Consumer Health Digest #20-26

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 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.

Chiropractors blast vitalism in chiropractic. Two chiropractic college faculty members have reviewed the history of vitalism and its role in chiropractic. They describe vitalism as the "doctrine that all living organisms are sustained by an inexplicable non-physical vital force" that is "not only the source of life, but it is also a key component of health and healing." They conclude:

We assert that until chiropractic abandons the outdated concept of vitalism, it will never become a genuine mainstream status health care profession, at least by a definition that includes the moral and legal fiduciary duties to patients, all of which are necessary for the profession to uphold its social contract requirements. So long as a vitalistic ideology remains within chiropractic, it will remain separate and distinct, on the fringe of health care, an easy target for legitimate criticism from organized medicine, and therefore vulnerable to further marginalization by government regulation and private reimbursement services. [Simpson JK. Young KJ. Vitalism in contemporary chiropractic: a help or a hindrance? Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. 28(35), 2020]

Raw milk poses risk of antibiotic resistance. Based on an analysis of 2,034 retail samples of raw (unpasteurized) milk and three different types of pasteurized milk from five states, researchers have found that raw milk is especially likely to contain microbes that add genes to the human gut that promote resistance to antibiotic drug effects. The rising resistance to antibiotic drug effects is a major global health concern. Moreover, contrary to advertising claims that raw milk has "probiotic" effects, researchers found that it contains minimal beneficial bacteria. Many studies have shown that raw milk poses significant risk of serious infection due to disease-producing bacteria. [Liu J and others. Reservoirs of antimicrobial resistance genes in retail raw milk. Microbiome 8(99), 2020]

Evidence for probiotics falls short of the hype. Based on a comprehensive technical review, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has released new clinical guidelines which note that for most digestive conditions there is not enough evidence to support the use of probiotics—live microorganisms found in some foods and dietary supplements that are often touted as beneficial. [AGA does not recommend the use of probiotics for most digestive conditions. AGA press release. June 9, 2020] The AGA's key recommendations include:

AGA has a patient information page on probiotics with links to additional resources. A recent segment of the CBS 60 Minutes program described the lack of data demonstrating health benefits of off-the-shelf products hyped by the multi-billion-dollar probiotics industry. Even baby food and infant formulas contain probiotics despite the lack of evidence about their effects. [Lapook J. Do probiotics actually do anything? 60 Minutes. June 28, 2020]

Herbalife distributors accused of making false COVID-19 claims. A investigation has cataloged more than 30 instances in which Herbalife, through its distributors, improperly claimed that various company products can treat and/or prevent the coronavirus by boosting one's immune system. The consumer advocacy organization has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Herbalife. [ alerts FTC to Herbalife distributors' coronavirus claims. Apr 27, 2020] While the FTC has sent dozens of warning letters to businesses making deceptive coronavirus-related claims, Herbalife is still not among those businesses.

Classic fluoridation report posted. Dental Watch has posted the 1968 Report of the Royal Commissioner on the Fluoridation of Water Supplies. The 268-page book, written by Tasmanian Supreme Court Judge Malcolm Peter Crisp, was based on testimony at 66 hearings plus his review of voluminous written submissions. Crisp concluded that (a) the evidence showed "overwhelmingly" that fluoridation was safe and beneficial and (b) whether or not to implement it should be decided by the Tasmanian Parliament rather than local governments. About 20% of the report explained why various objections had no merit, including some that Crisp thought were so absurd that they should be considered delusional. On page 134, for example, he noted:

I was informed that the official and professional campaigns in favour of fluoridation are the most dangerous and subversive propaganda yet to appear in the Western World. That it, fluoridation, was responsible for the First World War and the Russian Revolution. That it was a Nazi plot to achieve world domination, but that when the Russians invaded Poland the German and Russian general staffs exchanged scientific military plans, the scheme of mass control through water medication fitted into the Russian Communist plan to communise the world. This is not the isolated statement of some deluded visionary, but is to be found repeated over and over again in the voluminous literature of the subject with which the public intelligence has been assaulted over the years.

This and similar passages provide a fascinating window into the history of opposition to public health, which is far more organized today through Web sites and social media.

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This page was posted on July 5, 2020.