Tag Archives | Consumer Health Digest

Evidence lacking for “alternative” weight-loss therapies

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Posted 07 July 2021

A systematic review of published research evaluating the efficacy of dietary supplements and “alternative therapies” for weight loss among people at least 18 years of age has found that supportive evidence is weak. Many clinical trials were also hampered by a significant risk of bias due to inconsistent testing methods. Problems with studies include small sample sizes, short follow-up periods, and poor study designs.
Reference: Batsis JA. A systematic review of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for weight loss. Obesity, June 23, 2021

Key findings included:

  • Out of 315 randomized controlled trials included in the review, 52 were classified as having a low risk of bias, of which 16 demonstrated significant weight changes for tested therapies compared to placebo.
  • No high-quality evidence supported acupuncture, calcium-vitamin D supplementation, chocolate/cocoa, phenylpropanolamineguar gumPhaseolus vulgarispyruvate, and mind-body interventions as weight-loss
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Companies warned about misleading “FDA registration certificates.”

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Posted 07 July 2021

The FDA has ordered 25 companies to stop issuing documents that state that a medical device has been registered with the FDA. The certificates often look like official government documents, and many display the FDA logo. The agency believes that the certificates falsely imply that a device has been evaluated, cleared, or approved as effective for its intended purposes. The FDA does not issue any type of device registration certificate, and registration does not denote approval or clearance of a manufacturer or its devices. It merely means that certain information has been provided to the FDA.
Reference: Barrett S. FDA orders 25 companies to stop issuing misleading “FDA registration certificates.” Device Watch, July 4, 2021

The marketers of Healy bioresonance devices are using a certificate which states that their device has been cleared. Although the recent FDA action concerned registration certificates, the same principles … Read the rest

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Expert consensus on “alternative health care” risks developed

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Posted 30 June 2021

A 17-member Canadian team has come to a consensus regarding: (a) how “alternative health care” should be defined, (b) ways it can harm patients directly or indirectly, and (c) its four major risk categories.

The team consisted of three physicians, four nurses, three pharmacists, two physiotherapists, one social worker, two lawyers (with expertise in harm, injury and case law), an epidemiologist, a naturopath and a chiropractor, each with at least 10 years of experience and an identified interest in “alternative health care.”

Their definition is:

The range of therapeutics that largely originate from traditions and theories distinct from contemporary biomedical science, and which claim mechanisms of action outside of those currently accepted by scientific and biomedical consensus.

The team distinguished direct harm from indirect harm:

  • Direct harm can result from: (a) prescribed (including self-prescribed) substances, (b) procedures, (c) reducing the effectiveness of, or causing detrimental effects
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Harsh realities of multi-level marketing exposed

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Posted 14 June 2021

A recent exposé of multi-level marketing (MLM) by Good Housekeeping includes:

  • stories of former distributors with links to their videos in which they criticize how MLM companies operate
  • links to videos describing how distributors use their pregnancies or infertility to recruit women facing similar struggles to become distributors
  • discussion of cultism in the MLM industry
  • discussion of the popularity of anti-MLM content on TikTok, which has banned content promoting MLMs.
  • descriptions of MLM companies’ responses to recent warnings by the Federal Trade Commission
  • evidence suggesting financial success for distributors is rare
  • discussion of findings from the 2018 “AARP Study of Multilevel Marketing: Profiling Participants and the Experiences in Direct Sales”
  • psychological support resources offered by the anti-MLM community

Reference: Garrity A. Inside the “toxic” world of women selling you everything from supplements to skincare on social media. Good Housekeeping, May 24, 2021

Source: Consumer … Read the rest

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Evidence does not support vitamin supplementation for heart health

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Posted 11 June 2021

Researchers who searched PubMed for the phrase “vitamin supplements and cardiovascular health” have found no significant evidence that supplementation with vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, or K, folic acid, or multivitamins improved cardiovascular functioning or decreased the incidence of heart attacks or strokes in the general public. Their review, based on 87 studies that met their inclusion criteria, concluded:

A recommendation to suggest vitamin use to maintain and/or improve clinical cardiovascular outcomes cannot not be made for the general public. Instead, counseling people to follow a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables seems more appropriate to improve and maintain cardiovascular health.

