Category Archives: Health Companies

Google Is Planning A Health Tracking Service

They are calling it Google Fit, and they expect it to be Google’s next big move into the world of health and fitness tracking. Like the Apple HealthKit, it will gather data from various fitness and activity trackers. Forbes has spoken to multiple sources, and they claim that they have signed deals with various device manufacturers. They just haven’t yet decided if it will be an app or if it will be built into the next Android.

Apple’s HealthKit will be in the next iPhone and iPad automatically with iOS8. It can be synced with items like Nike Fuel Band to start, and it will have a motion-sensing chip inside the iPhone 5S automatically. It seems likely that Google will be creating their program as more of an app.

As you may have heard, Google has an obsession with data gathering, and you can be sure they will have plenty of data before they release anything. The fact is that very few smartphones can run the latest version of Android. It’s only about 11% worldwide.

Regardless, unless consumers see the benefit of the service, there is no guarantee we will really be seeing it any time soon. Google previously tried launching Google Health, which obviously failed. It will be interesting to see if this one comes to fruition.

What You Need To Know About Vitamin Infusions

If you like needles….you are not the average. Even among health nuts, I don’t think anybody actually likes rolling up their sleeves to stick needles in their arms for a high-dose vitamin infusion. Celebrities ranging from Rihanna to Simon Cowell and Madonna have been rumored to get these vitamin infusions regularly, but it’s not just Hollywood doing it. Companies like VitaSquad in Miami cater to the everyday Joes like you and me. You could even do it in the comfort of your own home if you wanted to.

When you use an infusion, vitamins are combined in a solution with a salt concentration that matches your blood. This helps it to absorb within about 20 to 30 minutes with a relatively painless process if done right. Companies like VitaSquad offer a variety of options, each of which has a vitamin combination that varies based on what you want to get out of it. They claim that the right vitamin infusions can boost immunity, fight hangovers, improve your sex life, burn fat, de-stress, and even fight jet lag. The price generally ranges between $95 and $175.

That’s quite the price for one little prick. Is it worth it?

Jesse Sandhu MD, emergency physician and medical director of VitaSquad says, Although there haven’t been any randomized controlled studies, people notice an immediate dramatic effect after an infusion. Ever heard of the placebo effect?

David Katz MD, clinical instructor in medicine at Yale School of Public Health says, The mistake is assuming something that feels good in the short term is necessarily good for you in the long term. In short, there’s not necessarily enough evidence to prove anything, especially with no scientific evidence whatsoever. The major concern for experts like Katz is that if you infuse vitamins through your veins, it never goes through your GI system, which is where nutrients are generally absorbed. With vitamin C, for example, it’s immediately available for cellular use when you infuse it directly into the veins. But the same amount would cause GI upset if you tried to take it by mouth according to Sadhura.

It’s not just that it might not absorb as well as you may think though. When you go around your digestive system, it could actually put you at risk. In your digestive system, you find several layers of defense that can protect you from potentially harmful molecules that could cause allergic reactions just to start. Katz says, You bypass those safeguards when you inject something directly into your bloodstream. The risk of infection goes up any time you take IV lines or any medical equipment outside of a standard healthcare setting.

This is not to say that vitamin infusions have no benefits. Katz does offer them, and he has cocktails such as what he calls the Myers’ cocktail, which combines vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins. He has seen fibromyalgia patients and those with chronic fatigue syndrome see benefits from that. We don’t know the mechanism, but the effect may have something to do with improved circulation helping to relieve pain and get people nutrients that aren’t being absorbed through their digestive tract.

Herbs That Can Damage Your Liver

There are plenty of studies that supposedly show that herbs keep us young, heal our hearts, help us to lose weight, and there are some bold companies who have gotten sued and paid millions for claims about curing or even warding off cancer. The problem is that anything can go too far, and in excessive amounts, comfrey for example could actually send you to the hospital, which is why it’s no longer sold in the US. Even excessive amounts of green tea can do some damage to the liver.

This has been a significant enough problem that the American College of Gastroenterology has cautioned consumers specifically about too many natural or herbal products. They caution against the all too common idea that natural products are naturally safer than prescriptions, which just isn’t always true. In fact, according to Dr Herbert Bonkovsky of the Carolinas HealthCare Systems in Charlotte, they’re often not.

