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Author revises summary of scientific evidence about complementary and alternative medicine

Posted 08 November 2023

Thomas J. Wheeler, PhD, a retired associate professor from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has published a 60-page revision of his Overview of Complementary and Alternative Medicine on the website of the Kentucky Council Against Health Fraud. The material was originally developed as the first in a series of handouts for an elective course that offered medical students a scientific look at alternative medicine. The topics addressed include:

  • general aspects
  • the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and its predecessors
  • common themes in alternative medicine
  • adverse effects
  • integrative medicine
  • functional medicine
  • regulatory agencies involved in health claims
  • organizations and websites promoting critical examination of alternative claims
  • legal and ethical issues
  • fraud and quackery
  • antivaccination efforts
  • antifluoridation efforts
  • critical thinking in evaluation of medical claims: philosophical issues
  • nature of science
  • scientific activities and methods
  • skepticism and
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Is Turmeric Good for You? What We Know About Its Health Benefits

Posted 23 October 2023

A new study concluded that it could be effective at alleviating stomach discomfort. But a lot is unknown.

Turmeric has been used as a spice and medicine for thousands of years. And in recent decades, it’s become popular as a dietary supplement, often sold as curcumin — a chemical compound found in dried turmeric — with claims that it can soothe joint pain, reduce inflammation and improve mobility.

In Thailand, turmeric is also often consumed in its spice or supplement form to quell gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating and indigestion, said Dr. Krit Pongpirul, an associate professor of preventive and social medicine at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. But only a few small studies have evaluated such benefits.

In a trial published Monday in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, Dr. Pongpirul and his colleagues tested whether curcumin supplements

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Does Vitamin C Actually Help Your Skin?

Posted 23 October 2023

SCAM OR NOT: Here’s what dermatologists say about this trendy ingredient.

If you’ve spent time exploring the skin care side of TikTok, you know that dermatologists love to tout the benefits of vitamin C serums and creams. They claim the vitamin can brighten and firm the skin, protect it from sun and environmental damage, diminish dark spots and even reduce the signs of aging.

“All of its various benefits make it a top recommendation for most dermatologists,” said Dr. Fatima Fahs, a dermatologist in Michigan.

Yet if you dig into the research on how vitamin C actually affects the skin, a different picture emerges. In one 2021 review published in The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, for instance, Dr. Fahs and her colleagues evaluated how effective various vitamin C formulations were at improving skin health. They

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Nattokinase hype scrutinised

Posted 11 October 2023

McGill University science advocate Jonathan Jarry took a close look at the hype for nattokinase supplements and was not impressed.
Reference: Jarry J. Nattokinase’s clot-busting promises sway scientists who should know better. McGill Office for Science and Society, Aug 4, 2023

His key messages are:

  • Nattokinase is an enzyme secreted by bacteria when fermenting soybeans during the making of the traditional Japanese food known as natto.
  • Nattokinase dietary supplements are claimed to help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, although the studies done so far are not rigorous enough to support this claim.
  • It is not known for certain what happens to nattokinase in the human body when taken by mouth.
  • Anti-vaccine influencers are selling nattokinase supplements as a way to “detox” from the spike protein contained in the COVID-19 vaccines, an idea that is not based on good science.
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Menopause treatments – Misinformation

Posted 08 September 2023

Here are some key excerpts from the review published in Cell (abstract below):

“Complementary and alternate medicines (CAMs) for menopausal symptoms have been frequently touted, are widely advertised, and have an overall dismal track record of efficacy when subjected to rigorous scientific study. The best studied of these are phyto (plant) estrogen supplements and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa). Systematic reviews of phytoestrogens do not support benefits in the relief of VMS.122,123 In numerous trials, black cohosh, not to be confused with blue cohosh, which has known liver toxicity, has been shown to be safe with limited efficacy in some single-site clinical trials. However, the HALT study, which was the most rigorous and comprehensive clinical trial to date, consisting of 351 participants, demonstrated no improvement with black cohosh over placebo among perimenopausal women experiencing VMS.124 The dilemma that black cohosh poses to the clinician is a common … Read the rest

Sports supplements sold online found to be mislabeled

Posted 14 August 2023

Researchers analyzed 57 dietary supplements sold online and labeled as containing: R vomitoria, methylliberine, turkesterone, halostachine, or octopamine.

