Consumer Health Digest #14-03

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 26, 2014

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.

Study undercuts blood-type diet concept. A Canadian research team has conducted a study that fails to support the "blood type diet" theories of naturopath Peter D'Adamo. The Canadian study involved 1,455 people whose dietary intake was assessed to determine how well they had adhered to each of D'Adamo's "blood-type" diets. Some participants improved their cardiovascular risk factors, which is not surprising because some of D'Adamo's dietary strategies coincide with standard science-based recommendations. However, the study found no relationship between the improvements and the subject's ABO blood types, which negates D'Adamo's basic assertions. [Wang J and others. ABO genotype, 'blood-type' diet and cardiometabolic risk factors. PLoS ONE 9(1): e84749, 2014]

D'Adamo claims that reactions between food lectins and our blood are responsible for many ailments and that avoiding lectin-containing foods will benefit health. He further claims that ABO blood groups reveal the dietary habits of our ancestors and that adhering to a diet specific to one's blood group can improve health and decrease risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. His publications list foods that supposedly are beneficial or harmful for each of four major blood types. His Web site contains hundreds of supporting anecdotes, but a 2013 review found no evidence that his dietary strategies had previously been tested. [Cusack L and others. Blood type diets lack supporting evidence: A systematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 98:99-104, 2013] D'Adamo's first book, Eat Right 4 Your Type, originally published in 1996, has sold millions of copies and been followed by additional books and an extensive line of dietary supplements, many of which are said to be blood-type specific. The D'Adamo Personalized Nutrition 2012-2013 catalog asserts that D'Adamo is "the foremost authority on blood type in the world." Quackwatch has a critical review of his 1996 book.

Dubious nutritionist arrested. Robert O. Young and an associate have been charged with conspiring to practice medicine without a license and multiple counts of grand theft. The San Diego District Attorney's press release stated that Young accepted patients and temporarily housed them at his avocado ranch in Valley Center, California. The charges allege that the pair broke the law when they went beyond advocating dietary changes and administered intravenous treatments to patients, some of whom were terminally ill. KFMB San Diego has reported that the criminal complaint involves a dozen alleged victims, six of whom died. [Allyn R. Controversial alternative health provider charged. KFMB-TV, Jan 25, 2014] At his arraignment, Young pleaded not guilty and the judge set bail at $100,000 and ordered Young to stop treating patients at his ranch. Young, who represents himself as "Dr. Young," has a "Ph.D." from Clayton College of Natural Health, a nonaccredited correspondence school that closed in 2010 after Alabama began requiring accreditation for license renewal. The central premise of Young's approach—which lacks scientific support—is that health depends primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid cellular environment that can be optimized by dietary modification and taking supplements. (The degree of acidity or alkalinity of body fluids is expressed as "pH.") His best-selling book, The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health, advises readers to check their pH, "cleanse" for several days, eat a vegetarian diet that emphasizes vegetables, and take various dietary supplements. The food recommendations are based on their supposed effect on body acidity and alkalinity and whether or not they contain "toxins." Like D'Adamo, he also sells a large line of supplements from his Web site. The San Diego Tribune has reported that before moving to California, Young had two brushes with the law in Utah. Quackwatch has additional details on his theories and activities.

Emergen-C marketers settle class action suit. A federal judge has given preliminary approval to a $6.45 million settlement of a class action suit that challenged various statements that Alacer Corp. made in the marketing, advertising and packaging of its Emergen-C products. The lawsuit charged the company with (a) multiple violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the California False Advertising Law, and the California Unfair Competition Law; (b) unjust enrichment; (c) intentional misrepresentation/fraud; (c) negligent misrepresentation; (d) breach of express warranty; (e) breach of implied warranty; and (f) breach of contract. The disputed claims involved boosting immunity, energy, and metabolism. Alacer denied the allegations in the lawsuit and maintains that all statements it made about the products were proper. The stipulated settlement offers payments to anyone who purchased various Emergen-C products from June 1, 2006 to February 27, 2012. Alacer Corporation has been promoting Emergen-C in questionable ways for many years. An amusing promotion was reported more than 25 years ago by Dr. Barrett.

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This page was posted on January 26, 2014.