Consumer Health Digest #10-44

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 4, 2010

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.

Court awards over $1.8 million in Kimkins diet fraud case. A Riverside County Superior Judge has entered a verdict in the class-action suit filed in 2007 against Heidi Diaz, owner of the diet website, for fraud and false advertising. The suit complaint alleged that (a) Diaz falsely claimed to have lost 198 pounds in one year, but in fact remained morbidly obese, (b) members' lifetime memberships were unjustly terminated, (c) Diaz made unjustified claims that the diet is safe, (d) members using the diet plan suffered medical complications that included hair loss, heart palpitations, irritability, and menstrual irregularities, and (e) Diaz's Web site displayed phony "success" stories that used photographs she obtained from Russian and Ukrainian sites with ads from women who wanted to meet prospective husbands. In 2007, Diaz attracted national attention and collected more than $1.8 million through PayPal after the supermarket tabloid Woman's World published her claims with before-and-after pictures purporting to show how her appearance had changed. However, the "after" picture was not Diaz but had been downloaded from a "Russian bride" site. The judge awarded the class members restitution of $1,824,210.39, an additional $50,000 in punitive damages, and attorney fees. He then issued a temporary restraining order to freeze Ms. Diaz's assets, and an injunction requiring her to acknowledge on her Web sites that she had lied about her weight loss, after-diet pictures, testimonials, and the photographs used with the testimonials.

FDA says full-body x-ray scanning is "very low risk." The FDA has concluded that the security screening devices used in airports, courts, and other places pose very little risk because the amount of radiation involved is very small. Two types of devices are used. X-ray screening devices deliver less ionizing radiation in a single screening than the amount individuals receive from background radiation in one hour. Millimeter wave technology devices use non-ionizing electromagnetic waves that have no known adverse health effects. [Very low health risks from full-body x-ray scanners. FDA consumer update, Nov 4, 2010]

Quackery booster dies. Former Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione has died of lung cancer at age 79. In 1995, he and his third wife (Kathy Keeton) achieved widespread publicity with claims that hydrazine sulfate had enabled her to recover from stage IV metastatic breast cancer after doctors gave her only 6 weeks to live. However, she was not cured and died of her disease in 1997. Through ads and other means, Guccione falsely claimed that hydrazine was effective but the National Cancer Institute was determined to keep it off the market because nobody in the establishment would profit from it. [London WM. Penthouse's promotion of hydrazine sulfate. Cancer Treatment Watch, July 23, 2006]

Penthouse also promoted the conspiracy theories of Gary Null. In 1979 and 1980, it published a series of articles called "The Politics of Cancer." In 1985, it began another series called "Medical Genocide," in which Null called our medical care system a "prescription for disaster" and claimed that modern medicine had virtually no effect on heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Other irresponsible articles in the series promoted chiropractic and homeopathy, claimed that effective nutritional methods for treating AIDS were being suppressed, claimed that chelation therapy was safe and effective for treating heart disease, and endorsed several treatments for cancer that the American Cancer Society recommends against. The Los Angeles Times has a detailed article about Guccione's life.

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This page was posted on November 5, 2010.