Saturday, February 10, 2007

Biophotonic BS Wins 'Lame Duck' Award

My latest "Lame Duck" award goes to the "Biophotonic Scanner" marketed by Pharmanex. This high-tech sounding device supposedly tests your antioxidant levels by scanning your hand with a "low level blue laser light." Ostensibly, this device measure the levels of carotenoid antioxidant compounds in your skin and uses the measurement as a "surrogate" for overall body antioxiant levels, oxidative stress, and general health. Oh, really?! Let's ask some difficult questions which Pharmanex conveniently avoids answering in all their literature.

1. What are carotenoids? They are natures pigments and are indeed powerful antioxidants. For example, it is the much hyped carotenoid "lycopene" that makes tomatoes red. They also makes carrots orange (hence the name, etc., etc.). But there is a wide spectrum of carotenoids each with a different color from pale yellow to dark red. Bottomline, there are tons of them and they all emit slightly different spectral signatures. Remember back to your last physics course. Color "happens" because when electromagnetic energy (light) strikes matter it absorbs some frequencies and reflects/scatters others. You know, light energy strikes the electron cloud, momentarily elevates electrons to a higher energy level, they fall back to their normal state and release a photon of a particular energy level (i.e. frequency) that corresponds to the light you "see." Simple, right?! This brief review is background for point #2.

2. By what method does this device make the measurement? If you dig deep enough (they don't really say upfront - for good reason) you will find they claim to use Raman Spectroscopy, a method of determining the presence of certain compounds by detecting scattered laser light of certain frequencies. But, the studies they cite all report how this technique is used to measure carotenoid compounds in the macula of the human EYE (primarily the carotenoid "lutein" which has been shown to slow macular degeneration). For their scanner to work properly it would presuppose the human hand absorbs carotenoids uniformly and that HAND skin is as similar from person to person and as undisturbed by environmental factors as the macula on the retina of your eyes. Let's see, the macula is inside the eyeball surrounded and bathed by an aqueous solution and the hand is - well - God knows where YOUR hand has been! So, I think NOT you bunch of pseudo-science scam artists. Their own data shows that carotenoid concentrations per unit measurement by their device change by as much as 50% based on the population scanned! So much for accuracy!

3. What is the value of the measurement? Well, again supposedly, it is to tell you whether or not you are deficient in antioxidants. But even they admit the the device ONLY measures carotenoids. Recall point #1. Do they purport to measure every last one of the multitude of carotenoids?! There are also literally dozens of other antioxidants in the human body. Even if you were "a quart low" on carotenoids, it does not mean you are completely antioxidant deficient. And, exactly what level is considered deficient? That's a good question too. But, since the device is calibrated in the field, an unscrupulous operator can set it to register ANY level as deficient, which leads us to our final and most damning question.

4. What does Pharmanex REALLY sell? Why, antioxidant supplements, of course. What better way to bump up sales than to come up with some fancy Rube Goldberg contraption that tells you that you need their product to be healthy. They literally brag about the income opportunities for selling supplements and consumables for their "scanner."

Neat trick, huh?! This is not the first nor the last group of sheisters to pull this type of medical hoax. I have no doubt that this device measures SOME level of carotenoids in the hand, but given the variable nature of the tested substance and medium (your freakin' hand!) is it accurate? Is even an accurate measurement of carotenoids a proper assessment of health? Ahhh, probably NOT! So, if your doc, supplement clerk, or nutritionist wants to "biophotonically" test you just tell them to shove a photon torpedo where the sun don't shine!

Quack, Quack, Quack!


HeartDuck . . . oops . . . I mean HeartHawk!

20 comments:

neil said...

Hi HH and Readers,

I just got my Vitamin D (25-Hydroxy) back. Somewhat surprised...it was only 33.9ng/ml. This despite the fact I take 4,000iu of an oil based product daily (NOW brand) and live outside of Los Angeles (70 today). I do work inside however and wear long sleeve shirts, and I don't garden (no one cuts their own grass in Los Angeles). By the time I take my walk in the evening, it is dark as well.

I can see why Dr. Davis personally has to take 6,000iu daily. I think it would take about that, or maybe 7,000iu to get my level to 50ng/ml.

