A few weeks ago I received an interesting press release in my inbox. I read the title. It stated “New Studies Confirm Health Benefits of Red Wine.” I thought to myself “okay, here we go again.” I was not phased by the catchy headline given my research on red wine. What I was interested in, was reading the details of the press release and studies cited to explore the validity.
Numerous press releases become mainstream news the next day. By exploring some of the ones that come to my attention and bringing awareness to them, my hope is to help you as a consumer be more thoroughly informed. I know that information is light—the more we know, the more a topic becomes illuminated for us, the better and more conscious the decisions we make.
We are living at a time where transparency, honesty and authenticity are becoming highly valued. I like to think of them as the new norms. Yes, I know, we still have a long way to go in our world, but as more people awaken and choose to live their lives with full spectrum integrity, they are demanding the same from all those in their environment. We are no longer interested at taking information at face value. We have seen where blind belief has gotten us for centuries. The time has come for each of us to see through the many illusions and deceptions, and bring to light all that which has been hidden.
By helping people and teaching about health and nutrition, I sometimes need to bring awareness to that which doesn’t appear to be serving us. Normally, I am not a big fan of giving attention to that which does not represent or resonate with who I am. It is a healthier approach—physically, emotionally and spiritually—to not focus our attention on the problem, but rather the solution. Take what you like and move on, leaving behind anything that you do not resonate with. However, I also feel there is value in bringing awareness to an issue that serves the betterment of all. And so without putting anyone down, negating or making anyone wrong, let us explore what a typical press release looks like, which then influences our thoughts, ideas, choices and decisions. Let us simply become more enlightened on topics like these, to become more conscious and discerning of the information presented to us from external sources.
A Press Release For You To Analyze
Although it is found on many other web sites, I thought I would include the actual press release that is being shared around on the net and media outlets for you to read personally if you’d like. This way you can have a complete view and understanding of the situation.
“27.09.2011 — Two new meta studies published in the Journal Nature, one authored by Dr. David Gems, and the second one by Drs. Auwerx and Canto, examine previous studies of red wine’s ability to promote human health and longevity.
The compound which is contained in red wine which was the subject of the study is called resveratrol. Resveratrol specialist James Betz of Biotivia, a biotech company involved in the study of this compound commented on the two studies.
Resveratrol was first identified as an activator of enzymes known as sitruins by Dr David Sinclair of Harvard and his work was also published in the prestigious journal Nature in 2006. Since that time over 5,000 additional studies of resveratrol have been undertaken. The vast majority of these studies elucidate impressive potential health benefits of the red wine molecule. Although most of these studies were done on animals or in the lab, since 2009 a significant number, using a purified form of resveratrol called transmax resveratrol, have been done on human subjects. In these clinical trials resveratrol was shown to improve blood glucose tolerance in pre diabetic subjects, increase brain blood flow in university students, increase fitness in both training and sedentary subjects and to have a wide range of other beneficial health effects.
In the two new Nature studies it was confirmed that resveratrol does activate the so-called anti-aging genes Sirt 1 and 2, but that the primary benefits of this effect is to promote resistance to the diseases of aging such as diabetes and other chronic conditions, not necessarily to directly increase lifespan. Studies on human longevity are extremely difficult to conduct due to the inability of the researchers to control for the thousands of factors which influence lifespan. The medical community prefers to focus on Healthspan, which is the number of years a person lives free of the debilitating diseases which often accompany the later years of a person’s life. The idea is that if diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented one’s quality of life is dramatically improved and the cost of health care to the nation is greatly reduced. If the shift to prevention vs remedial health care is not accomplished within the next ten years the cost of providing health care to the citizens of every developed country will exceed the total public budget by 2025 according to leading economists. Resveratrol is one of the compounds which could make a significant contribution to the shift to a prevention centric health care strategy in the US and Europe. Dr. Auwerx stated “Similarly, indirect activation of SIRT1 by the compound resveratrol protects against metabolic and age-related diseases.” He goes on to state “SIRT1 activation remains a promising approach to delaying general age-related physiological decline and to treating numerous inherited and acquired diseases…
At this point the jury is still out on whether resveratrol will make one live longer however if it prevents an individual from contracting cancer or diabetes or one of the other diseases of aging, for that person it will certainly increase improve the person’s health span and quality of life, if not his life span.
One thing is clear. As the Dr Auwerx points out, the astonishing ability of SIRT1 to enhance ‘Healthspan’ by promoting metabolic fitness will also guarantee it a long life as a subject for further exciting research. Biotivia will continue to support human clinical trials of resveratrol worldwide.”
So what did you think? Is it time to run to the liquor store to get some red wine in order to improve our health? Not so fast. Let us look at the information presented a little more closely, shedding light on what is actually being presented.
