The Scam of Skin Antioxidant Testing

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.


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Mike
Mike
12 years ago

My dentist is offering this test at $20. It is a way for him to know a bit more about his patient’s health. I was told that everyone but 1 person at the office scored D or F (A is the best). Most of the people that scored poorly thought they would score at least okay. One of those was taking antioxidant supplements!!! Everyone that scored poorly made dietary changes and now, a few months later, are scoring into the B region. I think this proves that the number measured by this machine is related to food and how it… Read more »

Peter
Peter
12 years ago

Wow, this is an interesting thread. First of all, as a medical doctor, scientist and medical researcher I am going to tell you this product and the marketing for it is extremely suspect. The most important question to ask in all of this is, even if I do have a device that supposedly measures my antioxidant levels, does that correlate with better health. The current scientific consensus is, no. There is no scientific evidence to support that. That is not my opinion, but that of the Cochrane Group, which is an international body of researchers who work on developing best… Read more »

Eric
Eric
12 years ago
Reply to  Peter

Peter, Thank you for your post. You are quite correct that antioxidant supplements, as a whole, do not in any conclusive way demonstrate benefit or harm for those taking it. Another link providing the same conclusion is below http://www.annals.org/content/145/5/372.short As a matter of fact, any general antioxidant supplement cannot demonstrate an increase in antioxidant levels in the body. The strength of the bioscanner that Pharmanex pushes is that it 1) Determines your current levels of carotenoids in your skin, which are correlated with other antioxidant levels in the body (the statement of correlation, while weak in drawing conclusions from, has… Read more »

Tom
Tom
12 years ago
Reply to  Eric

An abstract at FASEB means nothing – seriously, they are not peer reviewed – you submit the abstract, you present at the meeting, it gets published in the proceedings – along with 1,000s of other non-peer-reviewed abstracts.
I know, I’ve been a medical researcher for 20 years. There’s a difference between publishing a peer-reviewed article in the FASEB Journal, and presenting at the conference – seriously, go the journal website and try and find any article published by Smidt, CR in it.

MarcieMom
12 years ago

Someone was introducing my baby to drink G3 for her eczema, any co-relation?

Michele
Michele
12 years ago
Reply to  MarcieMom

G3 is manufactured by Pharmanex. Below are benefits seen with the 4 super fruits that make up G3. More than 300 published research papers show that gac, cili, Siberian pineapple, and Chinese lycium can help your body to achieve the optimal health we all deserve. Here the reasons to drink the juice every day. 63 Reasons to Drink G3 Juice ANTI-AGING 1 Possesses powerful antioxidant effects 2 Powerful scavenger of free radicals 3 Helps increase lifespan 4 Promotes healthy aging 5 Protects and repairs DNA 6 Fights oxidative stress damage 7 Catalytically-active-increase body’s production of SOD and Catalase CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH… Read more »

Robert Branscomb
12 years ago

Just keeping on laughing..someday you’ll look back just as most of these people have and feel very foolish.. Dateline.. Wright bros (flying machines) After their Kitty Hawk success, The Wrights flew their machine in open fields next to a busy rail line in Dayton Ohio for almost an entire year. American authorities refused to come to the demos, and Scientific American Magazine published stories about “The Lying Brothers.” Even the local Dayton newspapers never sent a reporter (but they did complain about all the letters they were receiving from local “crazies” who reported the many flights.) Finally the Wrights packed… Read more »

Michele
Michele
12 years ago

Have you actually checked out http://www.pharmanexmd.com and read all of the articles/studies? If you are referring to the “name of Pharmanex” in the webite, where else would you collect the data instead of giving you hundreds of links to articles?

Third party validation–Dr. Louis Cady, discussed the science behind the scanner and why carotenoids:
http://www.cadywellness.com/REVISION%20-%202008%20The%20BioPhotonic%20Scanner%20A%20White%20Paper%20by%20Louis%20B%20Cady%20MD.pdf

Cansas
Cansas
11 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Michelle, enough. You have posted enough. We know your stance, so enough. Let others play for awhile.

S.Curling
S.Curling
12 years ago

I agree with those who question the direct relationship of high skin carotenoid levels with good health. Sure the device can measure the skin levels, but a lot more research is need to relate that to overall healthy antioxidant levels.

I also find it disingenuous to send people to the company (pharmanexmd.com) web site for “third party” research validation.

Michele
Michele
12 years ago
Reply to  S.Curling

Have you actually checked out http://www.pharmanexmd.com and read all of the articles/studies? If you are referring to the “name of Pharmanex” in the webite, where else would you collect the data instead of giving you hundreds of links to articles?

