Green Coffee Extract for Weight Loss: “Dr. Oz” Hypesters Fined

Green Coffee Extract - Dr. Oz

Green Coffee Extract – Dr. Oz

The FTC has settled with Applied Food Sciences, whose “miracle weight loss” claims for green coffee extract were supported by the quack Dr. Oz but no real scientific studies. The Consumerist has a concise story:

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF] against Applied Food Sciences, the company sponsored and subsequently relied on the same flawed study that TV’s Dr. Oz used when he touted green coffee extract as “the magic weight-loss solution for every body type” to the millions of viewers of his show.

Among the problems with the AFS-sponsored clinical trials of green coffee extract, the FTC alleges that the principal researcher altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, confused which subjects took either the placebo or green coffee extract at various points during the trial.

“When the principal investigator failed to find a publisher for his summary of the purported trial, AFS hired ghost-writers, who – like AFS – themselves received numerous, conflicting data sets from the principal investigator, but accepted the final version as correct,” reads the complaint. “The published study does not refer to these inconsistencies. Moreover, the published study fails to explain why most of the reported weight loss occurred when subjects were taking neither GCA nor a placebo; and fails to disclose that subjects were exercising and/or dieting during portions of the trial.”

And yet AFS repeatedly use this highly flawed research to tout its product to resellers, and even brought along one of the researchers to industry events to talk about his team’s supposed conclusions.

The company’s marketing claimed that its product caused consumers to lose 17.7 pounds, 10.5% of body weight, and 16% of body fat with or without diet and exercise (even though participants in the study were instructed to watch their food intake and exercise more frequently), in 22 weeks….

As part of the deal, AFS has agreed to pay $3.5 million and it can not make any weight loss claims about its products in the future without including at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical tests….

Dr. Oz’s gushing over green coffee extract, along with some other hyperbolic statements about supposed miracle weight loss drugs, landed him before a U.S. Senate panel in June, where he admitted that his enthusiasm for a product can lead to exploitation by unethical marketers.

“I do think I’ve made it more difficult for the FTC,” the TV personality admitted to the panel. “In the intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language. I used language that was very passionate that ended up being not very helpful but incendiary and it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.”

Much like Vani Hari, the “Food Babe,” he claims his “passion” and concern for his fans excuses hype, lies, bad science, and ripoff products.

This is an excellent example of a fraudulent study to claim scientific proof for a fraudulent product, as discussed in “Parallel Science Propaganda Machine.”

More on Pseudoscience and Quackery:

Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack
Vani Hari, “Food Babe” and Quack: Where the Money Comes From
Vandana Shiva: Quack
More on Quacks: “Dr. Oz” Testifies He’s a Victim!
Mike Adams: Quack Suggests Murdering Monsanto-supporting Scientists
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Quack
Progressive Neighborhoods: Low Vaccine Rates Create Epidemics

“The Dark Side of Almond Use” – Really?


The online Atlantic is funding some excellent journalism on California water use — this story is in-depth and worth the time to read, for example.

On the other hand, it is also publishing some of the silliest alarmism on the topic I have seen. First we have “Why Bottled Water Comes From California, Which Can’t Spare Much,” a concern troll of story — bottled water, which uses about 0.01% of California’s water supply (and most of that replacing tap water which would also come from the same sources), is decried as if the water is shipped to places where it is bountiful (most isn’t.) Failure to do math or have any understanding of true problems (like using water for irrigating crops that a very water-thirsty, like rice, in a dry state.)

This week The Atlantic gave us this concern troll: “The Dark Side of Almond Use,” by James Hamblin, (a very young) M.D. and editor there. Clickbait, even high-minded clickbait, is deadly to true understanding — our journalist wants us to feel guilty about eating almonds, a (not especially thirsty) irrigated crop in California’s central valley which supplies much of the world with almond-y goodness. He doesn’t present much evidence of how much water is used to irrigate almond crops or compare the value of that crop with the value of the water used to give us a sense of whether this irrigation is a consequence of the ultra-low rates irrigation users pay for their water, or if it is a reasonable use for the value of the crop:

This week another large study added to the body of known cardiovascular benefits of eating almonds. Every ounce eaten daily was associated with a 3.5 percent decreased risk of heart disease ten years later. Almonds are already known to help with weight loss and satiety, help prevent diabetes, and potentially ameliorate arthritis, inhibit cancer-cell growth, and decrease Alzheimer’s risk. A strong case could be made that almonds are, nutritionally, the best single food a person could eat….

