Consumer Health Digest #02-48

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 26, 2002

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.

Victor Herbert, antiquackery leader, dead at 75. Victor Herbert, M.D., J.D., internationally renowned hematologist, nutrition researcher, and one of the world's leading authorities on questionable medical practices, succumbed on November 19th to a rare form of cancer. Most of his research concerned the metabolism of folic acid, vitamin B12, and iron. The Institute for Scientific Information lists him high among the scientists whose peer-reviewed publications are most cited worldwide by other scientists. He was by far the most outspoken antiquackery activist in modern times. His expert guidance and testimony helped state and federal regulatory authorities stop scores of misleading promotions. His willingness to "tell it like it is" made him popular among television producers, print journalists, and health professionals who wanted to expose health frauds. The NCAHF Web site contains additional information about his life. Donations in his memory can be made to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation or the National Council Against Health Fraud.

Feds nail Blue Stuff marketers. Blue Stuff, Inc., McClung Advertising, Inc., and their president, Jack McClung, have agreed to pay $3 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made unsubstantiated claims that Blue Stuff and Super Blue Stuff topical creams will relieve severe pain. Both products contain menthol, capsicum oleoresin. emu oil, aloe vera, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), witch hazel extract, and other herbs. The defendants also agreed to stop making unsubstantiated claims that Essential Stuff (an emu oil and vitamin E pill) would reduce cholesterol and Her Stuff (a skin cream)would slow or reverses bone loss. [Blue Stuff to pay FTC $3 million to settle charges that its infomercial promises to relieve severe pain are deceptive. FTC news release, Nov 18, 2002] The FDA has notified the company that many of its claims are illegal.

Heart Association downplays Atkins diet report. The American Heart Association (AHA) has advised caution in interpreting recent findings of a study of the Atkins diet. The study, performed at Duke University, involved 120 volunteers who were randomly assigned to either Atkins diet or the AHA Step 1 diet (30%-fat) diet. The Atkins dieters reportedly limited their carbohydrates to fewer than 20 grams a day, with 60% of their calories coming from fat. After six months, the Atkins dieters lost an average of 31 pounds, compared with 20 pounds on the AHA diet/ Total cholesterol fell slightly in both groups, but the Atkins group had an 11% increase in HDL ("good cholesterol) and a 49% drop in triglycerides. On the AHA diet, HDL was unchanged, and triglycerides dropped 22%. [Westman EC and others. Effect of a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet program on fasting lipid subfractions. Circulation 106(19)SII:727, 2002]

In response to these findings, the AHA cautioned:

Study of Q-Ray "ionized bracelet" finds no benefit. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have published the results of a 4-week study involving 710 participants who wore either a Q-Ray bracelet (said to be "ionized") or an identical-looking placebo bracelet (said to be "non-ionized"). Subjective improvement in pain scores was equivalent in both groups. [Bratton RL and others. Effect of "ionized" wrist bracelets on musculoskeletal pain: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 77:1164-1168, 2002] Quackwatch has additional information on the Q-Ray.

Life University facing long reaccreditation delay. The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) has informed Life University that it must wait two years before applying to restore its accreditation. Chiropractic enrollment dropped to 700 students this week, down from 1,400 last month and 2,600 in June, when CCE stripped the program of its accreditation. Without accreditation of the chiropractic program, Life graduates cannot get a license to practice in most states. [McDonald M, Taylor M. Life U. must wait at least 2 years for reaccreditation. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov 22, 2002] The chiropractic program, which was the world's largest, improperly downplayed medical diagnosis and taught that every patient should have a diagnosis of "subluxation."

Poor quality found among lactobacillus supplements. Independent lab testing of 20 "probiotic" dietary supplements labeled to contain Lactobacillus species found that none of the tested products contained organisms identical to those stated on the package label. Thirty percent of the brands sampled were contaminated with other microorganisms, and 20% of the brands contained no viable organisms. [Berman S, Spicer D. Safety and reliability of Lactobacillus dietary supplements in Seattle, Washington. American Public Health Association 130th Annual Meeting, Nov 9-13, 2002, Philadelphia, PA, USA; abstract 37244]

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This page was posted on November 26, 2002.