Consumer Health Digest #20-45

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 17, 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.


Civil complaint filed against silver product promoters. At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil complaint against Newton, New Jersey-based Natural Solutions Foundation and two individuals associated with the entity, seeking to permanently enjoin them from distributing Dr. Rima Recommends Nano Silver 10PPM in interstate commerce as a preventive or treatment for COVID-19 and other diseases. Natural Solutions Foundation and individual defendants Rima Laibow, M.D. and Ralph Fucetola are charged with violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by distributing a misbranded and unapproved new drug. The FDA, jointly with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), previously issued a warning letter to the defendants about this product. The defendants responded by removing some, but not all, of the challenged claims from the public poritions of their websites. [Coronavirus (COVID-19) update. FDA news release, November 13, 2020]


Deceptive labeling found for huperzine A dietary supplements. Researchers chemically analyzed 22 dietary supplement products marketed for brain health or cognitive performance and labeled to contain huperzine A, an alkaloid that can be isolated from a club moss. They found significant discrepancies between the ingredients on supplement facts labels and what the analyses revealed. They concluded: "Consumers should be aware of deceiving label claims and warned not to purchase products containing ingredients that could be considered dangerous." They also noted that: "no randomized controlled trials studying the safety, efficacy or optimal dose of huperzine A for cognitive performance in healthy adults have been published." [Crawford C. and others. The scoop on brain health dietary supplement products containing huperzine A. Journal of Clinical Toxicology 58:991-996, 2020] Their specific findings included:


Collagen hype scrutinized. Consumer Reports has spotlighted the lack of scientific support for claims that consuming collagen powders, pills, and foods can result in smoother skin, shinier hair, stronger nails, healthier joints, and more lean muscle mass. [Wadyka S. The real deal on collagen. Consumer Reports, Oct 13, 2020] The article notes that Nutrition Business Journal projects collagen supplement sales in the U.S. to reach $298 million this year—up from $73 million in 2015. Collagen is a protein that holds skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, and cartilage together. But that doesn't mean that consumers benefit from collagen in supplements or added to foods, such as energy bars, oatmeal, smoothies, coffee creamers, and popcorn. The human body makes collagen from glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and other amino acids when proteins (not limited to collagen) are digested. The bottom line in the article is that "until there's more conclusive evidence in favor of supplements or collagen-enhanced foods, the best solution may be to focus on eating a healthy diet that supplies adequate amounts of protein and limiting sun exposure."


Liver injury in Asia from "CAM" treatments reviewed. Researchers have published an exhaustive review of available, though limited, epidemiological data on drug-induced liver injury (DILI) associated with various "complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)" systems practiced in Singapore, Japan, Korea, China, India, and other countries in Asia. They identified bvariouis doses of more than two dozen specific medicines implicated in liver injury. They concluded: (a) CAM-related liver injury is a major cause of liver toxicity and liver failure worldwide, with high incidence among Asian countries, (b) patient outcomes associated with CAM-DILI are generally poor, with very high mortality rates in those with chronic liver disease, and (c) stringent regulations, at par with that of conventional modern medicine, are required, and may help improve safety of patients seeking CAM for their health needs. [Philips CA. and others. Complementary and alternative medicine-related drug-induced liver injury in Asia. Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology 7:263-274, 2019]


Experienced acupuncturists flunk at locating "acupuncture points." Researchers from Endeavour College of Natural Health in Australia and the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine Accuracy reviewed 14 studies relating to the accuracy and precision of methods that experienced medical acupuncturists use to decide where to insert their acupuncture needles. According to the researchers: "Accuracy of point location is essential for safe, efficacious and reliable treatments and valid reproducible research outcomes." Nevertheless, their review revealed: "Inaccuracies observed in these studies appear large enough to affect clinical and research outcomes." They concluded in part: "The lack of accuracy and precision in qualified and experienced acupuncturists is a cause for concern." [Godson DR. Wardle JL. Accuracy and precision in acupuncture point location: a critical systematic review. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies 12:52-66, 2019] In response to the review, Harriet Hall, M.D. wrote: "This study represents Tooth Fairy Science at its most ridiculous. They tried to assess the reliability of locating points that have never been shown to exist. An exercise in futility, if you ask me." [Hall H. Do acupuncture points exist? Can acupuncturists find them? Science-Based Medicine, Aug 27, 2019]


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This page was revised on November 17, 2020.