This follows a massive study released last fall from Harvard that found eating nuts decreased mortality rates by 20 percent, and it builds on Jenkins’ work done more than 10 years ago which suggested, in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, “Almonds used as snacks in the diets of hyperlipidemic subjects significantly reduce coronary heart disease risk factors.”

That’s all wonderful, but coverage of almond-nutrition research necessarily affords a narrow vantage on health. It seems like every day someone asks me to dichotomize a health trend: good or bad. Almonds are a great example of why I’m terrible at doing that…. [Ed. note: indeed!]

The only state that produces almonds commercially is California, where cool winter and mild springs let almond trees bloom. Eighty-two percent of the world’s almonds come from California. The U.S. is the leading consumer of almonds by far. California so controls the almond market that the Almond Board of California’s website is Its twitter handle is @almonds. (Almost everything it tweets is about almonds.)

California’s almonds constitute a lucrative multibillion dollar industry in a fiscally tenuous state that is also, as you know, in the middle of the worst drought in recent history. The drought is so dire that experts are considering adding a fifth level to the four-tiered drought scale. That’s right: D5. But each almond requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce, as Alex Park and Julia Lurie at Mother Jones reported earlier this year, and 44 percent more land in California is being used to farm almonds than was 10 years ago.

That raises ecological concerns like, as NPR’s Alastair Bland reported last weekend, that thousands of endangered king salmon in northern California’s Klamath River are threatened by low water levels because water is being diverted to almond farms. Despite the severe drought, as of June 30, California’s Department of Agriculture projected that almond farmers will have their largest harvest to date. If more water is not released into the river soon, Bland reported, the salmon will be seriously threatened by a disease called gill rot. If there’s one disease I never want to get, it’s gill rot…. [Ed note: he places water use for almonds in opposition to water used to preserve salmon runs, as if there are no other uses, like for animal feed, corn, rice, etc., much lower value crops.]

[and now he drags in concern for honeybees, which are not natural but brought in by honeybee keepers]

California’s almond industry is also completely reliant on honeybees to pollinate its almond trees. The industry requires 1.4 million bee colonies, according to the USDA, most of which are brought to the state from across the country. Because of colony collapse disorder, honeybees are a commodity. The almond farmers’ requirements represent approximately 60 percent of the country’s managed colonies. This year many of the mercenary pollinating bees brought to California died due to exposure to pesticides.

Anyway, when I buy almonds, I don’t think about having a hand in killing bees or salmon, or getting someone’s truck stolen or collapsing a road. It’s just a jumble of what’s “good for me,” what I feel like eating, and how much things cost. Michael Specter’s feature on GMOs in last week’s New Yorker gets into how seven billion people on the planet will be 10 billion by the end of the century, and feeding that population might well be the greatest challenge to humanity ever. Thinking about going easy on almonds is sort of analogous to GMO dilemmas or buying organic, where the point isn’t really nutrition, it’s environmental consciousness and sustainability, which always come back to water. Thinking about that side of food makes it hard to write about nutrition in isolation. Anyway, almonds are good for our hearts.

[“I’m very confused but I wanted you to know the whirl of considerations I keep in my head when I’m choosing food. I have no idea how important each of them is proportionally, but my guilt and sensitivity over choosing what foods to eat makes me a good person.”]

For more on almonds and other good supplements for life-extension:

Almonds: Superfood, Eat Them Daily for Heart Health
Getting to Less Than 10% Body Fat Like the Models – Ask Me How!
Low-Dose Aspirin Reduces Pancreatic Cancer
Daily Aspirin Regimen Reduces Cancer Rates
Fish Oil Supplements Ward Off Dementia
Lower Back Pain: Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol) Useless
Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Gluten-Free Diets: The Nocebo Effect
Scams: Multi-Level Marketing, Herbalife
Fish and Fish Oil for Better Brain Health
Vitamin D: Anti-Dementia?
Salt: New Research Says Too Little May Be Unhealthy

Sex is Better With Love (Claim Women)

Sex Plus Love

Sex Plus Love

I almost didn’t bother writing this up since it’s one of those “studies” that tells us nothing we didn’t already know.

Science Daily writes up research from Penn State’s Beth Montemurro, associate professor of sociology.

