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Berberine. Don’t swallow the hype. Or the pill. Is not “Nature’s Ozempic”

Posted 05 July 2023

Berberine, a compound found in several plants used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, is being hyped on TikTok as a natural alternative to Ozempic (semaglutide) for weight loss. However, Joe Schwarcz, PhD, who directs the McGill Office for Science and Society, notes:

(a) berberine is poorly absorbed from the intestine when taken as a dietary supplement,

(b) unlike semaglutide, it doesn’t act as an analogue of the hormone GLP-1 to suppress appetite, and

(c) scientific evidence is lacking to support its use for weight loss.

Reference: Schwarcz J. Berberine. Don’t swallow the hype. Or the pill. McGill Office for Science and Society, June 22, 2023

Source: Consumer Health Digest #23-27 July 2, 2023

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“Complementary and alternative” medicine research criticized

Posted 25 May 2023

Dr. Edzard Ernst has written a commentary about research into so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) conducted since he became the world’s first professor of complementary medicine nearly 30 years ago.

Reference: Ernst E. Applying science to SCAM: A brief summary of the past thirty years. Skeptical Inquirer, 47(1):11-12, 2023

He concludes:

So, in the past thirty years of SCAM research, we have gone from the rejection of science to accepting that it would be good for promotion, to insisting on an “alternative” version of science, to misleading the public with false-positive findings. It has been a long and tedious journey without actually advancing all that far.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #23-02, January 8, 2023

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Hundreds of companies cautioned about unsubstantiated health-product claims

Posted 28 April 2023

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent notices to approximately 670 marketers of over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic products, dietary supplements, and functional foods. The notices indicated that they did not reflect any assessment as to whether the recipients have engaged in deceptive or unfair conduct. However, they warned that the recipients should avoid deceiving consumers with advertisements that make unsubstantiated product claims and said that the FTC will not hesitate to use its authority to hand violators large civil penalties. The notices refer to the FTC staff’s recently issued “Health Products Compliance Guidance.”
Reference: FTC warns almost 700 marketing companies that they could face civil penalties if they can’t back up their product claims. FTC press release, April 13, 2023

The notices outline specific unlawful acts and practices, including:

  • failing to have a reasonable basis consisting of competent and reliable evidence for objective product claims
  • failing
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Experts spotlight liver injury from herbal dietary supplements in the U.S

Posted 19 April 2023

Experts on natural products and toxicology have provided an overview of the problem of liver damage due to herbal dietary supplement (HDS) use in the United States. They suggest two strategies they hope will improve consumer safety and drive bad actors from the marketplace. One is a path for pre-clinical assessment and the other is the establishment of a list of products.
Reference: Gurley BJ, and others. Hepatoxicity due to herbal dietary supplements: Past, present, and the future. Food and Chemical Toxicology 169:113445, 2022

Their key points include:

  • The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 provides an insufficient framework for regulating HDS products.
  • 20% of adult Americans regularly consume HDS products.
  • Liver toxicity is among the most frequent serious events reported through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Adverse Event Reporting System.
  • 20% of all drug-induced
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Multilevel-marketing conference videos available

Posted 29 March 2023

Videos of sessions from the online conference “Multilevel Marketing: The Consumer Protection Challenge 2023,” are now available to be viewed for free. The event was the third annual multilevel-marketing (MLM) conference sponsored by The College of New Jersey School of Business.

  • Session 1 addressed how some current MLM businesses operate and outlined recent legal cases.
  • Session 2 featured activists who are critical of MLM on social media.
  • Session 3 focused on MLM industry documents, statements, and behaviors. It included a talk by Dr. Stephen Barrett on the types of harm caused by the multilevel marketing of useless health products, how ZYTO devices are used to offer baseless recommendations for multilevel-marketed health products, and baseless health claims made for multilevel-marketed Healy devices. (Quackwatch has detailed reports on the ZYTOand Healy devices.)
  • Session 4 focused on the Business Opportunity Rule and other recent MLM news.

