Consumer Health Digest #15-02
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 11, 2015
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.
Consumer Reports blasts "gluten-free" hype. Consumer Reports magazine has concluded that many people who buy "gluten-free" products are wasting their money. [Will a gluten-free diet really make you healthier? Consumer Reports, Nov 2014] Its analysis states:
- Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, should be avoided by people with celiac disease and by others who have trouble digesting it. However, only about 7% of Americans have such difficulty.
- The magazine's recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that 63% believed that avoiding gluten improves physical or mental health and one third thought that gluten-free foods promote weight loss. Neither of these beliefs is correct.
- Gluten-free foods tend to cost more; some are higher in calories, fat, sugars, and/or sodium than the foods they were meant to replace; and those made with rice or rice flour may contain undesirable amounts of arsenic.
"Environmental medicine" doctor disciplined. Jennifer Armstrong, who operates the Ottawa Environmental Health Clinic, has been reprimanded by Ontario's College of Physicians and Surgeons. The action was triggered by the suicide of a 19-year woman whom Armstrong treated. The disciplinary report states that although the patient had made several previous suicide attempts, Armstrong (a) failed to perform any mental health assessments, (b) failed to refer her to another physician for standard psychiatric treatment, and (c) treated her for "chemical sensitivity" with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. The Disciplinary order requires Armstrong to ensure that all of her patients have a family physician or certified specialist who provides concurrent care and is kept informed about Armstrong's treatment. The order also requires her to pay CN$4,460 for costs of the proceedings.
Company ordered to stop claiming its supplements can help children with speech disorders. Illinois-based NourishLife LLC and its owner, Mark Nottoli have agreed to pay $200,000 and to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their dietary supplement products can help children with speech disorders, including those associated with autism. The FTC complaint indicates:
- Since at least 2008, Nottoli and the company have sold "Speak" products online and through distributors for more than $70 per bottle. The products—which contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins E and K—were advertised via the Internet and at conferences on autism spectrum disorders.
- The products were falsely claimed to develop and maintain normal, healthy speech and language capabilities and improve behavior in children, including those with verbal apraxia—a motor speech disorder affecting the ability to speak clearly. These ads also claimed that Speak products had been scientifically proven.
- The defendants misrepresented a Web site called apraxiaresearch.com, which they owned and operated, to be an independent resource for research and other information relating to the treatment of apraxia.
- NourishLife also did business as SpeechNutrients, Lifenutrients, PharmaOmega, and BeneOmega.
The proposed order settling the FTC's charges would prohibit NourishLife and Nottoli from making false or unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of any dietary supplement, food, or drug and from providing others with the means to make such claims. [Company that touted products' ability to treat children's speech disorders settles FTC charges it deceived consumers. FTC news release, Jan 9, 2015]
Notorious dental quack dies. Hal A. Huggins, D.D.S. who promoted invalid dental approaches for more than 40 years, died in November at the age of 77. In the 1970s, he began advocated popularizing nutrition-related notions about "balancing body chemistry" to prevent or cure a wide range of diseases. His 1985 book, It's All In Your Head, combined his nutrition nonsense with the assertion that mercury in silver fillings is toxic and can cause depression, neurological disorders (including epilepsy and multiple sclerosis), cardiovascular problems, arthritis, allergies, ulcers, leukemia, and many other health problems. Later he claimed that root canals make people susceptible to arthritis, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other autoimmune diseases. Huggins's dental license was revoked in 1996. [Barrett S. The "mercury toxicity" scam: How anti-amalgamists swindle people. Quackwatch, Jan 11, 2015] During the revocation proceedings, the administrative law judge concluded:
- Huggins had diagnosed "mercury toxicity" in all patients who consulted him in his office, even some without mercury fillings.
- He had also recommended extraction of all teeth that had had root canal therapy.
- Huggins's treatments were "a sham, illusory and without scientific basis."
After the revocation, he continued to market his ideas as a consultant and through the Internet. The Web site of a laboratory he founded refers to him as the "father of holistic dentistry" and says that during his career he presented more than 2,500 lectures and gave more than 1,000 radio/TV interviews.
This page was revised on January 12, 2015.