Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Que She: The miracle diet pill that wasn’t

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 8, 2010

This Pill Will Revolutionize Weight Loss!” gushed a supporter about a year ago! This is revoutionary, it’s miraculous, it’s all natural, has no side effects blah blah blah, here read for yourself:

It is a combination of 11 Chinese herbs that can help you lose weight. These herbs work together to help increase your metabolism and increase energy. This revolutionary supplement is not a stimulant or an appetite suppressant, and it does not leave you feeling wired or hungry. It simply helps your body perform at an optimized digesting level. This product is all natural and made from common Chinese herbs; it will not cause you to lose your appetite it will only allow your body to use the food you intake more efficiently.

I have read many testimonials about this product and it gets rave reviews. Everyone I have spoken to that has tried this product has gotten great results from it. I have not heard reports of nasty side effects. Some weight loss pills leave you feeling jittery, or they may have a serious crash if you stop taking them, but Que She does not have these effects. This weight loss pill actually helps you control thoughts of eating, and users report that they still get hungry, but it is not in a compulsive manner; they get hungry when they actually are hungry. Que She may be the herbal supplement dieters have been looking for all these years.

It may…except that it isn’t. A recent FDA report warns users to stop using it immediately.

FDA Public Health Alert: Que She Weight Loss Capsules Contain Potentially Harmful Ingredients

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today warned that Que She, marketed as an herbal weight loss supplement, contains active pharmaceutical ingredients not listed on the product label that could harm consumers, especially those with cardiovascular conditions.

People who have purchased Que She should stop taking the product immediately and consult a health care professional.

Wait a minute, this is all natural! There’s no way it contains anything “chemical”!

An FDA analysis of Que She found that it contains:

  • fenfluraminea stimulant drug withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1997 after studies demonstrated that it caused serious heart valve damage
  • propranolol – a prescription beta blocker drug that can pose a risk to people with bronchial asthma and certain heart conditions
  • sibutramine – a controlled substance and prescription weight loss drug, sibutramine was the subject of a recent study whose preliminary findings showed an association between sibutramine use and increased risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who have a history of heart disease
  • ephedrinea stimulant drug that is legally marketed over-the-counter for temporary relief of asthma but can pose a risk to people with certain cardiovascular conditions.

These active pharmaceutical ingredients also may interact with other medications and result in a serious adverse event.

Woops!

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FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid Vita Breath Dietary Supplement

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 11, 2010

READ THE FULL RELEASE AT FDA.GOV

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers not to purchase nor consume Vita Breath, a dietary supplement manufactured by American Herbal Lab Inc. of Rosemead, Calif., and marketed at health fairs and on the Internet, because the product may contain hazardous levels of lead.

The FDA was notified by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about a patient with lead poisoning who reported taking Vita Breath and two other herbal products. The department analyzed a sample of Vita Breath and reported it contained 1,100 parts per million of lead. This level is more than 10,000 times higher than FDA’s maximum recommended level for lead in candy.

READ THE FULL RELEASE AT FDA.GOV

Heart patients may be at risk from Herbal remedies

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 2, 2010

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT CTV CALGARI

Herbal remedies, such as St. John’s wort, gingko biloba — even garlic, may be putting patients on heart medications at serious risk, doctors are warning.

In a scientific review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, doctors warn that while herbal remedies are thought of as safe and natural, they can cause serious interactions with heart drugs.

Some examples of supplements that can be dangerous to heart patients include:

• St. John’s wort. It’s typically used to treat depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, but it can reduce the effectiveness of heart medications, leading to recurrences of arrhythmia, high blood pressure or increase in blood cholesterol levels.

• Ginkgo biloba. This natural remedy is often taken to improve circulation or sharpen the mind, increases bleeding risk in those taking common blood thinners, such as warfarin or aspirin.

• Gingseng. While it’s touted as a way to increase energy and mental alertness, it can also increase blood pressures, cause low blood sugar, and decrease the effects of warfarin.

• Green tea. While it’s touted as an antioxidant and stimulant, green tea also contains vitamin K, so it too can make warfarin ineffective

• Garlic. Garlic supplements are often taken to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which is important for heat patients. But at the same time, it can also increase the risk of bleeding among those taking warfarin.

The authors of the JACC review, who review over years of study on heart medication and herbal supplements, say the growing use of natural health products is especially concerning among elderly patients. That’s because many of them have multiple health issues, take multiple medications, and are already at greater risk of bleeding.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT CTV CALGARI

Ginkgo biloba – No Effect

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on January 3, 2010

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE

Another one bites the dust.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is generally a waste of taxpayer money, but they have sponsored several well-designed large trials of popular herbal supplements. And one by one these studies have shown these popular products, such as echinacea for the common cold, to be ineffective.

