Consumer Health Digest #16-42

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 13, 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.


Study finds widespread illegal claims by MLM distributors. Despite declarations by the Direct Selling Association (DSA) that it is committed to business ethics, a TINA.org investigation found that illegal claims by distributors of these companies are widespread. Using DSA membership lists from March and November 2016, the investigators found that distributors for 60 out of the 62 (97%) DSA member companies were making (or had made) illegal claims that their products can diagnose, treat, cure, prevent, alleviate the symptoms of, and/or reduce the risk of developing a multitude of diseases. Using simple Web searches, the investigators found more than 1,000 such claims, including many testimonials, which are cataloged on TINA's Web site. [Is the DSA ignoring illegal health claims? TINA.org, Nov 6, 2016]


Comedian John Oliver blasts MLM "income opportunity." In a 30-minute satire, John Oliver explains why multilevel marketing should be regarded as an "endless chain pyramid" and exposes the gamut of ploys used to trick prospective distributors and minimize government regulation. The video, which has had more than 5 million YouTube views, ends with the promise that if each viewer sends it to five other people who do the same, it will reach every person on earth in just 14 referral cycles. A Spanish version has had nearly 1.5 million views. An equally powerful 6-minute video—How to spot a pyramid scheme should be required viewing for all high school and college students. Please send these links to everyone who you think will benefit from this information.


Cranberry products fail to prevent urinary tract infections. An extremely well-designed study of elderly women residing in a nursing home has found that taking cranberry capsules did not reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections. [Juthani-Mehta M and others. Effect of cranberry capsules on bacteria plus pyuria among older women in nursing homes: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA 316:1879-1887, 2016] An accompanying editorial stated:

The continuing promotion of cranberry use to prevent recurrent UTI in the popular press or online advice seems inconsistent with the reality of repeated negative studies or positive studies compromised by methodological shortcomings. Any continued promotion of the use of cranberry products seems to go beyond available scientific evidence and rational reasoning.

[Nicole LE. Cranberry for prevention of urinary tract infection? Time to move on. JAMA 316:1873-1874, 2016] A 2012 Cochrane Review was similarly negative.


Previous Issue || Next Issue

This page was posted on November 13, 2016.