Consumer Health Digest #07-31

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 14, 2007


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.


Antioxidants for cardiovascular disease flunk another test. A 10-year double-blind, placebo-controlled study has found that women at high risk for cardiovascular disease derived no benefit from taking vitamin C (500 mg/day), vitamin E (600 international units every other day), or beta carotene (50 mg every other day). The researchers looked at the incidence of myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary artery surgery, and cardiovascular disease death among 8171 female health professionals, 40 years or older, with a history of cardiovascular disease or 3 or more cardiovascular disease risk factors. [Cook N and others. A randomized factorial trial of vitamins C and E and beta carotene in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular events in women: Results from the Women's Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study. Archives of Internal Medicine 167:1610-1618, 2007] Although epidemiologic evidence suggests that diets rich in antioxidants may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, most clinical trials have found no such benefit from taking antioxidant supplement products. Thus, widespread use of these products for this purpose does not appear warranted.


FTC subpoenas food advertisers who target children. The Federal Trade Commission has sent subpoenas to 44 food and beverage companies asking how they market to children. Congress ordered the FTC to do this because of concern about high rates of childhood obesity. In 2004, children ages 2 to 11 saw on average more than 25,000 TV ads—including about 5,500 food ads—mostly for “junk food.” In a recent speech, FTC Commissioner stated: "While it may be debatable whether advertising and marketing are part of the obesity problem, there is no question that they must be part of the solution." [Leibowitz J. Childhood obesity and the obligations of food marketers. FTC-HHS Forum on Childhood Obesity, July 18, 2007]


FTC seeking refunds for abdominal belt customers. The FTC has asked a federal district court to order the marketers of Ab Force to return money to consumers who purchased their belts based on the marketers’s advertising claims. The ads made false and unsubstantiated claims that using their electronic muscle stimulation belt caused weight loss and well-defined abdominal muscles, and was an effective alternative to regular exercise. In 2005, the Commission upheld an administrative law judge’s ruling that the marketers violated federal law by making the deceptive claims. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision in August 2006. The FTC says that Telebrands Corp., TV Savings, L.L.C., and Ajit Khubani sold more than 700,000 Ab Force belts and accessories, earning approximately $16 million. [FTC asks court to order Ab Belt makers to return money to consumers. FTC news release, Aug 2, 2007]


Scientology accused of harassing author. Paulette Cooper, author of the 1971 book The Scandal of Scientology, has written a detailed account of the trouble she had following publication of her book. The article is posted on lermanet.com


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