Sunday, December 17, 2006

Are You Fit or Functionally Unfit?

I’ll probably tick some people off by saying this – so what else is new? – but there are few things that are more destructive than long-distance running. If you can stand the truth, keep reading.

The running/jogging craze was one of the major fitness phenomenons of the 20th Century, and running is still “da bomb” for tons of people as we sit here in the year 2006. The problem, as I see it, is that as the jogging generation has aged, they have become hobbled and hamstrung by overuse/over-training injuries that come from years of pounding.

As a result, running has created a whole bunch of people who are physically one-dimensional and injured.

If you don’t believe me, check out the crew at any local track. Older, healthy joggers are a rare sight. The older joggers usually look older than they really are, and run with an altered, ungainly gait brought about by the ravages of the road. And these folks are the lucky ones, as they at least are still able to run. They also look like they are in the severe need of a meal.

I have extensive experience working with people who have come to me after having done nothing but run. As a result of these experiences I have coined a phrase to describe the hard-core runner; “functionally unfit” or an “FU.”

“FU” is kind of like the term “functional illiterate.” A “functionally unfit” person is someone who has regularly participated in road races and consistently logs weekly mileage, yet has little if any flexibility in their trunk and extremities, and little strength to boot.

An “FU” gets dizzy when forced to actually exert themselves by doing something along the lines of calisthenics, or anything but jogging. When I get my hands on a jogger who, because they can complete a 5 kilometer run in less than 20 minutes, claims to be in great shape but can’t complete ten body weight squats, or labors through a sprint/speed workout I tell them “FU.”

To a runner who suffers from stress fractures, tendonitis, feet problems, back ailments, joint issues and/or shin splints, I say “FU.”

To serve as a contrast to “the runner,” I submit “the swimmer.” If you have the occasion to frequent your local Y, check out the pool. The hardcore swimmer of the same age as the hardcore jogger will look healthier, have less in the way of nagging ailments, and will be able to do what it is they do longer and better.

There are a lot of older swimmers; there are not a lot of older runners.

The swimmers that I have encountered are heartier than most regular citizens, and definitely in better shape than the runners. Swimmers have great muscle tone, posture and endurance. “Water lubbers” are lean, not gaunt and are capable and not frail. The chlorine-drenched are quick to improve when introduced to resistance training since swimmers doesn’t have the litany of nagging ailments to deal with and work around.

With the “blame everyone else” mentality that has been responsible for spate of nonsensical legislation dealing with fast-food providers, will it be long before the anti-running movement picks up steam and we see lawsuits filed against sneaker makers? Will those people who have had joints replaced or have lost cartilage and ligaments because they ran countless miles sue Nike and Brooks and New Balance?

Will these running shoe makers be blamed for promoting an activity that undoubtedly led to countless, painful injuries? How many people have been motivated to run - and run a lot - by the Nike advertising campaigns? You may laugh and think that we are exaggerating, but stranger things have happened.

Don’t agree with me? FU!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Does the "Hoodia Patch" Really Work?

The hoodia patch represents a new trick in the book of supplement marketers in their attempts to sell weight loss snake oil to the general public. These people want us to believe that not only is hoodia a weight loss miracle supplement, but that the patch delivery system guarantees that hoodia will deliver unprecedented weight loss benefits.

But let’s just forget about the delivery system of hoodia, and take a quick look at the supplement itself.

Hoodia gordonii – commonly referred to as hoodia – is the latest in a long line of weight loss panaceas that have been foisted upon the general public by dietary supplement hucksters. And just like all of hoodia’s forerunners, there really isn’t much scientific evidence to support the use of hoodia as a weight loss supplement.As a matter of fact, hoodia has the flimsiest pedigree of any of these other weight loss snake oils.Hoodia comes from cactus found in South Africa and Namibia. The parts of the cactus that contain the hoodia are ground down into powder which is in turn manufactured into whatever form the supplement manufacturers deem necessary. There are two major problems with hoodia. The first problem is that there is no independent research to verify the claims that hoodia can aid in weight loss or act as an appetite suppressant.

The “research” touted on the Internet is nothing of the legitimate kind, as most of these hoodia sites are nothing more than advertisements that have been set up by supplement marketers.Another telling sign that hoodia doesn’t work is that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer started development of a hoodia based drug, but has since turned over the development rights to another company. If hoodia showed any promise, it’s doubtful that Pfizer would have abandoned their project and given the opportunity to another pharmaceutical company.

