Consumer Health Digest #06-21
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 23, 2006
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
Comprehensive dietary supplement reports issued. The National Institutes of Health has drafted a "state-of-the-science" report about whether multivitamin/mineral supplements (MVMs) and certain single nutrient supplements can prevent chronic disease. The conclusions expressed by the report's authors include:
- More than half of American adults take MVMs with the belief that they will feel better, have greater energy, improve health, and/or prevent and treat disease.
- Compared with nonusers, supplements takers tend to have a better diet, less need for supplements, and more risk of exceeding the safe upper limit (UL) of some nutrients.
- There is insufficient evidence to recommend either for or against the use of MVMs by the American public to prevent chronic disease.
- Few high-quality studies have addressed whether one or a few nutrients can prevent chronic disease in American adults, and only a few such studies have yielded positive results.
- With few exceptions, neither beta-carotene nor vitamin E had benefits for preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, cataract, and age-related macular degeneration. Beta-carotene supplementation increased lung cancer risk in smokers and persons exposed to asbestos.
- Folic acid alone or combined with vitamin B12 and/or vitamin B6 had no significant effect on cognitive function.
- Selenium may confer benefit for cancer prevention but not cardiovascular disease prevention.
- Calcium may prevent bone mineral density loss in postmenopausal women and may reduce vertebral fractures, but not non-vertebral fractures. The evidence suggests dose-dependent benefits of vitamin D with or without calcium for retaining bone mineral density and preventing hip and other nonvertebral fractures.
- The FDA lacks the resources to collect adequate data and lacks the legal authority to safely regulate the dosage of individual ingredients.
- Additional research and a mandatory adverse-event reporting system are needed for dietary supplements.
Chiropractors threaten transportation authority. The World Chiropractic Alliance, an organization dedicated to "preserving and strengthening subluxation-based chiropractic around the world," is upset about conspicuous ads appearing on the outside of buses in Bridgeport and Waterbury, Connecticut. On May 8th, a lawyer acting on its behalf notified the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority (GBTA) that if the ads were not immediately removed, the WCA and several local chiropractors would file suit and ask state and federal authorities to investigate. The ad was placed by the Chiropractic Stroke Victims Awareness Group.
The GBTA has issued a public statement that, "The advertising space on our fleet of buses is . . . protected by the first amendment of the US Constitution. . . . This amendment therefore limits advertisers that can be rejected regardless of the concerns of any one body in the community." Chirobase has further details. Stroke from chiropractic neck manipulation occurs when an artery to the brain ruptures or becomes blocked as a result of being stretched. Speculations exist that the odds of a serious complication due to neck manipulation are somewhere between one in 5,000 and one in 10 million manipulations. No one really knows, however, because there has been little systematic study of its frequency. [Barrett S. Chiropractic's dirty secret: Neck manipulation and strokes. Quackwatch, Jan 27, 2004]
ConsumerLab's libel suit against CRN moves forward. The Supreme Court of the State of New York has denied a motion to stop ConsumerLab.com's libel suit against the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade group that represents dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors. In January 2005, CRN published a press release and a letter that it sent to the FTC. Both included false allegations that (a) ConsumerLab.com's "entire business model represents an an egregious form of consumer fraud and deception" and (b) companies are pressured into paying a fee to avoid potential negative consequences of having their products tested. After the FTC dismissed CRN's complaint, ConsumerLab.com filed suit. In upholding the suit, the court ruled that although complaints to regulatory agencies are shielded, public disclosure of their contents is not. ConsumerLab.com offers a combination of free and subscription-based reports about products (including herbs) sold as dietary supplements.
German study finds no cholesterol-lowering with policosanol. A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of patients with high LDL-cholesterol levels has found no benefit from taking policosanol. Derived from Cuban sugar cane, policosanol is claimed to have effects comparable to prescription statin drugs. However, among 129 patients who were followed for 12 weeks, the study found no statistically significant difference between the policosanol and placebo users for LDL, HDL, VLDL, triglycerides, or lipoprotein(a). The researchers noted that (a) although more than 80 previous studies have reported positive results, nearly all were done by a single research institute in Cuba, (b) more independent studies are needed to balance the vast body of positive studies, and (c) no studies have determined whether policosanol users have fewer heart attacks. [Berthold HK and others. Effect of policosanol on lipid levels among patients with hypercholesterolemia or combined hyperlipidemia. JAMA 295:2262-2269, 2006]
This page was posted on May 23, 2006.