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‘Fabrication’: Professor accused of falsifying red wine health research

A University of Connecticut researcher has been accused of fabricating hundreds of pieces of data in studies into the effects of red wine on health.

Dr Dipak Das [image: University of Connecticut]

University of Connecticut
officials said a three-year internal review found 145 instances over seven years in which Dr Dipak Das, director of the university’s Cardiovascular Research Center, fabricated, falsified and manipulated data.

According to a report sent by the university to scientific journals which had published Das’s work, the fraud involved 26 articles published in 11 journals, many of the articles reporting positive effects from resveratrol, an ingredient of red wine thought to have health benefits.

The university confirmed on its website that Dr Das – who has been at the University since 1984 and was granted tenure in 1993 – ‘was at the center of a far-reaching, three-year investigation process that examined more than seven years of activity in Das’s lab.’

‘We have a responsibility to correct the scientific record and inform peer researchers across the country,’ Philip Austin, interim vice president for health affairs said.

The University says the investigation was sparked by an anonymous allegation of research irregularities in 2008. Its final report, in which it says ‘dismissal proceedings are underway’ against Dr Das, totals 60,000 pages.

The university says it ‘concludes that Das is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data. Inquiries are currently underway involving former members of Das’s lab; no findings have been issued to date.’

As a result of the investigation the university said it had frozen all externally funded research in Dr Das’s laboratory and declined to accept US$890,000 in federal grants awarded to him.

The instances of fabrication and falsification of data involved manipulation of an analytical technique known as Western blot or the protein immunoblot.

Scientists in the field say the allegations, if verified, are unlikely to affect resveratrol research itself, as Dr Das’s work was not key to the central principles of what is known about the compound.

The possible beneficial cardiovascular effects of resveratrol, an antioxidant which is present in the skins and seeds of black grapes and to an extent in white grapes, have been widely researched by the world’s universities and reported in eminent scientific journals. But there is still a good deal of controversy around the subject.

Roger Corder, author of The Wine Diet and an expert on the health benefits of red wine, told Decanter.com, ‘The whole resveratrol-wine-health relationship is totally incorrect. Many wines, particularly from thick-skinned grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, have virtually no resveratrol.’

He tweeted yesterday, ‘It was bad enough when [pharmaceutical company] Sirtris researchers were stating that resveratrol explained the health effects of red wine. Snake Oil!’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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