The researchers found:

  • no detectable amount of the labeled ingredient in 23 of the products
  • the actual quantity of the labeled ingredient ranged from 0.02% to 334% of the labeled quantity in 34 of the products
  • only six accurately labeled products that contained a quantity of the ingredient within 10% of the labeled quantity
  • seven products that contained at least one ingredient prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Reference:
Cohen PA, and others. Presence and quantity of botanical ingredients with purported performance-enhancing properties in sports supplements. JAMA Network Open, 6(7):e2323879, 2023

Presence and Quantity of Botanical Ingredients With Purported Performance-Enhancing Properties in Sports Supplements

Pieter A. Cohen, MD1,2; Bharathi Avula, PhD3; Kumar Katragunta, PhD3; et alJohn C. Travis, BS4; Ikhlas Khan, PhD3

JAMA Netw … Read the rest

Skin reactions linked to traditional medicines

Posted 27 July 2023

Researchers in India analyzed individual case reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) database (VigiBase) from between January 2016 and June 2021 describing adverse skin reactions linked to plant-based and animal-based products in natural form (described as traditional medicine).
Reference: Barvaliya MJ, and others. Suspected cutaneous adverse drug reactions reported with traditional medicines: Analysis of data for United Nations Asia region from WHO VigiBase. Frontiers in Pharmacology 14, May 2023

A total of 5,686 reports (19.9% of all adverse reaction reports) involved 8,588 skin-related reactions. Out of those reports, 3,523 involving 5,761 suspected skin-related reactions had sufficient information to be considered in the final analysis. The analysis revealed:

  • the most common skin reactions were itching (29.6%), rash (20.3%), and hives (18.9%)
  • the most common traditional medicines implicated in skin reactions were:
    (a) Artemisia argyi Lév. and Vaniot. with 856 reports, (14.9% of reactions),
    (b) 
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Bogus “Miracle Mineral Solution” cure hucksters convicted

Posted 26 July 2023

A Miami Florida federal jury has convicted Mark Grenon, 65, and his sons, Jonathan, 37, Joseph, 35, and Jordan, 29, of selling $1 million worth of Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS). To promote the product as a cure for 95% of the world’s diseases, they set up a phony religious front, the Genesis II Church.
Reference: Weaver J. Federal jury convicts 4 Florida men for selling bleach solution as ‘miracle’ cure for diseases. Miami Herald, July 20, 2023

The jury found all four defendants guilty of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by distributing MMS, an unapproved and misbranded drug. It also found Jonathan and Gordon guilty of two counts of violating federal court orders requiring them to stop selling MMS in 2020. Contempt charges against Mark and Joseph were dropped as a condition of their extradition from Read the rest

40% of Sports Supplements Don’t Contain Ingredients On The Label, US Study Finds

Posted 24 July 2023

HEALTH 24 July 2023

By Clare Watson, ScienceAlert

“You get what you pay for” isn’t an adage we can always rely upon. A US study has found more than one-third of a selection of sports supplements bought online don’t contain key ingredients the label says they should.

Pieter Cohen, a clinician-researcher at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and colleagues ordered 57 sports supplements to analyze their contents.

Each product’s label claimed the supplement contained one of five botanical compounds with purported performance-enhancing properties. The substances have been included in supplements since a stimulant called ephedra was banned in 2004.

“The FDA does not preapprove these ingredients, or any supplement ingredient, for either efficacy or safety before their introduction,” Cohen and colleagues write in their paper.

“But FDA inspections have found that supplement manufacturers often fail to comply with basic manufacturing standards, … Read the rest

Stem cell therapies: why they’re expensive, unproven and often dangerous

Posted 17 July 2023

By
Associate Professor, Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, University of Reading

The Conversation

Rogue clinics selling stem cell therapies are popping up everywhere. There are thousands of them around the world, and they claim to be able to cure everything from autism to cerebral palsy.

The highest concentration of stem cell therapy clinics is in the US, Mexico, India and China. And people are travelling far and wide to get these treatments, leading to a phenomenon known as stem cell tourism.

Despite warnings from scientiststhe media and regulators that these treatments are untested and potentially dangerous, desperate people are forking out thousands of pounds to essentially be guinea pigs for these unproven treatments.

In the US, several patients lost their sight after receiving stem-cell treatment for degenerative eye conditions. The patients, who were treated at an unregulated stem-cell therapy clinic … Read the rest