Third party validation–Dr. Louis Cady, discussed the science behind the scanner and why carotenoids:
http://www.cadywellness.com/REVISION%20-%202008%20The%20BioPhotonic%20Scanner%20A%20White%20Paper%20by%20Louis%20B%20Cady%20MD.pdf

Dr. Oz just highlighted the scanner on his show when emphasizing cancer fighting foods. Take a look at the clip: ORIGINAL BROADCAST: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/cancer-fighting-antioxidants-pt-1

Mike Adams–The Health Ranger, discusses the application of the scanner here:
http://www.angelfire.com/theforce/tecdr/BlueLaser.pdf

Michele
Michele
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Have you actually checked out http://www.pharmanexmd.com and read all of the articles/studies? If you are referring to the “name of Pharmanex” in the webite, where else would you collect the data instead of giving you hundreds of links to articles? Third party validation–Dr. Louis Cady, discussed the science behind the scanner and why carotenoids: http://www.cadywellness.com/REVISION%20-%202008%20The%20BioPhotonic%20Scanner%20A%20White%20Paper%20by%20Louis%20B%20Cady%20MD.pdf Dr. Oz just highlighted the scanner on his show when emphasizing cancer fighting foods. Take a look at the clip: ORIGINAL BROADCAST: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/cancer-fighting-antioxidants-pt-1 Mike Adams–The Health Ranger, discusses the application of the scanner here: http://www.angelfire.com/theforce/tecdr/BlueLaser.pdf BioPhotonic Scanner S2 Key Studies: Bernstein P.S., Raman detection of… Read more »

Jane
Jane
11 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Michele, have you read any of these studies? Not one of them is definitive. As a matter of fact, each and every study makes use of words like “may”, “might”, “possibly”. The main point you are missing is that no one is disputing the health benefits of antioxidants such as carotenoids. What many are disputing is that the scanner provides an accurate snapshot of ones antioxidant levels. It doesn’t. It can’t. The scanner merely measures the photosensitive properties of carotenoids and more specifically, carotenoids from fruits and vegetables. The correlating supplements that you sell are rich in such carotenoids if… Read more »

gabe walker
gabe walker
11 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Sheesh… just a basic pubmed search is all it takes damn…. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9567001 Increased dermal carotenoid levels assessed by noninvasive reflection spectrophotometry correlate with serum levels in women ingesting Betatene. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12226001 Dietary carotenoids, serum beta-carotene, and retinol and risk of lung cancer in the alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cohort study. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/3/399.full Dietary Carotenoids Contribute to Normal Human Skin Color and UV Photosensitivity In recent years, a number of studies have suggested a close association between diets rich in carotenoids, and a reduced incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration in the human population (38–41). As well as being informative about the skin’s… Read more »

Robert Branscomb
12 years ago
Reply to  S.Curling

Sooooo, when you buy a new car..the idea of buying any parts from their service department bothers you???

sarah
sarah
12 years ago

This is not a reasonable comparison. One chooses a car based on its proven technology. and if a generic part is better then I wouldn’t go to the dealers service dept, especially as they are always more expensive.

Suz
Suz
12 years ago
Reply to  S.Curling

Why would someone get a score below the range of the lowest level , especially when they know they have been on a special diet of spinach, tomatoes, cukes, apples, and oranges, in addition to non-saucy, un-oiled (cooked in broth only) meats only to a ceiling of 500 calories per day? This was my score. They restarted the machine and we tried 3 times but it kept returning an error code for me. Then we had someone else do it and it gave a bonafide score falling within a range of the levels. Then when I did it again it… Read more »

Michele
Michele
12 years ago
Reply to  Suz

Regarding the error code initially….probably due to the fact that the operator did not fill in the demographics or opt out. You must choose to enter before or after or opt out. Entering the demographics has nothing to do with the score. This was included because studies have been and are being conducted on specific patient types worldwide. However, you must opt out to view the score. Clicking the button at the bottom of the page would have revealed the score versus starting the warm up period and calibration again. Secondly, why did you score low? I have experienced, on… Read more »

Aureliano
Aureliano
12 years ago
Reply to  Suz

Carotenoids are absorbed with fats… no fats means lower carotenoid absorption.
instead of an “un-oiled” diet, you shoud use good fats instead.

there is no DIRECT correlation between a level of carotenoids and a clinical outcome, when a research is done estimate that number, you would like to have your levels measured regularly, BUT, i don’t need to waste money for somebody to tell me i’m eating vegetables.

Ara Momji
Ara Momji
12 years ago
Reply to  Aureliano

knowing carotenoid level score is best used for- finding out how bad of an environment you are exposed to on daily bases. do you smoke, work in downtown LA, factories with lots of chemicals, driving on the freeways/roads with windows open, wait for it ,,,, do you buy organic ,,, no ,,, measure yourself, ,, my Dad is 90 years old his score is 44k, DOES NOT EAT FRUITS , some greens and vegetables, potatoes, does not smoke, eats little, no alcohol, no driving in traffic, lots of backyard,, my Level is 95k, my diet is 90% raw fruits, greens,… Read more »

Stuart Ruth
Stuart Ruth
11 years ago
Reply to  Ara Momji

I didn’t know that machines could win nobel prizes, I thought only people did.

