Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's in Your Supplement (Part II)?

When someone looks at the nutritional label on a food product, they probably do so with the assumption that the labeling is, at a minimum, accurate and truthful. After all, these are regulated by the government and the labeling standards are enforced by the FDA, right? Well, in the case of nutritional supplements, yes and no.

The authority of the FDA to regulate supplements is defined in the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. You may be shocked to discover that one of the groups exerting significant influence over the content of this law was.... get ready for it .... the dietary supplement industry! As a result, and contrary to what the title of the Act may lead you to believe, the law severely dilutes and restricts the authority of the FDA to regulate supplements. One major difference is that while a drug must be proven to be safe and effective to the FDA's satisfaction before it can be released onto the market, a dietary supplement is presumed safe based on the manufacturer's word, need not be proven effective for any purpose and needs no approval before it can be marketed and sold to the public. There are no requirements to register the supplement product with any regulatory agency. Manufacturers are expected to comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) standards and are required to report to the FDA any "serious adverse event" reported to them and associated with the use of the supplement.

As for the accuracy of the product labeling, manufacturers "must make sure that product label information is truthful and not misleading". Let's see how they are doing with that.

Back in 2010 I examined the manufacturing mistake that put 1,000 times the intended dose of Vitamin D in Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal, powering Gary Null and several of his customers to severe kidney damage. Since that time, the situation has apparently not improved much.

In a 2013 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, Kaiser Permanente scientists, as part of a separate study, tested the potency of vitamin D pills.  They found that only 1/3 of the pills fell within 10% of the stated dose. An expanded study revealed a variance in actual potency of between 23% and 146% of the dose stated on the labeling. In a followup study to that, vitamin D-3 supplements were tested from 12 different suppliers and found to vary from the stated does in a range of 9% to 146%. There were large variations even within the same manufacturing lot number.

According to the independent consumer testing organization Consumer Lab, nearly 1/3 of vitamin supplement products (all of them, not just vitamin D) fail to meet standards for quality and labeling accuracy.

Supplement products have been found to contain glass particles, fecal material from rodents and insects and adulterated levels of pharmaceutical products. (None of these were listed on the label.)

This is not an argument to stop supplementing. But unless you are comfortable taking the manufacturers word for it, you are well advised to check with independent testing services such as Consumer Lab and Consumers Union to verify what you are taking. And check out the company behind the pills.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Five Reasons Why Your Network Marketing Business Will Fail

According to the Direct Selling Association, companies generated about $154 billion in worldwide sales (2011) through network marketing. In the US alone, nearly 16 million people operate a direct selling business and almost 75% of Americans have purchased goods or services from a network marketer. And yet, while many people successfully generate large - even 6-figure - incomes, the majority do not. And large numbers of distributors leave the business, with annual turnover rates over 50%.

With a broad range of products and companies to choose from, among the lowest start-up and ongoing costs of any business, the many tax advantages, and the ability to scale your business to the time you have to invest and the results you want to achieve, network marketing has a lot to offer. But there are many reasons why someone might fail at a network marketing business. Here are five of the most common ones.

1. You don't love the product(s). Network marketing, like any successful sales business, is based on trust and personal contacts and referrals. It is difficult in any case to sell someone something that you yourself do not believe in, but in network marketing it is - if not impossible - a horribly bad idea. If you don't use the product yourself, believe in it completely and feel genuine enthusiasm for what it does for you then others will naturally be suspicious when you propose it to them. "Be a product of your product" is a good rule to follow. Would you be using the product even without being in the business? Your enthusiasm will attract more people than your pitch.

2. Your expectations are unrealistic. Without a doubt, successful network marketers can make very significant incomes while having a lot of fun doing it. Five figure monthly incomes are not uncommon, although certainly not the rule. It is easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the business presentation and the excitement of getting started in a new adventure. The Grand Imperial Vizier level Diamond Executive Double Platinum Ambassador almost certainly invested a considerable amount of time and effort into building her business to that lofty level - years, most likely. There is nothing impossible about expecting to grow your business to a six figure residual income. But it is probably not going to happen by next month. Be sure your goals and expectations match the time and effort that you plan to invest.

3. You failed to carefully check out the company. You would not invest in a stock or buy a franchise business without doing your research first, so why ever would you start a network marketing business without checking out the company behind it? How long has the company been in business? Is it public or privately held? Who is the management team and what backgrounds and experience do they bring to the table? What do other distributors have to say? Is the company a member of any professional organizations like the DSA? Has it been a party to any lawsuits or complaints by customers or distributors? You get the idea. Caveat emptor.

4. You do not treat it like a real business.  If you want to grow your network marketing business into a serious income, you have to make it a netWORK marketing business. There is nothing at all wrong with wanting to make just enough income to pay for your own products and perhaps a little extra every month. Lots of people do. But if you treat it casually and regard it as a hobby, you can't also expect much in the way of financial success. You should plan to invest at least as much thought, time and effort into your business as you would into a job working for someone else - and, realistically, a lot more.

