Consumer Health Digest #16-06

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 7, 2016


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.


Robert O. Young convicted. Robert O. Young, author of The pH Miracle, has been found guilty of practicing medicine without a license. Young was charged with breaking the law by administering intravenous treatments to patients, some of whom were terminally ill. During the trial, which lasted four weeks, Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas portrayed Young as a charlatan who preyed on the sick and vulnerable—including dying cancer patients—and duped them with bogus science. [Figueroa T. Split verdict for 'pH Miracle' author. San Diego Tribune, Feb 3, 2016] Young, who represents himself as "Dr. Young," has a "Ph.D." from Clayton College of Natural Health, a nonaccredited correspondence school that closed in 2010 after Alabama began requiring accreditation for license renewal. The central premise of Young's approach—which lacks scientific support—is that health depends primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid cellular environment that can be optimized by dietary modification and taking supplements. [Barrett S. A critical look at "Dr." Robert Young's theories and credentials. Quackwatch, Feb 4, 2016] Young's Web site asserts that he and his wife Shelley "have established themselves as the preeminent scientific researchers on how to balance the body chemistry and achieve one's ideal weight." However, no articles by Young are listed in the National Library of Medicine's database.


Vitamin Advisor debunked. Puritan's Pride, which is one of the world's leading mail-order marketers of dietary supplements, claims that its "Vitamin Advisor" provides a "personalized supplement plan" with "expert recommendations chosen just for you." The "experts" are not identified, but the program is licensed from Healthnotes, a company that markets "decision tools" that promote product sales. The Healthnotes Web site describes the Vitamin Advisor as a proven "sales machine." By taking the test repeatedly, Drs. Harriett Hall and Stephen Barrett found that a multivitamin product is always recommended and most answers trigger a recommendation for at least one more product. They concluded:

We do not believe that Puritan Pride's questionnaire provides trustworthy advice. Its questions and answers related to dietary adequacy are simplistic. Its disease-related questions lead to products that are useless, poorly formulated, or both. In proper professional hands, a well-designed questionnaire that includes a detailed dietary history can identify areas of overall diet that could use improvement. However, no questionnaire can be customized to make appropriate supplement recommendations, either for dietary improvement or for treatment. If someone's diet is inadequate, the best way to fix it is to eat more sensibly. If a diet is missing any nutrients, it may also lack components (such as fiber) that will not be supplied by pills. If you think your diet may be deficient, analyze it with the tools provided on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Choose MyPlate Web site or seek professional advice from a registered dietitian (R.D.) or physician. [Hall HA, Barrett S. Puritan's Pride's "Vitamin Advisor" wants to sell you something. Quackwatch, Feb 3, 2016]


Popular model dies after chiropractic neck adjustment. Katie May, 34, suffered a stroke that may have been related to a chiropractic neck manipulation. About two weeks ago, she "tweaked her neck" when she fell during a photoshoot. She subsequently consulted a chiropractor who "adjusted" her neck. Press reports indicate that a few hours after a second visit to the chiropractor, she could hardly move, went to a hospital, vomited in the waiting room, was admitted, and suffered a second stroke that was fatal. [Salinger T. Playboy model Katie May's fatal stroke followed neck pain from bad fall during photo shoot and two chiropractor visits. New York Daily News, Feb 5, 2016] May's family has stated that the stroke was caused by a blocked carotid artery. Whether this was ultimately due to the fall, the manipulation, or both, has not been determined. Even if manipulation did not trigger the stroke, it appears likely that the chiropractor failed to recognize the need for medical diagnosis and treatment. Quackwatch has a detailed report on the risk of stroke following neck manipulation.


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This page was revised on February 8, 2016.