Posts Tagged ‘health’

Health Food Scam: Colloidal Silver, Part Two

1 August 2009

Alonzo’s note: Rosemary Jacobs posted a reply to the initial blog posting on the subject of colloidal silver. Instead of including it in the comments, I have taken it upon myself to give her message its own blog posting. I have taken the liberty of adding paragraph divisions and a few other modifications. Ms Jacobs is welcome to post to this blog on this topic whenever she wishes.

This blog was brought to my attention and I was asked to comment on it.

I will try to be brief but that will be difficult since I have been researching silver and argyria for decades since I have had argyria for over 50 years. I have had a website warning people about the silver scam for over 10 years. Please look at it and contact me privately if you want references or more info.

While Alonso’s blog is excellent, there are a few errors. Silver was discontinued because it didn’t work and it discolored lots of people. Silver like alcohol, peroxide, clorox, etc. is a disinfectant that kills many pathogens on contact but not inside people who ingest it like an antibiotic does. There are approved topical drugs that contain silver. Without pulling the citation from Ontario, I believe that the authors themselves concluded that the evidence does not actually demonstrate that silver was the cause of the man’s injuries and death. I and most researchers do not think that the large body of evidence available indicates that silver causes other problems besides argyria, gray skin, although it is very possible that it may in some people but not most. No one knows how many people really ingest silver or how much they ingest since the industry is not regulated.

Lab analysis has shown that silver supplements as well as other virtually unregulated “dietary supplements” often carry inaccurate labels. Some silver supplements have no detectable amount of silver. Others have more or less than the label indicates. Neither are the labels correct about the type of silver in them, but that is irrelevant since there is a great deal of evidence indicating that silver and only silver in any form or all by itself is what causes argyria. What is not known is the toxic amount, the amount that will discolor the average person. Silver forms strong chemical bonds with tissue throughout the body including that in the skin. It isn’t the protein that some silver supplements are bound to that does this. It is the silver which many salesmen refer to as “pure silver”. And large particles don’t get “trapped” anywhere.

If salesmen had an understanding of basic chemistry, they’d know that. There are many cases of argyria caused by silver supplements. There are attorneys getting out-of-court settlements on the behalf of those with the courage to admit that they have been conned and hire an attorney to represent them in a timely fashion, before the statutes of limitations expire. But unfortunately, aside from Jones & Karason I only know of one other person who has admitted publicly that she got argyria from a silver supplement. The others are terribly embarrassed. They feel like idiots. As one said to me, “I feel so stupid. I believed the salesman who told me it was nontoxic and that I could take as much as I wanted. I believed him till I turned gray!” Many people who got argyria from supplements took far less than Paul did and many followed the labels on the products they were sold. (This goes for both commercial brands and home brews made from kits.)

There isn’t a shred of evidence that ingesting silver in any form or amount offers any health benefits whatsoever. There is no evidence in the med. lit. and argyric people have the same health problems as other people and we die at the same average age as everyone else. I was told by an ABC producer who interviewed me and Karason that Oprah got Paul to have a physical which showed that he has prostate cancer. I haven’t verified that, but I had breast cancer at the age of 42 in 1984 even though according to many silver promoters cancer is one of the ton of diseases that silver in our bodies is supposed to prevent and cure.

Rosemary
rosemary@rosemaryjacobs.com
http://rosemaryjacobs.com/

Canadian National Healthcare System: Fact vs Fiction

17 June 2009

TheRealNews is a valuable YouTube channel that reports news stories that may not get much exposure in the American mainstram media. I find most of their reports to be very informative and valuable for me to know about.

Here is a recent video debunking some of the myths about the Canadian healthcare system.

and another video on the same topic from October 2008.

You can visit their website here and even make a donation to help support their work of independent reporting.

http://therealnews.com/t/

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Medical Professionals Are Heroes, Too

30 January 2009

If you’ve ever been to a hospital, even just for a routine exam or treatment, you often get just a glimpse of how hard the doctors, nurses and others professionals work.

Working long hours, often with little sleep and low pay, they make the often difficult decisions that save human life and try to help us live longer. They often have to deal with abusive patients, who cannot understand why doctors and nurses simply can’t “do something” for them. These people simply don’t understand how complicated medicine really is or hour many years doctors and nurses have to study and train to reach a level of competance before they are allowed to treat their first patient. Nurses, especially, are often the target of abuse by angry or impatient people who treat them are little better than the doctors’ secretaries, when they are, in fact, highly-trained professionals.

I used to work in a hospital. I was one of the support staff, but not a doctor or nurse. I got to know the staff at he hospital I worked at as real human beings and I saw a lot of what they went-through on a daily basis.

I found this video on YouTube made in tribute to them. I hope that you will give this video a five-star rating, if you have a YouTube account.

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Health Food Scams: XanGo Juice

15 January 2009

Made with the fruit mangosteen – not to be confused with mangos, which are a different plant- and other juices, it is marketed by the corporation XanGo, LLC which is a multi-level marketing company founded in 2002 and based in Lehi, Utah. They are the current leader in marketing products made from mangosteen juice.

Mangostten is part of a group known as the Guttiferae, a family of mainly tropical trees and shrubs that secrete an acrid yellow resinous juice. Mangosteen’s scientific designation is Garcinia mangostana, named after a French explorer, Jacques Garcin.

