Memorial scientist defends controversial vitamin study

Memorial U., science journals say vitamin researcher's work is rife with problems. R.K. Chandra refutes detractors' claims.

A Canadian researcher who touted the benefits of vitamins for seniors has come under fire from two scientific journals.

Retired immunologist Dr. Ranjit Chandra has been criticized over research he conducted while at Memorial University.

One of his studies concluded a multivitamin and mineral supplement greatly enhanced memory in seniors. An earlier paper described immune system benefits for older people.

Chandra holds the patent on the formula and he markets his own line of vitamins on the internet.

Editors at two academic journals, Nutrition and The Lancet, have questioned the validity of the studies.

Nutrition originally published Chandra's memory findings, but in a recent editorial, it says it should have been more diligent.

"Despite repeated requests from others and us, Chandra has failed to address the specific issues that have been raised," the editorial said. "Nor has the author provided the raw data requested."

The data would allow other scientists to replicate Chandra's findings, an important step in validating research.

"They have all the information. The reviewers had all the information," says Chandra, who received the Order of Canada and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1992.

Jack Strawbridge, Memorial's director of faculty relations, says the university still has questions about a 2001 study.

Strawbridge says he's asked Chandra three times to provide data supporting his conclusions, but the information hasn't been forthcoming.

"It's always something about 'I'm travelling, I don't have access to it' or 'it was lost or misplaced.' It's never available," Strawbridge says.

Chandra says he's not avoiding the university he just doesn't want to answer questions in person. "I would much rather he write to me, and I would be happy to respond to that."

Chandra maintains his research is accurate, even if it's been questioned in academic journals.

Chandra, who was in St. John's Tuesday, is returning to India Wednesday.