Monday, November 8, 2010

Pharmanex scanner... money making machine or just a scam?

Nu Skin EnterprisesImage via Wikipedia
Just the other day I got an offer that some body is bring some sort of machine from UC (that's University of California) to do some sort of health scan for free. I was already skeptical.

So the machine arrived... It's about the size of two large shoes stacked on top of each other. It's labelled Pharmanex S2. There's a "blue-laser" on one end. I was supposed to wash my hands and have it scan me for my antioxidant levels.

I scored terrible, as I guesed I would. And I expected, the lady operating the machine started promoting some vitamins called Lifepak Nano. I thanked her and left, and pulled out my Moto Droid to look up the company.

There's plenty of information, but they all just copy each other. The gist is simple: Pharmanex is owned by NuSkin, the cosmetics MLM. (I am somewhat familiar with Nu Skin as my aunt was a distributor once upon a time)  Pharmanex "BioPhotonic" scanner is real.

What does it do? It supposedly scans your skin for presense of skin keratonids, an anti-oxidant. It supposedly is an accurate measure for your overall body antioxidant level, supposedly higher is better. And of course, their Lifepak Nano will help boost you antioxidant level, so suppose you take our supplements for a month, come back and get another scan, we guarantee your score will be better!

There's an itch in my brain that this starts to sound very scammy, as there is no third-party research in any sort of major review that supports the conclusions. Nothing on WebMD, Mayo Clinic, or such. Any such reviews are cited either from PharmanexUSA.com or the few places that have one of these machines.

The science is real... up to a point. Raman Spectroscopy is a way to scan tissue for presence of certain stuff. The original method was developed to scan for Lutein, that thing good for your eyes, without poking a needle into your eyeball and suck out some fluids.

The only test that supposedly proves this machine is useful is a study funded by Pharmanex itself in a clinical trial in China (2006?) on about 100 people. Supposedly 100 people get blood drawn AND skin tested by this scanner and there's a correlation between the levels of skin antioxidant and the blood antioxidant. However, this test had not been duplicated at all.

Furthermore there is no proof that high levels of antioxidant in your body is better for you.
Thus, this machine is basically a self-justifying proposition. This machine "proves" you need more vitamins.

You can probably get better score by just drinking a cup of carrot juice very day for 3 weeks.

So it's not a scam per se... The only thing they guarantee, that you'll score better on their machine, is absolutely true. Whether it will actually help your overall health, well, they did not make any promise about that at all. That would be illegal under FDA guidelines.
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11 comments:

ProTom Fitness said...

I am taking different supplements from what are day offering, and I am living a very active and healthy lifestyle. My score was above the highest and I was expecting that. so I only can say the data was right for me and I knew it will be so I say it is not a scam as they did not wanted to sell me anything. You can read scientific studies about oxidative stress and ageing. Too much of antioxidants can be as dangerous as having a low level so you need them in moderation. you can visit my web here and you can read my personal tests http://www.toxinsfree.com

Tom

Jimmy Horowitz said...

Someone came by my office yesterday and I let them scan me. Well, I scored the second lowest possible on their scale and was told that I was extremely low on antioxidants and was thus likely to be in poor health.
Well, i am 67 years old, eat extremely well with a diet almost exclusively home-cooked with a high proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables. I am told that I look about 25 years younger than I am, and I run between 25 and 30 miles a week. Furthermore, I don't drink or smoke (any more!) and only swear when it slips out.
So, am I, as their scan, purports, an aging decrepit old fart, who can barely drag himself around, and is likely to die from Ebola or terminal dandruff any day now?
And, if I take their products, as I am being urged to do, will it make me even younger, so that I can run around dating 20 year-olds, and run iron man triathlons every weekend?
Or will the separation between me and $300 of my well earned money every month only increase my feelings of doom about our society and its "anything for a buck is a good thing" mentality?
I would not be sounding so cynical if I could find ONE peer-reviewed experiment in which these products have been tested.

YC said...

The scanner is proven, period. If you can't trust Yale University School of Medicine or Cancer Center, who can you trust?

There are plenty of studies validating Raman Spectroscopy, so please don't knock Pharmanex on the science...they have it.

As far as scores go, it doesn't matter what you eat unless you absorb it. Too many people have issues with absorption of nutrients due to medications they're taking or other factors.

So, just because you eat well doesn't mean you'll score well. In fact, if you eat well and do score poorly, this is more reason to take a product that is guaranteed to raise the number!

To Jimmy Horowitz...their products are guaranteed to raise your score...if they don't, you get your money back. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on carotenoids and health related issues. Read these and understand what the scan is all about. Like running high blood pressure for years, low carotenoids will lead to issues whether you want to believe it or not...the facts are there.