Marketing materials for XanGo Juice claim numerous health benefits for humans. These include:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-microbial
  • anti-fungal
  • anti-viral
  • anti-cancer
  • anti-ulcer
  • anti-hepatotoxic
  • anti-rhinoviral
  • anti-allergic effects

Promotional literature for the product claims that antioxidants from the inedible rind of the fruit provide health benefits. But, none of these claims has scientific proof established by peer-reviewed research and human clinical trials.

The company’s website states that “research shows xanthones (an alleged component of XanGo juice) possess potent antioxidant properties that may help maintain intestinal health, strengthen the immune system, neutralize free radicals, help support cartilage and joint function, and promote a healthy seasonal respiratory system”; however, they also add a footnote with the following disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

Notice how they add the disclaimer at the bottom of the label, likely knowing that the majority of people who even glance at it won’t read it all the way through to the end.

A scientific advisor for the company, David A. Morton, PhD , said in 2006 there is “emerging evidence that mangosteen has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial properties”, yet acknowledged the only study of humans consuming mangosteen juice was conducted as a test of dysentery therapy in Singapore in 1932.

By the way, Dr Morton’s brothers, Joe and Gordon, helped found the company in the first place. It’s just a coincidence, right?

Yeah, right.

In 2007, the Mayo Clinic stated there was laboratory evidence that the xanthones in mangosteen had anti-inflammatory activity, but there was no evidence demonstrating such anti-inflammatory effects in humans. Quoting Mayo Clinic, “”there are no published clinical trials showing evidence that either the fruit or its juice — marketed under the name XanGo juice — is an effective treatment for arthritis, cancer or any other disorder in humans.”.

But, they said it had anti-inflammatory properties, didn’t they? Or maybe they just think it has anti-inflammatory properties?

Well, multi-level marketing companies seldom let inconvenient facts get in the way of profits, don’t they?

As far as XanGo’s effectiveness against cancer, the American Cancer Society’s profile of mangosteen juice states there is no reliable evidence that mangosteen juice, puree, or bark is effective as a treatment for cancer in humans.

And wouldn’t you just know that the government would have to step in at some point and not in a small way either. On September 20, 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to XanGo LLC in response to the company’s promotion of Xango juice as a drug (meaning that it could treat or prevent a disease, such a cancer or arthritis), in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)]. The agency’s letter further warned that Xango juice had not been properly tested for safety and efficacy, and as a proposed new drug it could not be legally sold in the US without prior approval of the FDA, and that the company could face enforcement action including seizure and/or injunction of products or suspension of business. Under FDA drug labeling rules, XanGo LLC, as manufacturer, is responsible for satisfying scientific criteria to make health claims on its product labels and all marketing materials. As far as I know, the case remains open.

Dr. Ralph Moss, author of several natural remedy books, said this in reference to XanGo Juice, “In my opinion, what we have here is simply an overpriced fruit drink.”

On visiting the XanGo website, he heard various claims of the anti-cancer benefits of XanGo given by Dr. J. Frederic Templeman, a Georgia family practitioner who has written a small book on mangosteen.

Dr Templeman mentioned that there are 44 scientific publications on this topic. But, as Dr Morton discovered, there are just 29 articles on the topic of Garcinia mangostana in PubMed, the US National Library of Medicine database which contains over 14 million citations. A total of four of these studies relate to cancer.

An over-priced fruit drink. That pretty much sums it up for me, too.

Look, I’m not saying that people don’t have a right to eat and drink something. Neither am I saying that people and businesses don’t have the right to make money.

But, I draw the line when a company or an individual makes health claims about their product that are either untrue or unverified by science.

As I’ve said in previous entries on health, you can do pretty well for yourself by eating and drinking foods that you can find in your local supermarket. For the cost, you can’t beat sweet potatos, blueberries, strawberries, yams and other foods which have been proven to be good for you. They are less expensive than these fad health foods and do the job that these “alternatives” can only claim to do for you. That is: to keep you healthy and help you live a long life.

You might wonder if there could possibly be any harm in drinking XanGo. You may actually like the taste and don’t mind spending the money. Consider the case of a patient with severe acidosis (acidity of the blood plasma) possibly attributable to a year of daily use of mangosteen juice. The amount the patient drank everyday is not specified and neither is the brand. The drink he consumed was infused with xanthones, as occurs in the manufacture of XanGo juice. The authors of the case report proposed that chronic exposure to alpha-mangostin, a xanthone, could be toxic to mitochondrial function, leading to impairment of cellular respiration and production of lactic acidosis.

And you thought it was just another brand of juice, didn’t you?

No, it’s not a juice. It’s a business and a business exists for the sole purpose of making money.

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The #1 Miracle Food Revealed, At Last!!!

13 January 2009

You want a “superfood”?

Okay, I’ll give you one.

This food is rated among the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. High in beta carotene, riboflavin, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, Vitamins B6 and B5, as well as Vitamin C.

Originally coming from South America, it somehow found its way across the Pacific Ocean to become the staple food of the Maoris of New Zealand and it can be found across Polynesia, where it occupied an important place in the traditional diets of those cultures.

It may even be a beneficial food for diabetics, as preliminary studies on animals have revealed that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and to lower insulin resistance.

Even Oprah Winfrey advocates Americans eating more of it. So you know it’s got to be good for you, right?

