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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Ara Monji
Ara Monji
11 years ago

Sure Jane, you don’t need to measure your Antioxidant level, maybe you shouldn’t even do blood test to check your cholesterol level, because your parents never had high cholesterol, and because you are all vegetarian, or Raw Vegan like ME,,,,,, well, wake up sister, 95% of America is not,, and if this little device is gonna help, you be the Judge In the past four weeks I’ve scanned over 200 people of all ages in World gym, 100 were under 20k, most of them were trainers and regulars,( wondered why People that exercise, don’t actually live long?,,, well wonder no… Read more »

Jane
Jane
11 years ago

Many of you are missing the point. While this “scanner” does a great job of measuring carotenoids, skin-level, mind you, it is not an accurate measure of the antioxidants in your body. These carotenoids are measured based on their pigmentation. There are thousands and thousands of different antioxidants that have a myriad of health benefits, and yes, CAN prevent certain types of cancer. How many people own a scanner who are not selling the associated vitamins. Fine. Get the scanner if it makes you feel better. Eat lots of fruits and veggies that contain high concentrations of carotenoids. Remember that… Read more »

Grenville
12 years ago

Fancy machine or not. Antioxidants help (all the 3rd party science is there from the leading institutions) When a company that sells products corners the market on the diagnostic side, its motives become suspect. Keep it third party and all is well. Third party testing is always preferential.

Antioxidants and some of the research supporting results and conlcusions. Turns out that chocolate is the best all round bioavailable source.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797556/

Cheers,

Jane
Jane
11 years ago
Reply to  Grenville

I completely agree. Any time a company is selling a product or products and “invents” a diagnostic tool that supports the use of its product – yes… very suspect. Their supplements are very high in the types of carotenoids for which the scanner detects.

Ara Momjian
Ara Momjian
12 years ago

I operate a scanner in a large gym, people that exercise vigorously have very low antioxidant levels even if they eat healthy, and take cheap vitamins. I’ve seen levels as low as 10k with trainers, cyclists. It’s no surprise, cyclists, and those who run on streets take in massive amounts of pollution, vigorous exercise means more oxygen per minute and metabolic oxidizing, and of course exercise is full of stress. And if you have stressful lifestyle and depressing situations and anger issues, yes, that too knocks of about 20k from your score, I’ve seen it . Carotenoids circulate the body… Read more »

HoJas
HoJas
12 years ago

‘It’s just such a great miracle when things do work, and they work for such a wild variety of crazy reasons.’ Laurie Anderson ‘Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great’ Mark Twain ‘Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. ‘ Arnold Bennett This is an interesting post, the above quotes should provide answers to both perspectives. A person may be a medical researcher or a doctor, a dentist or chiropractor, or… Read more »

Jane
Jane
11 years ago
Reply to  HoJas

Do you have any original thoughts of your own or are you only able to quote quotes?

Gene
Gene
12 years ago

I should have checked the box to notify me of followup comments. I do so now.

Gene
Gene
12 years ago

I was measured at a senior health faire. Only 27,000! But I am a vegan, eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Plus every day I drink grape juice in which I mix a heaping tablespoon of Vita Mineral Green. Then another shake – soy milk with Alive Ultra Shake.

No, I can’t believe I am so low in anti-oxidents. The machine used by the operator had a faulty light: it did not work though the one applied to the man on my left did work.

Something felt fishy and I do not eat fish.

George
George
12 years ago

These positive replies are all a bunch of hooey. My guess is that Luke & Michele and several of the other people are one and the same. Please take a look at Peter’s response back on November 21 and check out the evidence cited. With 25 years as a medical researcher I can’t help but laugh at what these people are putting up as evidence. WAKE UP People. Doesn’t it make you wonder why a dentist and a couple of chiropractors are measuring your antioxidant levels. It’s not because they’re interested in your health but because they can charge you… Read more »

George
George
12 years ago
Reply to  George

By the way don’t you think it’s funny that Luke posted on March 20, “I am done of this site.” Yet here he is posting little over a month later? The company shills are scouring the internet in search of bad reviews (heck, even neutral reviews) to counter with their pseudo scientific results. Didn’t it make you at least a little skeptical about the part of Mr. Krieger’s blog that states, “In 1997, they were fined by the Federal Trade Commission over claims they made about two supplements they sold.” Bottom line is that their scanner does what it says… Read more »

Luke
Luke
12 years ago

Jamie, Sorry to see you were ‘brow beaten’. I can only guess this was a newer operator and is still learning. What we do know is the higher the number the better someone’s overall nutritional level is. As Dr. Oz stated when he had the Scanner on his show, he called it…’The Ultimate Nutritional Lie Detector Test’. The score is a base line. The guarantee is… if someone takes Lifepak for 60 days, and their score does not go up, they get their money back. The goal for anyone is to get the highest number as possible. I don’ t… Read more »

George
George
12 years ago
Reply to  Luke

One last thing before the vultures are set upon me…the PDR is a good source to find information about particular drugs/vitamins. However, companies pay to have their products listed in it. Saying your vitamin is listed in the PDR should in no way infer that it is of higher quality. You just paid the exorbitant fee to have it listed.

Jane
Jane
11 years ago
Reply to  George

A great source is US Pharmacopoeia website. All testing is independent. They are not affiliated with any company or supplement manufacturer. All testing is voluntary. If a manufacturer wants their supplements tested they submit an application. There are multiple levels of verification. This is the ONLY way to find out what is truly in your supplements and what is NOT in your supplements. But more importantly, the USP performs rigorous testing on the disintegration and dissolution properties of the supplements. Even if all the right stuff is in the vitamin or mineral, if it passes through the gut without dissolving… Read more »

Jaime
Jaime
12 years ago

Thank you so much for this information. I thought it was a weird thing when I went to a demo. After doing a demo, I felt I was getting the “brow beaten” you need these supplements sales pitch. I didn’ t for it because I use Vitamix everyday. The sales tactic is that they make you worry and feel guilty about it. I don’ t like the sales approach. They don’t really ask you what problems you are experiencing to address the needs. It’s more like you need this because you need it. Case closed.

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