I know everyone wants to think that anything that is direct marketing is a scam. In many cases they are...however, a large amount of medical providers are getting involved as the biophotonic scanner trumps a MDA or Isoprostane test (yeah, medical tests with urine/blood that check the same thing and have been correlated to the scanner).

It all comes down to primary prevention and doing something about it. You can go by subjective criteria and that will do nothing for you until you are ill. Or, you can use objective criteria and stay ahead of the curve.

The option is always up to you...but, it's best to stay healthy than wait until you are ill. This scanner tells you irrefutably what is going on inside you in regards to chronic oxidative stress/antioxidant profile. If you don't think this is important, then you're not reading the studies.

Enjoy the products...they are fabulous!

Celebrity Doc said...
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Celebrity Doc said...

I cannot comment on the supplements, but I can comment on the scanner. As a physician, I took the scanner test at an anti-aging conference. I took it with several other physicians, whose diets I knew well. They also knew mine, the butt of many jokes for its healthiness. I knew I would score well and I did. Nobody tried to sell me supplements, as I didn't need them. They were recommended for my practice, for patients who weren't likely to score as well, because of much poorer diets. It wasn't much of a surprise that my colleagues with less healthy diets had less healthy scores. I saw it tested on three other people with purportedly healthy diets, two of them vegetarian. I already knew that all three diets were nutrient poor to varying degrees. The scanner was spot on in demonstrating the levels of nutrient deficiency that I had already predicted. The results had the effect of having two of the three request an immediate dietary consult with me, allowing me to make much needed alterations in their diets to improve their nutritional status and improve their health. The Pharmanex Scanner is a useful tool to quantify nutritional status to patients who need to see something in black and white print to be convinced to make the necessary changes to improve their health.

Celebrity Doc said...
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Celebrity Doc said...
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Tom Charles said...

I would like to comment on the Lifepak. I spent the last two hours evaluating the product. IF you were to pay full retail for all the ingredients, it would come to $27.64 at regular prices on VitaCost for all name-brand products. If you take a 40 percent discount (and we can assume that NuSkin can get huge discounts for buying their raw ingredients in bulk!), the product should cost around $16.00 PER MONTH! As it is, the LOWER COST product is around $70.00 per month, so it's way overpriced! If you are say, 54 years old and need Resveratrol, the recommended dose is 500 mg; Lifepak has 5.0 milligrams--one one hundredth the recommended amount! If you need, say 1.0 milligram of Vanadium, the L.P. has .010 milligram (10 micrograms). If you need 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, L.P. has 200. In short, twelve ingredients are in very low amounts (Vites C, D, Biotin, Copper and others) and no, Vitamin K-2. The ratio of Zinc to copper was NOT the recommended 7.5 to 1, but 15 to 1! Catechins were only 90 milligrams and the other beneficial anti-oxidants (or super-foods), were present in amounts that--at full retail--amount to $2.52 per month, or just
76 cents per month for polyphenols! So, the scanner might very well be based upon real technology, but I'd rather pay $70 per month for my vitamins AND get ten times more product! As for the other poster who asks whether or not we can trust Yale, I'd say, that depends upon what you're referring to. In short, I'd say the scanner has good technology, but I question the over-priced Life Pak products!

Joanna reeis said...

I just knew about this machine yesterday .. I took the test and thought I would scale low cause I'm having problem with hormone . . the firt thing the doc asked me was." are a VEGETARIAN?" yes.. then he told me I don not know what are you doing, but keep doing it . you are excellent . my was 58 .I just thank GOd.! I think is because I eat a lot of fruits and im addicted to coconut milk that I make at home.. , for more then one year I don,t eat sugar at all, no white flower , the only bread I eat is Ezequiel.bread . and he even offer me his product. I love this machine and want to buy one , but I can,t find it to buy.

Andy said...

No questions about Raman spectroscopy or the technology behind this scanner claims to be based upon. What I am highly skeptical about is that before taking the test, you are required to answer a bunch of questions, which include information like lifestyle, age, and guess what?... whether you currently use any of their products, dosage, frequency and for how long!! Won't these information already give you an answer how "healthy" you are even without being scanned? Or perhaps we have to qualify how they define healthy... Of course the uninitiated naive victims will get very low scores 100% of the time and voila! what else can you expect.... i am not against the proof of concept behind this tool, but the way this devised is being used is simply exploitative of the general public's lack of scientific knowledge and culpability...

Hennie Coetzee said...

You are not required to answer any of the questions. I have tried on different machines with different names and answered the questions on the completely opposite side of the health spectrum and got the same result. They apparantly use the data to build a database of deficiencies in various population groups.