The “proof” that hoodia works is purely anecdotal There are stories that for thousands of years the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert have eaten parts of these cacti in an attempt to ward off hunger on long hunting trips. Okay. That’s just silly.

That isn’t proof, it’s folklore.

A while ago CBS’s 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl testified to the appetite suppressing qualities of hoodia. Ms. Stahl traveled to Africa and had a local aboriginal Bushmen take her to where this cactus grows. Ms. Stahl ate the raw hoodia right from the cactus and stated that because she didn’t feel hungry all day, the hoodia must work as an appetite suppressant. This is the worst kind of journalism.

Despite Ms. Stahl’s credentials as a serious journalist, her testimonial is meaningless. However, hoodia hucksters seized upon the credibility of Ms. Stahl to sell their product to hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting consumers. How many millions of dollars did these supplement sellers make thanks to Ms. Stahl’s irresponsible words? But that’s a different story for another time.

Which brings up another important issue.

What Ms. Stahl ingested was “fresh picked” cactus giving her raw hoodia, not the processed hoodia powder which is contained in all hoodia supplements. From what we know about trying to extract nutrients from other “real sources” of nutrients – garlic and fruit extracts for instance - these extracted powders or pills do not offer any of the benefits provided by the real thing. So even if raw hoodia does provide some benefits, powdered hoodia most likely cannot.

On the web site for the hoodia patch not only do we get the recycled Leslie Stahl story we’re also told that a BBC reporter named Tom Mangold spoke to a doctor who told him that hoodia basically kills your appetite by tricking the brain into thinking that you’re full.

Here’s how these hucksters sum up their hoodia product.
That's it! That's the MIRACLE OF HOODIA!! It tricks the brain into thinking you've eaten a three course meal. While you are wearing the patch, you're simply NOT HUNGRY ANYMORE! You'll still eat – but you'll EAT A LOT LESS!!

Hmm, wouldn’t this result in people starving to death because they think that they are full and never want to eat? If hoodia in fact does trick the brain into thinking that you’re full how can you still eat, why would you still eat?

Please people, exercise some common sense and stay away from any product that makes this kind of wildly contradictory statement.

And of course on the hoodia patch web site there are no references whatsoever to actual scientific studies, the results of which would support the use of hoodia.The other major problem with hoodia is that even if hoodia did work as advertised, there is no guarantee that there is actual hoodia in the hoodia supplements. There have been stories that up to two-thirds of all the hoodia supplements sold in the United States are counterfeit. An independent lab analysis of seventeen different hoodia products found that only six of these products actually contained any hoodia.

Hoodia gordonii has been on a list of protected/endangered species since 2004 and that means that all genuine hoodia exported from South Africa needs to have a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permit. Unscrupulous hoodia brokers are counterfeiting these licenses in order to sell who-knows-what as 100% hoodia.

And even if the hoodia is legally obtained - and is actual hoodia - the hoodia powder is frequently cut with fillers so as to allow suppliers to sell more "hoodia." This means that there is less hoodia in the supplement than the buyer is led to believe. In the case of hoodia, less of something that doesn’t do anything for you anyway.

Spending your money on any weight loss supplement is a bad idea, but spending on hoodia in any form is the worst “investment” that anyone can make.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The "Research" Behind the Hypergravity Whole Body Vibration Platform

The Power Plate people aren’t the only crew out there trying to bamboozle the public into thinking that Whole Body Vibration (WBV) training offers a viable alternative to real exercise, as the folks at Hypergravity are hyperventilating over their vibrating platform.

Here’s a look at the Hypergravity website and the studies they offer as proof that their product does what they say it does.

As I mentioned in my previous piece on this gadget, the home page of the Hypergravity site tells us “Vibration technology is based on Russian research and development. It reached its peak when Russian cosmonauts were able to regain bone mass (which was lost due to lack of gravity in space) using advanced vibration technology. Today NASA is working with similar technology: Whole Body Vibration (WBV) to stop and possibly reverse the loss of bone density.”

But we’re never given any details about this “research.”

The “research” the Hypergravity people provide that is supposed to show us that NASA has unlocked the secrets of WBV is nothing but some old articles about proposed WBV studies.

The Hypergravity website has a “Researches” (sic) section that provides us with links to studies that – in the Hypergravity people’s world – are supposed to prove WBV training works.

