May 282010

In this issue:

May 272010

I think it’s time to cleanse the world of colon cleansing.

Colon cleansing is where people go on special liquid diets or take special liquid or herbal supplements to “cleanse” the colon of any “toxins” that supposedly have accumulated in there.

First, the word “toxin” is always a red flag. Usually, “toxin” is pseudoscientific doublespeak that people use to get you to buy their product. The next time people tell you their product will get rid of toxins, ask them “Which toxins?” They usually can’t tell you.

In fact, colon cleansing is based on the outdated 19th century theory of autointoxication….the belief that waste collects in the colon over time and stagnates there. Well, research as early as the 1920’s showed that this isn’t true. Doctors who regularly perform colonoscopies and literally look into hundreds of colons per year will tell you that stool does not collect in the colon at all.

There’s also no evidence that stool is toxic to the body. If stool was toxic, then people who suffer from constipation would also suffer from more disease….but they don’t.

If you take a close look at the ingredients of these “colon cleansing” products, you’ll find that they’re either simply a random collection of different types of fiber…

and/or a random collection of herbs…

…and there’s no evidence that any of these herbs do anything for you, let alone “cleanse” your colon.

In fact, you have to be careful with some of the herbal colon cleansers, because they may contain powerful laxatives, such as senna leaves. While laxatives can occasionally relieve constipation, frequent use may have harmful effects, including dehydration and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

Despite all the claims of the people who want you to take a colon bath, there’s no need to cleanse your colon. It does just fine on its own.

For a healthy colon, what matters is what you put in your mouth. Make sure your diet is adequate in natural fiber from whole fruits and vegetables. Also, drink enough water….mild dehydration may result in constipation.

Basically, the only crap that needs to get cleaned up here is the crap surrounding colon cleansers.  If you ever use any these products, you’re flushing your money right down the toilet…literally!

May 262010

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the saying, “You increase your metabolism by 50 calories for every pound of muscle you add to your body.”

50 calories per pound????   Really????

Let’s take a look at this.  I’m about 180 pounds.  When I first started weight lifting, I weighed about 135 pounds.  I’ve added a little bit of body fat since then, so let’s be conservative and say I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle since I started weight training.

If I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, that means that my metabolism should have increased by 50 x 30 = 1,500 calories.

I’ve had my resting metabolic rate (RMR) officially tested.  The last time it was measured, it was 1,671 calories per day.

Now, if my RMR increased by 1,500 calories since I first started weight training, then that would mean my RMR started out at only 171 calories per day.

That is completely impossible.  Nobody has a resting metabolic rate that low, unless you’re dead.

Building muscle does not increase your metabolism by 50 calories per day.  The real number is only 6 calories per pound on average.

So my 30 pounds of extra muscle has increased my metabolism by about 180 calories…not 1,500.

Adding muscle doesn’t boost your metabolism all that much.  Yes, it does a little bit, but you’ll get more bang for your buck by simply being more active throughout the day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying building muscle and strength training is not important.  It’s extremely important.  It improves strength, it improves appearance, it improves function in activities of daily living, and it increases bone density.  You also get a nice elevation of your metabolism of about 50-100 calories for 24 hours after your workout.  My point is that building muscle is over-rated for permanently increasing your metabolism and energy expenditure.

The “50 calories per pound” number appears to be a case of communal reinforcement.  This is the process by which a claim becomes a strong belief through repeated assertion by members of a community.  Someone, somewhere, at one time proclaimed this 50 calorie per pound number.  Other people heard it, believed it, and started telling their friends.  It has now been repeated so often by so many people everywhere that people have accepted the number without question.  Then you get doctors and other respected health professionals quoting the number, and it becomes permanently entrenched in our beliefs.

The fact is, muscle does not boost your metabolism all that much.  Building muscle is important….just don’t expect it to make you a calorie burning machine.

May 252010

In honor of Alan Aragon’s recent blog post on MonaVie vs. Two Buck Chuck, super-hyped, err, I mean superfruit juices are today’s topic.

At just about every fitness or nutrition expo I’ve walked through, there has been someone pushing a “superfruit” juice of some kind or another. Mangosteen, Acai berry juice, you name it….I’ve probably been pushed it.

When I walk past these Superjuice booths, the conversation goes something like this:

Pusher: “Hi.”

Me (trying to keep on walking to avoid the product spiel): “Hi.”