What am I talking about?

I’m talking about the Sweet Potato. I don’t mean yams, as that’s a different species altogether. But, yams are good for you too.

If you’re looking for something that you can add to your daily diet, that’s easily found in most grocery stores and can be prepared in a wide variety of ways, you can’t go wrong with sweet potatos. The best part of it all is that they don’t cost a lot, unlike the stuff multi-level marketers want to sell to you.

I know, you want something you can takes as a pill or drink as a juice, like Acai or Goji. But, the best way to eat any food is in its natural state (okay, you have to boil or bake it, but you understand) and with the wide choices of preparation and cooking, the sweet potato ranks above other vegetables on grocery shelves.

People eat sweet potatos all around the world. from the USA to Japan, to China, across Polynesia and Central and South America, you won’t find any food that has this kind of global acceptance. The best part is: you can eat it too and there are all kinds of cookbooks where you can find new and interesting recipes to try at home.

I know, it doesn’t come from Tibet or a faraway rainforest. But, it is one of the best foods you can add to your diet and you didn’t need some multi-level marketer to tell you about it.

Now available at your local supermarket.

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Health Food Scam: Acai Berries

11 January 2009

From deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest comes the newest superfood: the Açaí berry. It has been hailed as a natural way to lose weight, slow the effects of aging and fight cancer.

Yeah, sure.

Okay, despite what you have heard about it, the acaí berry isn’t everything it’s cracked-up to be. Like many other so-called “superfoods” or “superfruits”, you can live a perfectly healthy life without ever eating an acaí berry or drinking acaí berry juice.

Acai palms, of the species Euterpe oleracea, consist of seven types of palm trees native to Central and South America. The name of the plant comes from the Tupian word ïwasa’i, ‘fruit that cries or expels water’.

The plants grow quickly, which is a good thing, since global demand has increased in recent years and acai are now grown mostly for their fruit and their hearts of palm. In a study of three traditional Caboclo (i.e. people of mixed Amerindian and European blood) populations in the Amazon region of Brazil, the açaí palm was described as the most important plant species because the fruit makes up such a major component of diet (up to 42% of the total food intake by weight) and is economically valuable in the region.In Brazil, as a whole, acai is consumed in many varieties and in various meals of the day, including in ice cream and as a flavored liqueur.

But, that’s not why you’re reading this blog, is it? You want to know if acai is something you should include in your diet. Okay. Okay. I’ll get to that.

First, is the acai better than all other fruits? Well, no it isn’t. As mentioned in a previous blog, the Kakadu “billy goat” plum has the highest level of Vitamin C of any fruit. So, they can’t make a claim contrary to that without evidence. About 80% of the volume of each berry consists of the pit and the berry itself has such a high fat content that it is usually available outside the harvest area only in juice form or in products like yogurt.

Acai (pronounced “ah-sigh-ee”) is exported as a thick pulp and sold in a capsule, powder or juice form at health food stores and via the Internet. But, acai was virtually unknown outside the USA until 2001, when two brothers, Ryan and Jeremy Black, began to sell acai through Sambazon Inc., promoting its antioxidant properties. Today billion-dollar beverage giants, including Coca-Cola., Pepsi, and Anheuser-Busch., are adding the fruit to their beverage lineups, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s also found in products from Stonyfield Farm and Haagen-Dazs. Procter & Gamble Co. recently infused acai into its Herbal Essence shampoos and conditioners. So, acai is a big money-maker. Sales of acai products jumped to $13.5 million in 2007, up from $435,000 two years before that, according to natural-food tracker Spins Inc.

As far as the medical claims of the proselytizers of the acai berry, they make numerous claims about how great the berry is, often without supporting evidence, so that it’s hard to keep up.

For one thing, they claim that acai products are helpful for weight loss. However, the US Federal Drug Administration has not evaluated acai for its efficiency in losing weight. Despite acai products being linked to popular TV talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, in the later part of 2008, ABC News reported that Oprah’s lawyers began investigating potential claims against acai supplement manufacturers who suggested that frequent Oprah guest Dr. Mehmet Oz had recommended their product or acai berry products in general for their use in losing weight. Actually, what Dr Oz had said was that acai looked like a product that had health benefits and that was it. Dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone, another frequent Oprah guest, also mentioned acai – along with other foods – as being “full of nutrients”. But, Drs Oz and Perricone never said anything about acai’s supposed weight-loss qualities.

Susanne Talcott, a Texas A&M researcher who conducted a human study that showed acai is absorbed by the body and has the potential to bring some health benefits, says

“Most [weight loss] claims I am aware of are not validated at all,”

and further that

“[The study] is a good start, but no basis for some of the outrageous claims that are made and unfortunately believed by consumers”.

Like many other supposed “superfruits”, marketers tend to ignore science, and the Real World in general, in order to boost sales. In this case, it seems that they had realized that people might be more likely to buy their product if Oprah had appeared to endorse it. Makes sense. After all, when Oprah recommends a book on her show, sales of that book do tend to go up. Plus, the perceived endorsement of a cardiothoracic surgeon, like Dr Oz, couldn’t hurt. Even if it was a total frakking lie.

