Newspaper takes money from food company to promote cholesterol-reducing food via journalist who doesn’t seem to exist

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Have you heard the adage ‘don’t believe what you read’? In the area of health I believe this is generally good advice. Trawling through newspapers has convinced me that much of what is written about how best to manage our health is based more on science fiction rather than fact. I believe this applies as much to anything else to the constant drip-feed of information we get about cholesterol and its supposedly artery-clogging effects. By way of example, take a look at this article which appeared in the on-line version of The Telegraph – a British ‘broadsheet’ newspaper. At first sight, it looks just like any other on-line article. For one thing, it’s written by ‘Telegraph journalist’ ‘Chris Jones’.

Ms Jones tells us how downing cholesterol-reducing Flora pro.activ drinks each day has helped her get her cholesterol levels down to a “much better figure.” Pieces of this nature have long been used by companies to legitimise and add credibility to their products by blurring the lines between editorial and advertising – that’s why they’re called ‘advertorials’.

The risk with advertorials is that they will promote the benefits of the product being pushed, and fail to mention some important failings. So, please allow me to fill in the blanks that Chris Jones appears to have left…

First of all, products like Flora pro.activ are sold to us on the basis of their cholesterol-reducing ability. My attitude to this is ‘so what?’ That’s because the impact that a food or anything else has on cholesterol is irrelevant – it’s the impact it has on health that counts.

So, here’s what you need to know: taking dietary steps to reduce cholesterol simply hasn’t been shown to have broad benefits for health. For example, cholesterol-reducing diets have not been shown to prevent deaths, even in those who are deemed to be at high risk of heart disease. This, quite frankly, is where our faith in cholesterol-reducing foods should come to a shuddering halt. Except, of course, if there exist financially motivated reasons for keeping the faith alive.

Here’s another thing: while Chris Jones tells us her cholesterol levels came down to a better level, there is a distinct absence of detail here. What were her levels before and after? I suppose those interested for more detail and about the test results and perhaps put some counter evidence could contact Chris Jones.

However, there is no facility for comments at the end of the piece. No email address for Chris Jones either. So, I searched the Telegraph site for lists of its journalists and found this []. Oddly, no one by the name of Chris Jones is listed. How about bloggers []? No mention of a Chris Jones there either. And neither can I find other pieces written by her on the Telegraph website.

What we have here, it seems, is a biased and detail-free advertorial exalting the benefits of a cholesterol-reducing product with no proven health benefits written by someone who is untraceable. Like the evidence that taking dietary steps to reduce cholesterol benefits health, it looks like Chris Jones does not exist.

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