Multilevel marketing companies accused of using exaggeration and pseudoscience to promote potentially dangerous products such as Metabolife and Hydroxycut by designing studies that appear to purposely mislead consumers.
Image thanks to Tijuana Brass via Wikimedia Commons. Thanks to Stephane Lahaye and Ellen Reid for their keynote help!
Another case report of acute toxicity linked to noni juice ingestion, this time in a 14-year-old. At least his liver didn't fail more completely like in two of the earlier cases. What do you expect from a product also known as vomit fruit. The multi-level marketing company that sells noni products blamed aloe vera juice the boy had also consumed, which is indeed something else I'd encourage folks not to drink, but what about all the scientific studies promoting these types of products bandied about on their websites?
Recently, a public health researcher took the time to review the "Science in liquid dietary supplement promotion,” evidently a $23 billion dollar market. "Central to the marketing of many such products is the citation of ’scientific studies’ supporting the product’s health claims. While these studies seem deliberately created for marketing purposes, their findings and quality are generally presented in a manner that appears designed to mislead potential consumers.”
Here they use the case of mangosteen juice—another product I've warned about in the past—as an example of how widely marketed and consumed liquid dietary supplements use exaggeration and pseudoscience to bolster their web promotions of product effectiveness and safety.
The multilevel marketing company that sells mangosteen cited a study they paid for to support its assertion that their product is "shown to be safe at all dosages tested" and indeed "safe for everyone." The study involved exposing just 30 people to their product, though, with another 10 given placebo. As the researcher notes here, with that few people exposed, the stuff could kill 1 or 2% of people and you'd never even know.
This study of the multi-level marketing supplement Metabolife had 35 on the stuff and they seemed to do just fine until… it was withdrawn from the market after being linked to 18 heart attacks, 26 strokes, 43 seizures and 5 deaths. Oops.
Hydroxycut was studied on 40 people. No serious adverse effects, and same story: withdrawn after dozens of cases of organ damage including massive hepatic necrosis requiring liver transplants, and death.
And oftentimes the multilevel marketing study researchers don't disclose their funding sources, pretending to be objective scientists, but a little detective work exposed a whole web of financial conflicts of interest, "at best reducing the face-validity of findings, and at worst [they] represent deception.”
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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Other beverages to avoid include alcohol (Breast Cancer and Alcohol: How Much Is Safe?), soft drinks (Is Sodium Benzoate Harmful?), yerba maté (Update on Yerba Maté), and kombucha (Is Kombucha Tea Good For You?).
Other cautionary tales about supplements can be found in:
In my next video I'll offer another update on spirulina with Infant Seizures Linked to Mother's Spirulina Use.
For more context, check out my associated blog post: Is Noni or Mangosteen Juice Safe?
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