Consumer Health Digest #03-45

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 18, 2003

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.

Post article rips John Gray's credentials. The New York Post has published a stinging report about the credentials of John Gray, author of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus," who operates a chain of counseling centers and offers training to counselors and psychologists. Gray's Web site says he is a certified family therapist with a Ph.D., However, his "degree" was obtained from Columbia Pacific University, a nonaccredited correspondence school that was eventually shut down by a California court. The Post investigation also found discrepancies in Gray's other credentials. [Johnson R and others. Writer's education from Mars. New York Post Nov 13, 2003]

FTC hits radiation-protection scammers. Two New York-based companies that marketed devices that purport to block harmful radiation from cell phones or video display units (VDUs) have agreed to pay $85,000 for consumer redress to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. Tecnozone International, LLC, Tecnozone America, LLC, and their principals (Marvin Jemal, Stephen Jemal, and Jacob Dresdner) advertised that their "Tecno AO protectors" provide substantial protection to consumers from electromagnetic energy emitted from cell phones and video display units. The ads falsely claimed that (a) scientific studies have shown that exposure to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones, computer monitors, television and video game screens can cause eye damage, head, neck and back aches, anxiety, insomnia and memory loss, brain tumors, cancers and brain tumors and that (b) Tecno AO protectors create a zone of biocompatability between you and your electronic devices. In addition to paying redress, the settlement with the FTC prohibits the defendants from making unsubstantiated claims about a product's ability to reduce exposure to, or prevent penetration of, electromagnetic energy. [New York City defendants settle FTC charges: FTC alleges that the companies made false and unsubstantiated claims for their cell phone radiation protection devices. FTC news release, November 12, 2003]

Study debunks "oxygenated water." A double-blind study has found no evidence that drinking "oxygenated water" enhances exercise performance. The study involved 11 healthy adults who drank 12 ounces of water either siphoned from a sealed bottle or taken from a bottle that had been deoxygenated by agitation in air. The waters were advertised to contain 7 to 40 times more oxygen than ordinary water and to enhance sports performance and improve cardiovascular and muscle endurance. However the researchers found although four of the five brands had some extra oxygen dissolved, the total was less was less than advertised and less than the amount found in a single breath. The researchers concluded:

Given that hemoglobin is already nearly saturated with O2 during air breathing, and that only a small amount of additional O2 can be dissolved in plasma, it is not surprising that oxygenated water did not improve maximal exercise performance. Furthermore, given the small amount of oxygen in bottled water compared with that in air, any benefit would likely be quite brief. [Hampson NB and others. Oxygenated water and athletic performance. JAMA 290:2408-2409, 2003]

Spam increase noted. Brightmail Inc., an anti-spam technology company that filters more than 60 billion messages per month for its clients, estimates that the percentage identified as spam has increased from 40% in November 2002 to 52% in October 2003. About 7% were health-related. The common health-related offerings include online pharmacies, penis enlargers, breast enlargers, sexual enhancers, weight-loss aids, cancer cures, herbal products, growth hormone" products, health insurance, and network marketing offers. The pharmacy spammers typically use physicians who provide prescriptions without adequately investigating whether they are appropriate for the patient.

ADA warns against antifluoridation bill. The American Dental Association has reported that since 2002, state legislatures in California and five other states have rejected bills that were intended to restrict or stop fluoridation. The bills would require all fluoride compounds used in water fluoridation to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, the FDA cannot give such approval because it does not have jurisdiction over water fluoridation chemicals. The water supply industry conforms to the standards set by the American Water Works Association, National Sanitation Foundation, and American National Standards Institute -- all of which are recognized as authoritative by federal and state drinking water agencies. [Crozier S. Fluoridation challenges. ADA News, Nov 3, 2003]

IOM cautions about testosterone research. After evaluating the pros and cons of conducting a large-scale clinical study of testosterone therapy to treat age-related conditions in men 65 and older, an expert committee of the Institute of Medicine has recommended going forward, but only with a limited group of participants and in a stepwise fashion. The committee noted:

The full report, Testosterone and Aging: Clinical Research Directions, is available free of charge on the IOM Web site or can be ordered at a 20% discount online.

Lead found in Ayurvedic pills. The Sacramento County Department of Health and Human services has reported on two cases of adult Asian Indian patients who developed lead poisoning from taking Ayurvedic medicines for fertility. Both products were found to contain more than 70,000 parts per million of lead. One patient experienced lower abdominal pain, back pain and constipation; the other experienced lower abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. [Lead poisoning and Ayurvedic medicines. Memo, Oct 9, 2003]

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This page was posted on November 18, 2003.