Pusher: “Have you tried our Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius Juice? It’s made from a mixture of Mangosteen, Acai berry, and Goji juice. It has one billion times the antioxidant capacity of an orange. A teaspoon serving will give you the same number of antioxidants as 10,000 servings of fruits and vegetables.”

Pusher pushes a small Dixi-cup sample in my face, stopping me in my tracks. To appease the Pusher, I take the sample and drink it.

Tastes like a really dry red wine without the alcohol. I restrain my face muscles from doing a yoga-like contortionist trick.

Me: “Ummm, thanks.”

Pusher: “Do you feel it? Do you feel any different?”

I’m starting to feel annoyed, sure. And I feel an awful aftertaste in my mouth.

Pusher: “Ever since I started taking this, I can’t believe how much different I’ve been feeling. I have more energy, I have more stamina, I’ve lost weight, my cholesterol is lower, my blood pressure is down…I feel great! And my mom started taking this and her cancer went away.”

Will this juice help me lower my taxes too? Solve world hunger? Bring peace to the Middle East? Stop the explosion of reality TV shows?

Pusher: “And it’s only $100 for a 1 Liter bottle. Imagine how much you would have to pay for 10,000 servings of fruits and vegetables.”

Imagine how much I would pay to leave this conversation.

Pusher: “Here’s a brochure showing all the benefits of our juice, and how you can order it.”

Me: “Thanks”……but no thanks.

Walking away, I look at the brochure. On the front page is a smiling face of a hot chick who is holding a glass of this juice.

Yes, I’m sure the juice is what makes her look that way.

And testimonials by “Greg” and “Judy” and “Sally” and “Richard” abound. Apparently people that have tried this juice don’t have last names. And Doctor Rosen Rosen says he recommends this juice to all his patients. And there are references to scientific studies that, upon closer inspection, have little to do with the product.

Obviously my story has been exaggerated for effect, but you get the point. These Superjuices are super hyped. The question is whether there is anything to the hype. Choice Online, an Australian consumer watchdog group, looked into these juices and published their results. They tested the Total Antioxidant Capacity (TAC) of many of these juices, and compared them to the TAC of fruit that you can get at your local grocery store. A single serving of these juices only had 9-34% of the TAC of a Red Delicious Apple!!!!  In fact, according to their tests, three servings of one brand of Mangosteen juice would fall short of the TAC of a cup of berries! So much for these juices being “super.” And the prices of these juices was ridiculous…$24 to $85 per liter. You’re better off eating the standard fruits and vegetables that you can get from your local supermarket.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that these juices have no health benefits. But their benefits don’t even come close to the hype surrounding them, and their benefits actually don’t match up to a plain ol’ piece of whole fruit. Also, while there are studies showing some potential health benefits to the components of these exotic fruits, most of these studies have been done in vitro (in a test tube) or in animals. Very few clinical studies on humans have been performed. In addition, remember that many of these in vitro and animal studies look at either the whole fruit itself, or components or extracts of the whole fruit. These juices may not have the same composition as the whole fruit or fruit components/extracts.

The bottom line is that, rather than spending money on these expensive juices, you are better off eating a variety of whole fruits and vegetables. Not only will you get more antioxidants, but you’ll also get the other benefits that juice can’t provide….fiber, for example. And you’ll be saving money while saving your health at the same time.

May 242010

A while back, a friend of mine asked me about this product:

It’s a biophotonic scanner made by a company called Pharmanex.  This product measures carotenoid levels in the skin.  Carotenoids are antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables.  Beta-carotene is one carotenoid that you may be familiar with.  Other carotenoids include lutein and lycopene, to name just a few.  Many scientists believe that carotenoids may be partly responsible for the observed associations between increased fruit and vegetable intake and lower risk of many diseases.

 The company claims that this scanner can give you an “accurate and reliable biomarker of your overall antioxidant health status“.  They further state that, “Getting your Skin Carotenoid Score makes you aware of the antioxidant levels in your body-and gives you the push you need to improve your overall antioxidant health.”  To appear scientific, their website is complete with a scientific advisory board, a list of scientists, and even a list of studies that they claim supports their product.

Well, it’s B.S.

OK, it’s not complete B.S.  The product does do what it claims to do….it measures carotenoid levels in the skin using a technique called Raman Spectroscopy.

