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Little Back Up for Sports Drink, Product Claims
Advertisements have few, if any, valid references to scientific studies.
By Cole Petrochko, MedPage Today
Medically Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD
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WEDNESDAY, July 18, 2012 (MedPage Today) —Advertised claims about performance-enhancing sports products often are not supported by scientifically relevant studies, researchers found.
More than half of the sports products reviewed with performance-enhancing claims had no references to studies supporting those claims (52.8 percent), according to Carl Heneghan, MD, of the University of Oxford in England, and colleagues.
The studies mentioned by those products that did provide them had a high risk of bias in 84 percent. In addition, 41.9 percent of the studies had no randomization, allocation concealment was apparent in 6.8 percent of studies, and only 27 percent of the research included blinding of participants, investigators, or outcome assessors, Heneghan and co-authors wrote online inBMJ Open.
The study measured the quality of support for claims made in online advertisements about 104 sports-related products, such as sports drinks, supplements, footwear, clothing, and devices with performance- or recovery-enhancing qualities attributed to them.
Researchers found 431 claims about the products online on the manufacturers' websites after reviewing 1,035 web pages related to those products. They recorded data on each product's category, number and type of performance claims attributed to it, references to claims made about it, and qualifiers related to claims (such as "should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet"). If a reference paper supporting a claim was not available, the company was contacted and asked for any supporting literature.
Literature, if available, was evaluated for quality through the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine Levels of Evidence and Cochrane method of risk of bias, as well as whether participants were professional athletes or not.
Of 431 claims made, only 74 studies referenced by those claims were appropriate for critical appraisal.
There were 2,031 participants between the 74 studies, two of which made up a quarter of total participants. Around half of total participants were classified as "regular people who exercise" (48.6 percent), another 39.2 percent were considered endurance or serious athletes, and 10.8 percent were considered professional athletes.
A total of three of the studies (4.1 percent) were judged to be of "high quality and at low risk of bias," and none of the studies included systematic review, Heneghan and colleagues wrote.
"Half of all websites for these products provided no evidence for their claims, and of those that do, half of the evidence is not suitable for critical appraisal," they added.
Most of the studies reported a surrogate, rather than direct, outcome of performance or recovery and two studies repeated the study protocol intervention. Only 11 percent of studies reported study limitations.
In addition, small samples and laboratory environments had a negative effect of the validity of study findings, the investigators wrote.
The authors noted several limitations in their own review, including the possibility that the evaluated products were "at the worst end of the spectrum," subjective criteria to determine whether a product was billed as "performance-enhancing," and a lack of investigation into the heterogeneity of effects or publication bias.
Based on these results, current research by sports product manufacturers does not sufficiently inform potential customers of risks and benefits to using products sold with performance-enhancing claims, they concluded.
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