Consumer Health Digest #06-26

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 27, 2007


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.


FTC requests help in stopping "business opportunity" scams. The Federal Trade Commission is seeking comments on its proposed rule to protect consumers from work-at-home schemes, multilevel marketing (MLM) scams, and other dubious business opportunities. The proposed rule defines business opportunity as a situation that includes (a) a solicitation to enter a new business, (b) payment or a promise of payment to a third party, and (c) an earnings claim or an offer to provide business assistance. The proposal is intended to require all sellers of business opportunities to provide enough information to enable prospective buyers to make an informed decision about their probability of earning money. The most important provisions pertain to MLM companies, in which independent distributors sell products, recruit more distributors, and theoretically profit from both their own sales and those of the people they recruit. MLM companies, which nearly always exaggerate what new distributors are likely to make, are terrified about meaningful disclosure. If the proposed rule or a stronger one becomes final, millions of Americans will benefit. Citizens who would like this to happen can express their support or suggestions through an FTC Web page until July 17th. The process is simple to do online. FTC trade regulation rules usually take 1-1/2 to 3 years before a final rule is established. MLM Watch has detailed background information, links to key documents, and instructions for submitting comments.


Surgeon General blasts environmental tobacco smoke. The U.S. Surgeon General has published comprehensive information about secondhand smoke. Its just-issued report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, has six major conclusions:

  1. Many millions of Americans, both children and adults, are still exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes and workplaces despite substantial progress in tobacco control.
  2. Secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death among children and adults who do not smoke.
  3. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
  4. Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
  5. No risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke has been established.
  6. Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.

The full report, fact sheets, and other related materials are available on the Surgeon General’s Web site.


Many garlic supplements flunk quality tests. ConsumerLab.com has reported that only 6 of the 14 garlic supplements selected for testing contained the potency suggested by their labels. Lead contamination and poor labeling were also a problem. The tests measured by the amount of allicin each could produce. (Allicin is released when garlic is crushed or chewed and is associated with the efficacy of fresh garlic.) In the tested products, the amounts of allicin ranged from none to over 6,000 micrograms. Most products that passed the test provided 4,000 to 6,000 micrograms of allicin per day, the expected amount from a small clove of garlic and in line with typical dosage recommendations. Access to the report requires a subscription or payment of a one-time fee. Garlic is commonly promoted as useful in lowering abnormal cholesterol levels. However, Dr. Stephen Barrett cautions that even if the labeled amount is present, garlic (a) is unlikely to be as effective as prescribed medications and (b) might not be safe because its anticoagulant effect might promote abnormal bleeding when combined with other common products (aspirin, gingko, vitamin E, fish oils) that have anticoagulant properties.


"Biological dentists" charged with unprofessional conduct in California. The Dental Board of California has charged two dentists in Huntington Beach, California, with unprofessional misconduct.

A malpractice suit by Lukic has been settled with payment of an undisclosed sum, but several other patients are suing Shen and Young for removing teeth unnecessarily and mutilating them with "NICO" surgery. Young's license is listed on the dental board site as inactive.

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This page was revised on June 28, 2006.