Photo of journalist misrepresented as 'cardiologist promoting herbal supplement in Myanmar'

·3 min read

A photo has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook alongside a claim it shows a 109-year-old Burmese cardiologist who recommends a heart supplement that can "cure hypertension". But the photo actually shows a French-born Russian-American journalist pictured in an interview in 2019. A prominent cardiologist told AFP there was no evidence that the heart supplement cited in the posts has notable benefits. AFP found no evidence that the Burmese cardiologist named in the posts exists.

The photo of a bald man sitting at a table was published in a blog post shared here on Facebook on July 16, 2022.

The Facebook post's Burmese-language caption translates to English as: "It can cure hypertension and it will never come back."

The blog post includes an interview with a cardiologist identified as Kyaw Thu Maung. "Age is not a hindrance in life," the Burmese-language title reads. "A 109-year-old cardiologist shared his secret to a healthy and long life."

The photo caption translates as: "The president congratulated U Kyaw Thu Maung when he turned 109. A picture shows him at his office."

The blog post concludes by saying that a person's blood vessels should be "cleaned" to promote good health and recommends taking a supplement called Cardiovax, saying it is the "secret" to the cardiologist's excellent health.

The same image has been shared hundreds of times alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here, and in other blog posts here, and here.

The same photo has also been used in materials in English and Indonesian promoting supplements by other names.

'109-year-old cardiologist'

AFP found no evidence that an 109-year-old Burmese cardiologist named Kyaw Thu Maung really exists.

A reverse image search on Google found the man in the photo published in reports about a French-born Russian-American journalist.

The same photo was published in an article here by the government for Russia's Tatarstan region on September 28, 2019.

It identifies the man in the photo as Vladimir Pozner, who was interviewed about language policies in the region.

The interview was also posted on Pozner's personal website.

Tatarstan-based news agency Tatar Inform also posted a video of the interview here.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading posts (left) to the photo on the Tatarstan government's website (right):

'No benefits'

Cardiovax's manufacturer -- Vokin Biotech -- claims on its website that studies have shown the drug will "reduce inflammation and improve the health of blood vessels' inner (endothelial) linings". But the manufacturer, which is listed in India, does not give specifics of the studies.

The manufacturer also lists lycopene as an ingredient and says the "powerful antioxidant" has many health benefits.

However, Dorairaj Prabhakaran, chair of the World Heart Federation's Science Committee, told AFP that "there is no evidence that Cardiovax is beneficial."

He said while antioxidants have shown to be useful in treating chronic disease such as heart disease when consumed as part of a healthy diet, extracts as "pills or supplements have not shown to be of benefit in large clinical trials".

"Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh and whole foods is the best way to obtain necessary nutrients and key to preventing cardiovascular disease."

The US Food & Drug Administration's list of approved drugs also does not contain a product with the name Cardiovax.

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