Tag Archives: Supplements

New supplement best for preventing bone loss, says study

Churnalism. Don’t you just love it? The repetition of self-serving claims from press releases into press as if they were facts. Wikipedia calls this “fact-washing”.

WDDTY said they would not do this. It’s as true as their principled statement that they would never take paid advertising.

So it’s no surprise to see a tweet from WDDTY:

new-supplement

We know WDDTY well enough by now to be able to read the subtext. A new supplement (i.e. made by the whiter-than-snow big-pharma-suppressed all-natural supplement world) is superior to the current drugs.

And this is clear too in the story they link:

A new nutritional supplement is better than calcium and vitamin D for protecting the bones in older women, a new study has concluded.

There you have it: the supplement is better than the drug calcium and vitamin D. Except – wait – that’s a supplement too isn’t it? How can this be? Ah yes: calcium and vitamin D, usually branded Adcal or Calcichew, is made by big pharma.

KoACT is a calcium-collagen chelate—which means the two compounds are bound together—that prevents bone loss, and so reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Well that’s plausible enough, but it rather runs against the narrative as the calcium-collagen chelate is produced by a pharmaceutical manufacturing process; the supplement is a form that does not actually exist in nature.

It’s been tested for a year on 39 older women, who were given either KoACT or calcium and vitamin D supplements. Women in the KoACT group had a 1.23 per cent loss in bone mineral density at the end of the 12 months trial, while those taking the supplements experienced a 3.75 per cent loss.

N=39 is a very small study. The difference in bone loss could be significant, or it might not.

Researchers from Florida State University, who carried out the study, say the results are “crucial” for women, and especially for those who have reached the early stages of menopause when bone loss can be rapid.

Do they indeed? Or is it, perhaps, that these words were planted in their mouths by someone?

You know what’s coming. You will have guessed the obvious right from the outset. But I won’t spoil your pleasure yet.

KoACT website: www.koact.net

(Source: Journal of Medicinal Food, 2014; 141014082953002).

Want to see that source? You bet. The journal link is  doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.0100 and it’s also summarised in Science Daily.

The Science Daily coverage is more comprehensive, giving a more neutral overview and not including claims that the results are “crucial” but instead the much more plausible:

Arjmandi acknowledged he was “pleasantly surprised” by the outcomes and hopes that the supplement will be used in the future as a way to prevent bone density loss.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. There, at the bottom of Science Daily’s article is the one piece of genuinely crucial information, the essential fact omitted from WDDTY which necessarily colours any interpretation of this small, preliminary study:

Arjmandi’s study was funded by AIDP, Inc.

And AIDP Inc. is, of course, the manufacturer of the supplement.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that a calcium/collagen chelate is more effective for preventing bone loss than calcium and vitamin D?

Because the evidence to date is one rather small study funded by the manufacturer.

Sunshine could reduce severity of asthma attacks

The activity level of the @_wddty Twitter account is pretty low, considering the volume of bullshit McTaggart and her magazine generate, but today there was a tweet which piqued the interest:

asthma

The content of the News item linked is:

Vitamin D—the ‘sunshine vitamin’—may help reduce the worst affects (sic) of asthma. Sufferers should do more sunbathing or take supplements, say researchers.

Asthmatic s with more severe symptoms tend to have low levels of vitamin D, while those with high levels are able to control their symptoms better. Researchers at King’s College London say the connection between levels of the vitamin and severity of symptoms is “quite striking”.

In laboratory tests with blood samples, the researchers saw that the vitamin was able to lower levels of interleukin-17, a chemical that helps fight off infection. However, in asthmatics the chemical is in constant over-ride, causing the typical symptoms of inflamed, swollen and narrowed airways.

The researchers plan to carry out clinical trials to establish if the vitamin can ease an asthma attack.

(Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2013; published online, May 17, 2013).

This should be easy to check, but as usual WDDTY use a non-standard reference format to give the full feel of “referenciness” without inviting tiresome fact-checking.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is free online. The most likely candidate is “Enhanced production of IL-17A in patients with severe asthma is inhibited by 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in a glucocorticoid-independent fashion

The conclusion of this paper is:

Patients with severe asthma exhibit increased levels of TH17 cytokines, which are not inhibited by steroids. 1,25(OH)2D3 inhibits TH17 cytokine production in all patients studied, irrespective of their clinical responsiveness to steroids, identifying novel steroid-enhancing properties of vitamin D in asthmatic patients.

So did “researchers” say that “asthma sufferers should do more sunbathing or take a supplement”?

No.

They said that patients with severe asthma tended to have low levels of a vitamin D marker in their blood. At no point in the paper are either sunbathing or supplements mentioned. The paper does not promote therapeutic use of vitamin D, but rather notes that asthma severity may be increased in patients with low levels of vitamin D. It certainly does not suggest that vitamin D might be any kind of replacement for science-based medicine, quite the opposite.

