Consumer Health Digest #20-01
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 5, 2020
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.
Low-carbohydrate diet claims scrutinized. The National Lipid Association has issued a statement based on a comprehensive review of recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the effects of low- and very-low-carbohydrate diets on body weight, lipoprotein levels, blood sugar levels, and other risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. [Kirkpatrick CF. and others. Review of current evidence and clinical recommendations on the effects of low-carbohydrate and very-low-carbohydrate (including ketogenic) diets for the management of body weight and other cardiometabolic risk factors. Journal of Clinical Lipidology 13:689-711, 2019] The statement's key conclusions include:
- Low-carbohydrate diets are not superior to other weight-loss diets. They may have advantages for appetite control, triglyceride reduction, and reduction in use of diabetes medication, but they do not persist after about 2 years.
- The evidence is mixed concerning effects on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, with some studies showing increasing levels of these diets.
- It is unclear that they have advantages related to other risk markers for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
- Initial weight loss on these diets is primarily due to loss of body water.
- Weight loss with carbohydrate restriction appears to result in greater loss of lean body mass than with more balanced low-calorie diets.
- Less lean body mass may be lost during weight loss on low-carbohydrate diets when protein consumption is higher.
- Three observational studies, including a large one with long-term follow-up, have found that a very low carbohydrate intake is associated with increased risk of dying.
- Maintaining very-low-carbohydrate diets is challenging and has the potential to cause adverse side effects.
- Very-low-carbohydrate diets severely restrict or eliminate foods associated with heart health benefits and encourage a high intake of foods known to increase atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk such as processed meats and foods rich in saturated fatty acids.
FTC attacks fake online promotions. The Federal Trade Commission has settled two cases that involved fake online activity. In one case, the Texas-based cosmetics firm Sunday Riley Modern Skincare, LLC and its CEO, Sunday Riley, agreed to settle a complaint that they posted fake product reviews. The complaint stated:
- The company sells cosmetic products at Sephora, a multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores, and on the Sephora.com website.
- The products sell for $22 to $158 each.
- CEO Riley and managers posted reviews of their products on the Sephora site using accounts created to hide their identity and requested that other company employees do the same thing.
- Riley asked members of her staff to create three accounts on Sephora.com, registered as different identities and included step-by-step instructions for setting up new personas and hiding their identities.
- Employees were also directed to (a) focus on certain products, (b) always leave 5 stars for Sunday Riley products, and (c) "dislike" negative reviews.
The proposed settlement prohibits the defendants from engaging in similar practices in the future but does not include a financial penalty. Two of five FTC commissioners thought this was insufficient. They stated:
- Fake reviews distort our markets by rewarding bad actors and harming honest companies. The problem is growing, and the Federal Trade Commission should attack it.
- Regulators around the world are concerned about fake review fraud. But by proposing a no-money, no-fault order for an unambiguous violation of law, this action does little to address the epidemic of fake reviews online.
- Going forward, the FTC should seek monetary consequences for fake review fraud, even if the exact level of ill-gotten gains is difficult to measure. The agency should also comprehensively analyze the problem of fake reviews, including whether or not e-commerce firms have the right incentives to police their platforms.
In the other case, the FTC settled with now defunct Devumi LLC and its owner and CEO, German Callas, Jr. This was the first-ever complaint challenging the sale of fake indicators of social media influence. Devumi allegedly sold fake Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers, and LinkedIn followers to its clients.
Source: Devumi, owner and CEO settle FTC charges they sold fake indicators of social media influence; cosmetics firm Sunday Riley, CEO settle FTC charges that employees posted fake online reviews at CEO's direction. FTC press release. Oct 21, 2019.
This page was posted on January 6, 2020.