In a comparative study of Acai against ten other fruits juices derived from the natural pulp, the ratings of their antioxidant capacity went like this:

  1. acerola
  2. mango
  3. strawberry
  4. grapes
  5. açaí
  6. guava
  7. mulberry
  8. graviola
  9. passion fruit
  10. cupuaçu
  11. pineapple

So, you’re better off drinking commonly available grape juice, instead of acai juice. If you can find them, you could also get your hands on some mangos or strawberries. The acerola is another plant that grows in Central America, including Puerto Rico and it has been found growing in Hawaii, probably introduced there by Puerto Rican immigrants during the plantation days. Acerola and mango might not be readily found in most US groceries, but strawberries and grapes can be found in various forms on supermarket shelves.

In yet another study, sponsored by Pom Wonderful (which markets pomegranite juice, hence the spiffy name), three commercially available juice brands, containing unspecified percentages of acai juice, were tested against other types of juices and drinks for their in vitro antioxidant capacity. Like the other study, acai didn’t do as well as other, more commonly available, drinks. The rating were highest for:

  • pomegranate juice (good thing for Pom Wonderful);
  • Concord grape juice;
  • blueberry juice; and
  • red wine.

Acai ranked roughly equal to:

  • black cherry; and
  • cranberry juice

And above:

  • orange juice;
  • apple juice; and
  • tea

So, what is so great about Acai? Seriously?

Now, I’m not saying that it doesn’t have nutritional properties. While the dark variety has higher ratings than the white, Acai uniformly does worse in scientific studies when compared to other fruit juices. In a study of different açaí varieties for their antioxidant capacity, a white species displayed no antioxidant activity against different oxygen radicals, whereas the purple variety most often used commercially was excellent against peroxyl radicals, good against peroxynitrite and poor against hydroxyl radicals. Freeze-dried açaí powder was found to have high antioxidant activity against superoxide (your body produces this to fight invading germs, but levels that are too high can be lethal) and peroxyl radicals and milder activity for peroxynitrite (can damage a wide array of molecules in cells, including DNA and proteins) and hydroxyl radicals (can damage virtually all types of macromolecules: amino acids, carbohydrates, as well as mutate nucleic acids, and also peroxidize lipids). The powder was reported to inhibit hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidation in white blood cells, and to have a slight stimulatory effect on nitric oxide production, which helps your body function better. Extracts of açaí seeds were reported to have antioxidant capacity against peroxyl radicals, similar to the capacity of the pulp, with higher antioxidant capacity against peroxynitrite and hydroxyl radicals.

Sorry about all the technical words, but science is seldom simple.

In simpler language, Dr. David Katz, associate clinical professor of public health and medicine at Yale University says that the hype surrounding acai often gets in the way of the science and that we’d do just as well just eating more fruits and vegetables and while there is some merit to the rich antioxidant content of exotic fruits such as acai, consumers can get the same punch in dark chocolate and an array of other foods, such as oranges, tomatoes and blueberries.

Anyway, yes Acai can do your body some good. However, the simple fact is that there are plenty of readily-available foods on grocery shelves all across the USA that are just as good for you, if not better. But, the acai-peddlers are counting on a number of things to market their product, despite the scientific evidence against various claims that they have made about it.

For one thing, they know that a lot of people are desperate to lose weight and they want to do it without a lot of execise. So, offering something they can simply eat attracts a lot of buyers. People buy acai from stores who don’t even market it as a weight-loss product, but they buy it for the purpose of losing weight.

Second, they also understand that people don’t like growing old and will spend big bucks to slow the effects of advancing years upon their bodies. This is simple, but understandable, vanity and it plays right into the hands of the acai pimps.

Third, everyone has a dread fear of cancer and hyping acai as an anti-cancer supplement plays right into peoples’ deepest fears. My mother died of ovarian cancer, my grandmother of pancreatic cancer, so being afraid of getting cancer myself is something I understand completely.

So, while acai does have some nutritional value, it isn’t an outstanding “wonder food”, as it is marketed. You can live just as well by eating more of the commonly-available foods I have already mentioned.

Ultimately, the marketers of the acai berry products are using fear and vanity to sell their product and it is a product that we really don’t need.

Anyone who relies on fear and vanity to sell you something is some one who should not be trusted and you shouldn’t give them your money.

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Health Food Scams: Goji Berries

11 January 2009

For the sake of clarification, the Goji berry, is actually called the Wolfberry. Wolfberry is the common name for the fruit of two very closely related species: Lycium barbarum and L. chinense, two species of boxthorn in the family Solanaceae (which also includes the potato, tomato, eggplant, deadly nightshade, chili pepper, and tobacco).

Although its original habitat is obscure (most likely southeastern Europe to southwest Asia), wolfberry species currently grow in many world regions. Only in China, however, is there significant commercial cultivation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Germplasm Resources Information Network, it is also known as Chinese wolfberry, goji berry, barbary matrimony vine, bocksdorn, Duke of Argyll’s tea tree, or matrimony vine. Unrelated to the plant’s geographic origin, the names Tibetan goji and Himalayan goji are in common use in the health food market for products from this plant.

With a reputation in Asia as a highly nutritious food, wolfberries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for about 1,900 years. Their undocumented legend, however, is considerably older, as wolfberries are often linked in Chinese lore to Shen Nung (Shennong), China’s legendary First Emperor, mythical father of agriculture, and herbalist who lived circa 2,800 BC.