Once again, even when a study finding is broadly ideologically consonant, WDDTY are unable to resist the temptation to put words in the authors’ mouths.

Nothing compares to Altrient by Livon?

Those foolish enough to read WDDTY cannot fail to have noticed that the inside cover has for some time carried an ad by Abundance and Health Ltd. for dietary supplements.
abundance and health altrient ad
The introductory blurb leaves me somewhat perplexed. Firstly, because there’s only so much Vitamin C you can take into your system before you excrete it (it’s water-soluble) and secondly, WTF is Glutathione? I’ve never heard of it. Well, that’s easily sorted anyway. Stand back while I perform the Rite of WikiPedia using only the power of my mind and a computer keyboard…

Ah, it’s an antioxidant. Moreover, Wikipedia says:  “Glutathione is not an essential nutrient, since it can be synthesized in the body from the amino acids” and I for one would tend to accept that, since otherwise we’d be hearing a lot more about glutathione deficiency from the medical establishment. How much are this lot charging for something we do not, in fact, need?

The website says: only £55.95 for a box of 30 sachets and it’s supposed to last you between two and four weeks. The page also claims that “Physicians and researchers all over the world are excited about GSH”. Maybe they are, but certainly not about taking it in oral form. Trying to raise glutathione levels with oral supplements isn’t very effective.

This lot make the clear claim that their oral glutathione is effective in raising blood levels. I think the Advertising Standards Authority might be interested in that (checks with the Nightingale Collaboration) Yes, they were very interested in that: witness this post dated 9 January 2013. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks as if Abundance and Health’s idea of compliance is to change the name of the product and set up a new web domain. Is the ASA aware of this unashamed jiggeryfuckery?

From now on, I shall drop any pretence of assuming good faith on the part of Abundance and Health, because if you admit you can’t provide evidence for your claims and simply sell the same thing under a different label while maintaining some of the claims, you are quite blatantly not in good faith.

On to the Vitamin C, mainly because I mentioned it above, even though the glutathione rubbish and attitude towards the ASA alone are enough to show this lot are probably scammers.

They’ve dropped most of the dodgy health claims that the ASA objected to in the original ad, but still would have you believe that their powders (or gels or whatever the damn things are), are the most efficient way to supplement your vitamin C. This is complete bollocks: if your diet is balanced you don’t need any extra vitamin C, and 1000 mg is way over the adult daily requirement of 40 mg. Need a bit more? Eat some fruit. Incidentally, contrary to a statement elsewhere on the site, you can overdose on vitamin C: symptoms include stomach cramps, the squits and farting. Ask the NHS if you don’t believe me.

There’s a lot of pseudoscientific gibberish about bioavailability, which I shall pause only to sneer at, as we’ve already seen the whole thing is a waste of electrons. It’s only there to gull the marks. There’s the mind-boggling price of £29.95 for a box of 30 (Boots currently sell 20 tabs for £2.59). Now there’s a barefaced rip-off if ever I saw one.

And there is this astounding claim:

New research shows Altrient C makes skin 33% firmer

Really? I do not think that claim would stand up to close scrutiny. Let’s have a closer look:

Abundance & Health, today announces positive results of a 4 week clinical trial investigating the anti-aging skin firming properties of their lead product Altrient® C, the world’s first liposomal vitamin C gel sachets.

4 weeks? FOUR WEEKS? That’s not a clinical trial, those take years.

The placebo-controlled trial was conducted by Aspen Clinical Research, the clinical and cosmetic industry researchers.

This perfectly real and apparently pukka company is in Utah, so I looked up the US suppliers for A&H: Livon. Do you know, they don’t mention this amazing discovery at all?

The trial involved 60 participants with non-firm aging skin aged between 31 and 65+.

Not only is it a ridiculously short “trial”, it’s a ridiculously small one. If, in fact, it ever happened.

50% took 3 sachets of Altrient C a day for 4 weeks and 50% taking a placebo.

Remember what the NHS says the side effects are if you go over 1000 mg/day? Well, at least we know now why the “trial” was so brief.

Participants’ skin firmness and elasticity were measured at three points through the trial by Cutometer MPA 580, the Courage + Khazaka electronic GmbH elasticity measurement device.

It seems Aspen Clinical do use this device, but not over periods as short as 4 weeks. The conclusion is, of course, that “100% would change their current anti-aging routine by not just adding Altrient C to their skin regime, but replacing all products they currently use with Altrient C”, because if you’re going to spout complete bollocks, go all the way. The bigger the lie, the more likely people are to believe it.

Seriously, would you replace your moisturiser, aftershave lotion, hand cream etc with an overdose of incredibly expensive vitamin C?