Bonkovsky says, Currently, there is not actually very much effective oversight. It’s pretty much up to the manufacturer of these supplements to guarantee what’s actually in there. This could mean companies using much more than the safe dose of a natural ingredient, or it could mean using undisclosed prescriptions or other illegal ingredients. Recently, a number of companies were fined and punished for including the discontinued prescription sibutramine and phenolphthalein, a laxative that was pulled for its potential to cause cancer. The American College of Gastroenterology specifically warns about 5 herbs:

  1. Green Tea

    Green tea is widely seen as a healthy way to boost your metabolism and lose weight. In fact, there are some who recommend 8 cups a day, which is fine. However, the extracts that you get in supplements are concentrated formulas with catechins. Experts now say that catechins can deplete some of the protective molecules in cells such as glutathione that are there to protect us from injury. A high dose of green tea extract can lead in susceptible persons to actually quite severe and even fatal liver injury according to Bonkovsky.

    He continues, We don’t really fully understand the basis for the susceptibility, but it seems likely to be a combination of genetic factors…but also maybe related to their diets, to whether or not they have been drinking alcohol. The FDA has rejected a number of the health claims made by companies trying to push green tea products.

  2. Comfrey

    Technically, this is not supposed to be sold in the US anyway, but it has a toxic substance called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can actually damage your liver. It can even be fatal. Comfrey is not supposed to be sold in the US, except in creams or ointments. But even in this form, I would be careful at the very least.

  3. Kava Kava

    This particular herb comes from the Polynesian islands, and it’s typically thought of as their way to get drunk essentially. There are some religious kids who use it because it’s not technically alcohol, and they can get the same effect, liver damage and all. It has been used to treat anxiety and insomnia, but it is banned in Germany, Switzerland, France, Canada, and Britain due to the effects on the liver.

  4. Skullcap

    Traditionally used by Native Americans, skullcap has uses for anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Chinese skullcap is a different species, but both have been tied to potential liver damage. This is often used in products with multiple herbs. So it may be combinations that actually do the real damage, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for.

  5. Chaparral

    An extract of the creosote bush, chaparral is believed to help people with everything from skin rashes all the way up to cancer, though of course I would be very careful about the cancer idea. It is suspected to cause liver damage due to a compound called NDGA, and it may be related to an allergic or immune reaction to the substance as well. However, the cases have been severe enough to lead to emergency liver transplants.

Vitamins You Shouldn’t Take

If you’re taking a comprehensive multivitamin, you’ve been taught not necessarily to look too closely at the ingredients list, but to assume you need all of these vitamins. Sure, they may make you feel nauseous because of the vitamin overload, but it makes you healthier, right?

The problem has long been that we know that while yes, you need vitamins in your diet, the artificial diet supplements you swallow may not be as good for you as you think. In fact, experts highly encourage getting the majority (if not all) of your vitamins through your diet. I’m not saying that you can’t take vitamins, just that too many people depend on them to supplement an unhealthy diet. These are vitamins you may want to take with a little more care:

  1. Calcium

    Especially if you’re older, you need to amp up the calcium in your diet. In addition, it wouldn’t hurt to take a calcium supplement just for a little extra help. Calcium supplements, when used incorrectly, can actually be dangerous though. Older bodies, especially those over 50, may actually have more difficulty absorbing calcium, leading to absorption by the arteries and a hardening of the arteries, stroke, and heart disease. In other words, if you are going to take calcium, especially as an older adults, do it under a doctor’s supervision.

  2. Prenatal Vitamins (If You’re Not Pregnant)

    I had a friend in jr high who insisted that she took prenatal vitamins that helped her skin and hair. There are plenty of people who certainly try to market it that way. But if you are pregnant, you don’t actually need that overload of vitamins. Prenatal vitamins have a lot more iron that can lead to an overload of iron, which comes with plenty of nasty side effects. It could also lead to constipation, nausea, and vomiting, all of which are not so pretty. Actually, prenatal vitamins may be a good part of the reason why some women suffer morning sickness (some morning sickness just is what it is). Pregnant women need the extra nutrients for baby, you don’t.