Wolfberries have long played important roles in traditional Chinese medicine where they are believed to enhance immune system function, improve eyesight, protect the liver, boost sperm production, improve circulation, etc, etc, etc. Not surprisingly, the supposed health benefits from Goji have been confirmed mostly by Chinese health officials, while none have been confirmed in Western circles. No peer-reviewed research has confirmed health benefits from consuming Goji products by any reputable Western authority in clinical testing. Remember, the Chinese are the ones growing it in the hopes that we will buy it and they know we won’t buy it unless they tell us how astonishingly great it is for our health. I’m surprised that they don’t tell us that it will make the blind see, the deaf hear and raise people from the dead, to be honest.

Starting just a few years ago, wolfberries (a.k.a. Goji berries) have entered the American and European health food markets as one of the “superfruits” (i.e. fruits supposedly of high nutritional value) and is expected to be part of a billion dollar market by the year 2011. This is what a billion looks like: $1,000,000,000. The primary marketing angle for Goji berries centers around their high nutrient and antioxidant values, which are pretty good, I must admit.

Despite what you have heard about “Tibetan Goji”, the bulk of commercially-produced Goji comes from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of north-central China and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China, where they are grown on plantations, not on moutain tops. Commercial volumes of Goji also grow in the Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Hebei.

As with other Chinese-grown agricultural products, the US Food and Drug Administration has found high residual levels of insecticides and fungicides on some imported Goji, which led to the seizure of those shipments. While some American retailers talk about “organically-grown Goji” and show a Green label on their product, that label does not come from the FDA, but is the China Green Food Standard, which is administered by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture’s China Green Food Development Center, which does allow a certain amount of insecticide, fungicide and herbicide use even for products labelled as “organic”.

Further, despite marketers’ claims of “wild-crafted” or “wild harvested” Goji, Tibetan farmers do use the pesticides and fertilizers in their agricultural sector and they have no certification process for organically-grown produce.

To make matters worse, when marketers claim that their Goji products were grown in the Tibetan and Mongolian Himalayas, they ignore the simple fact that the Himalayas do not extend into Mongolia, which is about one thousand miles away from the Himalayas. Also, Goji grown on the mountains bordering the Tibetan plateau would be few and far between, since the region is inhospitable to commercial agriculture of any kind, beyond the sparse, low bushes that can grow there in the 10,000 foot elevation, unfriendly climate and poor soil quality. Nighttime temperatures there are below freezing and there is six months of perpetual frost out of the year, which would certainly prevent the maturation of any fruit. It is in the Tibetan plateau itself, with its valleys and plains where Goji is grown. So, Goji is not a magical fruit harvested from wild plants growing in the mountains, but harvested from plantation-grown wolfberry plants.

Much of Goji’s marketing centers around its high Vitamin C levels and it is claimed by some marketers to have the highest Vitamin C level of any plant in the world. However, clinical studies have shown it to have similar level of this vitamin as many citrus fruits and of strawberries. To further debunk this claim, it also has a lower level of Vitamin C than numerous other fruits and berries, such as the Australian Kakadu “billy goat” plum. So, why isn’t somebody selling kakadu plums in America,since they do have the highest Vitamin C levels of any fruit? Well, Australia isn’t as exotic a place as Tibet. Remember, it’s all about marketing.

While touting the benefits of Goji, an individual, named Li Qing Yuen, is often mentioned as a man who ate Goji berries daily and lived to be over 240 years old. Any solid proof of this man’s very existence is lacking and is likely to be just a myth or just as likely to be an outright lie invented so that people will buy Goji products in the hopes of living longer.

In January 2007, marketing statements for a goji juice product were subject of an investigative report by CBC Television’s consumer advocacy program “Marketplace”. In a review of medical literature pertaining to each proposed claim of health benefits from Himalayan Goji Juice summarized that 22 of 23 claims had no evidence for providing a health benefit beyond that inferred from preliminary in vitro or laboratory animal research. For cancer specifically, four studies were reviewed and it was concluded that the research was too preliminary to allow any conclusion about an anti-cancer effect of consuming wolfberries or wolfberry juice.

By one specific example in the CBC interview, Earl Mindell – a writer and nutritionist who currently lives in Beverly Hills, CA (you think he’s got money? I think so) and is associated with FreeLife International, a multi-level marketing company based in Milford, Connecticut that (surprise!) sells Goji juice – claimed the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York had completed clinical studies showing that use of wolfberry juice would prevent 75% of human breast cancer cases, a statement false in three ways:

  1. no such project has been undertaken at Memorial Sloan-Kettering;
  2. according to the National Cancer Institute of the US National Institutes of Health, no natural or pharmaceutical agent has been shown in clinical trials to fully prevent breast cancer, only to reduce its risk; specifically, there are no completed or ongoing clinical trials in the United States testing the effects of wolfberries or wolfberry juice on breast cancer outcomes or any other disease; and
  3. beyond preliminary laboratory studies and one Chinese clinical trial described only in an abstract, there is no scientific evidence for wolfberry phytochemicals or wolfberry juice having cancer-preventive properties.

A little bit more about Earl Mindell’s educational background: Mindell received a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from North Dakota State University in 1963 or 1964. He earned a Master Herbalist Diploma from Dominion Herbal College in 1995. Mindell’s Ph.D. was conferred in 1985 by Pacific Western University, an unaccredited distance-learning institution. Sounds to me like if Earl goes out of business selling Goji juice, he could get a job with a creation science organization, am I right?

