Consumer Health Digest #19-22
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 2, 2019
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D. 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.
"CAM" Web ads about gluten sensitivity often mislead. A study of clinic Web sites of chiropractors, naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, and "integrative medicine" practitioners in the ten most populous U.S. metropolitan areas has found:
- 178 (35.6%) of 500 clinic sites made claims regarding celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), or a gluten-free diet.
- 41% of the sites that made claims included a medical disclaimer stating that information on the site should not be used as medical advice or diagnosis.
- Out of 232 claims made, 138 (59.5%) were judged as unproven or false.
Some clinics in the study falsely claimed that everyone should be on a gluten-free diet. Other claims included:
- "The 2 tests for NCGS are elimination diets or IgG antibody testing."
- "Homeopathic remedy for: celiac disease"
- "I can eliminate food allergies so you don't have to avoid them."
Source: Boyer G and others. Promotion of testing for celiac disease and the gluten-free diet among complementary and alternative medicine practitioners. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 114:786-791, 2019.
Claims for wearable brain technologies criticized. Through Web searches, researchers identified 41 direct-to-consumer-marketed wearable devices of which 22 were recording devices such as electroencephalograms and 19 were stimulating devices such as transcranial direct-current stimulators. They found claims about: (a) wellness for 31 of the devices, (b) enhancement for 28, (c) health conditions, such as neurodegenerative disorders, depression, chronic pain, insomnia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, for 9, and (d) practical utility, such as creating art and detecting fatigue to promote safety, for 4. Most of the claims were unsubstantiated, and most claims of benefits were not accompanied by equally accessible warnings of risks, such as those that might arise from continuous, unsupervised use. The researchers noted that some marketers may have avoided regulatory action by making vague "wellness" and "enhancement" claims rather than promising help for specific health problems. [McCall IC and others. Owning ethical innovation: Claims about commercial wearable brain technologies. Neuron 102:728-731, 2019]
Company warned about unapproved stem cell therapies. The FDA has sent a warning letter to R3 Stem Cell, LLC of Scottsdale Arizona and its chief executive officer, David Greene, M.D., M.B.A., about the unapproved stem cell products the company offers through more than 50 affiliated centers or clinics throughout the United States. The FDA found that the company's Web site (a) promotes stem cell therapies for numerous diseases or conditions, such as dementia and Parkinson's disease, and (b) directs patients with ALS, diabetes, kidney failure, Lyme disease, Parkinson's disease, and stroke to certain "R3 Stem Cell Centers of Excellence" for stem cell treatment. The letter notes that such unapproved uses raise potential safety concerns, particularly for products intended for intravenous administration. [FDA puts company on notice for marketing unapproved stem cell products for treating serious conditions. FDA news release, May 30, 2019]
No significant impact found for spinal manipulation frequency on clinical outcomes. Researchers have explored the current state of scientific knowledge about the effect of spinal manipulation (SM) frequency and dosage on clinical and physiological responses. Their review concluded:
Based on limited evidence, results suggest that treatment frequency does not significantly impact clinical outcomes during and following SM treatment period. However, additional work is likely to modify the current state of knowledge and a definitive conclusion at this time would be untimely. Dosage effects clearly influence short term physiological responses to SM treatment, but the relationship between these responses and clinical outcomes remains to be elucidated. [Pasquier M and others. Spinal manipulation frequency and dosage effects on clinical and physiological outcomes: a scoping review. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. 27:23, 2019]
Study of model course about chiropractic published online. Chirobase has published William T. Jarvis's 1973 Ph.D. dissertation—An Analysis of the Effect of a Programmed Course about Chiropractic on the Knowledge and Attitudes of Prospective Health Education Teachers at the University of Oregon—and a separate article explaining why the study was needed. Dr. Stephen Barrett notes:
In the 45+ years since the dissertation was published, chiropractic has made some improvements, but the problems Jarvis described are still widespread and health education textbooks still tend to ignore them. The field of health education would benefit greatly if a doctoral candidate would explore the current marketplace and produce an updated course.
This page was revised on June 4, 2019.