Any thoughts? Anyone else have their levels to share?

Neil

Tyler said...

You forgot to mention how the scanner was created and use the the center for bio-medical optics at the University of Utah.

Diane said...

I appreciated your honest opinion of the biophotonic scanner. I read their scientific literature and was 1/2 convinced it measures something truly relevant to overall health. They claim to have compared their measurements to blood tests that measure many other antioxidants and that the carotinoid measurement is representative of the total antioxidant levels, statistically speaking. However, I retain some reservations and believe it could be quite misleading. People process carotinoids differently - some actually get orange-y skin when they drink carrot juice, and I'll bet they'd rate way up off scale regardless of their true antioxidant levels... Yet overall it may be somewhat useful with that caveat in mind. Still on the fence...

Anonymous said...

I got scanned yesterday at a street fair in Pleasanton, CA by the NuSkin vendors. My score was 42,000, which according to the scale they had posted at their both was on the low end of very good. My friend was scanned right after me and her score was 12,000 on the low of "your about to die you better buy vitamins now". The vendors were unable to explain the device in any understandable way so I started doing research. So far, I'm not convinced. This company seems to be the only group that uses this technology in this way. If it is effective, why aren't R.D.'s using it? If it really is a good indicator of diet it seems like more doctors would be using it. I try to eat right but I'm not a vegetarian, I can't afford organic and I don't take any supplements. (Supplements are unregulated and I don't trust that are what they purport to be). In general I feel like I could be doing better in terms of my diet so I was really shocked that I scored so much higher than my friend.

HeartHawk said...

Dear Anonymous:

Thanks for helping me make my point!

HeartHawk

Andrew said...

I’m a pretty health conscious guy and just found out about the Pharmanex scanner, so I visited their website and found a local representative. He agreed to come over to my home for a free scan. The phamphlet explains that when light from a blue laser (473nm) interacts with a carotenoid molecule, green light (510nm) is emitted. By measuring the amount of green light, the scanner provides a useful indication of total cartotenoid concentration in the skin. This is essentially all that Pharmanex claims about the scanner.

Nutritionally, cartotenoids are well established as antioxidants and obviously, if they are appearing in the skin of the palm, they have also been absorbed by other cells of the body. Also, it makes sense to me that carotenoids are not going to significantly accumulate in the body unless there is a healthy antioxidant system in place. Anyhow, the rep scanned the rest of my family as well. Here are the results:

Myself: 74,000
Wife: 32,000
Teen Daughter #1: 22,000
Teen Daughter #2: 24,000
Teen Daughter #3: 25,000

Of course, it was reassuring to see that I had such a fantastic score. However, I know my families dietary habits and they are not nearly as obsessive about health foods as I am (which is understandable).

Now the Rep explained to me that kids usually score lower due to their higher metabolism. So, I'm most concerned about my wife. She is younger than I, but recently had surgery for bursitis; which is a chronic inflammation condition. Also, she tends to not have anywhere near the energy as I do.

If you read up on inflammation, you will find that it is the root cause of all evil (broad host of serious aliments - including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer's). Anti-inflammatory diets are all about anti-oxidents, with carotenoids being a part of that. So, I've signed my wife up for the LifePak Nano and MarineOmega. The plan is to get another scan in a few months. The number should go up. However, the real test will be if she feels better. BTW, Teen Daughter #3 loves ketchup, which I think shows in her score and I’ve explained to my kids that this is basically a vegetable meter.

Anyhow, I’m pretty excited about the scanner, but I’m still doing my due diligence on it. So far, it looks totally legit to me and yes, I’m actually thinking about becoming a rep. That said, it’s not a perfect machine. It measures total carotenoids in the skin. There are 600 or so of these in nature, smaller amounts in individual foods and even less in supplements. Also, every carotenoid is different from the next. Some have been found to be more effective at protecting against particular diseases than others and many haven’t been studied at all and the scanner is probably more responsive to some than others.

So, where does that leave us? Well, the scanner provides a “useful indication of total carotenoid concentration in the skin”. What you do with that information is up to you.