Significant in nutrient and phytochemical composition, wolfberries are being developed as new products in the functional food industry under FDA regulatory review since December 2006 for label and marketing claims as being also conducted in 2007 by the European Union. During 2006, the FDA placed two goji juice distributors on notice with warning letters about marketing claims. These statements were in violation of the United States Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act [21 USC/321 (g)(1)] because they “establish the product as a drug intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” when wolfberries or juice have had no such scientific evaluation. Additionally stated by the FDA, the goji juice was “not generally recognized as safe and effective for the referenced conditions” and therefore must be treated as a “new drug” under Section 21(p) of the Act. New drugs may not be legally marketed in the United States without prior approval of the FDA, as stated in these letters.

Goji marketing is just the latest example of people trying to cash-in on the health food craze that this country experiences every few years. Now, it’s Goji. A few years ago, it was noni juice. Before that, it was something else. In a few years, a new product will enter the market for people to be told that it is the “one food you really need to live a long and healthy life” and Goji will be just another footnote.

A common statement among people who sell products like Goji is that the medical industry doesn’t really want you to get better. They want you to stay sick, so that doctors can make money off of your illness and buy expensive houses, boats and cars for themselves. Doctors are demonized to such a degree that it is astonishing! To actually claim that your doctor doesn’t care if you live or die is the worst kind of slander. If you’ve ever met a doctor who was an oncologist or cardiologist and asked them if they remember the very first patient who died under their care, they will all remember. They remember them all. Every single one and it hurts them to remember. Doctors are human beings, not soulless Terminators. I will grant a certain amount of soullessness to the HMOs and pharmaceutical companies, though.

It is, in my honest opinion, the people who market bogus healthcare products who are the dangerous ones. I don’t Truthfully believe they care about you or your health. They only care about the money you give them to buy whatever it is they are selling. If you actually do get better, then you’ll buy more of their product, encourage others to do the same and they will use your testimonial to sell more of their product. If you don’t get better, no one will know about it but yourself, your family and your doctor. The marketer certainly won’t mention it in their brochures.

While I am all in favor of people eating healthier foods, I draw the line at people who latch onto the latest health food fad in the hopes of making big money off of people’s fear over sickness and high medical bills. To be honest, what we need in this country is what Michael Moore proposed in his 2007 movie “Sicko“, which calls for a national healthcare plan for every American. If an American was guaranteed health care, they’d be less likely to be exploited by the money-hungry marketers of Goji, Noni and fad supplements.

While Goji does have a lot of nutrients in it, it is far from the miracle food it has been marketed as. Yes, it would be a good thing to have in your diet. But, given the expense, you could just as well do without it completely with a balanced diet.

PS: I acknowledge my use of the Wikipedia article on Goji.

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Health Food Scams: Alaskan Blueberries

11 January 2009

A friend asked me what I know about Alaskan Blueberries (Vaccinium alaskensis), which some company is marketing as yet another “superfruit”. I had to admit that I hadn’t heard anything about it and decided to do some research on the topic.

Okay, first of all, it is called the “Alaskan blueberry” but it doesn’t only grow in Alaska. Its known range extends as far south as Oregon. So, be wary of people that tell you that it only grows in one place in the Whole Wide World. It’s that kind of “very rare plant” angle that some multi-level marketing (MLM) companies try to exploit, in the hopes that some one might either not own a computer or a library card, be literate or even willing to checkout a product’s background before they spend their hard-earned money on the latest Superfad.

Now, blueberries, in general, are very good for you. They have been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risks of certain cancers, reduce stroke damage in test animals and have a high level of antioxidants, among other things. So, yes, adding blueberries to your daily diet – say one cup of blueberries everyday – can help you be healthier.

This particular species of blueberry is known to grow well in forest openings, like clearcuts and areas that had been hit by forest fires. It will grow until the forest begins to overgrow the area and then the blueberries will appear less and less. They had been used as food by Native American tribes in the area, as well as by a number of animals, such as deer, bears, rabbits and mice.

But, are Alaskan Blueberries some sort of miracle food? To be completely Truthful, I haven’t seen any evidence that blueberries from Alaska are any better for you than blueberries from anywhere else.

One angle in-use is that Native Americans ate them. Well, so what? Native American tribes,  for the most part, tended to be hunter-gatherers and ate whatever they could find or kill. Hence, the term “hunter-gatherer”. They ate them because 1) they weren’t poisonous; and 2) they were available. Some animals used parts of the Alaskan blueberry plant to make their nests. Does that mean we should build our houses out of Alaskan blueberry bushes?

Currently, the MLM that is marketing Alaskan blueberry products is some bunch called Kiyani Inc. Here’s their website if you’re interested.

On their website, they claim that the antioxidant value of their product was rated higher than two other products out on the market. Who did the rating? A company called Brunswick Laboratories.

So, who is Brunswick Lab? I have no idea, except that they seem to do an awful lot of work for MLMs out to market their superfoods. Coincidence? Maybe. Kiyani says that Brunswick is a “nationally-respected testing facility”, but, I have to ask: respected by whom? There is nothing about them on Wikipedia or on any website unrelated to a multi-level marketing company that I can find.