1. What is being tested?
Did you notice any red wine being tested? This is unfortunately the most basic fact that dismisses the credibility of this news report. The scientists did not actually test red wine. They tested resveratrol. Now that is a big, big difference. Resveratrol is a molecule found in red wine, due to the red grape content. So my first question is why didn’t the headline state “New Studies Confirm Benefits of Red Grapes”? That would have been closer to the correct source. Or even more precisely the headline should have read “New Studies Confirm Benefits of Resveratrol”. So why not? Well, what do you think will get people’s attention more? Red wine or red grapes, or some word like resveratrol that most people are not even familiar with? But that really isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is equating red wine with resveratrol. That is like saying that eating wood is good for healthy digestion. Why? Because wood contains fiber and fiber is good for healthy digestion. Do you see the problem?
I have no doubt that resveratrol has some wonderful health benefits, but let’s not throw red wine into the mix as it changes the playing field drastically. In fact, if we really want to focus on research that links resveratrol and red wine, a recent 2011 report from the Mayo Clinic found that one would have to drink over 60 liters of red wine a day to show the supposed benefits found in studies! Obviously something does not add up here, where our health is concerned.
So let us explore further to understand where and how the misinformation occurs.
2. Go to the source.
If we are interested in using the information we read or hear, seriously or as fact, we must follow the path to the root of the information. In this case, there are 2 parties involved—the two studies from the Journal Nature (including the scientists cited) and the expert who commented on and interpreted the results of the two studies—James Betz, a resveratrol specialist.
So I went to the Journal Nature to find these two studies. I was only somewhat successful. While they seem to be there, a number of further problems presented themselves. For starters one must have a paid subscription to the journal to actually read the full contents of the studies. I read the abstracts of each and found that from the sounds of them, neither study touched red wine, or even focused on resveratrol specifically as they tested longevity in fruit flies. So in essence the scientists conducting those studies were simply doing what they were doing, without trying to spin any false conclusions. The onus then sits with the person interpreting the studies and sharing the information publicly.
I then looked at the expert who commented on both of these studies and who was the one to bring in the red wine link. As stated in the press release James Betz is a specialist at Biotivia, a biotech company. I looked into Biotiva and found out that aside from being a biotech company, it is a supplement company with a huge stake in resveratrol. Makes you go hmm, which brings us to our next section.
3. Who is providing the information, doing or funding the testing?
And so not only do we have to understand the source of any information in headlines that catch our eye, the basis of the studies done, but also who is funding or translating the information for us. Most importantly, is it someone who has a stake in the conclusions being reached?
In this case, as in most cases, the scientists in the lab are only doing their work in testing what they are asked to test. The expert from Biotiva is the focal point in this investigation as it is he, who is drawing various conclusions and making what appear to be unjustified correlations. I don’t know who this person is, or much about the company Biotiva, so it is not about blaming anyone, as the truth is no one does anything wrong given their model of the world. We simply have to be aware as consumers that each group in today’s world has their own agenda. If it agrees with us, then great. But if it doesn’t, we need to be able to discern the information without being conditioned by it blindly.
The Effects of Misinformation or Incomplete Information
There are three main consequences of these types of misleading headlines and/or information.
The first is obvious. They confuse the general population as to what health or healthy really is – whether this is done intentionally or unintentionally. Media, companies and corporations know that the average person will read the headlines and run with a story in their head based on the headline alone. A small percentage will read the entire story without analyzing the information critically to see if it actually is logical or makes sense. Of those groups, half may run to the liquor store to buy some red wine, while the other half to a health food store to buy some resveratrol supplements. And a tiny percentage will see through the story as nothing more than the misinformation it is, or ploy to sell a product.
What my intention is by shedding light on these types of games in our society is for more of us to be consciously present and aware when we recieve information, so that we are not being manipulated by it. Too many people are suffering in our world due to clever and deceptive marketing making us buy or believe things that are not for our best interest.
And so the second consequence is that the incomplete or false facts of information then become the accepted truths. I wish I did not have to pick on the press release above, as it truly is just one example of numerous such claims each day, but it is such a great example of how half truths or misleading claims become fact for the general public.
Finally, the third and last consequence of such tactics is that we suffer. We suffer physically, as our health choices may be guided by incorrect information. We suffer financially as we may be influenced to buy products that are not good for us or a waste for us. We suffer collectively, as our society quarrels with each other over who is right and who is wrong. We suffer in how we operate, how we interact with each other and how we live.
In the end, analyzing how information comes to us and influences our facts and decisions should empower us and not be used in negative ways or to attack anyone. Let us instead take personal accountability for who we choose to listen to and why. The truth is that many people will continue to say whatever it is that they want to say. In many ways everyone is entitled to that. This is why it is always up to us in the end, to be responsible for how we discern information from all external sources so that it helps, instead of harms us.
And so, through this analysis we are also not discounting the benefits of resveratrol. I am aware that it is a powerful and beneficial compound. However to be fair, we are still in the initial stages of learning just how it works, and no pill will ever beat real, whole food, coupled with the power of our mind. What we are shedding light on is that resveratrol benefits do not equal red wine benefits. These are two completely different substances that will have a very different impact on our health if we choose to ingest them.
The point of this analysis is that so many of us can benefit in all areas of our lives by simply being more present, more conscious and more critical of the information we are bombarded with each day. It is not about becoming a negative skeptic or cynic. Have an open mind that is open to hearing everyone out, but do some personal research or soul searching before you accept anything as your personal truth.