Consumer Health Digest #09-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 12, 2009

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.

Long-term diet study demonstrates that caloric balance is key factor. A 2-year study of 811 overweight adults assigned to one of four diets has found that the proportions of macronutrients did not affect how much weight they lost. The targeted percentages of calories derived from fat, protein, and carbohydrates in the four diets were 20/15/65, 20/25/55, 40/15/45, and 40/25/35, respectively. The diets consisted of similar foods and met guidelines for cardiovascular health. The participants were offered group and individual instructional sessions. Among the 80% of participants who completed the trial, the average weight loss was 4 kg (about 9 pounds) and the results were similar in those who were assigned to a diet with 20% or 40% fat; 15% or 25% protein; and 65% or 35% carbohydrates. Satiety, hunger, satisfaction with the diet, and attendance at group sessions were similar for all diets. The diets also improved lipid-related risk factors and fasting insulin levels. The authors concluded:

[Sacks FM and others. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. New England Journal of Medicine 360:859-873, 2009]

FTC curbs unsubstantiated claims by radio talk-show broadcasters. Rodney H. Burreson, Mark Alexander, and their company, Roex, Inc., have agreed to pay $3 million in consumer redress to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceptively claimed their products were effective against many serious medical conditions. [Marketers of dietary supplements and devices agree to pay $3 million to settle FTC charges of deceptive advertising. FTC news release, March 3, 2009] The challenged products included an infrared sauna sold to treat cancer; and dietary supplements claimed to treat, reduce the risk of, or prevent cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, other autoimmune diseases, ulcers, herpes, asthma, and glaucoma. The marketers' main advertising vehicle is “The Truth About Nutrition,” a nationally broadcast, hour-long, 5-day-a-week call-in radio program that Burrelson and Alexander co-host with Julie Lynch. The agreed-upon final order prohibits the defendants from making unsubstantiated claims about any product. The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and final order was 3-1, with the dissenting vote cast by Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch, who said that the monetary relief did not reflect the seriousness of the conduct involved. Roex's Web site states that more than 60 of its products are sold through about 600 retail outlets.

Unlicensed hyperbaric oxygen clinic operator charged with fraud. Chauncey Beckwith, who owned and operated International Alternative Medicine, Inc., in Tucker, Georgia, has been charged with 35 counts of health care fraud in connection with her clinic's operation. The indictment states:

Beckwith has pleaded not guilty.

Compendium of obesity health effects published. The American Council on Science and Health has published Obesity and Its Health Effects, a multi-authored 120-page book about the risks and adverse health effects of overweight and obesity. The book can be downloaded from the ACSH Web site free of charge or purchased for $12.95 plus shipping.

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This page was posted on March 13, 2009.