Consumer Health Digest #17-26

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 2, 2017

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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.

Another study slams red yeast rice pills. A study of 28 brands of red yeast rice supplements has found that the amount of the supposed active ingredient (monacolin K) varied widely from product to product and two products contained none. [Cohen P and others. Variability in strength of red yeast rice supplements purchased from mainstream retailers. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, June 23, 2017] The purified version of monacolin K is lovastatin, the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor. Statin drugs are very useful, but they are not suitable for self-medication because optimal cholesterol-control should be tailored to individual risk factors and be medically monitored. The FDA has ordered at least ten companies to stop marketing red yeast rice products for cholesterol control. However, if no drug claims are made, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 permits their sale as "dietary supplements." In 2010, a study of 12 red yeast rice products found that the amounts of presumed active ingredients varied by more than 100-fold and that four products contained significant levels of cotinine, a substance that is toxic to the kidneys of some animals. The researchers also found that some of the supplements provided as much of the cholesterol-lowering substances as prescription medication and others contained very little. [Gordon RY. and others. Marked variability of monacolin levels in commercial red yeast rice products: Buyer beware! Archives of Internal Medicine 170:1722-1727, 2010]

Robert O. Young sentenced. Robert O. Young, author of The pH Miracle, has been sentenced to 44 months in jail. [Figueroa T. Best-selling 'pH Miracle' author heads to jail. San Diego Union-Tribune, June 29, 2017] In 2016, Young was convicted of two counts of practicing medicine without a license. A few weeks later, the San Diego District Attorney announced that Young would be re-tried on the charges for which the jury was unable to reach a verdict. In 2017, faced with this possibility, Young pleaded guilty to two more counts of practicing medicine without a license. Young, who referred to himself as "Dr." Young, sported a "Ph.D. degree" from a non-accredited correspondence school. Quackwatch has a comprehensive article about his activities. How much time he will actually spend in jail is unclear because he is expected to receive credit for time served on house arrest while awaiting trial.

Little support for nutritional interventions for autism. A review of special diets and dietary supplements advocated for children with autistic spectrum disorders has found insufficient evidence to recommend their use. The reviewers considered randomized controlled trials that tested the use of the gluten/casein-free diet, other dietary approaches, omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, methyl B12, levocarnitine, and camel's milk. [Sathe N and others. Nutritional and dietary interventions for autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. Pediatrics 139(6): 2017] The published review was derived from a systematic review, "Medical Therapies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—an Update," which will eventually be published on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Web site.

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This page was posted on July 4, 2017.