My advice is to eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on carotenoid rich foods, take supplements that reinforce the bodies antioxidant systems and get periodic bio-photo scans to see how you are doing.

Andrew said...

I’m a pretty health conscious guy and just found out about the Pharmanex scanner, so I visited their website and found a local representative. He agreed to come over to my home for a free scan. The phamphlet explains that when light from a blue laser (473nm) interacts with a carotenoid molecule, green light (510nm) is emitted. By measuring the amount of green light, the scanner provides a useful indication of total cartotenoid concentration in the skin. This is essentially all that Pharmanex claims about the scanner.

Nutritionally, cartotenoids are well established as antioxidants and obviously, if they are appearing in the skin of the palm, they have also been absorbed by other cells of the body. Also, it makes sense to me that carotenoids are not going to significantly accumulate in the body unless there is a healthy antioxidant system in place. Anyhow, the rep scanned the rest of my family as well. Here are the results:

Myself: 74,000
Wife: 32,000
Teen Daughter #1: 22,000
Teen Daughter #2: 24,000
Teen Daughter #3: 25,000

Of course, it was reassuring to see that I had such a fantastic score. However, I know my families dietary habits and they are not nearly as obsessive about health foods as I am (which is understandable).

Now the Rep explained to me that kids usually score lower due to their higher metabolism. So, I'm most concerned about my wife. She is younger than I, but recently had surgery for bursitis; which is a chronic inflammation condition. Also, she tends to not have anywhere near the energy as I do.

If you read up on inflammation, you will find that it is the root cause of all evil (broad host of serious aliments - including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer's). Anti-inflammatory diets are all about anti-oxidents, with carotenoids being a part of that. So, I've signed my wife up for the LifePak Nano and MarineOmega. The plan is to get another scan in a few months. The number should go up. However, the real test will be if she feels better. BTW, Teen Daughter #3 loves ketchup, which I think shows in her score and I’ve explained to my kids that this is basically a vegetable meter.

Anyhow, I’m pretty excited about the scanner, but I’m still doing my due diligence on it. So far, it looks totally legit to me and yes, I’m actually thinking about becoming a rep. That said, it’s not a perfect machine. It measures total carotenoids in the skin. There are 600 or so of these in nature, smaller amounts in individual foods and even less in supplements. Also, every carotenoid is different from the next. Some have been found to be more effective at protecting against particular diseases than others and many haven’t been studied at all and the scanner is probably more responsive to some than others.

So, where does that leave us? Well, the scanner provides a “useful indication of total carotenoid concentration in the skin”. What you do with that information is up to you.

My advice is to eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on carotenoid rich foods, take supplements that reinforce the bodies antioxidant systems and get periodic bio-photo scans to see how you are doing.

Andrew said...

I’m a pretty health conscious guy and just found out about the Pharmanex scanner, so I visited their website and found a local representative. He agreed to come over to my home for a free scan. The phamphlet explains that when light from a blue laser (473nm) interacts with a carotenoid molecule, green light (510nm) is emitted. By measuring the amount of green light, the scanner provides a useful indication of total cartotenoid concentration in the skin. This is essentially all that Pharmanex claims about the scanner.

Nutritionally, cartotenoids are well established as antioxidants and obviously, if they are appearing in the skin of the palm, they have also been absorbed by other cells of the body. Also, it makes sense to me that carotenoids are not going to significantly accumulate in the body unless there is a healthy antioxidant system in place. Anyhow, the rep scanned the rest of my family as well. Here are the results:

Myself: 74,000
Wife: 32,000
Teen Daughter #1: 22,000
Teen Daughter #2: 24,000
Teen Daughter #3: 25,000

Of course, it was reassuring to see that I had such a fantastic score. However, I know my families dietary habits and they are not nearly as obsessive about health foods as I am (which is understandable).

Now the Rep explained to me that kids usually score lower due to their higher metabolism. So, I'm most concerned about my wife. She is younger than I, but recently had surgery for bursitis; which is a chronic inflammation condition. Also, she tends to not have anywhere near the energy as I do.

