Terra Sigillata

For those of you who read only Terra Sig and not others at ScienceBlogs (post-morning coffee delusions of grandeur), you may not be aware that a number of questionable advertisements have been appearing on the frontpage run by the purveyors of our pontifications.

Many of this adverts have been of content diammetrically opposed to what each of us stand for professionally and personally.

i-381a8ce91cfc9427b75318647a96bde9-20090717-eCruxNitric-300x250-4.jpg

So, it was to my dismay this morning that I awoke to this ad for a bodybuilding supplement that exploits the endogenous vasodilator, nitric oxide. Commenter Daedalus will be convulsing in a corner somewhere when he reads nitric oxide being referred to as “NO2″ and the beautiful IUPAC term, “N.O.”

The product appears to be called “Force Factor” and somehow, I don’t know how, increases levels of nitric oxide in the body. However, the product is certainly one of those “negative option” credit card scams: you get a “free trial” of the product but have to give a credit card for the $4.95 shipping and handling. What you might not be aware of in the fine print is that this obligates you to a monthly shipment and charge of $69.99 (plus $4.99 shipping and handling, of course, an increase of four cents over the last shipment), UNLESS you contact the company to cancel your order.

Pay only shipping and handling today and have no obligation to buy anything in the future as long as you call to cancel within 18 days after the date you place your order. (This allows 4 days shipping and processing plus your 14 day trial period). To cancel, call 1-877-492-7243. If you don’t cancel within the next 18 days you will be automatically enrolled in the Force Factor Fitness Auto-Ship Program. Beginning at the end of the trial period and about every 30 days thereafter, we will send you a one month supply of Force Factor the the highly discounted rate of $69.99 plus $4.99 for shipping and handling, automatically charged to the card you provide today. No future commitments, no hassles. Cancel any time. Auto-Ship policies do not apply to non-free trial purchases. Applicable Local Sales Tax will be added for the following states CO, GA, IL, IA, MN, NE, UT. I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS CONSUMER TRANSACTION INVOLVES A NEGATIVE OPTION AND THAT I MAY BE LIABLE FOR PAYMENT OF FUTURE GOODS AND SERVICES, UNDER THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT, IF I FAIL TO NOTIFY THE SUPPLIER NOT TO SUPPLY THE GOODS OR SERVICES DESCRIBED.

Yes, by ordering your free trial you obligate yourself to $69.99/month. “No future commitments” means that you have no future commitments other than to get a $69.99 product every month.

And I challenge you to try and cancel.

A few months ago, I took a free trial under similar conditions of the Lance Armstrong-endorsed FRS products so I could test in lab their purported quercetin concentrations. I came very close to getting my next shipment because I couldn’t cancel – not on the web, and no one answered the phone number where I called for about five days.

I was interested to find more about what is in the product and by what science the product was formulated. I learned that it was created by former Harvard University rowers; just turns out that I am very, very close to a former Harvard University rower. I’m going to have to do some investigating on my own.

i-14210aa3861eda58667cf3cbfac569b6-Abel out of bed before coffee.jpg

But this NO2/N.O. [sic] product does have me thinking. I would love to look like this while blogging every morning just out of bed and sitting with my cup of coffee. But alas:

THE STORY DEPICTED ON THIS SITE AND THE PERSON DEPICTED IN THE STORY ARE NOT REAL. RATHER, THIS STORY IS BASED ON THE RESULTS THAT SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE USED THESE PRODUCTS HAVE ACHIEVED. THE RESULTS PORTRAYED IN THE STORY AND IN THE COMMENTS ARE ILLUSTRATIVE, AND MAY NOT BE THE RESULTS THAT YOU ACHIEVE WITH THESE PRODUCTS. THIS PAGE RECEIVES COMPENSATION FOR CLICKS ON OR PURCHASE OF PRODUCTS FEATURED ON THIS SITE.

I understand that ad revenues are important for running the back end of ScienceBlogs. But there has been a massive increase as of late in the dubious products being advertised in the sidebar.

For the record, Terra Sigillata and Abel Pharmboy have absolutely no control over the advertising and other content that appears above the masthead and in the right sidebar. These regions of the pages are under the exclusive control of ScienceBlogs.com and the advertising department of Seed Media Group. Any appearance of adverts for any products and services which compromise the scientific standards of Terra Sigillata is hereby abhored and you are encouraged to ignore them or ridicule them in the comment thread below.

