Consumer Health Digest #09-53
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 31, 2009
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.
Slim Chance Awards issued. Francie M. Berg, M.S., who operates the Healthy Weight Network has issued the 21st annual set of "Slim Chance Awards" to weight-loss scheme promoters. Her 2009 picks are:
- Worst Product: Hydroxycut. The FDA has warned consumers to stop using Hydroxycut products from Iovate Health Sciences USA, a distributor for the Canadian company of the same name. The agency has received reports of one death due to liver failure and 23 reports of serious health problems.
- Most Outrageous: Pills spiked with powerful undisclosed drugs. This year the FDA found so many diet pills secretly laced with powerful drugs that it was impossible for the Slim Chance selection panel to single out any, and could only group them together as “dangerous and outrageous.” For more information the agency's "Questions and answers about FDA’s initiative against contaminated weight loss products."
- Worst Claim: QVC shopping network. The popular TV home shopping channel QVC, one of the world’s largest multimedia retailers, has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it made false and unsubstantiated claims about For Women Only weight loss pills, Lite Bites weight-loss food bars and shakes, Bee-Alive Royal Jelly, and Lipofactor Cellulite Target Lotion.
- Worst Gimmick: Kinoki Foot Pads. The FTC has charged Kinoki Foot Pads with deceptive advertising for their claims that applying the pads to the soles of feet at night will remove heavy metals, metabolic wastes, toxins, parasites, and cellulite from people’s bodies. The ads also claim that the foot pads can treat depression, fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Since the foot pads darken, this is claimed as evidence that toxins are being drawn out of the body, but investigators have shown that the darkening is caused by moisture and has nothing to do with "toxins."
Diploma mill operator charged with immigration scam. Samuel Chai Cho Oh, 65, who operates California Union University (CUU) in Fullerton, California, has been charged with operating a scheme that enabled foreigners to enter and remain in the United States by pretending that they were students at his school. Foreigners who wish to attend schools in the United States must first obtain an F-1 nonimmigrant visa. To obtain this status, they must present a certificate of eligibility from a government-approved school that has accepted them as full-time students. The criminal complaint states that since 1999—in return for payment—Oh recruited "students" and filed false reports that enabled them to remain in the United States even though they were not attending classes. [Barrett S. Diploma mill functions as immigration scam. Credential Watch, December 27, 2009]
Buteyko method debunked. Science-Based Medicine has published a lengthy critique of the Buteyko method, an unsubstantiated system of breathing exercises claimed to be effective against more than 100 "curable diseases."
Oral Roberts dead at 91. Oral Roberts, whose televised ministry attracted millions of gullible followers, has died of complications of pneumonia. Roberts, who claimed to receive messages from God, had a large following of “prayer partners” who received computer-generated letters about once a month from the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He promoted the idea that money donated to him (which he called seed-faith) could bring to its donors rich rewards from God. He invited the prayer partners to indicate their spiritual and health needs so that he could pray for them in a special prayer tower at Oral Roberts University. The mailings, which asked for donations, offered objects such as a prayer cloth, prayer rope, prayer plaque, or prayer coin “to touch and hold when you need a miracle.” In 1981, Roberts opened the City of Faith, a $250 million medical center where “prayer and scientific medicine can be merged.” But in 1989 he announced that unfilled beds—a problem from the beginning—had forced him to close the school and shut down his hospital. At its peak, the 777-bed facility had only 148 inpatients. Wikipedia has extensive information about Roberts' career.
Forbes blasts chelation therapy. Forbes magazine has posted an excellent article about the misuse of chelation therapy to treat coronary artery disease and autism. [Whelan D. Heavy Metals Inc.: Doctors pushing chelation are a creative, resilient bunch. Forbes.com, posted December 31, 2009]
This page was revised on December 31, 2009.