If you read up on inflammation, you will find that it is the root cause of all evil (broad host of serious aliments - including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer's). Anti-inflammatory diets are all about anti-oxidents, with carotenoids being a part of that. So, I've signed my wife up for the LifePak Nano and MarineOmega. The plan is to get another scan in a few months. The number should go up. However, the real test will be if she feels better. BTW, Teen Daughter #3 loves ketchup, which I think shows in her score and I’ve explained to my kids that this is basically a vegetable meter.

Anyhow, I’m pretty excited about the scanner, but I’m still doing my due diligence on it. So far, it looks totally legit to me and yes, I’m actually thinking about becoming a rep. That said, it’s not a perfect machine. It measures total carotenoids in the skin. There are 600 or so of these in nature, smaller amounts in individual foods and even less in supplements. Also, every carotenoid is different from the next. Some have been found to be more effective at protecting against particular diseases than others and many haven’t been studied at all and the scanner is probably more responsive to some than others.

So, where does that leave us? Well, the scanner provides a “useful indication of total carotenoid concentration in the skin”. What you do with that information is up to you.

My advice is to eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on carotenoid rich foods, take supplements that reinforce the bodies antioxidant systems and get periodic bio-photo scans to see how you are doing.

Andrew said...

crap; got all type of error messages when I went to post. Now there are 3 copies.

Please delete two of them including this one.

Thanks!

JMH said...

I am surprised that your skepticism is so strong with regard to this device. The poster before me had very legitimate things to say and from what I'm reading it seems legit. Who cares where your hand has been? The epidermis is a very thick organ compared to what we see on the surface, which is just the dead stuff.

I think you may be right that there are factors that could bias it but I think you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Also, if we consider how many natural or eastern medicinal things the western doctors haven't bought into then it stands to reason that they are not on board with something like this yet. Western docs take a lifetime to get on board with things because they may feel threatened or they won't make enough money from it.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, I am a Chiropractic Physician and also a Clinical Nutritionist. Someone presented to my office with this scanner as well last week and I measured 24,000. Let me just say that first, I workout 5 days per week, eat organic foods, and take a good quality multivitamin everyday. I completely agree with what this article is saying. The biophotonic scanner does measure some level of carotinoids, but I agree how much is there stored in the cells of your hands? First of all beta-carotene, one of the MANY antioxidants there are in your body, is a derivative of a fat soluble vitamin. Most of beta carotene that isn't being used by your cell is also being stored in your fat cells and liver. How many fat cells do you have in your hand compared with the rest of your body? The company has been trying to get me to rent this product and the more I sell the less I pay. As a patient going to a Doctor using this, would you trust this device and the treating physician after knowing that? Something to think about. I truly believe supplements can be a wonderful help to an individuals health. Even with organic food, our soul and pollution in the environment tends to decrease the vitamins and minerals.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, soil* not soul, type error.

Dr. Sardone said...

Hello all,

I agree with Dr. Anonymous. Although the scanner may be able to detect various carotenoids in the skin, it does not quantitatively assess total antioxidant status either exogenous or endogenous in nature. Hence, the results are can be very misleading and unrepresentative of general health and/or immunity.

Anonymous said...

Left out of this discussion is how this weakens the trust between doctor and patient.

I was recently hospitalized with a serious illness, and the specialist assigned to me kept mentioning how I should come to him when I was well to discuss diet.

My interest in what he had to say turned to distrust - and a lost of overall respect for him - when that "discussion" centered on my need for a $20 scan and the subsequent recommendation that I buy antioxident supplements and add them to my diet. Could I buy them online, I asked? No, I was quickly told, it would be much better if I bought them from him.

One would have to be a very naive patient if no suspicions about motive were aroused. It is a serious matter when practices are allowed in the medical profession that make a patient wonder if recommendations are being made solely for his benefit, or because they generate commissions. Certainly, doctors deserve to be paid for their expertise and skill, but making money off what they sell to the patient can only harm the trust that is proper to the doctor/patient relationship.

If doctors need to make side income that badly by selling stuff, let them have a gift shop with stuffed toys and balloons in their waiting room, instead of preying on my trust by couching what they hawk in terms that I "need" it because of my health. I wonder how many ill patients in that hospital were I was being treated were being primed for this doctor's eventual sales pitch.