  3. Creatine

    I know, you’ve heard all about creatine and its muscle building effects. Creatine surrounds your muscles with water, ideally to stop soreness and help you to recover faster. Unfortunately, it can lead to a lot of stomach upset and bloating. In addition, excessive use can actually lead to dehydration and kidney damage over time. It may also aggravate the symptoms of asthma. There are even some who recommend only taking creatine under medical supervision. This may be a bit far for most of us, but it never hurts to be careful.

  4. Vitamin C

    If you get too much vitamin C, you’ll probably just pee it out. It comes with plenty of healthy benefits with all of its germ fighting, antioxidants, and it’s an essential vitamin. Unfortunately, too much vitamin C could actually increase your risk of kidney stones. Ya, ew. It’s weird, but in general, you’re probably already getting enough vitamin C too.

  5. Soy Isolate

    Soy isolate is often found in protein bars and shakes, and it’s great for women. Unfortunately, the soy cell looks a lot like estrogen to the body (it’s not actually estrogen). So for men, it can actually have some side effects (if you eat a lot). We’re not talking Jeremy Piven growing moobs here, unless you’re getting an extreme amount that you could only possibly get in a lot of supplements. A normal diet won’t go that far, and let’s be honest. If you say you’re just eating a lot of tofu, there’s something else going on.

    Still, because of the similarities to estrogen, soy supplements may be something to skip on for men.

  6. Yohimbe

    Okay, so I worked in the natural diet supplement industry, and I’ll admit, I wrote a lot of crap, leaving out the bad to promote certain products for money. It happens. When it comes to yohimbe, it’s one of the things that I just didn’t mention A LOT. Yohimbe (sometimes called yohimbine) has no proven muscle building effects.

    What it does have is some pretty serious health concerns for users. Countries like the UK and Australia have actually banned this particular ingredient. There are people who knowingly try to order it anyway from within those countries, but it typically gets stopped in customs. It also doesn’t have any proven benefits in terms of erectile dysfunction. It can aggravate, and some would say lead to, serious heart arrythmias, liver problems, heart attacks, strokes, you name it. I’m not sure exactly how much it would take to reach this, but most supplements have a mere 5-10mg, and there are companies who have been sued for these types of problems with yohimbe.

How Involved in Health Scams Is Dr Oz?

Testifying before Congress and under presssure, Dr. Mehmet Oz offered to help drain the swamp of unscrupulous marketers as he put it. For years, these marketers have used his name to push all sorts of health and weight loss supplements, miracle pills, cure-alls, etc. Oz was scolded by Chairman Claire McCaskill for claims he made about weight loss on the Dr. Oz Show, and to some degree for allowing his name to be used so roundly. His supporter, Oprah, has actually sued a number of companies to get her name and picture off those types of supplements.

Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon, and he acknowledges that the way he describes green coffee and other supplements he supports is flowery at best. He has promised to put out a list of products he thinks can help us to shed pounds and get fit, though he has never specifically endorsed any one company, brand, or supplement. Companies who use those ingredients have just jumped on the opportunity.

In 2012, by flowery, we mean that Oz claimed that green coffee bean was a magic weight loss cure for every body type. McCaskill told Oz, I get that you do a lot of good on your show, but I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true.

Dr. Oz has vowed to be more careful going forward, and he of course hopes that will be enough. He has long talked about supplements being used as magical cure-alls for weight loss and short-term crutches, and he claims he has even had his family try them to prove it. He wants to be a cheerleader for his audience, but does that really include giving patently false promises he knows are false to make money? Does that really mean eschewing science as a medical professional?

Within mere weeks of his proclamations about green coffee bean, a Florida based company immediately jumped on board to market a product called Pure Green Coffee with claims that the chlorogenic acid could help users to lose 17 pounds and cut away body fat by 16% in just 22 weeks. The company used footage of The Dr. Oz Show to sell it, and Oz has never received any money, nor does he have any association with the company. The FTC recently sued the makers of Pure Green Coffee, accusing them of bogus claims to deceive consumers.

Dr. Oz, much like many others, must realize that the weight loss industry is full of scams, and consumers are vulnerable to fraud. Oz has stressed that he has never promoted a particular supplement, but he has certainly opened the doors.

Oz says, If you see my name, face or show in any type of ad, email, or other circumstance, it’s illegal, certainly not something he has endorsed. But it makes you wonder why he has allowed so many companies to do it.