To add to the list, published in JAMA this week are the results of the largest and longest trial to date of Gingko biloba for the improvement of cognitive function and to treat, prevent, or reduce the effects of Alzheimers disease or other dementia. The results of the study are completely negative.

The study was very rigorous – a consensus trial designed to address all the criticisms of prior smaller studies. It was a direct comparison of Gingko biloba at 120mg twice a day, double blind, randomized, multi-center trial involving 3019 subjects aged 72-96 for a median of 6.1 years. Subjects were followed with standardized tests of cognitive function.

The results are easy to report – every measure showed no difference between G biloba and placebo. There was no difference in cognitive function, risk of developing dementia, rate of progression of dementia or normal cognitive decline with aging. Usually such studies involve some random noise in the results, especially when several outcomes are measured. But with such a large study, random fluctuations should average out, and that is exactly what happened.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE

Important Studies page update

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on January 3, 2010

The Important Studies page has been updated to include the latest study on Ginko Biloba, the herb that purportedly helps with cognitive decline illnesses in older adults, which came back with absolutely negative results. It appears ginko is gunko!

Doctor who hailed herbal cancer cure arrested

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 10, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT MSNBC

LOS ANGELES – Prosecutors brought fraud charges Thursday against a family doctor accused of promising terminally ill cancer patients in their darkest hours that they would be cured with an herbal treatment.

Using her influence as an ordained Pentecostal minister, Dr. Christine Daniel tapped into the vessel of faith to entice people from across the nation to try her regimen. She even appeared on cable’s Trinity Broadcasting Network in 2002 touting her cancer cure and its 60 percent success rate, according to federal investigators.

Authorities arrested Daniel, 55, at her San Fernando Valley home Thursday and charged her with two counts each of wire and mail fraud. If convicted, she faces up to 80 years in prison.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT MSNBC

Tests show many supplements have quality problems

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 9, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “YAHOO NEWS”

Lead in ginkgo pills. Arsenic in herbals. Bugs in a baby’s colic and teething syrup. Toxic metals and parasites are part of nature, and all of these have been found in “natural” products and dietary supplements in recent years.

Set aside the issue of whether vitamin and herbal supplements do any good.

Are they safe? Is what’s on the label really what’s in the bottle? Tests by researchers and private labs suggest the answer sometimes is no.

One quarter of supplements tested by an independent company over the last decade have had some sort of problem. Some contained contaminants. Others had contents that did not match label claims. Some had ingredients that exceeded safe limits. Some contained real drugs masquerading as natural supplements.

“We buy it just as the consumer buys it” from stores, said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com. The company tests pills for makers that want its seal of approval, and publishes ratings for subscribers, much as Consumer Reports does with household goods.

Other tests, reported in scientific journals, found prenatal vitamins lacking claimed amounts of iodine, and supplements short on ginseng and hoodia — an African plant sparking the latest diet craze.

“There’s at least 10 times more hoodia sold in this country than made in the world, so people are not getting hoodia,” said Dr. Mehmet Oz, a heart surgeon and frequent Oprah Winfrey guest who occasionally has touted the stuff.

Industry groups say that quality problems are the exception rather than the rule.

“I believe that the problem is narrow, that the well-established and reputable brands deserve their reputations,” said Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “YAHOO NEWS”

Alt med galore!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on January 23, 2009

Did you know that sales of herbal formulas for cleansing, detoxification and organ support among natural food retailers were more than $27 million from Dec. 2, 2007, to Nov. 29, 2008 and that 54 food and drink products were launched in 2008 with the word “detox” in their descriptions — up from 15 in 2003? Why is that you ask?

“Western medicine is treating the symptoms instead of addressing the root cause,” said Edward F. Group III, a Houston-based naturopath with theholisticoption.com, an online resource for the alternative wellness community. “We basically have a world that’s constipated. It’s like if you change your oil in your car but never change the oil filter. Ultimately it gets so full of sludge the engine’s going to break down.”

Holy shit! Treat the root cause…fucking genius! I wonder what these geniuses think transplants are! Symptom treatments?

In fact this holistic approach is so, well inclusive, that this one stumbled across it… on her massage parlor:

I saw this first-hand in my massage practice when a client came in complaining of neck pain. As I began the massage I followed a line of tension all the way down the back, to the hips. Later I found increased muscle tension and decreased range of motion in the muscles of the leg as well. As I began to work this myofascial restriction the client mentioned, “Oh yeah – I hurt my knee 6 months ago, I forgot to tell you.” Even though it didn’t seem related to the client, the pattern of compensation set up in the body because of the knee injury, caused an imbalance in the body. The client felt the pain in the neck, but the root of the problem began in the leg.

