Consumer Health Digest #13-07

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 14, 2013

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.

Vitamin C supplements linked to kidney stones. An 11 year study of more than 48,000 men has found that those who took vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplements were twice as likely to develop kidney stones than those who did not. The dominant component in these stones was calcium oxalate. The association does not prove cause-and-effect, but the authors note: "Currently there are no well-documented benefits of high-dose ascorbic acid supplement use, and, therefore, it seems prudent to advise that high-dose preparations be avoided, particularly by those with a history of kidney stones." [Thomas L and others. Ascorbic acid supplements and kidney stone incidence among men: a prospective study. JAMA Internal Medicine, Feb 4, 2013] An accompanying editorial notes that causation is biologically plausible because ascorbic acid is partly metabolized to oxalate and is excreted in the urine. [Fletcher RH. The risk of taking ascorbic acid. JAMA Internal Medicine, Feb 4, 2013] The full text of these articles is available free online.

Pa. psychologist charged with sexual exploitation. On November 5, 2012, the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology temporarily suspended the license of Richard Scott Lenhart, Ph.D., who practiced in State College, Pennsylvania. On November 30th, after a preliminary hearing, the hearing examiner continued the suspension for up to 180 days so that the board could consider the matter fully. The petition for suspension alleged that Lenhart sexually exploited two female patients, one for nearly seven years and the other for fifteen years. In January 2013, the board issued a 77-page order to show cause that provides additional details. Although sexual exploitation by therapists is not rare, the extent and duration described in these documents are extraordinary.

Suit attacking Southern California fluoridation dismissed. A federal district judge has granted a motion to motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to stop the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from adding fluoride to its water supply. The plaintiffs alleged that their civil rights were being violated and that fluoridation was unlawful medication because the chemical involved lacked FDA approval as a drug. The defense responded that only the U.S. Government has the right to seek enforcement of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and that this law contains no private right of action. The judge agreed with Metropolitan and dismissed the suit. Metropolitan began fluoridating in October 2007 in compliance with a state law that requires fluoridation of all public water supplies with more than 10,000 connections if sufficient funding available. Most of the funding was provided by a $5.5 million grant from the California Dental Association Foundation and the California Fluoridation 2010 Work Group.

Sensa marketers assessed $905,000 in false advertising case. The marketers of Sensa have agreed to pay $905,000 to settle false advertising charges filed in Santa Cruz County by the District Attorneys for the Counties of Sonoma, Alameda, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Solano, against Sensa Products LLC, and its parent company, Intelligent Beauty, Inc. Sensa's "sprinkle diet" became the subject of a Statewide Nutritional Supplement Task Force investigation after marketers claimed that (a) consumers will lose weight by merely sprinkling their flavored "tastants" on their food, and (b) it had been clinically proven in the largest clinical study ever conducted. As part of the final judgment the defendants agreed to pay restitution of $105,000 to consumers and civil penalties and costs of $800,000 to be used for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. The companies are also permanently enjoined from making unsubstantiated claims regarding the efficacy of their products and from making unauthorized charges to customers.

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