Footnote: In her blog post of 24 Jan 2014, Lynne McTaggart whinged that people had “reported virtually every single one of our advertisers to an advertising standards body”, as if it had been done on purpose just to spoil her birthday party. No, I shit you not, that’s exactly how it reads. Obviously it doesn’t occur to the Blessed McTaggart (Saint and Martyr) that the advertisers were reported because they were not complying with advertising standards. And in this case at least, continue to do so.

 

100 ways to live to 100: Your best supplements

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your best supplements

Supplements are the “gateway drug” of the SCAM industry. They skirt the boundaries of legitimacy, alluding to incredible claims that are never explicitly made in the adverts – relying instead on extraordinary testimonials and sciencey-sounding bullshit in alternative magazines like WDDTY. Most of the WDDTY editorial panel appear to profit from selling supplements, and this is also a profitable sideline for homeopaths, chiropractors and other quacks.

Unless you live on a farm, grow all your own organic vegetables and have access to free-range meat, it’s almost certain you have vitamin deficiencies even on the best of diets. Ideally, get yourself tested by a knowledgeable nutritionist to determine which nutrients you need or aren’t getting from your food, and customize your supplement programme accordingly.

This is a blatant sales pitch. There is no good evidence that organic produce is significantly more nutritious than equivalent intensively farmed produce, there is a robust consensus that most people with a healthy balanced diet do not need supplements, and SCAM propagandists are in total denial regarding the rather obvious fact that routine supplementation is medication by any definition, and many of the largest supplement manufacturers are also pharmaceutical companies.

Whatever your political slant, you’ll find an ideologically consonant source telling you that supplements are a waste of money. Daily Mirror, Guardian, Telegraph,  Huffington Post, even the Daily Mail. The claim that the human body has evolved such that even the highly nutritious and enriched modern diet is routinely deficient in large numbers of essential nutrients is implausible, and the promotion of this idea is evidence of the propaganda machine that underpins the immensely profitable supplement industry.

And if your diet is deficient in essential nutrients, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to fix your diet?

The very last person you should consult is a “nutritionist”. Has the public learned nothing from Gillian McKeithW, the noted celebrity copromnancer and holder, like Ben GoldacreW’s cat, of a worthless fake “doctorate” form a worthless fake “health college”? Nutritionists are unregulated, may be untrained or (worse) trained in batshit crazy doctrines with no basis in reality, and their main source of income may well be selling the very supplements they recommend.

21 Choose a good quality multivitamin/mineral supplement

Choose a supplement from a reputable brand. If you can’t find one to your liking, take the nutrients individually.

What constitutes a reputable brand? NBTY, formerly Nature’s Bounty, is a $3bn corporate conglomerate; it owns Holland & Barrett and is owned in turn by the Carlyle GroupW. Centrum is owned by Pfizer. Seven Seas is owned by Merck.

22 Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D

About a third of the general population is vitamin D-deficient. The vitamin offers natural protection against most cancers and heart disease, and can also boost immunity and vascular function. People who regularly supplement with vitamin D increase their longevity by 7 per cent. The body naturally produces it when exposed to sunlight—just 5 to 15 minutes of sunshine a day between 10am and 3pm, without sunscreen, is about enough to do the job.20 Otherwise, supplement with 600–1,000 IU vitamin D/day (400–1,000 IU/ day for those aged 18 and under).

Reference 20: Am J Clin Nutr, 2004; 80: 1678S–88S  Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Holick MF.

Vitamin D is the new vitamin C. The same inflated claims, the same mega dosage recommendations from the same industry lobby groups (e.g. the “Vitamin D council”).

The evidence that adequate vitamin D is important, is pretty solid. The evidence that most people are deficient, not so much. For example, it has been found that the apparent deficiency of vitamin D in African-Americans is an artifact of an evolutionary adaptation; the amount of bioavailable vitamin D is much higher than blood tests suggested.

It is likely that modest supplementation would benefit older people, especially postmenopausal women, though there are potential disbenefits and  some of the claims are shown to be false.

More research is needed. The supplement industry instead spends more money on marketing.

23 Make antioxidants the mainstay of your supplement programme

To minimize damage from free radicals, the toxic byproducts of your body’s metabolism, take adequate daily levels of vitamin A (up to 25,000 IU as beta-carotene or 10,000 IU as retinol), 1–3 g of vitamin E (tocotrienols, up to 600 IU), zinc (10–50 mg), selenium (200 mcg) and vitamin C (1–3 g). And take a good B-complex supplement containing at least 50 mg of thiamine and riboflavin, and 50 mcg of B12.

It’s astonishing that the human race has evolved a metabolism that s incapable of surviving without industrially refined supplements, especially since the availability of these supplements only goes back two or three generations.

Before necking bottles of beta-CaroteneW, it’s as well to be aware that it may increase the risk of prostate cancer, intracerebral hemorrhage, and cardiovascular and total mortality in people who smoke cigarettes or have a history of high-level exposure to asbestos (source).