Jane
Jane
11 years ago
Reply to  Aureliano

Amen!

Greg Comlish
Greg Comlish
12 years ago
Reply to  Suz

You’ve been on a starvation diet for 3 weeks and you’re wondering why your score is still bad? Sorry to break it to you, but it’s going to take a while longer than 3 weeks to change the levels of antioxidents in your body even if you were taking in the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables which you are definitely not doing since you’re getting only 500 cals/day (and even that small number includes meat). To me, this example demonstrates exactly why the scanner is so important. Too many people like Suz delude themselves into thinking that they are… Read more »

Bob
Bob
12 years ago

@Bill Miller – Consider also that the average Japanese lifestyle is far more healthy than the average American one – good diet, plenty of physical activity…their long life expectancy has very little to do with gadgets and supplements.

Bad data is worse than no data – as noted, there is no independently verified research that suggests skin carotenoid levels correlates with health – so a device that claims you’re healthy when you’re potentially not is worse than having no device at all.

Eric
Eric
12 years ago
Reply to  Bob

“as noted, there is no independently verified research that suggests skin carotenoid levels correlates with health”

You’re wrong there.

Stahl W, Sies H. Bioactivity and protective effects of natural carotenoids. Biochim Biophs
Acta. 2005 May 30;1740 (2):101-7. Epub 2004 Dec 28.
Wu K, et al. Plasma and dietary carotenoids, and the risk of prostate cancer: a nested casecontrol
study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Feb;13(2):260-9.
Miller EC et al. Tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk. Urol Clin North Am.
2002 Feb;29(1):83-93

Michele
Michele
12 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Body of Evidence that, in fact, carotenoids (antioxidants) do play a role in overall health. I implore you to further your research by exploring Yale’s original research funded by NIH and NCI as well as University of Utah in addition to the evidence below: Much work is needed as to the overall role of micronutrients in the human body. Akbaraly TN, Favier A, Berr C. Total plasma carotenoids and mortality in the elderly: results of the Epidemiology of Vascular Ageing (EVA) study. Inserm U888, Hôpital La Colombière, 39 Avenue Charles Flahault, BP 34493, 34093 Montpellier, France. Ray AL, Semba RD,… Read more »

Monique
Monique
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Can you please cite a study that relates skin carotenoid levels to serum carotenoid levels? That seems to be the missing link here.

Sue Cook
Sue Cook
12 years ago
Reply to  Monique

Pharmanex has that study, call them.

Not easlily sucked in
Not easlily sucked in
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Seems like a great measuring tool, but when I tried to get it to use in our business I could only do it if I push the NuSkin products and guarantee sales of $2000 per month. Our business is much more than supplemental products, but about lifestyle makeovers! I am disappointed in the ethical side of the Pharmanex/NuSkin alliance. After research I learned that Pharmanex has a very long patent agreement on the scanner. In other words, if I do not make them rich, I am not allowed to get the scanner.
I’m out!

Fiona
Fiona
12 years ago

That seems a bit funny to say if I don’t make them rich, I am not allowed to use the scanner. From my understanding the technoligy cost the company in the realm of $100 million. The advantage of the scanner is not only to help people find out their score but also to make changes to imprve their future health outcomes and to get a subsequent score once thye have make changes, which may include taking LifePak. Why should the company tie up a scanner and the benefits of Life Pak not get to the people being scanned. Aftually you… Read more »

Sue Cook
Sue Cook
12 years ago

They put 127 million into the scanner to date and are still improving it. They have a right to run it as a business. Think of it as helping people that want to be educated and healthy and don’t know how to, not pushing products. I would never recruit you

Bill Miller
Bill Miller
12 years ago

I also disagree with your comments and feel you are completely off mark. It was great to know my score and learn that I wasn’t as healthy as I thought I was. A lot of people think they are healthier than they really are. This scanner is revolutionary technology and I hope more products of this type come to market to teach people that its not all about giving drug companies tons of money, there are also other ways to stay healthy (lower your BMI, take better quality supplements) . If its good enough for Japan , why isn’t good… Read more »

Lily
Lily
12 years ago

I Love the Scanner, I had my first scan at my Naturopath this month. I had no means of knowing if I was eating enough fruits and vegetables and whether my supplements which were recommended was protecting me. The Pharmanex BioPhotonic Scanner gave me that validation I was seeking. The Company does not say you have to use their Supplements to improve your score. The technology gave me the knowledge so I can be objective. Having that knowledge, I can do what I want to improve my score. The brochure I got was very informative, I didn’t feel it pushed… Read more »

Jane
Jane
11 years ago
Reply to  Lily

So Lily, Please explain to me exactly what your “score” has revealed to you because I don’t understand.

