Consumer Health Digest #11-41
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 1, 2011
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.
Naturopathy blasted. Two Canadian researchers have examined 106 naturopathic clinic Web sites "to gain a sense of the degree to which the services advertised by naturopaths are science-based." [Caulfield T, Rachul C. Supported by science?: What Canadian naturopaths advertise to the public. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology 7:14, 2011] Half of the clinics were in British Columbia, where naturopaths are regulated, and half were in Alberta, where they are not. The researchers concluded:
- There were very few differences between the provinces in terms of the types of services offered and conditions treated. Many of the most common treatments—such as homeopathy, chelation, and colon cleanses—are viewed by the scientific community to be of questionable value and have no scientific evidence of efficacy beyond placebo.
- The information on these sites does not support the proposition that naturopathic medicine is a science- and evidence-based practice.
The report is an Open Access article, which means it can be freely reproduced and distributed provided that is properly cited.
Cochrane pans laetrile. A Cochrane Collaboration team has reviewed published reports about laetrile, a quack cancer remedy that was widely promoted in the 1970s. It cannot be legally marketed in the United States but is available elsewhere, most notably in Mexico. The review concluded:
- Laetrile is a word created from the first letters of laevorotatory and mandelonitrile and describes a semi-synthetic form of amygdalin, a compound that can be isolated from the seeds of many fruits such as peaches, bitter almonds, and apricots. Both laetrile and amygdalin have a common structural component, mandelonitrile, that contains cyanide.
- The lack of laetrile's effectiveness and the risk of side effects from cyanide poisoning led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission to ban its use. However, it is possible to buy laetrile and amygdalin via the Internet. As there is no government control of these markets, preparations may not only come from questionable sources but may also be contaminated.
- Cancer patients should be informed about the high risk of developing serious adverse effects due to cyanide poisoning after laetrile or amygdalin, especially after oral ingestion. This risk could increase with concomitant intake of vitamin C and in vegetarians with vitamin B12 deficiency.
- This systematic review found no reliable evidence that laetrile or amygdalin can cure cancer patients.
[Milazzo S and others. Laetrile for cancer. Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011 Nov 9;11:CD005476]
Fluoride adjustment proposed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water to 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, which would replace the currently recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams. The reduction was proposed because Americans now have more sources of fluoride (such as toothpaste) than they did years ago when fluoridation began. The change, which was proposed in January 2011, is now undergoing final review. [Koch HK, Stoner N. Protecting our drinking water and health. HHS/EPA announcement, Oct 2011]
Do-Not-Call Registry passes 200 million mark. The FTC has issued a Data Book with statistics on the National Do Not Call Registry. As of September 30, 2011, nearly 210 million phone numbers were registered. During the previous year the agency received more than 2.2 million complaints, about half of which were recorded message. Registry listing is permanent unless the number is removed by the owner, is disconnected, or reassigned to another customer. . The FTC Web site enables people to check whether their numbers are registered.
This page was posted on December 2, 2011.