We can’t blame Science Daily for exaggerating the significance of the study: the Penn State writeup is headlined “Love Makes Sex Better for Most Women.” The correct headline would have been “Most Women *Say* Love Makes Sex Better.”

From Science Daily:

In a series of interviews, heterosexual women between the ages of 20 and 68 and from a range of backgrounds said that they believed love was necessary for maximum satisfaction in both sexual relationships and marriage. The benefits of being in love with a sexual partner are more than just emotional. Most of the women in the study said that love made sex physically more pleasurable.

“Women said that they connected love with sex and that love actually enhanced the physical experience of sex,” said Beth Montemurro, associate professor of sociology. Women who loved their sexual partners also said they felt less inhibited and more willing to explore their sexuality. “When women feel love, they may feel greater sexual agency because they not only trust their partners but because they feel that it is OK to have sex when love is present,” Montemurro said.

While 50 women of the 95 that were interviewed said that love was not necessary for sex, only 18 of the women unequivocally believed that love was unnecessary in a sexual relationship. Older women who were interviewed indicated that this connection between love, sex and marriage remained important throughout their lifetimes, not just in certain eras of their lives.

The connection between love and sex may show how women are socialized to see sex as an expression of love, Montemurro said. Despite decades of the women’s rights movement and an increased awareness of women’s sexual desire, the media continue to send a strong cultural message for women to connect sex and love and to look down on girls and women who have sex outside of committed relationships. “On one hand, the media may seem to show that casual sex is OK, but at the same time, movies and television, especially, tend to portray women who are having sex outside of relationships negatively,” said Montemurro.

Sociology has a bad reputation as a field because it tended to attract students wanting to coast on political correctness, and it has been rife with junk science and a lack of understanding of statistics since its heyday in the 1970s. That this poll of what women say they think could be presented seriously at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association tells us this poor scientific reputation is justified.

Without doing a study, we know that (as the professor points out) culturally women are “supposed” to not desire sex for its own sake, while men are freer to express such base desires. So naturally most women will protect their self-image and shade the truth for a human (especially female) interviewer. One might get closer to honesty with an online survey, but that also has the issues of the self-selecting sample.

I think that for most secure women and men that sex with a loved partner is a different kind of experience: more meaningful and deeper than casual encounters, yet often less exciting precisely because it is safe and somewhat routine. People in committed monogamous relationships want to believe that their sex is better (and it is almost certainly more frequent than single people get, at least in the first few years) and both men and women would say so out of emotional commitment to their choice. And this is entirely healthy.

Vandana Shiva: Quack

Vandana Shiva, Quack

Vandana Shiva, Quack

We’ve already looked at the promotion of pseudoscience to gain wealth and power by Vani Hari “Food Babe,” Mike Adams, and Dr. Oz. On the international scene, there’s an even more dangerous person: Vandana Shiva, wealthy promoter of food fear and anti-GMO pseudoscience.

Human beings have an innate fear of contamination (dirty or diseased food, for example.) Modern quacks play on this by targeting unfamiliar food ingredients or agricultural techniques for demonization; it is quite easy to make scientific-sounding allegations about unknown chemical names or genetic engineering techniques, present yourself as the heroic bearer of truths food businesses want to repress, and then reap the benefits of power and wealth that come from your skill at swaying the easily hoodwinked.

The New Yorker has a wonderful deep-dive story on Vandana Shiva by Michael Spector. If you don’t have time to read it all, here’s some good bits:

Shiva has a flair for incendiary analogies. Recently, she compared what she calls “seed slavery,” inflicted upon the world by the forces of globalization, to human slavery. “When starting to fight for seed freedom, it’s because I saw a parallel,” she said at a food conference in the Netherlands. “That time, it was blacks who were captured in Africa and taken to work on the cotton and sugarcane fields of America. Today, it is all of life being enslaved. All of life. All species.”

Shiva cannot tolerate any group that endorses the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, no matter what else the organization does, or how qualified its support. When I mentioned that Monsanto, in addition to making genetically engineered seeds, has also become one of the world’s largest producers of conventionally bred seeds, she laughed. “That’s just public relations,” she said. She has a similarly low regard for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has taken strong positions in support of biotechnology. Not long ago, Shiva wrote that the billions of dollars the foundation has invested in agricultural research and assistance poses “the greatest threat to farmers in the developing world.” She dismisses the American scientific organizations responsible for regulating genetically modified products, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Department of Agriculture, as little more than tools of the international seed conglomerates.