5 Toed Running Shoes Pay Up In Lawsuit

I never actually knew the 5 toed running shoes had health benefits. I just knew that my feet like having toes, and that’s the end of it. When I posted it on Facebook, I got a lot of other very confused responses from people who thought they were just fun or trendy. None of us actually imagined people attributing any major health benefits to shoes with toes carved out. Supposedly, they’re supposed to act like you’re running barefoot. I imagine things like ninja shoes are supposed to do the same thing. They use lines like return to the natural environment, and they bring other trends like the Paleo Diet to mind.

There are various companies that make similar shoes, but one of the makers, Vibram, has now agreed to pay out $3.75 million and stop making claims that FiveFingers footwear is effective in strengthening muscles or reducing injury. Apparently, people sued because they swindled by false and unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits. Has Sketchers been sued yet for their rocking shoes? I definitely remember those little bracelets that people wore…..ya. I don’t agree with preying on the stupid, but I also don’t see the point of suing because people couldn’t think for themselves. Anyway, Runner’s World said:

Bezdek alleged that Vibram deceived consumers by advertising that the footwear could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without basing those assertions on scientific merit. The gist of her claim is that Vibram illegally obtained an economic windfall from her because it was only by making false health claims that Vibram induced consumers to buy FiveFingers shoes, and pay more for them than they would have otherwise.

Customers who file for their part of the lawsuit should expect to receive $20-$50 per pair purchased. The company is naturally not acknowledging any wrongdoing in this.

Massachusetts Senator Scrutinizes HerbaLife

For years, Utah Senators have been known for their attempts to cover for natural health supplement companies. It’s a big money maker for Utah, and in some cases, it has come down to the point where I at least questioned their motives, and even the Senators’ criminal involvement. This year, Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey is wondering about Herbalife. He’s probing into the company, calling for an investigation into claims that Herbalife has opened up a pyramid scheme (more politically called MLM’s/multi level marketing).

Since Markey came out with this call for investigation, Herbalife’s shares have dropped more than 12%. Markey claimed to have written into the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Herbalife itself

Markey stated something we have all been thinking for years, There is nothing nutritional about possible pyramid schemes that promise financial benefit but result in economic ruin for vulnerable families. He has reported serious complaints of improper pressure and financial hardship from those types of families.

Herbalife representative Barbara Henderson has stated that the company looks foward to sharing their side and providing more information. Of course, they aren’t doing this in an early press conference, but rather suggest that they are waiting until a time that is convenient for Senator Markey.

This is not a new battle by any means. The battle over the future of Herbalife has been going on for years. It started when prominent activist investor William Ackman accused the company of running a pyramid scheme (an unsustainable business model focused on recruiting salespeople rather than on selling or making effective products to sell). Herbalife has obviously fought back, denying these types of accusations.

Major investors such as Carl Icahn (yes, the Carl Icahn who is trying to split up eBay and Paypal) have lined up, and Herbalife is accordingly being closely watched on Wall Street. Icahn may honestly be wise to pull out now. The stock prices went up 139% in 2013, but they have already fallen 16.6% this year.

Markey has repeatedly cited Massachusetts constituents, who he says have reported multiple scams, financial hardships, and other issues, being preyed upon by Herbalife. He claims that they lost thousands of dollars in the process, even $130,000 with one family, which included their entire 401k retirement account. Frankly, I really don’t know how you get $130,000 in. That certainly doesn’t sound like a vulnerable family to me, but what do you do. Anyway, another woman claims to have been pressured into recruiting and spending more money in the process to qualify as a supervisor.

Frankly, I’m not surprised that Herbalife is being pursued right now as a pyramid scheme. At the same point though, I have trouble seeing how people can really keep going to the point of losing that much money. I associate it with a gambling issue. It’s something that doesn’t make logical sense, and I don’t feel as bad for the people doing it, because they have ultimately done it to themselves.

There are accusations that Herbalife is specifically targeting minority communities, which may be legitimate. They promote the idea that you could build your business and obtain the American dream. In October 2013, Latino civil rights activists also called on the California attorney general to look into the company’s practices . The League of United Latin American Citizens has also gathered to this same end.