Let’s go right to the “Researches” section of the Hypergravity website to see what kind of “researches” there is to support the claims of the Hypergravity folks.

When clicking on the link titled, Acute whole body vibration training increases vertical jump and flexibility performance in elite female field hockey players, we’re taken to a summary of a study on the Pubmed.gov site. This summary tells us that 18 female field hockey players were studied and those who trained with a protocol that included WBV were able to increase their vertical jump and flexibility.

This summary doesn’t use precise language to quantify these increases, but employs the phrase, “there was a positive interaction effect on vertical jump and flexibility parameters following WBV.” This statement is just nonsense as we aren’t told exactly what these “increases” are and what the “parameters” are. This summary concludes with the statement that says muscles that are less exposed to this vibration don’t receive any performance enhancing benefits. So much for a person’s upper body.

And perhaps the Hypergravity people don’t want you to know a study done at Appalachian State titled Acute Effects of Whole Body Vibration on Muscle Activity, Strength and Power and published in the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found WBV training only increased vertical jump by a paltry .7%. That’s point-seven percent, not seven percent. That’s like buying something for $100 and someone saying, “Hey, let me knock seventy cents off for you.” Gee thanks, Dude!

In this study, the researchers posited this minute improvement in vertical jump could have been due to other, non-WBV training related factors.

Also, the Appalachian State study found that WBV training did not increase any other performance variable. And while the Hypergravity folks didn't site this study, this lukewarm-at-best news didn’t prevent the Power Plate people from using this Appalachian State Study as “proof” that WBV can improve athletic performance.

Let’s move on to the next piece of “research” provided for us on the Hypergravity site, a little piece titled Vibrations and their applications in sport. A review. This is nothing more than a paragraph that summarizes the concept of WBV, makes no mention at all about any sports applications of WBV, and the summary is authored by the person who conducted most of the research he was summarizing.

The best line in this summary is the conclusion, in which the author writes, “The intensity and duration of vibration used in Vibration Training dramatically exceed the standards for occupational vibration established by the International Organization for Standardization.” The IOS is the world’s largest developer of standards.

This means the intensity of the vibrations used in this kind of “training” would not be recommended in the workplace. So one could make the case that even if WBV training did do something, to get these purported benefits a person would have to be exposed to potentially dangerous/injurious levels of vibration. Sounds great to me!

Now onto the link titled, Will WBV training help increase the range of motion of the hamstring? Of course, the author of this study concludes WBV should be recommended to athletes who want to increase their range of motion, but if you look at the study there are some glaring inconsistencies.

Question: What is a WBV training study that includes glaring inconsistencies and design flaws? If you’re a WBV huckster, the answer is “Part of our marketing materials!” Anyway, back to our show.

The problem with this study is that while both groups studied engaged in an active form of flexibility training -- the contract-release method -- the WBV training group, immediately before performing each stretching exercise, assumed a 90 degree squat on the vibration platform for 30 seconds while the control group did nothing.

A properly designed study would have four groups -- a group that squats on the platform prior to each stretch, a group that does nothing prior to each stretch, a group that assumes a static 90 degree squat on a non-vibrating surface, and a group that performs some type of low-intensity dynamic movement such as jumping jacks or body weight squats on a non-vibrating surface for 30 seconds.

Without including some kind of active movement for at least one group in this study, the conclusion can’t be made that WBV training itself is responsible for any improvements in ROM. A group active while stretching is always going to show greater gains in flexibility when compared to a group performing only flexibility exercises.

The giveaway that this study is a set up from the design standpoint is the author concludes “on the basis of the findings from this study, athletes who want to gain ROM in the hamstrings should use WBV training in combination with contract-release stretching.” The author of this study never discusses the possibility of increased ROM in the WBV group could be attributed to the fact that this group was placed in a position where the hamstrings were engaged/working and as a result would be more receptive to the flexibility exercise.

In light of the exorbitant price of these vibration platforms, you would think a responsible researcher would have conducted a more thorough investigation before making the leap that WBV alone can increase hamstring ROM better than other more traditional and “cost less” options.

This study -- and the conclusion reached by the researcher -- serves as a great example of studies designed so a positive outcome is guaranteed.

The fourth study served up on the “Researches” page is titled Effect of whole-body vibration exercise on lumbar bone mineral density, bone turnover, and chronic back pain in post-menopausal osteoporotic women treated with alendronate. This is yet another great example of how a study is designed to arrive at a predetermined, and positive, outcome.

