[ed note: Michael Jorrin is longtime medical writer who has been sharing his thoughts with our readers as “Doc Gumshoe” for several years (he’s not a doctor, I gave him the name). He generally covers medical and health news and sometimes health promotions and hype, but he rarely opines about investments or specific stocks. All of his past commentaries can be seen here]
I’m taking a rest from the cardiac arrhythmias stuff that I addressed but did not finish in my last piece. I’ll get back to that soon, but in the meantime I’m looking at a few current topics that have turned up on my desk via various routes. One, which Travis tossed over the transom, has to do with stem cells and whether a supplement called Vital Stem can foster the growth of stem cells and thus work as an antidote to aging.
Another “fountain of youth” supplement
The hook here is the stem cell connection. Stem cells are of great interest to the medical and scientific community. The Gumshoe cognoscenti have certainly heard a good deal about stem cells and their potential to repair all manner of damage in the human body. The potential is undeniable, but so far actual benefit is spotty at best. Every part of the body – bone, muscle, nerve, brain – is composed of mature cells which age and die, and also includes some stem cells which will mature to replace the cells that die off. These are the so-called “adult” stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, unlike adult stem cells, have the potential to mature into any and all human cells. Doubtless, you have heard of the controversy regarding the harvesting of embryonic stem cells. Human embryos harbor a small number of these stem cells, and harvesting the stem cells kills the embryo. Embryonic stem cells, termed pluripotent because of their capacity to grow into all types of cells, are not the kind of stem cells that Vital Stem purports to boost.
Stem cells undeniably have an intrinsic relationship with aging. Younger people have many more stem cells than older folks, and when cells die off – which, unfortunately, they do – older people have fewer stem cells hanging around to replace the lost cells. Cell damage and cell death takes place in all humans of any age (and in animals and plants too), but younger people have much more capacity to grow new cells. So it would be an excellent thing if there were an effective way to increase the supply of stem cells, which would not only shoo away the Grim Reaper, but keep us young and healthy.
The creator and promoter of Vital Stem is Randolph S. McClain, DO. He is a 2007 graduate of Western University of Health Sciences, in Pomona, CA, which teaches osteopathic medicine. Doctors of osteopathy are fully licensed physicians. The guiding principles of osteopathic medicine focus on the body as a whole, including the mind and the spirit, and a belief that the body is capable of self-regulation and self-healing.
Here’s the pitch from Live Cell Research, the manufacturer of Vital Stem:
“2016’s most talked-about innovation came yesterday when Dr. Rand McClain, the Los Angeles based ‘Doctor to the Stars,’ released his new technique for what some are calling the first true Body Repair formula.
“ And the reason everyone’s talking about it is because his method is based on technology that was actually banned by the U.S. government in 2001. However, Dr. McClain and his partners have discovered a loophole that allows them to go around the slow-moving government bureaucracy…and take their discovery straight to the American people.
“Dr. McClain wowed industry colleagues and members of the press with his new creation, which he revealed he’s already offering to his celebrity and pro-athlete clients with incredible results. In the video presentation – which may be taken down as early as this week – he details how some very big name athletes are achieving increased strength, healthier bodies, and even more energy.
“McClain feels the technique — which has been shown in clinical trials to actually alter specific cells in the human body — works best for people over 40, particularly those who may be experiencing excessive fatigue, weaker bodies, and even foggy thinking.”
The drill, according to McClain, is simple: you take one scoop of Vital Stem, stir it into a glass of water, drink it down first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, and, voila! – it’s like a magic fertilizer for stem cells, which will grow into new bone, muscle, skin, and even brain cells, fighting off aging and mental decline.
What might the miraculous ingredients in this supplement that keeps us young? Well, Vital Stem contains Vitamin D3, leucine, carnosine, green tea extract, and blueberry extract. Of these, leucine comes closest to having the effects that McClain is proclaiming. Leucine is an essential amino acid. We humans are not able to synthesize it, but it’s not very hard to find dietary sources, including soybeans, beef, peanuts, pork, salmon, wheat germ, almonds, chicken, eggs, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, oats, corn, milk …. The list goes on. And on. There appears to be evidence that leucine supplementation stimulates muscle growth in rats, but not in elderly humans, according to a 2008 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Whether the effect in rats has anything to do with boosting stem cells has not been, as they say, elucidated.
