Brain and Body

Fraudulent Nutrition Researcher Loses Libel Case

September 14, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Shelves of academic journals
Photo credit: Vmenkov/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled against Ranjit Chandra’s accusations of libel against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for airing a documentary on his phony research.

After attempting to take down the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and its journalists for airing a three-part documentary exposing his research fraud, Ranjit Chandra lost his attempt to sue for $132 million, arguing he had suffered libel and invasion of privacy. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in favor of CBC on the grounds that the broadcasted information was, in fact, true.

Chandra was a world-famous research scientist who specialized in nutritional immunology. In 1990, he was even named an Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest honor for those who have demonstrated an outstanding level of talent and service to Canadians. The allegations that would surface against Chandra and his research would come as a surprise to many who admired his work.

Chandra, a former researcher at Memorial University of Newfoundland, submitted a paper to the BMJ claiming that, through research, he discovered that his patented vitamin supplement improved memory in elderly individuals. His paper was rejected on the grounds that the BMJ editors questioned the ability for one individual alone to perform the extensive psychometric tests described, and hallmarks of data fabrication also raised red flags.

However, Chandra’s paper was published in Nutrition the following year. By the time Nutrition retracted the study, it was cited over 80 times and given news coverage by The New York Times. None of Chandra’s other papers were withdrawn from literature either, which compelled Saul Sternberg, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, to publish a paper in the Nutrition Journal outlining his suspicions of Chandra’s research.

An article published in the BMJ on July 30 exposed that, in addition to his faulty research, Chandra attempted to publish “findings” that would support his own, using the name Amrit Jain. However, suspicion arose when there was no other proof of Amrit Jain’s existence, and the author’s posting could be traced to a rented mailbox in Canada. The CBC was able to use this information to defend itself in court because Amrit Jain is actually an anagram for “I am Ranjit.”

After the court ruled in favor of the CBC, the corporation’s head of public affairs, Chuck Thompson, said “We have always maintained that our journalism got the story right and the content was true.” Chandra’s strange case serves as a reminder that everything should be questioned, even the facts asserted by distinguished experts.

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