Get it? Treat the cause not just the symptom. This guy bumped his knee and he got a stiff neck. 6 MONTHS LATER! That’s just amazing biologically speaking…amazing! I’m sure no modern, close-minded, cynical, western educated doctor could have helped him. No sir, you need a masseuse for this kind of shit, nothing less will do!

And you’d better look for this sort of help because, aparently “the American medical establishment crumbles around us — dying from its own greed, government neglect, a corrupt insurance system, and the disgusting excesses of the pharmaceutical industry“. Run for your life! Oh, sweet sounds of neck crackig chiropractors where art thou?

And let’s not let the western alternative medicine practitioners get all the credit. Let us not forget that fabulous Indian treasure, Ayurveda. Did you know it is to be credited for George Clooney’s and Madonna’s good looks? And also, the French President’s secret of stamina at this age is the special secret massages by alternative medicine expert Jean-Paul Moureau! Oui, oui! And why not, after all:

Ayurvedic massages just don’t end at skin care or relaxation. It is aimed at holistic well-being: meeting your physical, spiritual and emotional needs. During a massage session, the specialised masseuse transforms positive energy into the body thereby creating a feel good factor.” It’s about the environment in the spa — the oils used, the background music and the traditional techniques — that do wonders to one’s health.

The wonder…THE WONDER! I’m wonder-ified, aren’t you? And you didn’t think I’d leave without a tip of the heat to good ol’ Christianity now did you?

Much of alternative medicine has sound biblical applications in health and healing of disease. We need more representation in Christendom for this powerful healing system, which is predominately embraced by other belief systems.

In my experience as a Christian physician, I have seen fellow believers embrace teachings like this and accept some very clear pagan practices and count them as being permissible in Christian experience. I am not sure if they read the same Bible as I do, but I get clear instruction from the Scripture that pagan practices break the very first command that God gave to humankind, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

I wonder if this guy puts up a tree for Christmas? Can someone inform him that this is a pagan practice, lest he end up glorifying a God other than the real one that is?

Oh and one last thing, if you’re supposed to be on a low iodine diet as treatment for thyroid cancer, you may want to steer clear of supplements. My favorite words from that article: Voodoo Medicine! Precious words for sure!

No Benefit from Gingko

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on November 26, 2008

Gingko biloba is widely used as a supplement (even though it is really an herbal drug) to improve memory to help treat or prevent dementia. However, there are no quality trials showing that it is effective. This month in JAMA is published the results of a study that has been going on for the past 8 years looking at ginkgo in elderly patients. I have actually been waiting for these results for a while – a large and fairly definitive trial to end the debates about the significance of the preliminary data we have had so far.

The results did not surprise me – after following 3069 subjects for an average of 6.1 years, the study concluded:

In this study, G biloba at 120 mg twice a day was not effective in reducing either the overall incidence rate of dementia or AD incidence in elderly individuals with normal cognition or those with MCI. (MCI = minimal cognitive impairment)

Therefore the best data we have to date – the results of a very large, well controlled, and highly anticipated trial – gingko does not work. It is always interesting, once such trials have come to light, to then look back at the previous research to see how it compares. What we find is a pattern of suggestively positive studies. Basic science data, for example, showed that gingko extract may reduce amyloid precursor protein in mice – this is a protein that builds up in Alzheimer’s disease. Preliminary clinical trials were mixed but tended to be positive.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “NEUROLOGICA”

There’s Drugs in Those Drugs

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on August 4, 2008

My beef with herbal concoctions is not that they cannot work (like homeopathy or therapeutic touch) but that they are not properly regulated. Herbs contain chemicals that can have a pharmacological action in the body, can alter metabolism, have toxicity, and can interact with other drugs. In other words – they are drugs. They are simply not purified and quantified, and most countries do not require testing for herbs similar to pharmaceuticals. So they are unreliable drugs.

But another dirty little secret of the supplement industry is the occasional use of actual known drugs in supplement preparations to give it a real and quantifiable effect. The most common example of this are diet supplements, which commonly contain stimulants. I recently surveyed all the diet supplement products at my local grocery store and almost all of them had some form of caffeine as a major ingredient. It used to be common for such products to contain ephedra (another stimulant) – until it was banned by the FDA for causing cardiac deaths.

Read the rest of this entry at the “Neuorologica” blog.