Comments

  1. #1 Christina Pikas
    July 20, 2009

    I get vasodialators for other things men might want-but how do they work to make you skinny/ripped?

  2. #2 Joe
    July 20, 2009

    Christina P.

    Well, lying and Photoshopping go a long way. Another tactic was explained on Penn & Teller’s BS (which made a quick descent into crap after the first year). It seems one finds an athlete who is recovering from a serious illness/accident and recruit them to go soft and fat. Then, when they are fully recovered, they return to their normal body-style and attribute it to the product.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 20, 2009

    AT&T, former megacorporation that sponsored the Viet Nam War; Mafia owned Las Vegas resorts; Microsoft, busy bribing Nigerian Officials to charge more (thus using Windows) in their One Laptop per Child deployment; tooth whitening woo; suspect money lending company.

    That’s five or six reloads just now, leaving out only Netflix, which I assume we all love.

    I’ve talked about Shell Oil before as a sponsor, and to be honest with you I do not recalling one peep of concern or support about that issue from any science blogger ever. Am I forced to assume that none of my Sblings give a rats ass about human rights in Nigeria? … which is kind of disappointing (though somehow I clink to the hope that it is not true).

    Abel, you point out a particularly good example of a bad product health-wise.

    The funny thing is, it can’t be the case that ad brokers want to match Russian Brides with feminist bloggers; woo with medical bloggers; human rights violators with with politically active liberal bloggers and so on, and most science bloggers are some or all of these things some or much of the time.

    So I say, as I’ve always said: set the market forces on the assess of these offenders: More blog posts like this one you just wrote will decrease rather than increase the desired (form the ad point of view) effect. Eventually adjustments will be made in what ads appear here.

  4. #4 Kate
    July 20, 2009

    On the one hand I see Greg’s point. On the other I’ve never been a fan of passive action or waiting it out.

    I would like Seed to know that I have been considering getting a subscription to their magazine, and based on this recent ad issue, have decided not to. Anyone who has a subscription should cancel in protest and get ad blocking software.

    Other ideas? Better ideas? I’d like to see this resolved because I enjoy reading a lot of sciblings… I would hate to take my clicks elsewhere but will if that is necessary. At this point I’m friendly with most of the bloggers I read so could just email and twitter to stay in touch.

  5. #5 Abel Pharmboy
    July 20, 2009

    You know, Christina, if you look very closely at the before and after photos in that ad and the degree of wrinkles in the shorts, you may infer that this product is also being promoted for that other NO medical indication.

    @Joe, you are spot on: prior to Photoshop, the Before and After photos were most often After and Before

    @Greg Laden – yes, I saw the concerns you’ve noted elsewhere about Shell. I do recall perhaps before you joined ScienceBlogs of a similar concern by our colleague, revere, regarding ads from Dow Chemical for some of the same reasons. But as you note accurately, my specific concern with this ad is that is directly opposed to the content I write here.

    @Kate – I’ll be sure to pass your point on to the powers-that-be if they are not already reading this.

  6. #6 Pascale
    July 20, 2009

    I actually blogged about one of the ads that popped up on my blogspot site after I commented on PETA stuff I saw at the local cineplex (and not in a good way). GoogleAds had placed one for HSUS on my site. I decided taking their money was the best possible revenge.

  7. #7 Art
    July 20, 2009

    If you get caught in one of those recurring charge scams, it is entirely possible to get signed up without any interaction at all because they sometimes just randomly charge people if they can get a CC number, the best way, after making a good faith effort to terminate the charges, is to go to the CC company and have the charges removed and a note added that you will accept no further charges.

    As long as you don’t have an extensive record of such stops the CC companies handle this sort of thing as a matter of course. I once got a nasty e-mail from one of the three companies I did this to over a couple of decades telling me that now they were ‘in trouble with the CC company’ because I had complained. I assume the CC company eliminated their ability to make CC charges for a time.

    I e-mailed them back telling them I had not signed up for their service, I hadn’t, that I had repeatedly tried to get off their list, and that I was happy that they got spanked.

    Sometimes the CC companies do things right.

