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TIME Magazine Promotes Evidence-Based Medicine In Its Special Nutrition Issue

Here on SBM we have frequently had cause to criticize the media for poor science reporting and for spreading misinformation. Among many other individual offenders, we have criticized Dr. Oz for promoting alternative medicine on his TV show and gullibly promoting guests who pretend to talk to the dead and pretend to heal people with carnival sideshow tricks. We tend to be negative and critical because somebody has to do it, but it’s not pleasant.  For once, I have some good things to say.

The September 12 issue of TIME magazine was a Special Nutrition Issue. The cover featured pictures of food and the title “What to Eat Now: Uncovering the Myths about Food by Dr. Oz.” It devotes 7 pages to an article by him entitled “The Oz Diet: No more myths. No more fads. What you should eat — and why.” This is followed by a 5 page article by John Cloud “Nutrition in a Pill? I took 3000 supplements over five months. Here’s what happened.” Both articles have a rational, science-based perspective without any intrusions of woo-woo.

Oz on What to Eat

Oz acknowledges that the science of nutrition is not simple and that much of what we once believed has been discarded in the face of new knowledge. He debunks a number of popular misconceptions about diet. Most of what he says is consistent with scientific evidence and with mainstream diet advice. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

The Energy Drink

By Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh for Science-Based Medicine

My stimulant of choice is coffee. I started drinking it in first-year university, and never looked back. A tiny four-cup coffee maker became my reliable companion right through graduate school.

But since I stopped needing to drink a pot at a time, an entirely new category of products has appeared — the energy drink. Targeting students, athletes, and others seeking a mental or physical boost, energy drinks are now an enormous industry: From the first U.S. product sale in 1997, the market size was $4.8 billion by 2008, and continues to grow. (1)

My precious coffee effectively has a single therapeutic ingredient, caffeine. Its pharmacology is well documented, and the physiologic effects are understood. The safety data isn’t too shabby either: it’s probably not harmful and possibly is even beneficial. (I’m talking about oral consumption — no coffee enemas. Please.) In comparison, energy drinks are a bewildering category of products with an array of ingredients including caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and other “natural” substances and assorted “nutraceuticals,” usually in a sugar-laden vehicle (though sugar-free versions exist). Given many products contain chemicals with pharmacologic effects, understanding the risks, signs of adverse events, and potential implications on drug therapy, are important.

So are energy drinks just candied caffeine delivery systems? Or are these syrupy supplements skirting drug regulations?

The Message

The ads are seductive. Who doesn’t want more energy? Who doesn’t want their mind and body “vitalized?” And don’t we have time-starved lifestyles? Initially envisioned for athletes, energy drinks are now marketed mainly towards teens and young adults, where uptake has been dramatic. Cross-promotion with extreme sporting events, and creating names like “Full Throttle,” “Rockstar,” and even  “Cocaine” burnish the “extreme” image. The market is now segmented further with products targeted at women, vegetarians, diabetics, celiacs, and more. However you identify yourself, there’s probably an energy drink developed with you in mind. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Nutraceuticals, False Advertising, And Misuse Of M.D. Anderson’s Name

Thumbnail image for dontmesswithtexas.jpgThe premier US cancer hospital and research center in Houston released a statement today distancing themselves from a Dallas company claiming an endorsement of their water product by The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center:

Recently, you may have heard or read about a company that sells Evolv, a “nutraceutical beverage,” which is being promoted in part based upon testing done at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, but also is being mistakenly viewed as endorsed by M. D. Anderson. M. D. Anderson conducted limited chemical analysis of the product to evaluate its anti-inflammatory activity for a fee at the request of the manufacturer. No efficacy or toxicity data were generated at M. D. Anderson nor was the product tested on humans. Moreover, M. D. Anderson does not have any involvement with the company, the product is not produced by M. D. Anderson, and M. D. Anderson does not endorse the product or recommend its use.

The current text on Evolv’s website an Evolv fan site is that:

Evolv’s nutraceutical beverage with Archaea Active is tested by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

The statement as listed is not exactly wrong; it’s just not complete. Nothing there about what the product was tested for, but the implication is that it gained some healing power by passing through the hallowed halls of M.D. Anderson. I also have no clue as to whether it was tested for archaea (formerly archaebacteria) or if it has the capacity to amplify DNA.

Of course, my blogging about this is going to give the company publicity (a very, very small amount). Evolv is not just water but it is sold by a multi-level marketing company. I already knew to put one hand on my wallet when I dialed up their website. The header has the quote from Mary Kay Ash, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” which rotates with others from her and Zig Ziglar who, no doubt, did not authorize their association with the company.

But water? The next multi-level marketing craze?

I don’t think this holds water.

Now if we could only get M.D. Anderson to address this other misuse of their name.

Note added 10 September 2009: This comment from EvolvHealth’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mr Jonathan Gilliam, brought to my attention that I had the incorrect website for the company (as corrected above). The actual website should be Currently, their product page lists the M.D. Anderson claim as follows:

Our active ingredient has been tested by the MD Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas. Evolv will be released in Fall 2009

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Latest Interviews

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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