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School criticized for saying chocolate milk can treat concussions

A recent press release from the University of Maryland — titled “Concussion-Related Measures Improved in High School Football Players Who Drank New Chocolate Milk, UMD Study Shows” — claims a new brand of high-protein chocolate milk can improve cognitive and motor functions.

The press release is a result of the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program (MIPS), Consumerist explains. According to MIPS’ website, the program, which began in 1987, pairs local companies with University of Maryland researchers to create products “that feed the growth of Maryland businesses.”

The problem with the press release’s claims, as a panel shows, is the lack of data supporting the conclusion.

The press release said the study, led by the university’s Jae Shun Kim, involved 474 football players in seven Western Maryland high schools during the 2014 season. The study concluded that those who drank the chocolate milk (sometimes as many as six times as week) had a better visual and verbal memory than those who didn’t. Among those who suffered a concussion, those who drank the milk scored better on cognitive and motor tests.

Players were apparently tested before and after the season, as well as after concussions. It assessed 36 different variables including attention span, response variability, non-verbal problem solving and more.

However, the HealthNewsReview panel pointed out, the paper did not elaborate, for example, which of those 36 variables improved after drinking the chocolate milk. It also didn’t specify how far the supposed “improvement” went. It also doesn’t mention that while protein, calcium and electrolytes are helpful in healing brain injuries, each serving of chocolate milk also contains the equivalent of eight teaspoons of sugar. Peer-reviewed research shows that high-sugar diets can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The study this press release worked from apparently hasn’t been published independently, nor has it been peer-reviewed. The press release does note, however, that more in-depth study needs to be done before the findings can be conclusive.

The HealthNewsReview panel gave the release a 1/10 based on 10 criteria.

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