This study involved fifty post-menopausal women suffering from osteoporosis and lower back pain, between the ages of 55-88. These women were all taking the drug alendronate, also known as Fosomax, which is used to treat and prevent osteoporosis. Right here you have the classic ploys of studying the elderly – sorry all of you 50 and 60 year olds! – and the chronically impaired. This kind of data just doesn’t translate to the rest of the population.

The fifty women were split into two groups, both of which were taking alendronate; one group did nothing and the other group stood on a vibration platform once a week for 4 minutes, for a year. The study found the only difference between the two groups after the 12 months was that the group using the platform experienced less back pain. There are no details as to how this “less back pain” was defined or quantified.

Most noticeably, there was no difference in the bone density measurements between the two groups.

The flaws in the design of this study are obvious, including how these 50 women were grouped, and what these groups did. Actually, what they DIDN’T do. Just as in the above mentioned hamstring study, there aren’t enough groups in this study. In addition to the women taking the drug and the women taking the drug and standing on the vibration platform, there needed to be a group performing some other type of low-intensity exercise. The inclusion of this third group would have allowed the researchers to determine if WBV training alone could be responsible for reducing back pain and/or how WBV compared to traditional modes of exercise in reducing back pain.

Additionally, since this study didn’t see any WBV-induced increases in bone mass, if my proposed third group were included in this study the researchers also could have looked at how medicated exercise compared to medicated inactivity and medicated WBV training with regard to developing bone mass. But then again, this detail would have forced the WBV industry to come to grips with the fact WBV doesn’t offer anything special.

Incredibly, these studies are being offered up as proof WBV training offers benefits. The only reason I can think of as to why this research is even being done is these WBV platform makers are trying to make the case to the rehabilitation industry that these gadgets somehow have a place in legit settings.

The Hypergravity site offers up this dreck as their top 5 reasons to buy their equipment, so how can we hope that any of these other studies will offer up anything better?

The "Research" Behind the Hypergravity Whole Body Vibration Platform

The Power Plate people aren’t the only crew out there trying to bamboozle the public into thinking that Whole Body Vibration (WBV) training offers a viable alternative to real exercise, as the folks at Hypergravity are hyperventilating over their vibrating platform.

Here’s a look at the Hypergravity website and the studies they offer as proof that their product does what they say it does.

As I mentioned in my previous piece on this gadget, the home page of the Hypergravity site tells us “Vibration technology is based on Russian research and development. It reached its peak when Russian cosmonauts were able to regain bone mass (which was lost due to lack of gravity in space) using advanced vibration technology. Today NASA is working with similar technology: Whole Body Vibration (WBV) to stop and possibly reverse the loss of bone density.”

But we’re never given any details about this “research.”

The “research” the Hypergravity people provide that is supposed to show us that NASA has unlocked the secrets of WBV is nothing but some old articles about proposed WBV studies.

The Hypergravity website has a “Researches” (sic) section that provides us with links to studies that – in the Hypergravity people’s world – are supposed to prove WBV training works.

Let’s go right to the “Researches” section of the Hypergravity website to see what kind of “researches” there is to support the claims of the Hypergravity folks.

When clicking on the link titled, Acute whole body vibration training increases vertical jump and flexibility performance in elite female field hockey players, we’re taken to a summary of a study on the Pubmed.gov site. This summary tells us that 18 female field hockey players were studied and those who trained with a protocol that included WBV were able to increase their vertical jump and flexibility.

This summary doesn’t use precise language to quantify these increases, but employs the phrase, “there was a positive interaction effect on vertical jump and flexibility parameters following WBV.” This statement is just nonsense as we aren’t told exactly what these “increases” are and what the “parameters” are. This summary concludes with the statement that says muscles that are less exposed to this vibration don’t receive any performance enhancing benefits. So much for a person’s upper body.

And perhaps the Hypergravity people don’t want you to know a study done at Appalachian State titled Acute Effects of Whole Body Vibration on Muscle Activity, Strength and Power and published in the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found WBV training only increased vertical jump by a paltry .7%. That’s point-seven percent, not seven percent. That’s like buying something for $100 and someone saying, “Hey, let me knock seventy cents off for you.” Gee thanks, Dude!

In this study, the researchers posited this minute improvement in vertical jump could have been due to other, non-WBV training related factors.