At times, Shiva’s absolutism about G.M.O.s can lead her in strange directions. In 1999, ten thousand people were killed and millions were left homeless when a cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa. When the U.S. government dispatched grain and soy to help feed the desperate victims, Shiva held a news conference in New Delhi and said that the donation was proof that “the United States has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs” for genetically engineered products. She also wrote to the international relief agency Oxfam to say that she hoped it wasn’t planning to send genetically modified foods to feed the starving survivors. When neither the U.S. nor Oxfam altered its plans, she condemned the Indian government for accepting the provisions.

On March 29th, in Winnipeg, Shiva began a speech to a local food-rights group by revealing alarming new information about the impact of agricultural biotechnology on human health. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that in two years the figure of autism has jumped from one in eighty-eight to one in sixty-eight,” she said, referring to an article in USA Today. “Then they go on to say obviously this is a trend showing that something’s wrong, and that whether something in the environment could be causing the uptick remains the million-dollar question.

“That question’s been answered,” Shiva continued. She mentioned glyphosate, the Monsanto herbicide that is commonly used with modified crops. “If you look at the graph of the growth of G.M.O.s, the growth of application of glyphosate and autism, it’s literally a one-to-one correspondence. And you could make that graph for kidney failure, you could make that graph for diabetes, you could make that graph even for Alzheimer’s.”

Hundreds of millions of people, in twenty-eight countries, eat transgenic products every day, and if any of Shiva’s assertions were true the implications would be catastrophic. But no relationship between glyphosate and the diseases that Shiva mentioned has been discovered. Her claims were based on a single research paper, released last year, in a journal called Entropy, which charges scientists to publish their findings. The paper contains no new research. Shiva had committed a common, but dangerous, fallacy: confusing a correlation with causation. (It turns out, for example, that the growth in sales of organic produce in the past decade matches the rise of autism, almost exactly. For that matter, so does the rise in sales of high-definition televisions, as well as the number of Americans who commute to work every day by bicycle.)

Shiva refers to her scientific credentials in almost every appearance, yet she often dispenses with the conventions of scientific inquiry. She is usually described in interviews and on television as a nuclear physicist, a quantum physicist, or a world-renowned physicist. Most of her book jackets include the following biographical note: “Before becoming an activist, Vandana Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists.” When I asked if she had ever worked as a physicist, she suggested that I search for the answer on Google. I found nothing, and she doesn’t list any such position in her biography.

“Shiva is lionized, particularly in the West, because she presents the romantic view of the farm,” Conway said. “Truth be damned. People in the rich world love to dabble in a past they were lucky enough to avoid—you know, a couple of chickens running around with the children in the back yard. But farming is bloody tough, as anyone who does it knows. It is like those people who romanticize villages in the developing world. Nobody who ever lived in one would do that.”

Everyone had a story to tell about insecticide poisoning. “Before Bt cotton came in, we used the other seeds,” Rameshwar Mamdev told me when I stopped by his six-acre farm, not far from the main dirt road that leads to the village. He plants corn in addition to cotton. “My wife would spray,” he said. “She would get sick. We would all get sick.” According to a recent study by the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, there has been a sevenfold reduction in the use of pesticide since the introduction of Bt cotton; the number of cases of pesticide poisoning has fallen by nearly ninety per cent. Similar reductions have occurred in China. The growers, particularly women, by reducing their exposure to insecticide, not only have lowered their risk of serious illness but also are able to spend more time with their children.

“Why do rich people tell us to plant crops that will ruin our farms?” Narhari Pawar asked. Pawar is forty-seven, with skin the color of burnt molasses and the texture of a well-worn saddle. “Bt cotton is the only positive part of farming,” he said. “It has changed our lives. Without it, we would have no crops. Nothing.”

The all-encompassing obsession with Monsanto has made rational discussion of the risks and benefits of genetically modified products difficult. Many academic scientists who don’t work for Monsanto or any other large corporation are struggling to develop crops that have added nutrients and others that will tolerate drought, floods, or salty soil—all traits needed desperately by the world’s poorest farmers. Golden Rice—enriched with vitamin A—is the best-known example. More than a hundred and ninety million children under the age of five suffer from vitamin-A deficiency. Every year, as many as half a million will go blind. Rice plants produce beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, in the leaves but not in the grain. To make Golden Rice, scientists insert genes in the edible part of the plant, too.