You see a pattern here? Have you noticed it, yet? If you have, you’re one of the few that has caught-on to the multi-level marketers’ main angle. Here’s what’s going-on for those who haven’t noticed:

All these superfoods seem to come from faraway places that most people have never been or even seen. I mean, if you’re in Alaska, Alaska blueberries are nothing special. Heck, they’re just blueberries to Alaskans, right? They grow close-by so, they’re not very expensive at the neighborhood stores. They grow wild, so you could pick your own, if you want and if you’re very careful to avoid bears. But, if you live in another part of the USA, Alaska is this faraway land of ice and snow. A mysterious place that you have only seen in movies or the occasional Discovery Channel show. It’s also where Sarah Palin, the super-hottie and intelligence-challenged Governor comes from. So, when some multi-level marketer tells you that there’s a miracle food growing in Alaska that will help you be healthy and happy, you might be more willing to shell-out some bucks for a jar of Alaskan blueberry jam. I guarantee you that you’ll be paying more for that jar than John Q. Citizen in Eskimoland is going to pay for it at his local supermarket.

Just like Goji comes from faraway Tibet or Mongolia and Noni comes from the exotic South Pacific, Alaska blueberries have the benefit – for the multi-level marketers, anyway –  of coming from a place that is a distant locale to the suckers that are going to be buying it from the MLMs. Yeah, I said “suckers”. because only a sucker would forego all the available healthy foods that they can easily get at any supermarket to buy something from some MLM that’s going to cost you more than the thing is worth. Hey, you can buy blueberries from the store you normally shop at and you want to buy some marked-up bottle of blueberry juice from somebody who only cares about lining their pockets and couldn’t care less if you really got healthier? Come on, people! Read their websites, sometime. They talk about the “golden opportunity” for you to make money selling their product. It’s all about the money and nothing else.

I’m going to do you a favor, right now. I’m going to list some real superfoods that, if added to your daily diet can really help you be healthier and I’m going to do it for FREE. Here goes:

Sweet potatoes were a staple food of the Maori people of New Zealand. (Hey! That’s a faraway place that most people have never been to, right?) These things are chock-full of vitamins and dietary fiber. They are one of the best things you can add to your diet, in fact. But don’t confuse them with yams, because they are two different plants. But, speaking of yams…

Yams are another food that is high in nutritional value. Not as good as sweet potatoes. But, if you can’t find real sweet potatoes at the store, get yams instead. Yams are one of the staple foods of Western Africa, where they make it into something called “fu fu”. If you don’t know what fu fu is, Google it. I’m not going to post a recipe for fu fu right now. All you’ll need is yams, a food processor and some other things I can’t remember off the top of my head. Just Google it, okay?

But, wait! (insert sound effect here) There’s more!

Natto can be found at any Asian grocery that caters to Japanese. It looks like beans suspended in snot, it smells like rotten cheese and tastes kind of funky. But, the good news is that you can get used to it. Natto is very good for you and some of the older generation in Japan eat it every morning. Consumption of natto can help prevent strokes. Just mix it with wasabe and shoyu and it will taste better. Put it over a bowl of steaming rice and dig in!

But, wait! There’s more!

Tea, the second most consumed beverage in the world, right behind water. It’s Number Two after plain water! How many studies detailing the health benefits of tea do you need to see before you drink a few cups of tea everyday? Fresh-brewed iced tea, made with ordinary Lipton bag tea is way better for you that Coke or Pepsi. For hot tea, I suggest PG Tips, the most popular brand of tea sold in England, which is now available at in the USA, by the way, and you can even find people selling cases of it on eBay.

Oh, what else? Let’s mention: nuts of all kinds, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, citrus fruits.

That’s all I’m going to list for now. There are more examples I could give, but I think the point has been made. There a lots of foods available at your local grocery store that you can add to your daily diet and be healthier. That doesn’t give all you people an excuse to not exercise, though. You don’t just sit down at the dinner table, eat all these healthy foods I’ve just mentioned and then go sit on the couch to get fat. Get into a habit of some kind of daily exercise program, even if it’s only going for a walk.

I’m not making any money off this blog. I’m not going to make a cent steering you away from multi-level marketers trying to sell you a product that you could live quite well without.

My only obligation is to the Truth and that’s what I just gave you.

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Health Food Scam: Colloidal Silver

11 January 2009

The topic that I want to address today are health care scams and I’m going to start with Colloidal Silver, which you will sometimes see advertised in Alternative Health newspapers and magazines or on some radio shows that cater to that crowd.

You may not have even heard about colloidal silver until now, but that’s not unusual. Basically, it is microscopic particles of silver suspended in a solution. The broader commercial definition of colloidal silver includes products that contain various concentrations of ionic silver, silver colloids, ionic silver compounds or silver proteins in purified water. Colloidal silver with concentrations of 30 parts per million (ppm) or less are typically manufactured using an electrolysis process, whereas colloidal silver with higher concentrations of 50 ppm or more are usually either silver compounds such as silver chloride and silver iodide or are solutions that have been bound with a protein to disperse the particles.

With me, so far? Okay, sorry if it got a bit complicated there.