Once again, a normal healthy balanced diet should contain all the nutrients you need unless you are assessed as deficient by a competent medical professional (i.e. not a nutritionist).

24 Don’t forget magnesium (200–400 g/day) and chromium (100 mcg/day)

According to a large-scale study by the renowned British lab testing service Biolab (see #15), people become deficient in both minerals as they age, and both are necessary for heart health. Magnesium is also essential for bone health and more absorbable than calcium supplements.

Biolab is mainly “renowned” as a lab which offers dodgy diagnostics alongside proper ones and refers people to half the editorial board of WDDTY for treatment of the non-existent conditions they thus diagnose.

NHS Choices seems to think that magnesium and chromium are both widely present in the diet, with no supplementation necessary. The difference may be explained by the fact that NHS Choices is not selling diagnostic tests to allow its referred physicians to profit by selling you the supplement. But that would be conspiracist thinking, and we should probably leave that to WDDTY.

25 Take good-guy bacteria

Invest in a quality probiotic, which includes lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and non-disease causing strains of Escherichia coli and streptococci.

I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Probiotics have been tested on a long list of diseases and conditions, and it appears that a scientific consensus is approaching for the use of certain probiotics for lactose intolerance and rotavirus diarrhea. Claims related to these benefits may be the first to be accepted in many jurisdictions. Before other claims are approved, manufacturers will have to invest considerable time and money to obtain data to show the efficacy and safety of their probiotic product. The data and documentation required to obtain a label health claim will be different in different jurisdictions because of differences in legislation. These discrepancies will add to the challenges faced by probiotics producers and consumers. – J. Nutr. June 2008 vol. 138 no. 6 1250S-1254S The Evidence to Support Health Claims for Probiotics

That’s probably why the Mayo Clinic says that “You don’t necessarily need probiotics — a type of “good” bacteria — to be healthy”.

The probiotic industry is also huge. Major manufacturers are Danone (a multi-billion-Euro French multinational) and the Japanese Yakult corporation. Yakult submitted a request for marketing authorisation, the result of which was:

The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota and maintenance of the upper respiratory tract defence against pathogens by maintaining immune defences.

Still, at least Yakult is actually paying for some research, albeit that it has precisely the same sources of bias as any other industry funded research, and still doesn’t support the claims they want to make.

Astroturfing: Why the information in wddty can be (is!) suspect

This story was inspired by Astroturfing: Why the information on patient group sites can be suspect, wddty, August 2006, and the editors’ apparent inability to join the dots.

There are plenty of tactics that the SCAM industry employ in order to increase sales.  Getting to quacks is easy enough:  ‘educational’ seminars, bogus “research”, payment for “research projects” by putting patients onto untried and often ineffective quack remedies, and funding whole careers are just a few of the gambits they use.

But how to get to the patient directly? Short of straight advertising, one of the best techniques is known as ‘astroturfing’. This involves exploiting the near-religious fervour of woo-believers that, in turn, start promoting the pro-SCAM message to unwitting members who want unbiased information on their condition.

Herbalife (HLF) has just been caught out ‘astroturfing’ via Senator Tom HarkinW, the driving force behind the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act of 1994W. This extended the already lax regulation of supplements in the US by actively preventing the FDA from exerting any authority over the industry, as long as no actual medicinal claims are made. Harkin’s retirement has been described within the SCAM industry in terms similar to a successful sports team losing a long-time great manager.

Herbalife is promoted by multi-level marketingW, and indeed is often considered a pyramid schemeW; like most of SCAM it makes no attempt to stop people linking to the various credulous sites (including WDDTY) that make medicinal claims for its products, leaving it free to advertise on an availability-only basis and thus completely evade any requirement to provide evidence of efficacy or safety.

OxyElite Pro was a “sports supplement” found to cause acute liver toxicity. The FDA was able to regulate swiftly only because it contained aegeline, which was not in use prior to 1994 and therefore counted as “new”. AristolchiaW was sold by supplement companies as an herbal supplement without indications and promoted by miracle diet scammers as a diet product; the result was a serious outbreak of kidney disease and cancers, with several women left dead.

Sadly WDDTY, no doubt due to reasons of space, chose not to cover either of these scandals though it has, having found a way of spinning it as “evil big pharma”, finally acknowledged that contamination of Chinese herbs is rife.

The Advertising Standards Authority, which oversees advertising in the UK, has ruled in dozens of cases against quacks making unsupportable claims for supplements, many of them in WDDTY itself. The quacks are very foolish: they have no need to do this as long as WDDTY and its ilk happily make the bogus claims on their behalf under the guise of “education”. For them, WDDTY is the natural alternative to astroturf. They are certainly smoking something….