Golden Rice would never offer more than a partial solution to micronutrient deficiency, and the intellectual-property rights have long been controlled by the nonprofit International Rice Research Institute, which makes the rights available to researchers at no cost. Still, after more than a decade of opposition, the rice is prohibited everywhere. Two economists, one from Berkeley and the other from Munich, recently examined the impact of that ban. In their study “The Economic Power of the Golden Rice Opposition,” they calculated that the absence of Golden Rice in the past decade has caused the loss of at least 1,424,680 life years in India alone. (Earlier this year, vandals destroyed some of the world’s first test plots, in the Philippines.)

Note the pattern: a wealthy elite use populist politics (based on feeding the fears of the ignorant) to gain more power for themselves. If their programs (no trade or technology, local sources only, no intellectual property) were ever to be implemented, billions would starve and the world would revert to a static, repressive subsistence economy. The damage they do by preventing development of better crops and agricultural methods, as well as blocking trade and investment wherever they can, is already enormous. Can we call this evil? You could argue that such memes are well-meaning and continue to flourish because of a lack of understanding of complex economic systems and trade webs; for example, Gandhi’s emphasis on village self-sufficiency (“A free India for Gandhi meant the flourishing of thousands of self-sufficient small communities who rule themselves without hindering others. Gandhian economics focused on the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level.”) was at the time motivated by antipathy to a British India’s mercantilist exploitation of poor Indian farmers. But to argue this today when only agricultural technology saved millions from starvation in the late 1960s (when Norman Borlaug’s improved wheat varieties doubled the subcontinent’s wheat production) is worse than irresponsible.

Reason’s science writer Ron Bailey decries her in a much quicker read. A few good bits:

I have long been tracking the career of lies and disinformation that constitute the anti-intellectual trajectory of virulent anti-biotech activist Vandana Shiva. For example, back in 2001, I reported:

Ten thousand people were killed and 10 to 15 million left homeless when a cyclone slammed into India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa in October 1999. In the aftermath, CARE and the Catholic Relief Society distributed a high-nutrition mixture of corn and soy meal provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to thousands of hungry storm victims. Oddly, this humanitarian act elicited cries of outrage.

“We call on the government of India and the state government of Orissa to immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from distribution,” said Vandana Shiva, director of the New Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. “The U.S. has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs for GM [genetically modified] products which have been rejected by consumers in the North, especially Europe.” Shiva’s organization had sent a sample of the food to a lab in the U.S. for testing to see if it contained any of the genetically improved corn and soy bean varieties grown by tens of thousands of farmers in the United States. Not surprisingly, it did.

“Vandana Shiva would rather have her people in India starve than eat bioengineered food,” says C.S. Prakash, a professor of plant molecular genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Writer Mary McCarty famously said of Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.” Nothing truer could be said of Shiva.

In a superb article, International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology researcher Anand Ranganathan nicely summarizes Shiva’s legacy of dishonesty and outright fabrication. Below are some representative quotations from Shiva along with some analysis by Ranganathan:

Shiva: “Science and masculinity were associated in domination over nature and femininity, and the ideologies of science and gender reinforced each other. The witch-hunting hysteria which was aimed at annihilating women in Europe as knowers and experts was contemporous with two centuries of scientific revolution. It reached its peak with Galileo’s Dialogue…”

Shiva: “Scientific missions colluded with religious missions to deny rights to nature. The rise of mechanical philosophy with the emergence of the scientific revolution was based on the destruction of concepts of a self-regenerative, self-organising nature which sustained all life. Just as technology changes seed from a living, renewable resource into mere raw material, it devalues women in a similar way.”…

So she is also a Third-Wave feminist: appeals to emotion and victimhood replace reason and science, though she pretends to be a scientist. Technology is supposedly a tool of the Patriarchy and oppresses women!

This tide of unreason, funded by governments, foundations, NGOs, and academia, threatens the future progress of humanity.

Other posts on pseudoscientific quacks:

Cleanses and Detox Diets: Quackery
Mike Adams: Quack Suggests Murdering Monsanto-supporting Scientists
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: Quack
More on Quacks: “Dr. Oz” Testifies He’s a Victim!
Vani Hari, “Food Babe” and Quack: Where the Money Comes From
Vani Hari: “Food Babe” and Quack