FTC Nails Pomegranate Juicemaker for False Claims That Don’t Appear False

I found this one interesting. From the beginning of the press release … er … article (could not be a press release, right?):

“Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell ruled on May 17, 2012 that some POM Wonderful ads are deceptive. The company’s ads claim that POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements can ‘treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.’ ”

So the background is POM made a claim that their products can treat, prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. The FTC sued them for deceptive advertising and the standard they needed to uphold their claims was “competent and reliable scientific evidence”. Sans this, the complaint would be upheld and the FTC would win.

POM has conducted 10 clinical trials on their pomegranate juices and supplements (http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=POM+Wonderful).  Of course, these might be bogus, since they used hack institutions like John Hopkins, UCLA, University of Michigan, etc. And additional studies by the National Cancer Institute, MD Anderson, Sloan Kettring, etc. are also obviously slanted and cannot be used as proof (even though these institutions also study the seems to have a great case here.

If I move to peer-reviewed journals, there are only tens of thousands of hits, with thousands for heart disease and prostate cancer (along with other cancers) and quite a few hundreds on erectile dysfunction. Obviously, there is not enough evidence, cause an effective food or supplement would have millions of studies. After all, Zytiga, a new FDA approved drug has a bit over 700 scholarly articles (roughly the same as pomegranate and erectile dysfunction) and roughly 2500 if the word abiraterone, the chemical name for Zytiga (significantly less than the number of hits for Pomegranate and Prostate cancer, but who’s counting).

Zytiga is the obvious safe choice for discriminating patients, as the only major complications are hypertension (high blood pressure), fluid retention, weight gain, adrenocortical insufficiency (problems with adrenal glands) and hepatotoxicity (kills your liver). The non-safe choice, drinking pomegranate juice, is far worse, as drinking it in higher amounts might cause weight gain, according to various sites. Weight gain is far worse than heart attack in my book.

Here are a few links to journals with research on pomegranate (hack journals , of course):

A Google scholar search reveals more than 51,000 hits for pomegranate. If you go to more specific searches on pomegranate reveal more than 4,600 hits for cardiovascular, more than 3,000 for pomegranate and prostate cancer, and more than 700 hits for erectile dysfunction. Of course, since many, if not most, of these are peer reviewed journals and studies by government agencies, so they MUST be biased and unreliable (bad science like all peer-reviewed journals).

Let’s dig a bit deeper into our government, okay? Certainly they have something to say about how bad Pomegranate juice is for you. I mean, they couldn’t be saying something like pomegranate juice helps with medical conditions, right?

From the National Cancer Institute: 

“A study of 13 pomegranate compounds showed some were able to slow the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells and to cause cell death. Higher doses were found to be more effective.”

“Three types of prostate cancer cell lines were treated with either pomegranate extract, pomegranate juice, or two of their bioactive compounds. ALL (emphasis mine) pomegranate treatments were shown to increase cell death and decrease the spread of cancer cells, with higher doses found to be more effective.”

“Other studies in cancer cell lines found that the anticancer activity of pomegranate included effects on certain enzymes and pathways involved in cancer, such as the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system.”

But this is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and not the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and agencies should only trust their own research, even if they don’t research medicines or food. Unless, of course, the research they are trusting is about claims on medications, then they should trust all research, right?

So who is Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell? He MUST be an independent legal authority with no ties to either the FTC or POM, right? If not, he might be biased in one direction or another, which would seem almost unfair to opposing side. Well, a bit of investigation reveals him to be a completely unbiased employee of the FTC, so I am rolling with him all the way … just like the media that published the FTC press release as an authoritative source of information. Hey, if it is press released, it has to be right? And there is no bias against farmers, food, etc. in the government, right?

If it seems like I am a bit underwhelmed by our government, you hit the nail on the head. With the revolving door between various agencies and the industries they watchdog, and the history of going after food while giving “medicine” a relatively free ride (could be due to many federal employees being former {drug, food, ?} company executives/researchers/etc.), I am a bit leery when I see the FTC going after a food for false practices (at least they did not state “water can prevent dehydration” was a false claim, as the European Union did last year), so they have that going for them.

As an aside, here is a particular egregious revolving door case:

In order for the FDA to determine if Monsanto’s growth hormones were safe or not, Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on that topic. Margaret Miller, one of Monsanto’s researchers put the report together. Shortly before the report submission, Miller left Monsanto and was hired by the FDA. Her first job for the FDA was to determine whether or not to approve the report she wrote for Monsanto. In short, Monsanto approved its own report. Assisting Miller was another former Monsanto researcher, Susan Sechen. Deciding whether or not rBGH-derived milk should be labeled fell under the jurisdiction of another FDA official, Michael Taylor, who previously worked as a lawyer for Monsanto.

Really? She writes a paper to get recombinant growth hormone approved for use in cattle and then gets to approve the research? Obviously no conflict of interest there, right? And I want the fox to guard my henhouse and should have a bridge to sell you later on today. Bleh!

Am I stating you should drink lots of pomegranate juice? Certainly not! Am I stating you should not take drugs if you have heart disease, prostate cancer or erectile dysfunction? Not at all! I am stating that POM’s “false claims” appear to have plenty of evidence behind them. And I would rather drink pomegranate juice than take a load of drugs (one for the cancer, another for the hypertension caused by the cancer drug, and another for the erectile dysfunction caused by the previous 2 drugs, and others to halt the liver damage, etc.).

And, yes, I am being a sarcastic snit at this moment.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld


One Response to FTC Nails Pomegranate Juicemaker for False Claims That Don’t Appear False

  1. Gerry Potter says:

    Greg – that was a great article on pomegranate juice. In our own research we found very high levels of cancer busting salvestrols in pomegranates throughout the fruit and in the juice. So no wonder people with prostate cancer benefit from it since it contains mother natures own anticancer molecules.

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