Consumer Health Digest #06-33

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 15, 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.

Sun soup marketers ordered to curb cancer claims. The FDA has warned the Sun Farm Corporation to stop claiming that its Sun Farm Vegetable Soup is effective in preventing or treating cancer. [Costello GT. Warning letter to Alexander S. Sun, PhD, June 21, 2006] The soup is a mixture of common vegetables and other edible plants that include soybean, shiitake mushroom, mung bean, red date, scallion, garlic, leek, lentil, Hawthorn fruit, onion, ginseng, Angelica root, licorice, dandelion root, senega root, ginger, olive, sesame seed, and parsley. The cost for a 30-day supply has been about $500 plus shipping. Two small studies have been published in scientific journals with claims that the soup showed activity against some forms of lung cancer. However, major design weaknesses in the studies raise doubts about the reliability of their findings. [Selected vegetables/Sun's soup. National Cancer Institute PDQ Database, Aug 23, 2005] The soup can still be marketed as a "dietary supplement" as long as no health claims are made for it.

Allergy group debunks "alternative" approaches. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ACAI) has issued a superbly reasoned analysis of about 30 allergy-related tests and treatments that "have been promoted in the absence of any scientific rationale." [Mullins RJ. Unorthodox techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of allergy, asthma and immune disorders. ASCIA Position Statement, Oct 2004] Its report concludes:

Treatment based on inaccurate, false positive or clinically irrelevant results is not only misleading, but can lead to ineffective and at times expensive treatments, and delay more effective therapy. Sometimes harmful therapy may result, such as unnecessary dietary avoidance and risk of malnutrition, particularly in children. For example, Rona and Chinn found that around one half of parents who thought that their child was food allergic or intolerant altered their child's diet, but only one third sought medical advice, and that some children were 4 cm shorter than controls. [Rona RJ, Chinn S. Parent's perceptions of food intolerance in primary school children. British Medical Journal 294: 863-866, 1987] Unnecessary environmental and chemical avoidance, creating a perception of organic illness where none exists, or advising physical interventions when psychosocial factors are the source of symptoms, can impact on employment and social functioning. Claims of being able to "cure" food allergies have potentially dangerous consequences for those with true life-threatening reactions. Similarly, substitution of homeopathic "vaccines" for those with proven effectiveness has both individual and public health implications.

Pancreatitis associated with saw palmetto use. The Southern Medical Journal has reported a case of s 55-year-old man who developed acute hepatitis and pancreatitis in response to taking saw palmetto for benign prostatic enlargement. The patient improved after he stopped taking the herb, [Jibrin I and others. Saw palmetto-induced pancreatitis. Southern Medical Journal 99: 611-612, 2006]

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This page was posted on August 15, 2006.