The University of Maryland has now been reduced to claiming that a special brand of chocolate milk has magical powers that help repair the human brain after concussions.
Critics have pounced on the study because it offers little evidence that any chocolate-flavored liquid from the mammary glands of cows can actually heal brain injuries, reports Inside Higher Ed.
A University of Maryland press release peddling the study suggests that the magical chocolate milk, called Fifth Quarter Fresh, “helped high school football players improve their cognitive and motor function over the course of a season, even after experiencing concussions.”
The professor behind the study is Jae Kun Shim of U. Maryland’s School of Public Health.
Shim, whose research specialty is kinesiology, analyzed 474 high school football players at seven Western Maryland high schools during the 2014 season. Basically, some high school football players drank Fifth Quarter Fresh after their games and practices, while other players in a control group swigged something else.
The kinesiology professor further separated the players into groups of players who suffered concussions and players who did not.
Players with concussions who drank delicious, nutritious Fifth Quarter Fresh showed better cognitive scores and motor scores in four areas, Shim says he found.
“High school football players, regardless of concussions, who drank Fifth Quarter Fresh chocolate milk during the season, showed positive results overall,” Shim said in the press release. “Athletes who drank the milk, compared to those who did not, scored higher after the season than before it started, specifically in the areas of verbal and visual memory.”
The reason, Shim suggested, is because Fifth Quarter Fresh contains protein, “branched chain amino acids” as well as calcium, electrolytes and all-important carbohydrates.
The Maryland press release fails to explain exactly which cognitive and motor skills the concussed players improved, or how much. Since the study has not been published — or even peer-reviewed — it’s impossible to know.
The study, which was funded by a partnership between the taxpayer-funded University of Maryland and private industry, could also involve serious conflicts of interest. It’s not clear who exactly fronted the industry cash or to what extent — if any — the makers of Fifth Quarter Fresh were involved.
The director of Maryland’s industrial partnerships program, Joe Naft, defended the study.
“In our release we stated the results were preliminary,” Naft told Inside Higher Ed. “Perhaps we should have explicitly stated the study has not been published.”
Naft added that the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program merely hopes “to encourage further research to confirm the results.”
Other scientists say the University of Maryland’s claims about Fifth Quarter Fresh healing traumatic brain injuries are a crock.
“Claims that drinking any particular beverage or product will alleviate the risks of concussions are misleading,” Columbia University Ph.D. candidate Kathleen Bachynski told Consumerist. “Most concerning is that promoting the benefits of this chocolate milk could misguide teenagers into attempting to return to play too soon after experiencing a concussion, and before seeking proper medical attention.”
HealthNewsReview.org notes that, “drop per drop,” Fifth Quarter Fresh “has more calories and nearly as much sugar as Coca-Cola.”
One bottle of Fifth Quarter Fresh contains 272 calories and 42 grams of sugar. There’s also 417 milligrams of sodium.
The Fifth Quarter Fresh website proudly publicizes the University of Maryland study — and features lots of football imagery. Its creators tout the beverage as “a fresh, natural high-performance post-workout recovery drink” “packed with superior nutrients” including 20 grams of protein. “As fresh as nature can provide. Get strong. Get Fifth Quarter Fresh.”
The Fifth Quarter Fresh trademark appears to be owned by a boat company called Cutwater.