Another Vital Stem ingredient that may or may not deliver the advertised health benefits is carnosine, which is a sort of twin amino acid, consisting of β-analyl and L-histidine linked together. Like leucine, carnosine is reasonably abundant in protein-rich diets and perhaps a bit scarce particularly in vegan diets. Carnosine is an inhibitor of the formation of advanced glycation end products, which contribute to the aging process, and appear to be a factor in diabetes. There have been claims that carnosine supplementation actually delayed aging, in a cohort of elderly patients with established cataracts, and also that it stimulated the growth of stem cells in vitro. The claim that it delayed aging would be hard to substantiate, since that study only went on for six months. For such a study to have any weight, it would have had to run a good deal longer, and it would have had to compare the cohort that got the carnosine supplement with a matched cohort that did not get the supplement. And there would have had to be criteria: what is a normal rate of aging, and how do you measure it?
As for the other three ingredients: the benefits of Vitamin D3 are well known, the blueberry extract perhaps is intended to combat oxidative stress, and the green tea extract is no doubt included to attempt to recruit the many well-publicized benefits (bona fide or not) of green tea regarding cancer, heart disease, and other diseases, to the Vital Stem cause. Green tea extract, but not green tea itself, has been linked with liver damage. The American College of Gastroenterology has issued a warning about diet pills containing green tea extract. The specific components of green tea extract that can cause harm are catechins, which are antioxidants, but which can also affect our mitochondria. These are active in metabolizing food and converting it to energy. Excessive amounts of green tea extract can hamper the performance of mitochondria, leading to jaundice, hepatitis, and even liver failure.
It’s obvious that the campaign is, as usual, hugely overblown, with the familiar conspiracy theory themes that the U. S. Government is about to clamp down on Vital Stem because it threatens the medical establishment. Beyond that, the product itself is a bit of a swindle. It’s not quite in the same swindle category as the bottles of ayurvedic medicaments that consist almost entirely of fillers. But a bottle of Vital Stem will set you back about fifty bucks, and the main active ingredients – leucine and carnosine – are abundant in normal diets, and can be bought as supplements for a fraction of that figure.
So, on to another Thanksgiving Leftover.
Master Mineral Solution cures just about everything!
This one comes from the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. I am just about 100% sure that no citizen of Gumshoe Nation would fall for this one, but just to elevate your eyebrows and elicit exclamations of baffled wonderment that anyone at all would fall for this, here’s the scuttlebutt. The genius behind this is a guy named (deceitfully) Jim Humble, who has written a number of books about his cure-all. The books are titled something like The Master Mineral Solution of the Third Millennium.
Humble’s miracle solution is purported to cure Lyme disease, MRSA (methicillin-resistant staph aureus), malaria, stomach and peritoneal cancer, hepatitis C, HIV, H1N1 flu, acne, the common cold, and maybe other diseases as well.
What is the Master Mineral Solution? The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing helpfully provides a formula, which starts off with 22.4% sodium chlorite. That’s chlorite, not chloride. Other ingredients include hydrochloric acid, citric acid, chlorine dioxide, calcium hypochlorite, dimethyl sulfoxide, diatomaceous earth, and zinc oxide. What this mixture produces is basically industrial strength bleach.
The label for this Master Mineral Solution recommends high oral doses of this stuff.
Side effects include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and severe dehydration.
The FDA issued a warning more than six years ago that this stuff could cause really serious harm to health, including life-threatening episodes of low blood pressure. Despite this warning, the Genesis II Church recently pronounced that the Master Mineral Solution will cure autism. And if the kids experience those symptoms, that’s evidence, says the Genesis II Church, that their magical elixir is working!
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I wish to add here that the health benefits of