This news release touts the results of an unpublished clinical trial aimed at evaluating the increase in levels of omega-3 fatty acids in people who consume chicken and eggs enriched with an omega-3 poultry feed. It uses vague terms to describe the result of the trial and suggests a clinical advantage without giving any real information to back up those claims. It neglects issues of the cost of the new feed and the quality of the research itself. The release appears to be aimed more at touting a new commercial product than it is explaining how omega-3 feed supplementation benefits health.
The diseases that the release mentions — heart attack, stroke, dementia and depression — are substantive concerns among the public so any news presented to the public needs to provide ample evidence to back up the claims it makes. This release doesn’t do that. Instead, it generalizes about the benefits of poultry products from chickens fed an enriched diet, and assumes that consumers will buy those products. That may be true but readers deserve accurate and fact-based information backing up such claims before being asked to buy.
There is no mention of the costs that might be incurred by consumers interested in choosing chicken and eggs that ate this new feed. Will the new feed cost more than conventional feed, which is likely to be passed along to customers?
The only mentions of cost are a vague assertion that chicken and eggs are “very affordable sources of quality protein.” But that doesn’t tell us what the cost will be of chickens that consume the enhanced feed.
The release also makes an unsubstantiated claim that nutrient-rich foods such as this feed will help reduce the UK’s and the whole world’s cardiovascular disease burden. It says:
“The cost to the health service of treating cardiovascular related illness in the UK is £10billion/year. Having access to sustainably produced nutrient-rich food, with a scientifically proven health claim, offers huge potential to turn this around globally.”
There wasn’t any evidence provided to support that claim.
The news release gives only vague references to the benefits gained by study participants who consumed chickens, or their eggs, raised using the supplemented feed. We’re never told how much omega-3 was consumed, just that participants ate the special meat or eggs at least three times a week. How much omega-3 did each serving contain? The release doesn’t say.
The lede of the release states use of the feed “is likely to reduce risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia and depression,” but offers no numbers to back up that claim or quantify that supposed risk reduction.
Later, it states, “The results from the clinical study saw an increase in omega-3-PUFA levels in blood and a positive shift in what is described as the ‘omega-3 Index’-a test that measures the amount of the omega-3 fatty acids, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) in red blood cell membranes, which reflects the levels in your heart and other tissues.” Regardless, readers have no way of knowing the amount of “increase” or “positive shift,” so the statement is meaningless for gaining actual information about changes that can be traced back to the new food.
We’ll give the release a Not Applicable in this category since the study involved eating a moderate amount of chicken and eggs in their normal diet. Based on what little the release actually tells us about the trial, it’s hard to see where people would be harmed from eating this amount of these particular foods.
The release touts this as “a world-first clinical trial,” although we’re unsure of exactly what that means. It’s also described as a “novel 6-month clinical trial” involving “161 subjects,” although that offers no real insight into the study’s methodology. Did all subjects consume a standardized diet? How were variables controlled among participants, if they were at all? What evidence was there that the change in levels of these compounds actually had a clinical significance? Basically, the release touts an undefined increase in the levels of compounds that have been associated with some health improvements in some people.
Another drawback is that the claims are based on surrogate endpoints rather than on clinical outcomes. For example, the release states, “The results from the clinical study saw an increase in omega-3-PUFA levels in blood and a positive shift in what is described as the ‘omega-3 Index’-a test that measures the amount of the omega-3 fatty acids, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) in red blood cell membranes, which reflects the levels in your heart and other tissues.” This doesn’t automatically translate into proof of health improvement.
The release doesn’t disease monger.
However, we think the release steps over the line into “treatment mongering” without evidence.
The release never specifically says who funded the research, although most readers would assume it was Devenish, the manufacturer of the chicken feed being touted and the company that issued the release. The release does disclose that “The chicken meat and eggs used in the study came from birds offered OmegaPro, a sustainable and algae-based source of omega-3 PUFA, developed by Devenish.”
The release should have noted whether there were any financial ties between the researchers and Devenish. Without a published study this is hard for us to verify.
We’ll give this category a Satisfactory since the alternative to this new, supposedly enhanced feed is regular chicken feed now on the market. The story also mentions that the primary source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish and/or dietary supplements.
Although it isn’t made clear in the release whether the new chicken feed is on the market yet, one might assume that it will be shortly, based on the fact that the release seems aimed more at promoting a commercial product than it does describing actual clinical research.
Since the news release fails to provide real information about the research and instead concentrates on grooming the market for a new product, it’s questionable how novel this work is.
The headline on the release claims the new feed is “likely to reduce risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia and depression,” which is a claim not supported by what the release offers. And as we’ve mentioned before, the release also touts the study as “a world-first clinical trial,” a descriptor that we don’t perceive as being accurate.