While that’s fine and dandy, what is B.S. is their claim that it is a reliable biomarker of your overall antioxidant status.  There is simply no evidence that carotenoid skin levels reflect the overall antioxidant status of your body.

Carotenoid skin levels do correlate with fruit and vegetable intake, so the test can tell you if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  But do you need an expensive scanner to tell you if you’re eating a lot of fruits and vegetables?

And what do you think the company recommends you do if you have a low skin carotenoid score?  Buy their antioxidant supplements, of course.

This isn’t the first time Pharmanex has spread outlandish claims.  In 1997, they were fined by the Federal Trade Commission over claims they made about two supplements they sold.

The fact is that this scanner is nothing more than a fancy way to take your money and to get you to buy things that you don’t need.  There is no evidence that skin carotenoid status is a reflection of overall antioxidant status.  You do not need an expensive test to know if you’re consuming a lot fruits and vegetables.  Also, there is little scientific evidence that supplemental antioxidants have any health benefits.  In fact, too many antioxidants can have a pro-oxidant effect, and may also reduce your own body’s antioxidant defense systems.  We are a bit too antioxidant crazy in our society….a topic that I will get to in another blog post.

May 242010

I have now put up an additional website.  The Health Sleuth is a blog dedicated to investigating claims and products in the health and wellness industry.  This industry is notorious for bogus claims, snake oil products, fraud, and quackery.  The goal of this blog is to challenge the evidence basis for many of these claims and products.  Click here to check it out.

May 242010

Like the world of used car salesmen, politics, and tabloid journalism, the health and wellness industry can be full of crap.  It is an industry where anyone can pretend to be an expert, present you with the latest snake oil that is supposed to cure you of your ills, and fill their wallets by selling products that have little to no evidence to support them.  It is an industry that preys upon the public’s desire for quick fixes, while breeding distrust of traditional medicine.  It is an industry that takes advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge and critical thinking.  It is an industry saturated with pseudoscience masquerading as real science.  It is an industry that sells first and lets you ask questions later.  It is an industry where the level of evidence provided does not match up with the claims that are made.

The purpose of this blog is to investigate various claims and products in this industry, and challenge their evidence basis.  The goal is to take an unbiased, critical analysis of these claims and products.  Since I have no financial ties to any products in this industry, I have no obligations to promote any product; I can take an honest look at the claims being made, and call B.S. when necessary. 

Welcome to the Health Sleuth’s blog.  If you have any ideas of products or claims that you would like to see investigated, do not hesitate to contact me.

May 222010

The inaugural issue of Weightology Weekly is now posted.

In this issue:

May 222010

Hello! My name is James and I am the founder of Weightology, LLC. Losing weight and keeping it off can be one of the biggest challenges that many people will face in their lifetime. Many people have tried over and over again to lose weight, only to see it regained after every attempt. People will move from one fad or one diet or one exercise program to the next, looking for that “final solution” that never gets found.

The purpose of this site is to deliver real information on weight loss….information that has a solid basis in science. You will not find fads, shortcuts, or hype here.  You will only find accurate information that you can apply to your weight loss efforts, or to your clients if you are a health professional.

This site is meant for many people. It is meant for the individual who is looking for accurate, science-based information on weight loss, in a manner that is easy to understand. It is meant for the individual looking for personal weight loss or nutrition consultation. It is meant for the health professional who wants to stay on the cutting edge of weight loss research. Whatever your background may be, there is something here for you.

If you want personal online nutrition or weight loss consultation, feel free to contact me for more information.

If you want to read about hot topics in the field of weight loss, then subscribe to this blog as I will be posting topics on a regular basis.  You can also discuss weight loss and other health related topics on the Weightology World forums.

If you want to know about the latest weight loss research, then check out Weightology Weekly.  Every week I will be taking a critical look at 2-3 studies in the field of weight loss.  I will discuss the methods, results, and how the results may or may not apply to you.  Weightology Weekly is currently free, although I will be moving to a subscription-based model in the future. 

If you are looking for an in-person discussion of weight loss-related topics, I am available for lectures and seminars.  In fact, I’ve given over 75 lectures on weight loss and health related topics in the past.

And if you’re wondering, “Who the hell are you and what makes you qualified to be an expert?”, then you can check out my bio, my publications, or my curriculum vita.

Thank you for checking out Weightology, LLC!  Feel free to contact me if you have any suggestions, comments, or questions.