5. You refuse to be teachable. If you join a company that has been in business for some time (and, really, there are not a lot of good reasons not to) then it is reasonable to expect that they and their distributors have figured out how best to do that business. Learn from the people who have been successful, copy what they do, and teach the people you sponsor to do the same. It can be tempting to go off and do things your own way, but it will rarely pay off. Embrace the system your company has developed, make it your own and follow it.

Network marketing is a very simple business that doesn't take years of experience and a large investment to start and grow. But that doesn't make it easy (nothing very worthwhile is). Before you jump in, spend a little time educating yourself and your chances of succeeding will increase significantly.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meet Lunasin

In 1999, based on a meta-analysis of 27 clinical trials, the FDA approved the statement that "25 grams of soy protein a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease". Almost immediately the American Heart Association objected to this claim on the basis that the "mechanism of action" by which soy protein might have such an effect was unknown. In other words, it might or might not have that effect, but since we have no idea how or why let's not make the claim only to find out later that it was simply a misleading correlation and not a cause-effect relationship.

Earlier that same year, Dr. Alfredo Galvez, working at the University of California at Berkeley, discovered that a peptide in the soybean had interesting bioactive properties. The peptide, lunasin, had first been isolated in 1987 and Galvez was investigating its cancer and inflammatory preventive properties. Subsequent work by Galvez and others identified lunasin as the ingredient in soy that was responsible for its cholesterol lowering effect. In November of 2012, Dr. Galvez was invited to present his findings to the annual conference of the American Heart Association, and his conclusions were published by the AHA in their journal Circulation. The mechanism of action for soy protein's cholesterol lowering benefits had been identified.

Lunasin works epigenetically to reduce the expression of the HMG-CoA gene responsible for the production of an enzyme necessary for LDL cholesterol production in the liver. An additional gene who's expression is enhanced by lunasin increases the removal of LDL cholesterol from the vascular system. Together, these epigenetic effects account for the anti-cholesterol properties of lunasin.

Lunasin may thus offer a natural, nutritional alternative to statin drugs, which are taken my millions of Americans and carry a long list of damaging side effects. This problem is that soy beans contain relatively low levels of lunasin, accounting partly for the ambiguity of the results in studies of soy and cholesterol.

A partnership between Dr. Galvez, the Missouri Plant Science Center, Soy Labs, Inc. and Reliv International, using only non-GMO methods, has produced a soy protein containing as much as 200 times the natural level of lunasin. This is now available in Reliv's LunaRich products.

A nutritionally based statin alternative is certainly good news. But Dr Galvez was and continues to be a cancer researcher. Ongoing studies of lunasin hold the real promise to address cancer and inflammation, which is at the root of so many of the things that plague us - allergies, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and more. Introduce yourself to lunasin, and be prepared for more exciting reasearch results.

(Check out this page for a wealth of videos explaining how lunasin works.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why We Hate Sales

From time to time, I have the opportunity to give talks to small groups about network marketing. Not for the purpose of enlisting them in anything, but rather to explain objectively what network marketing is, how it works and why someone might want to consider a business that uses such a selling model. I always begin by asking "Who enjoys sales and selling?" Very few, if any, hands go up. I then rephrase the question and ask, "Who would rather gouge their eyes out with a spoon than be involved in sales or selling?" Nearly every hand goes up.

My point is that everyone is engaged in sales and selling. Not everyone gets paid for it. We don't all have a product or service we are selling. But we all sell ourselves in interviews, our ideas to our employers, our vacation preferences to our families. Even the choice of a place to go out for dinner, or what movie to watch involves some selling. Why then does the profession of sales seem to enjoy such a dismal reputation? Why are salespeople ranked right up there with politicians and attorneys and IRS auditors?

I'm sure you can list your own reasons, but here are mine.

1. At one time or another, we have all been annoyed, harassed,
    disappointed or burned by a salesperson.
    People love to buy, but no one likes to be "sold" something. We've
    all ended up buying something from someone who was all about
    what he had to see and could care less what you needed. Had our
    meal interrupted calling you off a list with some incredible offer
    that you would never in a million years be interested in buying.
    Been let down by the quality, utility or value of a product we were
    talked into buying. Twice burned, once foolish. But how do you
    handle this in a different situation? Say you are seriously
    disappointed with an over-hyped movie. Or perhaps you have a
    terrible experience in a new restaurant you try out - bad food,
    worse service, premium prices. Is that the last movie you will
    ever go to see? Do you stop eating out? Probably not. I bet you did
    learn a few things about choosing films and eateries, and that you
    put it to use the next time you take in dinner and a show.

