Consumer Health Digest #08-31

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 29, 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.

Diet study said to support Atkins diet. The New England Journal of Medicine has published the results of the first two-year study involving a low-carbohydrate diet. The study compared a low-carbohydrate diet, a 30%-fat diet recommended by the American Heart Association, and a 35%-fat "Mediterranean" diet that included portions of olive oil and nuts. Among the 272 participants who completed the study, the average weight loss was about 6.3 pounds for the low-fat group, 9.7 pounds for the Mediterranean-diet group, and 10.3 pounds for the low-carbohydrate group, and the low-fat group showed less improvement than the other groups in blood cholesterol levels. [Shai and others. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. New England Journal of Medicine 359:229-241, 2008] Many news reports have represented this study as showing that Atkins was right and that the low-carbohydate diet scored better than the others. However, such conclusions are simplistic. The actual average dietary fat content of the three groups turned out to be 30% for the "low-fat" group, 33% for the Mediterranean diet group and 40% for the low-carbohydrate group. The amount of weight lost was small, differences among the groups were not large, and the study was done with close monitoring and may not reflect what happens when people diet on their own. Although the low-carbohydrate diet was said to be based on the Atkins diet, using Atkins's books to construct one's diet would probably result in a diet that is 45% to 60% fat. [Barrett S. Low-carbohydrate diets. Quackwatch, Aug 20, 2008]

Proprietor of dubious scoliosis clinic convicted of insurance fraud. Arthur L. Copes, who has owned and operated the Scoliosis Treatment Recovery System Clinic in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for many years, has been convicted of insurance fraud. The evidence showed that Copes had fraudulently billed Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana of more than $88,000. [Arthur Copes found guilty of insurance fraud. Press release, Louisiana Attorney General, July 29, 2008] The judge rendered the verdict following a week’s worth of testimony from former patients who had thought he was a licensed medical doctor. Copes, who has a "Ph.D. in orthotics" from Columbia Pacific University, a nonaccredited school that was closed by court order in 2001. Copes's Scoliosis Treatment Advanced Recovery System ("STARS") is less effective and far more expensive than standard methods of scoliosis treatment. [Barrett S. "Dr." Arthur Copes convicted of insurance fraud. Quackwatch, July 30, 2008] Sentencing is scheduled for November 12th. Copes's clinic is still operating, but the prosecutors want the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners to shut it down. Copes's attorney said Copes will appeal the conviction [Lodge B. BR clinic chief convicted of fraud., July 30, 2008]

Bogus device marketed under new name. Despite an FDA warning letter, Vibe Technologies, of Greeley, Colorado is still marketing its "multifrequency electro-magnetic field generator," which it claims can greatly improve health by correcting alleged problems with "cell vibration." In April 2008, the FDA ordered the company to stop marketing its V.I.B.E. Machine in interstate commerce. The company reacted by changing the device's name to QuantumPulse. [Barrett S. QuantumPulse (V.I.B.E.) device marketed with far-fetched claims. Device Watch, July 29, 2008]

"Energy healer" exposed as fugitive war criminal. Radovan Karadzic, a former Serbian leader who was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, has been captured. Among other things, he is charged with massacring thousands of Muslims in 1995. A much-sought-after fugitive, he posed as "Dr. Dragon David Dabic" and practiced in Belgrade and Vienna, where he offered treatment with "human quantum energy."

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This page was revised on Aug 20, 2008.