BALTIMORE—A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University announced Monday that a five-year study examining the link between polyphenols and lower cholesterol rates has found jack shit.
“I can’t explain what happened,” head researcher Dr. Jeremy Ingels said. “We meticulously followed correct scientific procedure. Our methods were sufficiently rigorous that they should have produced some sort of result. Instead, we found out nothing.”
Added Ingels: “Nothing!”
As Ingels stepped aside to compose himself, fellow researcher Dr. Thomas Chen took the podium to discuss the $7 million jack-shit-yielding study.
“We are all very upset,” Chen said. “When we began, this looked so promising, I would have bankrolled it myself. Now, after five years, I couldn’t tell you if polyphenols even exist.”
The study, which Chen characterized as a “huge waste of time and money,” was financed by a Johns Hopkins alumni grant to determine the effects of the compound polyphenol on cholesterol. A known antioxidant found in herbs, teas, olive oil, and wines, polyphenol was originally thought to lower cholesterol—a theory that remains unproven because the Johns Hopkins researchers couldn’t prove squat.
“We can’t say zip about whether it lowers cholesterol,” Ingels said. “We don’t know if it raises cholesterol. Hell, we don’t know if it joins with cholesterol to form an unholy alliance to take over your gall bladder. At this point, I couldn’t prove that a male donkey has nuts if they were swinging in my face.”
When a study’s results are inconclusive, a research team often asks for more time and money to finish. Such is not the case with the Johns Hopkins project.
“No. No fucking way,” Ingels said. “I don’t know about Dr. Chen, but I know that Dr. [Kerri] Bruce, who has been a real trouper through all of this, is quitting science to start a catfish farm in Louisiana. Me, I have a long date with my bed and cable TV. I may still do something in science, but if I do, it’ll probably be something easy, like re-linking cigarette smoking with lung cancer, just to get my confidence back up. It’s too early to say. I’ll have a better idea after a month of watching the Game Show Network and eating raspberry danishes.”
Ingels also spoke of Dr. James Long, a biochemist who worked on the inconclusive study until lapsing into alcoholism six months ago.
“Poor Jim just couldn’t take it,” Ingels said. “We were all hitting the bars pretty hard once we began to see that things weren’t adding up. I think he took it the hardest because he was the one who proposed the study in the first place. I guess he was accustomed to research leading to something... anything.”
In spite of the fruitless results, other researchers at Johns Hopkins expressed confidence that, in time, some positive results can be gleaned from the study. Ingels has relinquished all collected data to the university, but stressed that he will not offer any further assistance.
“You want to look over this big fat goose egg, go nuts,” Ingels said. “I don’t want to hear the word ‘polyphenol’ for the remainder of 2003.”
Chen then took the podium to make the team’s closing statements.
“I just want to clarify that we had the best intentions going into this study,” Chen said. “We thought we would make a scientific discovery about polyphenols and cholesterol that would benefit the health of millions. I guess we were wrong. We tried to find a link, but instead we found bubkes.”