Michele
Michele
13 years ago

A clinical study on the Pharmanex Bio-Photonic Scanner presented at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in April, 2006. A landmark study conducted in collaboration with three major US universities to test skin carotenoid levels, as an indicator of the overall antioxidant network, was presented at the annual meeting of the FASEB in San Francisco , CA . Pharmanex scientists collaborated with these universities on this groundbreaking research which studied over 300 healthy subjects. The study results show that a consumer-friendly tool called a Bio-Photonic Scanner provides a good indicator of fruit and vegetable intake, antioxidant nutrition and… Read more »

interested in truth
interested in truth
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Is there some 3rd party that can certify results based on agreed criteria as valid by some noted national authority among all medical doctors?

Michele
Michele
12 years ago

Yes, you need to research http://www.pharmanexmd.com. This testing device is science-based and credible.

aosl
aosl
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Are you deaf? The poster is asking for a THIRD PARTY. Asking them to go to that website doesn’t make it objective. Just dumb…

Greg Comlish
Greg Comlish
12 years ago
Reply to  aosl

The fundamentals for the biophotonic scanner have been published in Nature, the most renowned and competitive scientific journal in the world: http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v115/n3/abs/5600819a.html Abstract Summary Carotenoids are thought to play a significant part in the skin’s anti-oxidant defense system, and may help prevent malignancy. Inability to measure skin carotenoid content readily has, however, made it difficult to establish the relationship between carotenoid concentration and the occurrence of cutaneous malignancy. We have measured in vivo carotenoid concentration using a noninvasive optical method, Raman spectroscopy. To validate our instrumentation, abdominoplasty skin was evaluated by both Raman spectroscopy and high-performance liquid chromatography determination for… Read more »

Sue Cook
Sue Cook
12 years ago
Reply to  aosl

Google the Cady report.

Jane
Jane
11 years ago
Reply to  Michele

A study by the same company that made the device is not impartial.

Chris
Chris
11 years ago
Reply to  Jane

The biggest laugh of the “Cady report” is the paragraph below from p. 17 which shows (a) that the report is not from a disinterested third party and (b) the fallacy in the whole argument, which is that the their vitamins are the only ones that can do you any good. The analogy of having the only drug to control cholesterol is absurd, because (besides fruits and veggies) there are many good vitamin products out there, and no one has done the critical scientific comparison to see what levels they produce on this machine (assuming that the readings have any… Read more »

Rosie
Rosie
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

Sounds like two suckers have to note it as credible because, well, they got sucked in!

Michele
Michele
12 years ago
Reply to  Rosie

Do you research before you blog with nonsense!

David Rhoades
David Rhoades
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

http://www.farsighted.com/AMD/References.html

On the top of this above referenced page is a link to an article by Louis Cady of the
Cady Wellness Institute on the relationship between skin carotenoid level and overall levels within all tissues of the body. A careful reading of this analysis will show that the Slueth’s answer to this is total BS and that the claims are true. Not only is Cady a reputable 3rd party, he references other Drs and thier works in the arena as well.
I would say that in this case the Health Slueth did not do his homework.

Monique
Monique
12 years ago
Reply to  David Rhoades

Roades: he may be a third party, but his analysis is not peer-reviewed by anyone, much less by a panel. It’s a position paper.

Theresa Brown
Theresa Brown
12 years ago
Reply to  Monique

IF you had bothered to read Louis Cady M.D.’s paper, you would have seen countless references to peer-reviewed literature. The analysis itself does not need to be “peer-reviewed” whenever the studies included are all “peer reviewed.” Duh.
The analysis is flawlessly logical.
Thus, Slueth’s position is completely false and unfounded.

julie
julie
12 years ago
Reply to  Michele

I had my levels checked today, 70 thousand!! So, yes, people do need a machine to tell them if they are eating enough fruits and veggies, just as they need a scale to tell them they are too fat!! This tool at least gives people an idea of their consumption and the need for more in most cases. Now, what about those cans that show you if your beer is cold! THAT is a useless tool but millions of people just want to be sure!

Sue Cook
Sue Cook
12 years ago
Reply to  julie

I agree. I have scanned people for four years now and over 80% of Americans are extremely low on antioxidants, as shown also on the Dr. Oz show. More people in fact are so low they don’t register than have a very high score, and having too high of a score? Never seen it, never heard of it. There is simply too much pollution, stress and bad diet here for that to even be a viable theory, sorry. If you Google pretty much any disease with the words(and antioxidants) behind it, you will find that there have been tons and… Read more »

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