If my job was to debunk poorly justified herbal remedies, I would eat well for life.
Here is the newest one: stem cell enhancers.
A California company is marketing the latest in dietary supplements, an extract from algae they claim will boost the number of circulating stem cells, easing disease and discomfort. Consumers have already spent millions on the “stem cell enhancer,” but some stem cell researchers remain unconvinced the product even works — and warn that the “enhancer” may trigger other problems, including cancer.
According to STEMTech HealthSciences, the product, StemEnhance, made from the blue-green algae Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, promises to “support your stem cells in maintaining proper organ and tissue functioning in your body.” The product is marketed online and at least one distributor advertises with leaflets door-to-door, asking “What have your STEM CELLS done for you lately?”
Online testimonials of StemEnhance claim a range of benefits, including reducing hot flashes and heartburn, easing withdrawal from methamphetamine addiction, and curing chronic back pain. In response to a The Scientist Blog about the product, one customer and distributor wrote the product cured knee and back pain, and discomfort from kidney cysts. “Since starting this product-I no longer have kidney or back pain, I personally can go hours without urinating which before I swear was at least once an hour and my knees don’t hurt when I get up off the toilet.”
Anecdotally, there has been overwhelming evidence the product — sold for approximately $1 per pill — does wonders, Christian Drapeau, StemTech’s Chief Science Officer, told The Scientist. In some cases, diabetics have ceased taking insulin, wheelchair-bound people with multiple sclerosis have walked, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients experienced improved cognitive function, he said. “It’s pretty clear it is a natural process of healing.” (Emphasis mine.)
Of course they work anecdotally. Everything works anecdotally. Anecdotally, pigs can fly, the grass is actually greener, and Paris Hilton is really quite clever…much more than you would think from her media persona…I mean, she has really been misrepresented…when you get to know her you see how deep she can be.
Unfortunately, people would believe asparagus makes your penis grow if it had cunning enough advertising.
Oh, and this I love:
Drapeau said he has not seen any evidence the product causes harm, and is hesitant to produce too much data saying it works, out of fear the US Food and Drug Administration will revoke its status as a dietary supplement — where it’s available to everyone sick and well — and consider it a drug that requires a prescription. “We have not yet documented in a rigorous manner the health benefits [of StemEnhance] essentially because they are so obvious, and I am concerned if we get data showing the product is effective…we will be in a difficult position with the FDA,” Drapeau said. (Emphasis mine.)
“Well, we would like to subtly suggest that it works without actually saying anything definitive. We can’t abide in any actual testing of that proposition because that would really screw us with the government.” Disingenuous much?
Don’t take this stuff. Even assuming it actually boosts the number of your stem cells…
1) That doesn’t mean it will improve disease. Stem cells are not happy pills, and we still don’t know how they operate.
2) Stem cell over-proliferation will probably give you cancer. For example, remember the FDA review they just had about using erythropoietin to stimulate blood production during chemotherapy. Well, that works essentially by stimulating the proliferation of blood stem cells, and the concern was that it might cause cancer.
By the way, here is my favorite quote from those hearings:
Earlier in the day, one member of the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee had asked: “What data do you have that this is not Miracle-Gro for tumors?” after listening to reports of several clinical experiments in which high-dose erythropoietin appeared to shorten the lives of some patients.
So unless you would like to subject yourself to what could be “Miracle-Gro for tumors,” please don’t take this product until someone can figure out whether it actually works.