Consumer Health Digest #03-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 13, 2003


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.


Another study links chiropractic neck manipulation and stroke. The authors reviewed the records of 151 patients under age 60 with cervical arterial dissection and ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) from between 1995 and 2000 at two academic stroke centers. After an interview and a blinded chart review, 51 patients with dissection and 100 control patients were studied. Patients with dissection were more likely to have undergone spinal manipulation within 30 days (14% vs 3%). The authors concluded that spinal manipulation is associated with vertebral arterial dissection and that a significant increase in neck pain following spinal manipulative warrants immediate medical evaluation. [Smith WS and others. Spinal manipulative therapy is an independent risk factor for vertebral artery dissection. Neurology 60:1424-1428, 2003] The percentage of manipulations leading to strokes is not high when compared to the number of necks manipulated. However, the benefits of neck manipulation are questionable and chiropractors are not doing enough to investigate the problem or to discourage inappropriate treatment. [Barrett S. Chiropractic's dirty secret: Neck manipulation and strokes. Quackwatch, May 13, 2003]


Bogus SARS product marketers warned. The FDA and FTC have sent warnings to more than 50 marketers of bogus products claimed to prevent or treat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). At least 48 Web site operators and 7 e-mail solicitors have been contacted. The information was gathered through an Internet surf that the FTC coordinated with help from the FDA and the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services. Included were Web sites that promised consumers would be protected from SARS if they purchased such items as personal air purifiers, disinfectant sprays and wipes, respirator masks, latex gloves, dietary supplements like colloidal silver and oregano oil, and SARS "prevention kits" that package various items together, such as gloves, masks, and wipes. [FTC and FDA crack down on Internet marketers of bogus SARS prevention products. FTC news release, May 9, 2003] The FDA sent warning letters to:

Federal authorities advise consumers who encounter ads for SARS-related products to ask themselves one key question. If a medical breakthrough involving SARS has occurred, would they be hearing about it for the first time through a sales pitch? [Rx for products that claim to prevent SARS? A healthy dose of skepticism. FTC consumer alert, May 2002]


Chitosan fails again. Researchers at the University of California-Davis have demonstrated that chitosan does not significantly block absorption of dietary fat. Chitosan is derived from chitin, a polysaccharide found in the exoskeleton of shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, and or crabs. Many sellers claim that chitosan causes weight loss by binding fats in the stomach and preventing them from being digested and absorbed. Some refer to it as a "fat magnet" or "fat trapper." The study involved 15 men who consumed five meals per day for 12 days with a daily total of about 25 grams of fat. The amount of fat excreted during four days when they took chitosan supplements was then compared to the amount excreted during days without chitosan. Taking 10 capsules of chitosan per day increased fecal fat excretion by only about 1 gram (9 calories), which would have no significant effect on a person's weight. [Gades M, Stern JS. Chitosan supplementation and fecal fat excretion in men. Obesity Research 11:683-688, 2003] At least three previously published studies have had similar findings:


FTC nails cell phone "radiation protector" marketers. The FTC has reached a settlement with Comstar Communications, Inc. and its president, Randall A. Carasco, who marketed and sold "WaveShield," "WaveShield 1000," and "WaveShield 2000" cell phone radiation protection patches. The defendants claimed that their products could block up to 99% of radiation and other electromagnetic energy emitted by cellular telephones, thereby reducing consumers' exposure to this radiation. The settlement prohibits unsubstantiated claims for any product purported to reduce consumers' exposure to radiation and electromagnetic energy. In addition the settlement requires clear disclosure that (a) most electromagnetic energy emitted by cell phones comes from parts of the phone other than the earpiece (where the WaveShield is placed), and (b) the WaveShield would have no significant effect on this other radiation. [FTC settles with sellers of bogus cell phone radiation protection patches. FTC news release, May 7, 2003] A May 2001 report by the General Accounting Office concluded that "Scientific research to date does not demonstrate that the radio frequency energy emitted from mobile phones has adverse health effects, but . . . some studies have raised questions indicating the need for further investigation." [Telecommunications: Research and Regulatory Efforts on Mobile Phone Health Issues. GAO-01-545 May 7, 2001]


FDA launches approved drug "catalog." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has posted a searchable list of FDA approved brand name and generic drugs. Prescription, over-the-counter, and discontinued drugs are included in the database with links to approval letters, labels, and scientific reviews of the products approved since 1998. The database, called Drugs@FDA, does not include dietary supplements.


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This page was posted on May 13, 2003.