Also, the Appalachian State study found that WBV training did not increase any other performance variable. And while the Hypergravity folks didn't site this study, this lukewarm-at-best news didn’t prevent the Power Plate people from using this Appalachian State Study as “proof” that WBV can improve athletic performance.

Let’s move on to the next piece of “research” provided for us on the Hypergravity site, a little piece titled Vibrations and their applications in sport. A review. This is nothing more than a paragraph that summarizes the concept of WBV, makes no mention at all about any sports applications of WBV, and the summary is authored by the person who conducted most of the research he was summarizing.

The best line in this summary is the conclusion, in which the author writes, “The intensity and duration of vibration used in Vibration Training dramatically exceed the standards for occupational vibration established by the International Organization for Standardization.” The IOS is the world’s largest developer of standards.

This means the intensity of the vibrations used in this kind of “training” would not be recommended in the workplace. So one could make the case that even if WBV training did do something, to get these purported benefits a person would have to be exposed to potentially dangerous/injurious levels of vibration. Sounds great to me!

Now onto the link titled, Will WBV training help increase the range of motion of the hamstring? Of course, the author of this study concludes WBV should be recommended to athletes who want to increase their range of motion, but if you look at the study there are some glaring inconsistencies.

Question: What is a WBV training study that includes glaring inconsistencies and design flaws? If you’re a WBV huckster, the answer is “Part of our marketing materials!” Anyway, back to our show.

The problem with this study is that while both groups studied engaged in an active form of flexibility training -- the contract-release method -- the WBV training group, immediately before performing each stretching exercise, assumed a 90 degree squat on the vibration platform for 30 seconds while the control group did nothing.

A properly designed study would have four groups -- a group that squats on the platform prior to each stretch, a group that does nothing prior to each stretch, a group that assumes a static 90 degree squat on a non-vibrating surface, and a group that performs some type of low-intensity dynamic movement such as jumping jacks or body weight squats on a non-vibrating surface for 30 seconds.

Without including some kind of active movement for at least one group in this study, the conclusion can’t be made that WBV training itself is responsible for any improvements in ROM. A group active while stretching is always going to show greater gains in flexibility when compared to a group performing only flexibility exercises.

The giveaway that this study is a set up from the design standpoint is the author concludes “on the basis of the findings from this study, athletes who want to gain ROM in the hamstrings should use WBV training in combination with contract-release stretching.” The author of this study never discusses the possibility of increased ROM in the WBV group could be attributed to the fact that this group was placed in a position where the hamstrings were engaged/working and as a result would be more receptive to the flexibility exercise.

In light of the exorbitant price of these vibration platforms, you would think a responsible researcher would have conducted a more thorough investigation before making the leap that WBV alone can increase hamstring ROM better than other more traditional and “cost less” options.

This study -- and the conclusion reached by the researcher -- serves as a great example of studies designed so a positive outcome is guaranteed.

The fourth study served up on the “Researches” page is titled Effect of whole-body vibration exercise on lumbar bone mineral density, bone turnover, and chronic back pain in post-menopausal osteoporotic women treated with alendronate. This is yet another great example of how a study is designed to arrive at a predetermined, and positive, outcome.

This study involved fifty post-menopausal women suffering from osteoporosis and lower back pain, between the ages of 55-88. These women were all taking the drug alendronate, also known as Fosomax, which is used to treat and prevent osteoporosis. Right here you have the classic ploys of studying the elderly – sorry all of you 50 and 60 year olds! – and the chronically impaired. This kind of data just doesn’t translate to the rest of the population.

The fifty women were split into two groups, both of which were taking alendronate; one group did nothing and the other group stood on a vibration platform once a week for 4 minutes, for a year. The study found the only difference between the two groups after the 12 months was that the group using the platform experienced less back pain. There are no details as to how this “less back pain” was defined or quantified.

Most noticeably, there was no difference in the bone density measurements between the two groups.

The flaws in the design of this study are obvious, including how these 50 women were grouped, and what these groups did. Actually, what they DIDN’T do. Just as in the above mentioned hamstring study, there aren’t enough groups in this study. In addition to the women taking the drug and the women taking the drug and standing on the vibration platform, there needed to be a group performing some other type of low-intensity exercise. The inclusion of this third group would have allowed the researchers to determine if WBV training alone could be responsible for reducing back pain and/or how WBV compared to traditional modes of exercise in reducing back pain.

