Consumer Health Digest #06-44

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 31, 2006


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.


Vitamin-mineral supplements unlikely to protect against atherosclerosis. A comprehensive review has found no evidence that antioxidant or B-vitamin supplements influence the progression of atherosclerosis as measured with angiography and other  imaging techniques. Clinical trials with antioxidants have used vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and/or selenium. Trials with B-vitamins have used folate, B6, and/or B12. Previous meta-analyses have found that the use of these supplements did not influence the frequency of heart attacks or death. This one was conducted to determine whether there is a protective effect that is obscured by a simultaneous bad effect. [Bleys J and others. Vitamin-mineral supplementation and the progression of atherosclerosis: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 84:880-887, 2006] An accompanying editorial expressed hope that “the exuberant use of vitamin-mineral supplements may be tempered by such findings, which carefully separate facts from faith.” [McCormick DB. The dubious use of vitamin-mineral supplements in relation to cardiovascular disease. AJCN 84:680-681, 2006]


Policosanol flunks major test. Policosanol, a substance derived from Cuban sugar cane, is widely advertised as effective for cholesterol control. However, a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study has found that it did no better than a placebo in lowering cholesterol levels in patients with abnormally high levels.  Many controlled studies supporting this claim have been published, but the researchers noted that nearly all were supported by a commercial enterprise founded to market policosanol and were performed by a single Cuban research institute. [Berthold HK and others. Effect of policosanol on lipid levels among patients with hypercholesterolemia or combined hyperlipidemia: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 295:2262-2269, 2006]


Mannatech claims criticized. Major newspapers in Texas have reported that Mannatech distributors are making improper health claims for the company's products. Mannatech is a multilevel marketing company that sells Ambrotose and other glyconutrient products (sugar pills) that it claims "improve cell-to-cell communication." The articles report:


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This page was revised on November 2, 2006.