2. It is easy to buy into the stereotype.
    It is a favorite of stage and screen. The pushy, obnoxious,
    insensitive, back-slapping, fast talking, plaid jacket wearing
    salesman who pumps your hand in a crushing grip while picking
    your pocket with his other hand. Most of us would rather give an
    unrehearsed speech to a large audience than to be thought that
    kind of person. And lets face it, there is always a germ of truth to
    a stereotype. But, objectively, of all the sales professionals you
    have met how many were like that? I'm going to guess a pretty
    small percentage. Why? Because people like that don't last long
    in sales any more - if they ever did. They fail and move on, or find
    a new career.

3. We all fear rejection.
     It can be hard to separate the rejection of what you happen to be
     selling from a rejection of you, personally. This is especially true
     if your product or service is one that you are excited about, use
     yourself and really believe in (and if it isn't, why are you selling
     it?). No one likes to be turned down, to hear "No" or, worst yet,
     to be dismissed out of hand. On the other hand we all hear "No"
     from time to time and, so far as I know, it hasn't killed anyone.

Do we "hate" sales only because of fear? The fear of being a bother to others, of being thought poorly of, or of being rejected? I'm certainly not saying that a career in sales is for everyone. But sales can open up all sorts of opportunities - social, professional, financial. In business or in life, nothing much happens until somebody sells something. Good selling is not pushing. It is helping people to solve a problem or obtain a benefit by looking at things a little differently than they have before. Think about that the next time you are advocating for that golf vacation instead of a trip to your in-laws in Detroit.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Deadly Drugs

Most Americans are aware that heart disease, cancers and strokes are the three leading causes of death in the United States today. They may not be aware of #4: the adverse effects of prescription medications. Every year, more Americans die from drug errors than from traffic accidents - forty people a day from prescription pain killers alone. And while nearly 40,000 of these deaths arise from behavior that might fairly be described as "drug abuse", nearly 750,000 perish is what can only charitably be called "mistakes".

To make matters worse, a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that nearly 60% of the prescription medications taken by patients are not needed, and that 88% of patients reported feeling better when taking fewer or no drugs.

Let's take a look at just one type of prescription medication, the statins that are prescribed to lower cholesterol and which are the most prescribed, highest selling prescription drugs in the USA. One study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy found that 75% of people taking statins reported memory loss or other cognitive problems, and that fully 90% of them who stopped taking the medication showed rapid improvement. Other major side effects are well known and include muscle pain and weakness, neuropathy and an elevated risk of developing diabetes.

One of the less well known (among us non-experts anyway) measures of drug effectiveness is the so-called Number Needed to Treat (NNT). NNT is a measurement of how many people would need to take the drug in order for it to produce one beneficial outcome. Obviously the lower the number the better. For the popular statin drug Lipitor the NNT is 168. This means that 168 people would have to take Lipitor (for 4 years) to prevent one "cardiovascular event". Unfortunately, the risk for side effects can be as high as 1 in 10. That means 16 people will suffer the side effects so that 1 person may be helped. No doubt the fact that statin drugs produce an annual revenue of about $25 billion dollars in no way influences their popularity at the prescription pad. But to me these seem to be stunningly bad odds.

If you are taking two prescription medications a day, the odds of having a bad interaction between them is about 6%. If you are taking 5 per day, the odds skyrocket to about 50%.... 1 person in 2. With half (yes, half) of Americans taking at least one prescription drug (and nearly 1 in 5 taking 3 or more) this quickly produces large numbers of endangered people. We may be the most medicated nation on the planet.

I'll close with a personal story. About 10 years ago my mother, who was living in Florida and suffering from advancing Alzheimers disease, was no longer able to care for herself safely. As a result, she moved to California to be close to my brother. One of the first things he did was make an appointment with a neurologist, and on their first visit he took a list of the prescription medications that she was taking on a daily basis. She had prescriptions for diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, arthritis, degenerative heart disease and, of course, Altzheimers. Eight medications in all. When the doctor reviewed the list, she reacted with a combination of alarm and disbelief. Four of those medications were "mutually exclusive" - meaning that they had known interactions and were not prescribed together. Reducing my mothers medications to 3 per day produced an immediate, allbeit temporary, improvement in her mental and physical condition.

How could this happen? Because she was seeing four different "specialists", each of whom were prescribing medications without any idea what the others were doing. The doctors failed her, the pharmacist failed her, the insurance companies failed her, the healthcare system failed her and, to be fair, her family failed her.

The late Stephen Covey, in his book "First Things First", describes what he called "the rescue fantasy". "Most of us understand that a good percentage of the health problems we have are lifestyle-related. We live the way we want to live - little or no exercise, poor nutrition, burning the candle at both ends - and then when there is a problem we expect the medical profession to fix it. There's a pill for that."

There may be, but as more and more of us turn to medication to "fix" ourselves, we are starting to see that the cure may be more deadly than the problem.