Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sun reports on 'wonder pill' that 'flights flab'

A couple of weeks after research was published about spin and medical reporting, The Sun reports on a 'wonder pill' that fights 'tummy flab':

Any media report that includes the term 'wonder pill' should be treated with caution. The Sun's Health and Science Editor Emma Little writes:

A wonder pill to fight belly fat hit the UK yesterday.

The drug — made from a vile-tasting fruit — is also a breakthrough in the war on cholesterol.

It contains concentrated juice from the intensely bitter bergamot — which is used in cooking in Calabria, southern Italy. Heart experts intrigued by locals there rarely suffering coronary disease claim to have traced it to the fruit.

Analysis revealed it is packed with chemicals called polyphenols.

These work together to open up arteries and increase blood flow — helping the body to burn fat more efficiently.

Tiny amounts of the juice cut blood sugar levels by a fifth in tests, boosting people’s metabolisms so they carried less belly fat.

Meanwhile, the juice was found to lower artery-clogging cholesterol by almost a THIRD. And the fruit raised levels of “good” cholesterol.

The new pills, costing £42 a month and called BergaMet, are taken twice a day before a meal. They have NO side-effects — unlike cholesterol-fighting statins, which can cause muscle weakness and memory loss. That means the pills could be an alternative.

One look at the product website reveals a key caveat in the claim about fighting flab:

May support weight management programs in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise

'May'. But the 'healthy diet and exercise' are probably more important to weight management.

The US website is even more revealing. It claims the pill:

Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels in normal healthy individuals^*

But a note at the end of the page reveals what those symbols mean:

^ These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

* Levels already within normal limits. 

The statement about 'weight management programs' is also marked with a ^ on the US site.

It is also worth noting a 2011 judgement from the Complaints Resolution Panel of Australia's Thereutic Products Advertising Complaints. It upheld complaints about claims on

The advertiser did not respond to the particulars of the complaint, but stated that as a result of the complaint the website was under review...

In the absence of any evidence from the advertiser, the Panel was satisfied that the advertisement contained many representations that were likely to arouse unwarranted and unrealistic expectations in relation to the advertised product. These included the representations that the advertised product has benefits in relation to lowering cholesterol levels...lowering bad cholesterol levels, providing cholesterol and metabolic support, lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome, aiding in weight loss or weight management, or has any benefits in relation to...excessive abdominal fat.

'Unwarranted and unrealistic expectations' may also result from a newspaper report lauding it as a 'wonder pill'.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this!

    Just had a patient telling me about this wonder tablet, and I was pretty sure that the only thing lighter after taking it would be his wallet, but at least I can point to the details!


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.