More and more frequently, patients are bringing with them to the doctor's office a skepticism more proper to the used car lot. The danger here is that patients will come to doubt - and reject - disinterested recommendations that are being made for the patient's own good and that they may actually need.

Thus, no matter what minimal benefits this scanner may have, it represents a trend that is bad overall for people's health and the reputation of medicine. I don't think that doctors should be allowed to bring these types of business arrangements to the office.

Kathleen Aleman said...

I have been with Shaklee Corp. for 32 years. I am 61 and on no meds and I get extensive blood work done on a regular basis to know where I stand so nothing creeps up on me. I also take bioidentical hormones, the Wiley Method, thru Diana Swarzbein, Suzanne Sommers former endocrinologist. I do use most of the Shaklee Vitamin products and the Soy protein. I use their products because they have patents and research, published clinical research done by their scientist on their products. We are all skeptical and I know there is alot of junk out there. It comes with the territory. When Shaklee had the alndmark study done that was when there was no doubt of absorbtion www.thelandmarkstudy.com and the www.physicians.shaklee.com site was also science. Our Head of science and technology worked for Nu Skin and helped develope the biophotonic scanner and told me that if you drank V*8 juice before hand your score would go up. So that is enough evidence for me that it is not accurate. But the men that work for us (Shaklee) said
that Pharmanex has a good product. But people don't want to believe you that your product is good and don't want to look at the science understand it or find out how to understand it. Shaklee has amazing products and the science to back it all. Plus they run 300 tests on each and every product to make sure even the raw organic materials are clean. Most good companies run 70 tests. anyway I am sorry Nu Skin has done this with that machine. People are too smart today. I have never had a problem with my Shaklee business as far as proving anything and without machines that can be scutinized..Kathleen Aleman www.kathyaleman.myshaklee.com

Anonymous said...

is there any alternative and more accurate way to measure carotenoids, etc. other than the use of this "machine/scanner" and blood samples? just curious...

cookingupthecure.com said...

If these allegations were true.. then the 20 people that I recently scanned in DC (all friends and family) should have had a wide range of scores.

Instead each and everyone was in the blue except for 2 people who were high green. Why? Because they were ALL on the same mostly vegetarian diet, no sugar and low fat, and invariably each person took 2 -3 supplements (the most common being CoQ10, Vit D3, Curcumin).
If hand readings depended on where 'their hands had been', they should have scored all over the board. And if the scanner can be manipulated to sell supplements, they should have scored less.

Glucose tests show a small picture of one's health and not the whole picture, neither does blood pressure measure. This is just one look at overall health, and an often neglected one.
The Director of the National Institutes of Heath recently stated: "The level of Antioxidants you maintain in your body is a direct measure of how long you will live." A bold statement from a conservative organization.

Let's not be hasty about judging a tool that helps people make a shift to a better diet and lifestyle. This is less about supplements and more about insight. But if someone does indeed need a boost, since the American Diet is not the best (just look around you and read stats for obesity, heart disease and diabetes) why not suggest a superior product?

You had a great idea though, and I guess NuSkin is losing a lot of potential sales by NOT 'rigging' their scanner.
Thank you.

cookingupthecure.com said...

I didn't give full credit for the quote. It was stated by: Richard Cutler M.D., Director Anti-Aging Research, National Institute of Health (NIH).

Anonymous said...

My son's English teacher actually brought this bullshit into his classroom (Year 11)! As soon as he came home telling me he'd "had a health check with a machine that looked a bit like a kettle" I was alarmed. My first thought was that the damned Scientologists had infiltrated the school but more research revealed it was this little piece of woo. I'm furious and have demanded an answer from the school. I found this post while researching it.

My son was told he was unhealthy! Such bullshit. Lucky for him he has a skeptical mum who takes nothing at face value ;) Thanks for this post - it helped a lot!

Andrew Ross said...

Just because your son got a low score doesn't mean the machine can't be trusted. Instead, you should consider how healthy his diet is (or is not), make some positive adjustments and get retested in a few months.

You don't have to buy their brand of supplements, but you will have to make positive changes to raise the score. Try it and you'll see.

 
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