Consumer Health Digest #02-35

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 27, 2002


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.


Ginkgo study finds no cognitive improvement. A 6-week controlled study of men and women over age 60 with normal mental function has found that a widely advertised ginkgo product (Ginkoba) did not improve their performance on 14 standard tests of learning, memory, attention, concentration, and verbal fluency. The ginkgo and placebo groups also showed no difference in self-reported memory function or global rating by a friend or family member. [Solomon PR and others. Ginkgo for memory enhancement: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 288:835-840, 2002] For several years, the manufacturer touted Ginkoba as "the dietary supplement for mental performance" and claimed that it "'helps improve memory," "helps enhance concentration," "helps sharpen mental focus, and "can help you to maintain your brain health in much the same way that exercise can contribute to overall well-being-it works steadily and gradually over time."


GAO issues report on OTC "diet pills." The General Accounting Office has issued a 25-page report on nonprescription "diet pills. The report concludes that unsubstantiated claims are widespread and safety concerns are justified. [Heinrich J. Dietary Supplements For Weight Loss: Limited Federal Oversight Has Focused More on Marketing than on Safety. GAO-02-985T, July 31, 2002]


Baloney Detection Kit available. The Skeptics Society has published a 16-page booklet designed to hone critical thinking skills and demonstrate how the scientific method can be used to test pseudoscientific and paranormal claims. It includes Carl Sagan's "Ten Tips for Baloney Detection," Michael Shermer's "Ten Questions for Baloney Detection," "The 25 Fallacies of Thought," a "Skeptical Manifesto," and information on how to teach a course in separating facts from fictions. Copies can be ordered online for $5 plus $4 postage.


Company ordered to stop making ADHD claims for "dietary supplement." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered Better Way Kids, of Cranston, Rhode Island to stop claiming that its product "Calm Focus" can help children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The product contains flaxseed powder, GABA, ginkgo biloba, grape seed extract, lecithin, passion flower, rosemary leaf, taurine, zinc, and vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-12, and C. The FDA's warning letter , sent August 9, 2002, indicated that claims made for several ingredients were unsubstantiated and made the product misbranded and a "new drug" that cannot be marketed without FDA approval.


Quackwatch acquires .org URL. Quackwatch has acquired ownership of www.quackwatch.org after the previous owners did not renew. During the past three years, the domain was registered to a chiropractor who also maintained ncahf.com in an apparent attempt to misdirect people who were looking for Quackwatch and the National Council Against Health Fraud. Although Quackwatch visitors will now see only ".org" addresses in their browser window, page-view requests to quackwatch.org will still work properly.


NYC Conference to debunk "alternative medicine." On Saturday, September 21, the Center for Inquiry - MetroNY will host a conference on "Alternative Medicine: Genuine, Questionable, or Fraudulent?" from 1 PM to 3 PM on September 21, 2002 at the National Arts Club,15 Gramercy Park South (20th St. between Park Ave. South and Irving Place) in New York City. The speakers will be Barry R. Cassileth, PhD; John E. Dodes, DDS; and Jack Raso, MS, RD. Admission is $10. To register, write to CFI-MetroNY, 89 Walnut St, Montclair NJ, 07042 or contact Barry Seidman (973 655-9556) or Arthur Urrows (800 331-8727).


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This page was posted on August 27, 2002.