Consumer Health Digest #08-37

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 9, 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.

Dental screening test criticized. Dental Watch has published a detailed report about ViziLite Plus, a test that uses a tissue stain and fluorescent light to help dentists spot abnormal changes of the mucous membranes inside the mouth and throat. The test, which costs about $65, is promoted as a way to help detect oral cancers in their early stages. However, it has not been proven more effective than inspection with ordinary (incandescent) light that is part of standard dental check-ups. In 2005, the American Dental Association's Council on Scientific Affairs rejected the manufacturer's application for the ADA's Seal of Acceptance, saying that the submitted data were "extremely weak." Subsequent research has found no significant advantage over ordinary screening. Oral cancers are rare in young adults, but the manufacturer claims that everyone over 18 is at "increased" risk and everyone over 40 is at high risk and should undergo annual screening. About 12,000 of the nation's dentists now offer the test, and their number has been rising rapidly. [Barrett S. ViziLite screening: Does it make sense? Dental Watch, Sept 10, 2008]

Petition targets weight-loss supplements. GlaxoSmithKline, the American Dietetic Association, The Obesity Society, and Shaping America's Health (an association for weight management) have asked the FDA to determine that dietary supplements bearing claims that they promote, assist, or otherwise help in weight loss should be regulated as "disease" claims. Federal laws permit supplement marketers to make unapproved but truthful claims that products improve body function, but claims related to disease-prevention or treatment must meet drug standards and require premarket approval. The petition would apply to such claims as "fat-burning," "cellulite reduction," "increases metabolism," "reduces appetite," "increases satiety," and "blocks absorption" of dietary carbohydrate or fat. The petition argues that the FDA must treat weight-loss claims as disease claims because they purport to prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for several diseases. The petition's goal is to require all "diet pill" manufacturers to support their claims with scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness before going to market.

Suit against questionable "nutritionist" settled for $1.6 million. Dawn Page, a 52-year-old Oxfordshire woman who became brain-damaged while following the advice of Barbara Nash, has settled a lawsuit against Nash for approximately $1.6 million paid by Nash's insurance company. Nash, who markets herself as a "nutritionist and life coach," has a diploma of natural nutrition from the College of Natural Nutrition, based in Tiverton, Devon. Page's lawsuit charged that she consulted Nash for advice on weight loss and was advised to drink at least four pints of water daily and to cut down on salt. When Page complained of vomiting after a few days on the diet, Nash said that showed it was working and urged her to drink even more water and eat less salt. Within weeks, Page suffered a massive seizure that left her with permanent brain damage. The settlement did not contain an admission of liability. [Salkeld L. Mother awarded £800,000 after 'six pints of water a day detox diet' left her brain damaged. Daily Mail, July 25, 2008]

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This page was posted on September 11, 2008.