Science-based pharmacy: supplements, deck stacked against consumers

Posted 27 September 2015

Scott Gavura is the pharmacist behind Science-Based Pharmacy. In a post of  24 September 2015, titled Pine bark and ginkgo for tinnitus? A closer look at “Ear Tone”, a supplement marketed to treat tinnitushe makes a number of points about why he blogs which I share and identify with. He writes (extracts):

“Why do you bother blogging?” asked a colleague. “You take hours of your personal time to write, and you do it for free.

I blog for the same reason that I became a pharmacist: to help people use medicines more effectively.

Yes I do get regular hate mail, and the occasional legal threat, but there’s also gratitude for a post that resonated with someone, or helped them make better decisions about their health.

When buying supplements, the deck is stacked against consumers
One of my recurring (and favourite) blog topics Read the rest

Nutribullet Nutribullsh*t?

Posted 25 September 2015

The NutriBullet claims to be “the superfood nutrition extractor“, “transforming ordinary food into superfood and adding years to your life!”. At the South African website of this product, the product claims “don’t juice it, don’t blend it, extract it!” – in other words, claiming not to be just a juicer but something with special powers.

The product claims the following benefits: “AMAZING results: Can Increase Energy; Can Improve Sleep; Can Reduce Stress; Can Improve Digestion”

Only one large problem – this makes no physiological or scientific sense. The Checkout (‘The Checkout is consumer affairs TV for the twenty first century offering a revolutionary new wonder diet of information and entertainment that’s clinically proven and 26% fat free’) takes a light hearted look at the extraordinary claims being made for this product, and why they are simply physiologically speaking, nonsensical.

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Lessons from the dubious rise and inevitable fall of green coffee beans

Posted 21 September 2015

This article, by , was posted to Science-Based Medicine on October 23, 2014.

News this week that a randomized controlled trial of green coffee bean (GCB) has been officially retracted from the medical literature signals what is hopefully the end to one of the most questionable diet products to appear on the market in years. Plucked from obscurity and then subjected to bogus research, it’s now clear that the only people that actually benefited from GCB were those that profited from its sale. GCB had some powerful boosters, too. Once it became one of Dr. Oz’s “miracle” weight loss cures, sales exploded following two hype-filled episodes. Oz even did a made-for TV clinical trial with GCB, ignoring the requirements for researchers to obtain ethical approvals before conducting human subject research. Oz’s promotion of GCB was so breathless and detached from the actual evidence Read the rest

StemEnhance and StemSport – Update

Posted 18 September 2015

We have previously focussed on the claims of StemEnhance, that claims to result in the release of stem cells in your body and result in a host of beneficial results. Few studies have been conducted from this product’s inception around 2007. Eighteen years later, the studies have been insignificant with two recent publications on the products effect in diabetics. The studies were conducted in Iran and Egypt. Stem cells and their potential as a treatment is one of the most exciting areas under investigation, so readers have a right to wonder why is it that researchers and clinicians in Europe, Canada, USA are not investigating or dealing with this product – one that promises miraculous results? This alone should make you suspicious about the claims for this product.

We have also focussed attention on toxins present in the product, as well as whether the derivative product, … Read the rest

USN defamation charge against CamCheck

Posted 17 September 2015

Dr Harris Steinman has received a summons from the Western Cape High Court instituted by USN, and owner/founder, Albe Geldenhuys, alleging defamation.

This news was broken by GroundUp on 16 September 2015 in the following two articles:
(All links open in a new browser tab/window)

USN sues consumer activist:

The harm of quackery:


More information related to this case will be posted in due course.

These posts are relevant:

“Fair comment” and defamation is discussed on this page:

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Do sports drinks and energy bars make you a better athlete?

Posted 15 September 2015

This video from CBC news, investigates whether sports drinks and energy bars make you a better athlete. Mmmm, not really. And the amount of sugar in the products!

So how much sugar in USN’s Ener-G Sports Energy Hydration Drink? Will you be surprised to know that 500 of drink contains  just over 18 gm of sugar, that is around 4.5  teaspoons of sugar? (4 grams of white sugar (granulated) is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar)


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CLA supplement linked to hepatitis case

Posted 14 September 2015

A 26-year-old woman who had recently lost approximately 23 kg was admitted to hospital with stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. She had started taking conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplements, which are often advertised as being able to reduce body fat, one week prior. She was ultimately diagnosed with the first case of hepatitis associated with CLA supplement use in the United States. This is only the third documented case worldwide.


Bilal M, Patel Y, Burkitt M, Babich M. Linoleic Acid Induced Acute Hepatitis: A Case Report and Review of the Literature. Case Reports Hepatol. 2015;2015:807354.

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Thermography for breast cancer detection – UK ASA ruling

Posted 09 September 2015

A number of alternative health practitioners in South Africa offer this unsubstantiated test to detect breast cancer. ( see below) Considering that the test does not work adequately at all, for some patients this may result in a death sentence for it may delay the detection of a true tumour.

A complaint against an advert in the UK promoting this test was laid with the UK ASA. The UK ASA upheld the complaint, stating among other, “Cancer Research UK had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that thermography provided benefit to patients as a adjunctive tool to mammography. Because of that, and in the absence of any evidence to show that thermography could detect abnormalities indicating the early development of breast cancer and therefore aid diagnosis, locate the causes of pain, or the early stages of disease more generally, we concluded that the claims Read the rest

Supplements Don’t Fight Cognitive Decline, N.I.H. Study Says

Posted 03 September 2015

This article by Roni Caryn Rabin and published in the New York Times on 31 August 2015, refers to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, who randomly assigned participants to take a lutein/zeaxanthin supplement, a supplement of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA), both or a placebo. The study recruited more than 3,500 subjects with an average age of 73.

The researchers evaluated the subjects’ cognitive function when they enrolled and then every two years. At the end of the study, the researchers did not find any differences among groups that had taken supplements and the placebo group.

Continue reading at the New York Times

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Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

Posted 02 September 2015

The Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, is claimed by providers to be a “psychological acupressure technique” used to “optimize your emotional health”, or as claimed by Cathie van Rooyen on her South African website, “Classed under the banner of Energy Healing, EFT is the strangest, simplest way to get rid of negative habits, thoughts and feelings forever! Based on the ancient principles of acupuncture, EFT is a simple tapping procedure that gently realigns the body’s energy system, without the discomfort of needles.

What is the evidence for these claims?

This was tested in a complaint laid with the UK ASA against similar claims on a UK website. Not surprisingly, the owner could not furnish any evidence that this “technique” was able to fulfil the claims except based on her ‘belief’ and ‘anecdotal’ evidence.

The Skeptics Dictionary has more on this technique as … Read the rest