  8. #8 anon
    July 20, 2009

    Any sort of advertising like this is interpreted as a negative reflection on the authors and on a company that claims to be scientific –ads either by pharmaceuticals or supplement companies are not a good idea if you want the organization to appear to have integrity.

  9. #9 daedalus2u
    July 20, 2009

    Not convulsing in a corner, just shaking my head. L-arginine does not work to raise NO levels long term.

    http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/116/2/188

    The reason is because there are multiple feedback control pathways that regulate NO production from L-arginine and the various nitric oxide synthase enzymes (nNOS, iNOS and eNOS). The NO status is too important to allow it to fluctuate with dietary levels of L-arginine. Depending how those myriad feedback pathways work (which we don’t know), taking more L-arginine could (very likely would) reduce NO levels in some places even as it raises them in others. This has been demonstrated for NOS inhibitors.

    I think using non-physiologic levels of L-arginine can only be harmful. If you take enough to get outside the body’s normal control range you are asking for trouble.

    In getting the link to the above paper I found this one which is perhaps more relevant to the issue at hand.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18708287

    I haven’t read this paper, I will after I get to the library (if my library has it). Increased L-arginine does cause expression of arginase, which cleaves urea off of L-arginine making ornithine. That is one of the major problems with trying to increase NO levels with arginine. The other is increased production of asymmetric dimethyl arginine which is a pretty good NOS inhibitor (and is upregulated in pretty much all of the low-NO associated diseases) some of which also are also characterized by increases arginase (i.e. liver failure, inflammation, hyperoxia). I think that increased arginase is exactly to make more urea, so the urea can be sweated out and converted to NO/NOx by my bacteria.

    NO is important in muscle formation, but it is not NO during exercise that is important, it is NO during rest. That NO during rest is what causes the mitochondria biogenesis that increases endurance. It also causes the recruitment of sarcomeres that increase muscle strength.

    I looked for “Brad Attaway” and there is no mention of him in the Harvard Crimson in the past 50 years.

    All this false hype over NO really does irk me. More NO will do most everything that people claim (more even!), but you have to actually raise the NO level which you can’t do easily because it is under intense regulation; just like you can’t get more energy by raising your blood sugar long term by eating glucose. You get an acute increase and then your body compensates so you need to eat more which causes more compensation. Eventually that compensation makes you fat and wrecks your health; eating too much L-arginine will too, just like in the first paper.

  10. #10 Martin
    July 21, 2009

    So I happily pay a few bucks to run my own site without any ads. (I was approached bei SB to transfer and I’m lucky that I was reluctant). The only thing that bugs me is updating WordPress almost monthly.

  11. #11 Jamie
    July 21, 2009

    @christina pikas: vasodilators are used by bodybuilders to get a better “pump”. More blood to the muscles: more potential for growth via delivery of proteins and circulating factors such as EGF, is the theory behind it.

  12. #12 daedalus2u
    July 21, 2009

    Jamie is partly right. Vasodilators do dilate blood vessels in muscles and make them appear larger. This does nothing for growth. Protein delivery by the blood is not the limiting factor in muscle growth. Muscle growth is regulated. It is the regulation that controls muscle growth. You can hack into those muscle growth regulation pathways, i.e. with steroids, but there are side effects.

    For muscle to generate ATP aerobically, the NO level local to the mitochondria has to be pulled down to disinhibit cytochrome c oxidase so that the mitochondria can consume O2 to a low concentration so there is a large O2 concentration gradient, so that a large O2 flux can passively diffuse to the mitochondria and be consumed.

    Hemoglobin is the major sink for NO in the body, increasing the hemoglobin content of muscle lowers the NO level (depending on how and where the NO is generated). What causes vasodilation is higher NO (by a few nM/L) in the smooth muscle of the endothelium.

    Warming up, getting the muscles pumped full of blood is getting them ready to do aerobic work. This is a low NO state inside the muscle cells. Muscle growth and repair does not happen in this state. Muscle cell metabolic resources are diverted to supplying mechanical work, not to growing bigger. Allocating muscle cell metabolic resources by time allows a muscle cell to do more work more efficiently with less “overhead”. Evolution has configured muscle cells (and all cells) so as to try and minimize “overhead”, so that “overhead” can be used for reproduction.

  13. #13 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 22, 2009

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.