Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 May

Quack Attack

I’ve gotten so many great health questions from you all this week, I’m still working through several of the emails. (Sorry for the delay – I haven’t forgotten you! I encourage you to post your questions in the Forum, so that along with my tips, you’ll get the whole gang to help you out.) There were a few questions this week regarding various quack products and FDA warnings that I’ve been asked a number of times over the years, so let’s set the record straight here at MDA.

1. Sandra recently asked me about transfer factor supplements – do they work, and should we be taking them?

“Transfer factor” is derived from bovine colostrum and is said to enhance immunity and muscle performance, among other claims. Like glandulars, this is a product without much to back it up. Not only is there no reputable scientific evidence, but it really doesn’t make much common sense. Cow’s milk is for baby cows, after all, and is designed by nature to be perfect for little calves’ growing immune systems, not ours. Although that’s even debatable, as most dairy cows these days are so crowded, sick and drugged up, I doubt they’re passing on much of anything beneficial to their offspring, whom they never meet anyway. A better way to boost your immunity? Reduce stress! Get exercise! Eat mostly vegetables! Enjoy yourself! Honest.

2. Lisa wants to know if oxygenated water is healthier than regular tap or bottled water.

Nope. I wrote a fun piece debunking these much-hyped “mock waters” some time ago, and it was published over at my good friend Gabrielle Reece’s site. You can also read it here. I’ve gotten some questions about reverse osmosis, bottled water safety (it’s coming, Evelyn!), and other H20 issues, so I’ll be posting a more in-depth look at all things liquid very soon.

3. I’ve also gotten a lot of questions about the current web controversy (no, not the Digg debacle): CAM regulation from the FDA.

Joe Mercola, no stranger to controversy, did what I felt was a very fair job of setting the record straight on this issue. (Note: I certainly don’t endorse all that he has to say, but this is a very balanced look at the current panic over CAM). The very knowledgeable Cindy Hebbard of Wisdom of Healing, politely refuted Mercola’s point of view after I recommended she check out his exploration of this issue. I encourage you to read both points of view if you’re curious.

The blogosphere is certainly hopping all over this issue. People’s response to this issue has been overwhelming – with the FDA extending, then short-changing, the public comment period. Health Ranger Mike Adams of NewsTarget ponders: will juice be banned? Will massage oil be available by prescription only? (Here’s what this science blogger I admire has to say).

I am a big proponent of being a squeaky wheel - nothing works better when it comes to getting governments and corporations to change. (That, and voting with your wallet.) And it’s no secret that the FDA is hardly a friend of natural living and often uses obscenely aggressive tactics against perfectly innocent naturopaths, herbal therapists and the like (just read Cindy’s response to me at her blog). Honestly, I’m glad everyone is picking up on this, because it’s a healthy sign of actively involved citizens.

That said, what the FDA is issuing is simply a (rather repetitive) guidance letter, not a regulation. The FDA doesn’t have legislative power, so this is more of a slap in the face than anything. Given that the rules aren’t being changed, it’s annoying, perhaps, and it’s indicative of the FDA’s attitude towards natural health, but it’s not really a “new” threat. Those of us who have been in the natural health industry have been aware of this issue for quite some time, and there’s just nothing scary here. Yes, the wording of “modalities” – meaning therapies – has been changed to “medicines”. But again, there is no cause for grave alarm. (And as you loyal readers know, I harbor no great and abiding love for the FDA. The FDA is the brunt of many a roast here at MDA).

Here’s the deal: as before, as long as any supplement or natural therapy isn’t making a claim of medical treatment or cure, you can expect things to be business as usual. For example, Mike Adams brings up cranberry juice in his blogging about this issue. In accordance with the FDA’s “new” guidance, cranberry juice can’t be marketed as a cure for bladder infections. It can be marketed as being beneficial for urinary tract health. But…this is nothing new.

Tell the FDA you’re unhappy with where they’re putting their attention and resources – but don’t panic. (This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep an eagle-eye on the FDA, of course. These are the folks who have a problem with stevia, after all. I’ve long noticed that new guidance issuances and sudden press releases about the “danger” of vitamins typically coincide with Big Pharma and FDA scandals. Trucking out sensational scares always makes for a nice distraction from the bigger issues.)

Stick around for a look at the environment and food packaging from Sara and a healthy recipe for your weekend brought to you by Aaron. Have a wonderful weekend, Apples!

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  1. can you provide quotes of at least 100 people who cured their diabetes.

    gary wrote on August 18th, 2011

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