Monday, June 1, 2009

Warning: The ‘Food Supplements’ Scam | Hydroxycut Recall


INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

Heart to Heart Talk
The ‘food supplements’ scam
By Dr. Philip S. Chua
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 12:27:00 06/01/2009

THE UNITED States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public alert on May 1, 2009, warning consumers to “stop using Hydroxycut Products, dietary supplements used for weight loss as fat burners, as energy-enhancers, as low carb diet aids, and for water loss under the Lovate and MuscleTech brand names.

The FDA reported that “thus far Hydroxycut has been linked to at least one death and twenty three reports of serious health problems; consumers who use the products are at risk of serious liver injury. Some of the health problems associated with the Hydroxycut products include jaundice, elevated liver enzymes (an indicator of potential liver problems), seizures, cardiovascular disorders, rhabdomyolysis (a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure) and liver damage requiring liver transplant.”

The report stated that “Hydroxycut, Lovate and MuscleTech products are manufactured by Lovate Health Sciences Inc., of Oakville, Ontario and distributed by Lovate Health Sciences USA Inc. of Blasdell, N.Y.Â.” All 14 Hydroxycut products are being recalled.

While the Hydroxycut products were obviously legitimate products, the chemical formulation produce dangerous side-effects that make them unsafe for consumption. Hence, the recall.

On the other hand, there are hundreds of products marketed as “food supplements” that are nothing but a scam, victimizing the unsuspecting, innocent, uninformed, and gullible consumers. The manufacturers of these items hide under the name “food supplements” to be exempt from the stringent scrutiny of governmental agencies like the US-FDA, and similar agencies in other countries. As food supplements, these products are then NOT considered as DRUGS and do not have to pass the super-strict and extensive laboratory and clinical investigation by these agencies.

However, while they advertise them as “food supplements,” these manufacturers claim or infer that their products have medicinal or health benefits, or even effective against various diseases. As such, they should be considered as drugs, and not food supplements.

But the sad part of it all is that, while the manufacturers and merchants of this deception enrich themselves with trillion dollar sales around the world each year, the poor consumers are duped into thinking that the very expensive version of the “food supplements” (“designer” vitamins, weight-loss products, beauty aids, immune system boosters, whiteners, sex enhancers, etc) are better than the regular over the counter and cheaper versions. Most of them have no proven good effects or advantage over the conventional household products people have been using five decades ago. The hype is so much, because of the tremendous marketing blitz (print media, TV and via internet) that uninformed or misinformed people easily fall victims to them.

In the infomercials, some manufacturers or dealers even promise a “100% satisfaction or money-back” guarantee. What these companies do is to deposit all sales proceeds in the bank, which earn interest. By the time they refund the customer’s money, if ever, and perhaps after a lot of hustle, it will be at least 8 weeks, after they have already earned the bank interest on the money of millions of customers. And this translates to hundreds of millions of dollars in “extra” income for these companies.

A good example of the scam is the so-called “Oxygen Bar” that is seen in many shopping malls and airports. For $10-$15 dollars, one can sit on a stool and breathe in oxygen flowing through colorful fluid (whose cleanliness and sterility are suspect since the liquid is not changed from customer to customer). This is terrible and unhealthy. The ambient oxygen we breathe in is just right, healthy, and also free. Too much oxygen is even bad for our lungs.

Another is the popular Slim Tea or weight-loss tea. If that tea is all one drinks in a day, and not eat, then one would lose weight. But if one does not diet and controls the food intake, and simply drink the Slim Tea, the result is obvious. The other diet control beverages could also have chemicals in them that are unsafe for the kidneys or liver, etc.

Then there is the breast enlarger cream or lotion, or the penis-enhancer pill or lotion. These are all ineffective, useless, and nothing but a scam. Let us be thankful for whatever we were blessed with, and not mess around with mother nature too much. Unless one is an insecure person and has low self-esteem, these enlargers and enhancers are not necessary. They are the character and the personality of the individual that truly count and matter.

Worse is the cure-all tablets or beverages, which are claimed to be good against several diseases, from acne to high blood pressure, immune diseases, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, to athlete’s foot ... and on and on.

But the most despicable of them all are those “food supplements” that infer or suggest that they are effective cures against cancer. They are not only baseless and unfounded claims, but lies that rob cancer patients of their dignity by giving them false hope.

The sage strategy for a healthy lifestyle is doing daily exercise, eating a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrate, maintaining a desired weight, abstaining from tobacco and excess alcohol, taking regular time out to relax, and, perhaps taking a multi-vitamin with minerals daily, and whatever prescription medications, if any, as ordered by the physician.

We do not really need those “food supplements” to be healthy, attractive, and happy. These products are not only expensive but useless and a waste of money and expectation. As we have reported in the past, a few of them could also have harmful side-effects, some serious or even fatal. Unfortunately, it may take time before these adverse effects, or organ damage/failures, become manifest or evident.

Let’s be smart and live a healthy lifestyle, and stop contributing funds to the already filthy-rich CEOs of this multinational trillion-dollar industry at an expense to our wallet, health and safety.

For a list of product alerts see: consumerinjurylawyers.com