Consumer Health Digest #08-16

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 15, 2008

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.

20/20 attacks "foot detox" scam. ABC-TV's "20/20" has tested two types of "detox" foot pads and concluded that they do not work. Stossel J. [Ridding yourself of toxins or money? Company says Kinoki Foot Pads 'capture toxins from your body.' ABC News, April 11, 2008] Such products are claimed to remove toxins, restore "balance" within the body, and boost energy. Users are instructed to apply them to the soles of the feet and leave them on overnight. In the morning, they claim, the pads will absorb toxins and turn muddy brown or black.

The basic idea that toxins will be excreted through the skin clashes with what is known about human anatomy and physiology. Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in the liver, which modifies their chemical structure so they can be excreted by the kidneys, which filter them from the blood into the urine. Sweat glands in the feet can excrete water and some dissolved substances. However, its minor role in ridding the body of unwanted substances is not changed by applying foot pads. The 20/20 investigation found:

The Associated Press has reported that the FDA is investigating. [Infomercial's foot pad claims draw questions from doctors, FDA. Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2008]

"Detox" foot baths should also be regarded as fakes. [Barrett S. The Aquadetox scam. Device Watch, Dec 28, 2004]

Do Not Call registration becomes permanent. Telephone numbers placed on the FTC's National Do Not Call Registry will remain on it permanently due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008. However, numbers that are disconnected and reassigned are removed by the FTC and must be registered by the new owners to be restored to the list. More than 157 million numbers are now registered. Although charitable organizations and political candidates are still permitted to pester households with telephones, Do Not Call laws have greatly reduced the number of nuisance calls.

ASA hits "research" ploy for dietary supplement. The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against the Nutrition and Health Institute, a company that advertised that a dietary supplement might help reduce the occurrence of prostate cancer. The ad stated: "The Nutrition and Health Institute are conducting a FREE TRIAL of a new natural supplement that we believe in conjunction with changes to diet and lifestyle could reduce both getting up at night and the likelihood of getting Prostate Cancer." The ASA concluded that the ad was misleading because responders might think they would be part of a clinical trial to evaluate the product and not merely being offered a free sample. [Adjudication: The Nutrition and Health Institute, ASA, April 9, 2008]

Cochrane Review pans antioxidant supplements. A 191-page Cochrane Collaboration review has concluded that "current evidence does not support the use of antioxidant supplements in the general population or in patients with certain diseases." The review encompassed 67 clinical trials with a total of 232,550 participants randomized to antioxidant supplements (beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium) versus placebo or no intervention. Twenty-one trials included 164,439 healthy participants. Forty-six trials included 68,111 participants with gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, ocular, dermatological, rheumatoid, renal, endocrinological, or unspecified diseases. There were no significant differences in the effect of antioxidant supplements among healthy participants (primary prevention trials) or those with various diseases (secondary prevention trials). Overall, it appeared that (a) beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E significantly increased mortality, (b) vitamin C had no effect on longevity, (c) and selenium data showed benefit only in studies suspected of being biased. [Bjelakovic G and others. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD007176. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007176]

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This page was posted on April 16, 2008.