the ethics committee of the relevant education department, and also by a separate University ethics committee. This is as it should be. If I didn’t do this, I would probably be severly disciplined and possibly lose my job. It would also be in violation of the Delaration of Helsinki, which among other things covers medical experimentation – which giving children fishy tablets surely is – whether or not it is physicians giving out the pills. In any case the Declaration also covers human experiments (like htis one) conducted by non-medics. But here we have experimenters doling out drugs to children, apparently with the blessing of the council, head teachers and so on. So the key questions are: 1) what ethics committee, if any, agreed to this study, and if they did, can we see the minutes of the relevant meeting; and 2) if this was not passed by any ethics committee, why were the experimenters allowed to conduct medical experiments (whether methodically rigorous or not) on schoolchildren? Or have I missed something…

  2. Evidencekagoul – excellent comment and I couldn’t agree more.

    It is shocking that a council is prepared to use public funds for this sort of “experiment” – especially as you point out, with a total lack of oversight. It is equally bad if the funds were just for a commercial trial – do we really think so little of our children…?

    In a nutshell, I can only think that the council thought it would be OK because they, like most people, are aware that all this nutritionist nonsense is pure hokum and this was just a large placebo group…

    (Sadly, the cynic in me realises they probably don’t think this)

  3. Pingback: Fishoil Scam hits news eventually » Why Dont You Blog?

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