Journals call for review of scientist's multivitamin research

Journal editors, Memorial University point fingers over who should investigate scientist who claimed multivitamins boost seniors' memory.

Two medical journals are calling for an investigation into the entire body of research of a doctor who claims that multivitamin and mineral supplements significantly improve seniors' ability to think and reason.

Scientists have raised doubts about the validity of research done by Dr. Ranjit Chandra, saying his results were unusually good. Chandra, who now lives in India, worked at Newfoundland's Memorial University for 27 years.

Chandra has been asked to produce his raw data, but so far hasn't.

The journal Nutrition published Chandra's multivitamin study three years ago. The paper was reviewed by three scientific peers, but after it was published other scientists raised questions about the data and findings.

Chandra has turned down recent interview requests from the CBC, but last December he dismissed the concerns. "I feel quite happy with the design of the study, the way it was analysed and reported," he said. 

Chandra said two other studies have confirmed the results, but "I don't think it will be good for me to tell you their names until the paper is published."

Who should conduct the review?

There's no way to make Chandra comply with requests for information, said Michael Meguid, editor of the journal Nutrition. 

"There are regulatory bodies for that, but they do not cross borders," said Meguid, a professor of neuroscience and vice-chair of surgical research at Upstate University in New York. "That is, I think, where the regulatory part of science has fallen behind the advancement of science."

Meguid said Memorial needs to lead a thorough investigation into all of Chandra's work.

John Strawbridge, Memorial's director of faculty relations, agreed the recent accusations merit a thorough investigation. He doesn't think the university should conduct it, saying the journals that published the studies should do the reviews.

"It's up to each journal in which he's published to examine what he's published in their journal," Strawbridge said. "The university is not a watchdog – We are an enabler – and we've done our job, I think."

Chandra also submitted his study on cognition to the British Medical Journal, which refused to publish it. BMJ editor Richard Smith said all of Chandra's work needs to be investigated, but Memorial University may not be the one to do it.

"In some ways there's a fundamental conflict of interest," said Smith. "You would rather not discover that one of your employees had been involved in misconduct, which is one of the arguments for having some kind of national body where there isn't the same kind of conflict."

A spokesperson for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a federal government funding agency, said it is reviewing Chandra's work to see whether it should take any action.