Videos of Read the rest

Detoxification nonsense spotlighted

Posted 21 March 2023

Two recent articles expose the false notion that popular detoxification regimens are health-enhancing:

  • Jonathan Jarry notes: “Binders are just the latest products to be added to the detox economy. Its end users, already choked by consumerism and trained to see evil lurking in their modern surroundings, are again told they’re not spending enough money keeping themselves healthy.” [Jarry J. You don’t need a binder in your detox kit, and you don’t need a detox kit. McGill Office for Science and Society, Jan 13, 2023]

Source: Consumer Health Digest #23-03, January 15, 2023

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Bleeding risks of dietary supplements after surgery and anticoagulant use spotlighted

Posted 03 January 2023

After identifying the 47 most popular dietary-supplement ingredients in the U.S., researchers reviewed the literature on the risks of bleeding they pose to patients postoperatively and while taking anticoagulant medications. [Hatfield J and others. Dietary supplements and bleeding. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. 35:802–807, 2022]

They found:

  • Garlic and hawthorn supplementation is strongly associated with surgical bleeding.
  • Cordyceps sinensis, echinacea, and aloe vera were each associated with surgical bleeding in just one case report.
  • Ginkgo biloba, chondroitin-glucosamine, melatonin, turmeric, bilberry, chamomile, fenugreek, milk thistle, and peppermint are associated with bleeding risk for patients taking anticoagulants.
  • Fish oil, ginseng, and saw palmetto are not linked to bleeding.
  • Evidence for overall bleeding risk of St. John’s wort, ginger, ginkgo biloba, or cranberry supplementation is conflicting.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #23-01, January 1, 2023

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Is Sport A Breeding Ground for Pseudoscience?

Posted 1 Dec 2022

Exercise physiologist Nick Tiller, MRes, PhD, argues that pseudoscience is a systemic problem in sports. He offers examples of prominent athletes promoting pseudoscientific health and performance claims. [Tiller N. Is sport a breeding ground for pseudoscience? Skeptical Inquirer, Nov 10, 2022]

He concludes:

Pseudoscience preys on hopes and fears—two sides of the same coin—and it also feeds on desperation. Because of the “win at all costs” mentality nurtured in high-performance sports, athletes exhibit plenty of all three traits. And such characteristics likely become intensified closer to elite level. Even though many athletes prefer evidence-based approaches, it only takes a minority of individuals, especially those who are famous or revered, to allow for the spread of misinformation and erroneous advice. Moreover, there’s little doubt that the culture of high-performance sport may be allowing pseudoscience to breed unabated, generally unchallenged by athletes, coaches, and scientific support staff, all … Read the rest

K-Tape (Kinesio Taping) lambasted

Posted 03 October 2022

Exercise physiologist Nick Tiller, MRes, PhD, has examined the jargon-filled promotional claims and scientific evidence regarding kinesiology tape, also known as Kinesio Tape, KT Tape, or K-Tape, commonly used by athletes to stabilize injured joints. He concluded:

When the omnipresence of K-tape in health and fitness is contrasted against the evidence for its benefit, the disparity is among the largest I have seen for any intervention, second only to chiropractic and homeopathy. Exactly how long this practice will endure, despite the damning evidence, remains to be seen, although if other pseudoscientific practices serve as an indication, K-Tape may be with us indefinitely. Notwithstanding, there is likely to be a potent placebo effect that some proponents will use to justify its continued use in the clinic. In fact, around 40 percent of athletic trainers and physiotherapists are already cognizant that K-tape works only via placebo. They use … Read the rest

Adaptogen hype scrutinised

Posted 28 June 2022

“They are claimed to cure everything, even long COVID. But the science on adaptogens is very disappointing.”

Adaptogens are said to be substances, often plants (such as ginseng and golden root), that help the body adapt to stress with no side effects. A recent article makes these points:

  • Their long-term safety has not been demonstrated.
  • Regulation of this market is poor.
  • Some adaptogenic herbs are known to have potentially serious side effects.
  • Evidence for effectiveness usually comes from animal studies and a few published studies in humans that tend to be small and lacking in rigor.

Reference: Jarry J. The problem with adaptogens. McGill Office for Science and Society, June 9, 2022

Source: Consumer Health Digest #22-26, June 26, 2022

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