Anyway, silver had been used as an antibacterial treatment in the days before antibiotics, such as penicillin, were developed and the processes for making them was perfected. Colloidal silver and other treatments that used silver, were, for the most part, abandoned at the advent of modern antibiotics. Colloidal silver works by inhibiting the growth and reproduction of bacteria, essentially starving bacteria to death. Sounds good, so far, right? So, you may be wondering why doctors stopped using it, if it worked so well, in favor of using antibiotics.

Now, people in the Alternative Health Industry will tell you that colloidal silver is the victim of a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical companies. The drug corporations suppressed the making and use of colloidal silver, so that they could make their millions selling antibiotics to the medical community. Anyway, that’s the story they like to tell. “It’s a conspiracy!” Yeah, it always is.

Colloidal silver’s proponents will often leave-out the reason why it’s no longer in use by doctors: silver can build-up in your body, make you sick and even kill you. There is a report available online of a 71 year old man who died after taking colloidal silver orally for four months. Here is an excerpt of the report:

“Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada. The authors report a case of a 71-year-old man who developed myoclonic status epilepticus and coma after daily ingestion of colloidal silver for 4 months resulting in high levels of silver in plasma, erythrocytes, and CSF. Despite plasmapheresis, he remained in a persistent vegetative state until his death 5.5 months later. Silver products can cause irreversible neurologic toxicity associated with poor outcome.”.

One of the most obvious signs of silver-poisoning is that your skin turns a blueish color. Oh, by the way, this change of color is usually permanent. This condition is called Argyria.

There is a Libertarian Party politician in Montana, named Stan Jones, who took homemade colloidal silver, out of fear that the Year 2000 “problem” that had panic-stricken dupes predicting the end of the modern world as we know it, would make modern antibiotics unavailable. So, he self-medicated himself with colloidal silver and it made his skin turn a blue-gray. Here’s a picture I found of him on the Internet. I swear I didn’t doctor it:
Stan Jones

Another guy, Paul Karason, took colloidal silver over the course of a decade and it made his skin turn purplish-blue. He was taking it orally and rubbing it into his skin as a treatment for dermatitis. Despite his current skin color – argyria also stains the internal organs, by the way – he still touts colloidal silver for its “great benefits” for sinus, arthritis and acid reflux. He moved from Oregon to Madera, CA in the hopes of finding greater community acceptance. He describes himself as a recluse, of sorts. I’m looking forward to him and all the other disciples of colloidal silver selling “Blue Power” t-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers on CafePress. Eventually, a lot of them are going to have a common skin color, if they keep it up. Here’s a picture of Paul, whose skin is an even darker shade of blue that Mr Jones
Paul Karason

Argyria has also been observed in people who work with silver or silver compounds, so it didn’t just happen when people started taking colloidal silver. The effect of ingesting silver was already well-known beforehand, so there is no excuse for not knowing about it. Studies in rats also show that drinking water containing very large amounts of silver (9.8 grams of silver per U.S. gallon water or 2.6 grams per liter) is likely to be life-threatening.

So, silver, while being very pretty and somewhat valuable, isn’t good for you to eat, drink or breath-in. ‘Nuff said.

So, why is colloidal silver still attracting people? Seriously, if the stuff  has been shown to cause brain damage, seizures, and death or a persistent vegetative state., or even if it just turns your skin and internal organs a blueish color, why do people still use it? Well, there are some angles involved and I’ll do my best to impart some Truth.

First, you have the very real history of colloidal silver’s use as an antibacterial. Nothing works for selling a product like it actually having happened. They just leave out the reasons it was discontinued.

Second, you’ve got the Conspiracy Angle. A conspiracy is always blamed for why a particular product isn’t in-use by doctors. The conspiracy claimed is that Pharmaceutical companies are conspiring with doctors to suppress the use and even the knowledge of colloidal silver in the hopes of cashing-in on selling their antibiotics. I’ve even seen machines being sold in some publications that allow people to make their own colloidal silver. I don’t think they mention the argyria thing, though, or the guy who died from taking it. Essentially, what the multi-level marketers (them, again) tell their customers is that they are “taking control of their own health” by using colloidal silver, instead of having their doctor prescribe antibiotics. Naturally, the MLMs are making money, but they will tell you that their doing it to help you live healthier and longer, not to make money. Sure.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared that colloidal silver cannot be marketed as a drug, since all drugs must be approved through a rigorous government-sanctioned procedure. So, MLMs market it as a “supplement” to get-around that law. Supplements don’t have to acquire government approval.

I’m not saying that antibiotics always work or that they are perfect. Every drug, every herb, every food will affect somebody in a negative way. That’s not a conspiracy. That’s Life.

One reason why some antibiotics stop working is the natural course of evolution even applies to bacteria. When people don’t take their prescription antibiotics for the length of time their doctors tell them, the bacteria can evolve to resist antibiotics. This requires stronger antibiotics. In some cases, there are some bacteria that can resist all but the strongest of antibiotics and this is partly because the bacteria has been allowed to evolve, instead of people following their doctors’ advice and letting the antibiotics kill it completely.

You see, doctors go to medical school and they know more about medicine than some guy selling some product through a newspaper ad.

Eventually, some multi-level marketer is going to send me a complaint that I am costing them money by publishing these blogs. They might claim that I am an agent of the pharmaceutical companies, the medical industry or some other such nonsense.

The only loyalty I have is to the Truth and if the MLMs can’t handle the Truth, that is not my problem. It’s theirs.

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