Consumer Health Digest #10-52
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 30, 2010
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.
False dental amalgam toxicity claims slammed again. A study of 56 patients who claimed to have symptoms caused by mercury in their amalgam fillings has found that none of the patients had significant levels of mercury in their blood or urine levels. The researchers noted that 20 of the patients has previously been previously diagnosed with mercury toxicity by "commercial practitioners using unconventional testing panels." [Eyeson J and others. Relationship between mercury levels in blood and urine and complaints of chronic mercury toxicity from amalgam restorations. British Dental Journal 208(4):E7, 2010] A recent review by the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs concluded: "Studies continue to support the position that dental amalgam is a safe restorative option for both children and adults. When responding to safety concerns it is important to make the distinction between known and hypothetical risks." [ADA Council on on Scientific Affairs. Literature rreview: dental amalgam fillings and health effects on amalgam fillings and health effects. Amalgam Safety Update, Sept 2010]
During the past few weeks, unjustified scare headlines have been generated by an anti-amalgam campaign that involved testimony at an FDA hearing. In response, Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D. noted:
The simple truth is that there is no significant risk because amalgam fillings are safe. . . . The promotion of anti-amalgamism is regularly linked with fringe practitioners, people with financial interests in promoting something else, and pseudoscience. Based on past practices, and rhetoric, I'm one of many who conclude that the anti-amalgamists resemble more a religious cult than a group of serious, objective scientists searching for the truth. [Baratz RS. More notes on the anti-amalgam movement. Dental Watch, Dec 18, 2010]
Offbeat thyroid doctor suspended. The Oregon Medical Board has issued an emergency suspension of the license of John E. Gambee, M.D. The board's order states:
- Gambee's license was revoked in 1994 for engaging in unscientific practices that included diagnosing and treating patients without performing appropriate tests to assess their thyroid function.
- In 1997 Gambee was permitted to practice again with limitations (modified in 2004) that included appropriate management of patients with suspected or actual thyroid disorders.
- In 2009, the board opened an investigation, during which Gambee signed an interim stipulated order pledging not to inappropriately prescribe thyroid hormone or testosterone.
- A few months later, after reviewing five charts, the board concluded that Gambee's behavior displayed "repeated disregard for terms of the Board's stipulated orders" and that his continued practice of medicine would "pose an immediate danger to the public and to his patients."
2010 Slim Chance Awards announced. Francie M. Berg, M.S., who operates the Healthy Weight Network, has issued the 22nd annual set of "Slim Chance Awards" to weight-loss schemes promoters. Her 2010 picks are:
- Worst Claim: Ultimate Cleanse. Ultimate Cleanse cashes in on a popular quack theme: the body must be detoxified regularly to get rid of wastes and toxins. Aside from their basic silliness, cleansing programs are often high-risk, containing potent laxatives.
- Worst Product: HCG Supplements. HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone produced during pregnancy, is claimed to reset the hypothalamus, improve metabolism and mobilize fat stores. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting HCG treatment as a weight or fat loss strategy. Common short-term effects include fatigue, headache, mood swings, depression, confusion, dizziness and stomach pain.
- Most Outrageous: Basic Research LLC. Basic Research, marketer of bogus products, carries an extensive history of FTC warnings, charges, fines and on-going lawsuits against multiple products. Also doing business as Carter-Reed Company, it has been a plaintiff or defendant in more than 40 suits filed in federal court in the past five years.
- Worst Gimmick: Lapex BCS Lipo Laser. Promoters promise: "Lose 31/2 -7 inches of fat in 3 weeks. . . . proven inches lost, without diet or exercise . . . the LipoLaser is the only non-diet, non-invasive, pain-free way to lose inches of fat . . . all effortlessly and easily." Supposedly, shining the lighted device on a pocket of fat gives results "almost exactly the same as exercise" only instead of "hormones opening the fat cells with exercise, the Laser light opens the fat cells—right through your skin. The same stuff comes out of the fat cells."
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