Beware of Drug Promises
They May Do More Than Nothing
I can’t figure out what to put in my mouth as a result of the fog created by the ongoing advertising blitz that shows Big Pharma, legitimate alternative treatments and quacks spending billions of dollars on promoting everything from apricot pits to algae to Pfizer-BioNTech to cure everything from insomnia to COVID-19 to impotence.
I read how German supermodel Gisele Bündchen feeds her children dehydrated spirulina fruit rolls and I thought that was as nutty as a fruit roll, as I have never heard of spirulina but I checked it out and I found an Oct. 2020 report by WebMd.com that determined that spirulina is considered a healthy supplement, by some. So I Googled spirulina and I found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that spirulina is safe to use with a variety of foods but it said nothing about whether swallowing spirulina will have any curative effect at all.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae believed to be one of the oldest life forms on Earth. First used by the Aztecs as an endurance-booster, spirulina is considered a superfood . You know where this is going, the additive made by Cyanotech Corp. and Earthrise Nutritionals Inc. is going right to the counters of every alternative health food store and fitness gym where uneducated, naive and determined men and women scarf up anything they are told will help to build their bodies or just live longer.
WebMd. com.’s Dr. Dan Brennan, reported in Oct. 2020 that research shows that spirulina may have antioxidant, pain-relief, anti-inflammatory, and brain-protective properties; may have anti-inflammatory effects that contribute to cancer and it may block tumor growth and kill cancer cells; may lower cholesterol and help keep arteries clear and lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and pancreatitis; it may help people with allergies; boost immune systems; fight herpes, flu and HIV; and may maintain eye and oral health.
Among other effects cited by WebMd, “research has found that the protein in spirulina can reduce the body’s absorption of cholesterol, lowering cholesterol levels. This helps keep your arteries clear, reducing strain on your heart that can lead to heart disease and stroke-causing blood clots. Its protein also reduces triglyceride levels. These are fats in your blood that can contribute to the hardening of arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and pancreatitis.”
Curious that the FDA did not mention that spirulina can help fight heart disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, cancer, herpes, flu, HIV, cut allergies and make your eyes healthier but I suppose the FDA’s job isn’t to tell you if a drug works but only to tell you that it won’t kill you.
I’m only picking on spirulina because of that German super-model but there are doubtless hundreds if not thousands of food additives on the market that claim to work miracles but do little more than drain your wallet.
While Googling around for more on spirulina, I was directed to a website advertising something called “The Stern Method,” a health food company based in Park City, Utah, that promotes products to “nutrify, correct and protect” with catchy names like Liquid Morning Multivitamin — MaryRuth Organics, SuperGreen, Fermented Green Supremefood for Divine Health, Vitamineral Green by HealthForce SuperFoods, Athletic Greens, Supergreens for Living Fuel, Ocean’s Alive Marine Phytoplankton Barley Max for the Hallelujah Diet, to mention a few.
After offering such a cornucopia of alleged health foods, the company ends with a disclaimer that “The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”
That same FDA, on May 7, 2020, notified Ryan Sternagel, owner of The Stern Method, to stop “unlawfully advertising that certain products treat or prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” The FDA notification cited a few examples of false treatment or prevention claims including marketing materials titled “My Extensive Coronavirus Research,” under a heading titled “Herbal / Botanical Prevention & Treatment,” and advertising extra Vitamin A, “a blend of three cordyceps, and astragalus to include one tablespoon, three times a day to prevent COVID-19 and six times a day for treatment.”
The FDA ordered Sternagel to stop claiming such unproven nonsense.
Steve McQueen died in 1980 of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs, that had spread to his abdomen and neck but like the character he portrayed in the movie “Papillon,” McQueen was not going down without a fight, just like his character who had escaped from Devil’s Island only to be recaptured.
Doctors told McQueen that the cancer was incurable but the actor found hope in one Dr. William D. Kelley, a dentist and orthodontist who had devised a controversial treatment regimen that he claimed had cured his own pancreatic cancer. Kelley had been blacklisted by the American Cancer Society and had his license suspended in Texas.
In July 1980, McQueen secretly traveled to Rosarita Beach, Mexico, to be treated by Mexican and American doctors using Kelley’s regimen that included injections of pancreatic enzymes, 50 daily vitamins and minerals, massages, prayer sessions, psychotherapy, coffee enemas and injections of a cell preparation made from sheep and cattle fetuses and laetrile, a controversial alternative treatment made from apricot pits. The dream cure didn’t pan out and McQueen died on Nov. 7, 1980, but Kelley’s bank account undoubtedly was made healthy.
Edzard Ernst, a leading authority on the scientific study of alternative therapies and diagnoses, was co-writer in 2012 with Simon Singh of a book with the clever title, “Trick or Treatment.”
Ernst said evidence for many alternative techniques is “weak, nonexistent or negative.” He concluded that 95 percent of the alternative therapies he and his team studied, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and reflexology, are “statistically indistinguishable from placebo treatments.”
“People are told lies,” Ernst wrote. “There are 40 million websites and 39.9 million tell lies, sometimes outrageous lies. They mislead cancer patients, who are encouraged not only to pay their last penny but to be treated with something that shortens their lives.”
I hope that clarifies any confusion that may be lingering.