Reference: Simsek B. and others. Effects of vitamin supplements on clinical cardiovascular outcomes: Time to move on!—A comprehensive review. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN 42:1-14, April 2021

Source: Consumer Health Digest #21-22 June 6,, 2021

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Aromatherapy described as pseudoscience

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Posted 19 May 2021

In a brief article, Joe Nickell discusses the history, claimed effects, and lack of supportive evidence that aromatherapy is beneficial in preventing, treating, or curing any disease.

Nickell describes aromatherapy as the pseudoscience of using aromatic substances for claimed improvements to one’s physical or mental health. He argues that aromatherapy may help people relax through the power of suggestion or augment the soothing, stimulating, or other action of massage in administering aromatherapy oils.

Reference: Nickell J. Aromatherapy: ‘Healing’ by the scents of smell. Skeptical Inquirer, 45(3):43-44, May/June 2021

Source: Consumer Health Digest #21-19, May 16, 2021

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Essential oil treatments linked to seizures

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Posted 07 May 2021

Essential oils are volatile, aromatic compounds obtained from plants that some people believe are the “essence” of the plant source representing the plant’s “life force,” “spirit,” or soul. Although promoters claim they have medicinal value, commonly used essential oils can trigger convulsions. Indian researchers have reported the results of a four-year observational study of people who were exposed to essential oils of camphor, eucalyptus, or both:

  • 22 people were found to have a first seizure induced by an essential oil treatment; 16 of those essential oil treatments were topically applied, five were through inhalation, and one through ingestion
  • 33 had seizures provoked by essential oils; 26 of those essential oil treatments were topically applied, five were through inhalation, and two were through ingestion

The authors concluded: “Exposure to essential oils of eucalyptus and camphor is an under-recognized cause of the first and breakthrough seizure. Identifying the … Read the rest

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Banned sports stimulant, higenamine, found in supplements

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Posted 10 September 2018

Higenamine is a stimulant that occurs naturally in a variety of traditional plant remedies. It has not been FDA-approved for any purpose, but is sold as an ingredient in supplement products.

In 2016, researchers made online purchases of 24 supplement products with higenamine as a labeled ingredient. Eleven of the products were marketed for weight loss, eleven were marketed as sports/energy supplements, and two were not labeled with a specific reason for use. Laboratory analyses revealed that the quantity of higenamine in the products ranged from trace amounts to 62 milligrams per serving with a margin of error of 6.0 milligrams.

Of the five products that listed a specific amount of higenamine on the label, none were accurate; the higenamine contents ranged from less than 0.01% to three times the quantity listed on the label. Clinical evidence regarding the safety and effectiveness of higenamine is lacking. Read the rest

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Herbalife sued by distributors

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Posted 05 September 2018

Eight former Herbalife distributors have filed a class action complaint against Los Angeles-based Herbalife in the U.S. Southern District Court in Florida. The complaint states:

  • The company uses misrepresentation to sell access to emotionally manipulative events that have 200 to 20,000 attendees. 
  • The events use labels such as “Circle of Success,” as a guaranteed pathway to life-changing financial success with Herbalife’s multi-level marketing business opportunity. 
  • Each of the plaintiffs distributors has spent thousands of dollars attending events, but they received no benefits from doing so contrary to frequent claims by Herbalife that: “If you go to all the events, you qualify for everything – you will get rich.” 
  • The plaintiffs are seeking damages and injunctive relief against “the corrupt organization of individuals and entities who sell, operate and compel participation in the Circle of Success.”

An Associated Press report states that the case might eventually involve Read the rest

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Hydrogen peroxide hucksterism exposed

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Posted 30 August 2018

According to a new investigative report: 

  • “35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide” is widely available in health food stores and promoted with numerous testimonials on Web sites to treat Lyme disease, skin problems, leukemia, brain tumors, and other ailments.
  • Health benefits are often promised from drinking a few drops of hydrogen peroxide diluted in a glass of water.
  • According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no official definition for “food-grade.”
  • Following reports of injuries and death, FDA issued warnings about internal use of hydrogen peroxide in 1989 and 2006.
  • No scientific evidence supports the use of hydrogen peroxide as a remedy.
  • Two individuals ended up at Detroit Receiving Hospital with gas blockages in the bloodstream caused by hydrogen peroxide and would have died or likely been permanently disabled without emergency intervention with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
  • Nearly 300 cases of poisoning caused by the
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