Anti-ageing breakthrough? – Media Watch – Media Watch – Media Watch – ABC News

But now to Seven News and one of those stories the media just loves, about an Aussie medical miracle:

MARK FERGUSON: The Australian-made supplement slowing the ageing process and the Sydney researchers responsible.

– Seven News promo (Sydney), 5 June, 2022

Yes, that’s Seven News with the promise of a pill that can make us all stay young. And if the hype is anything to go by, it’s gotta be good:

MARK FERGUSON: The new TGA-approved drug helping people turn back time. How a locally developed supplement is fighting the signs of ageing. 

– Seven News promo (Sydney), 5 June, 2022

And that is just the Sydney sell, with the elixir of youth spruiked equally hard in Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart:

KATRINA BLOWERS: … a major breakthrough they say will help beat the signs of ageing.

– Seven News (Brisbane), 5 June, 2022

BLAKE JOHNSON: … a major breakthrough …

– Seven News (Melbourne), 5 June, 2022

LOUISE HOUBAER: And the secret is all found in one simple supplement.

– Seven News (Hobart), 5 June, 2022

Regular viewers of Media Watch will hear the words “major breakthrough” and “secret” and know to proceed with caution.

But what exactly is this “simple supplement” that helps to “turn back time”?

LIAM TAPPER: The product, Synext, is Australia’s first anti-ageing supplement, or NAD, and is the brainchild of a number of Phd students from Sydney University. Their revolutionary product now officially given the green light by the TGA.

– Seven News (Sydney), 5 June, 2022

NAD molecules, it seems, are crucial for healthy cell function and we lose them as we age.

The product’s creators claim the supplement can help stem the tide:

DR SUN: We want to maintain a good, healthy level of NAD and its metabolism in our bodies so we can have an anti-ageing effect or even reverse ageing. 

– Seven News (Sydney), 5 June, 2022

Impressive, eh? A product that not only stops you getting older, but could make you younger. 

So, did Seven present any scientific evidence to back up this anti-ageing claim?

Ah, no. But we did hear from a happy customer:

LIAM TAPPER: … 51-year-old Anna Chan thinks it holds the key. 

ANNA CHAN: I hardly need to put make-up on. I feel my skin condition is really good and I found myself full of energy. 

– Seven News (Sydney), 5 June, 2022

Bingo! What more proof do you need? 

And next morning, Seven’s Sunrise set out to flog the dream with youthful abandon:

DAVID KOCH: … is it a fountain of youth? The anti-ageing supplement given TGA approval. 

– Sunrise, Seven Network, 6 June, 2022

But alas, the Sunrise segment did not age well after Natalie Barr asked the program’s resident doctor whether viewers should believe the claims:

NATALIE BARR: This does sound too good to be true. How does it work and what’s in it?

DR GINNI MANSBERG: It is too good to be true. It’s not gonna work.

– Sunrise, Seven Network, 6 June, 2022

Oh dear. 

Following which, Dr Ginni Mansberg set about demolishing Seven’s good news story:

DR GINNI MANSBERG: … the theory has been, if you can increase the NAD+ in your cells, which naturally declines with age, we could then help you live longer. The problem is while there’s a little bit of evidence from yeast and worms that increasing NAD+ in cells actually might do just that, we don’t have that evidence for humans. And even if we did, nothing in this very expensive multi-vitamin pill has any evidence that it increases NAD+ in the cells whatsoever, outside of a couple of test-tube trials.

– Sunrise, Seven Network, 6 June, 2022

Wow.

But, hang on, didn’t Seven News tell us:

LIAM TAPPER: … their revolutionary product now officially given the green light by the TGA.

– Seven News (Sydney), 5 June, 2022

It did. But Dr Mansberg dismissed the significance of that claim just as bluntly:

DR GINNI MANSBERG: … lots of things are TGA approved! That doesn’t mean they work, it just means they get permission to stick it on the shelf.

– Sunrise, Seven Network, 6 June, 2022

And it certainly doesn’t mean the TGA says it will stop you getting old.

As Dr Bruce Willett from the Royal Australian College of GPs told Media Watch:

… the public might be surprised just how little scientific evidence there usually is that these products actually work.

The suggestion that the TGA has approved this particular product is disingenuous and I hope the TGA will clamp down on such misleading marketing spin.

– Email, Dr Bruce Willett, Royal Australian College of GPs, 15 June, 2022

But I can’t say we’re confident about that, because the claims were made in a news report and the TGA only polices advertising. Yes, really. 

As for using the daily supplement itself, which costs more than $100 a month, Dr Willett says check with your doctor. And he offers that same advice to Seven:

I hope Seven News will also seek expert medical advice for future medical stories too.

– Email, Dr Bruce Willett, Royal College of GPs, 15 June, 2022

And we’re pleased to say that’s exactly what Nine News did do.

When Synext was served up as a, quote, “national TV exclusive”, Nine’s medical reporter Gabriella Rogers contacted biochemist Dr Lindsay Wu, a specialist in the field of NAD research, who told her:

I wouldn’t touch this story with a barge pole …

– Email, Dr Lindsay Wu, UNSW, to Nine Reporter Gabriella Rogers, 3 May, 2022

For Nine, the story died then and there, only to get its heroic run a month later on Seven.

We asked Seven to comment. They didn’t bother.

We also asked the company that makes Synext if it could show us any published studies for its product and its anti-ageing claims. It told us:

The team has obtained human data for Synext in the past years and these results are used to improve the formula. TGA has very limited protection to proprietary blends therefore the team decided not to publish those results.

– Email, ‘Biogency Team’, 17 June, 2022

We’ll take that as a no.

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