Additionally, since this study didn’t see any WBV-induced increases in bone mass, if my proposed third group were included in this study the researchers also could have looked at how medicated exercise compared to medicated inactivity and medicated WBV training with regard to developing bone mass. But then again, this detail would have forced the WBV industry to come to grips with the fact WBV doesn’t offer anything special.

Incredibly, these studies are being offered up as proof WBV training offers benefits. The only reason I can think of as to why this research is even being done is these WBV platform makers are trying to make the case to the rehabilitation industry that these gadgets somehow have a place in legit settings.

The Hypergravity site offers up this dreck as their top 5 reasons to buy their equipment, so how can we hope that any of these other studies will offer up anything better?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Debunking the Myth of Whole Body Vibration Training and the Hypergravity Platform

Whole Body Vibration (WBV) training is a recent fad that has been foisted upon the public by fitness marketing types. In recent years several different types of these vibrating platform contraptions have hit the market.

About a month ago I wrote a critical review of something called the Power Plate that was getting press because the aging pop star Madonna had purchased one and was supposedly singing its praises. I kicked off a firestorm among the WBV crowd because I actually read the studies used by the Power Plate people, and pointed out that the emperor had no clothes.

In my research on the Power Plate I came across the Hypergravity website, a manufacturer of another of these WBV platforms.

Over several installments over the next month or so I will provide a detailed look at each study that the marketers of the Hypergravity platform use to support the claims that they make about their product, and show how the data from these studies is severely lacking.

It bears mentioning that the numerous spelling and grammatical errors that are present on almost every page of the site are indicative of an intellectual laziness that permeates the Hypergravity people's approach to everything, including the science that they allege backs up their claims. This lack of attention to detail speaks volumes about how these people act in their efforts to try and sell their ersatz, high-tech snake oil.

To kick this whole thing off I’ll address the claims coming from the WBV hucksters that NASA has studied this mode of training, and as a result has determined that WBV is valid and its benefits can be derived by astronauts and earth-lubbers alike.

On the home page of the Hypergravity site we’re told that “Vibration technology is based on Russian research and development. It reached its peak when Russian cosmonauts were able to regain bone mass (which was lost due to lack of gravity in space) using advanced vibration technology. Today NASA is working with similar technology: Whole Body Vibration (WBV) to stop and possibly reverse the loss of bone density.”

The Hypergravity people do not provide us with any details in regard to this “Russian research.” There are no mentions of any specific studies, no passages from studies, no dates to give us an idea as to when this research and development was performed. There is nothing about this “Russian research” anywhere on the Hypergravity site.

Was this data culled back in the days of Sputnik or during the time when Rocky IV was being made? Your guess is as good as mine.

The fallacy of Whole Body Vibration training’s suitability for the general public is revealed by the nature of NASA’s research on the subject. For as much as the purveyors of these vibration platforms want to convince you that this method of training is equal to - or even superior to - conventional training, the research being done by NASA in no way supports this position.

According to the WBV industry, NASA is studying the effects of WBV training as a way to combat bone loss that results from astronauts existing in a zero gravity environment for long periods of time. A zero gravity environment is an extreme condition that no person on earth will ever deal with no matter how couch potato-ish they are, so to apply these theories or the results of these very preliminary studies to any members of our earth-bound population is ridiculous.

Even the most sedentary and/or infirm individuals are subjected to the forces of gravity. Standing, walking, climbing stairs or getting up from a seated position place demands on the body’s muscular-skeletal and nervous systems that don’t occur in a weightless environment.

To study the response of a person who is either in a weightless environment or who has been subjected to a weightless environment is meaningless when applying the data from these studies to people who will never be exposed to a weightless environment.

Walking can load the hip and knee joints with forces anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 times body weight ("Hip Contact Forces and Gait Patterns From Routine Activities", Bergmann, Deurerzbacher, et. al.) and these loads are even greater when a person runs, climbs stairs or gets up out of a chair.

Wolff’s Law basically states that a bone gets stronger when a sufficient load is placed upon it, and this same bone will lose strength in the absence of this load. Without the force of gravity no load is applied to bone, and bone loses strength much quicker and doesn’t respond to any exercises that can be performed in this weightless environment. This is why NASA has been trying to find a form of exercise that can combat the detrimental effects of weightlessness while astronauts are in this environment.

There are links to two stories on the Hypergravity site under the heading of “What NASA Has to Say About Good Vibrations?” [sic]. Ostensibly these stories are supposed to prove that since NASA is studying WBV as a possible aid to astronauts, that this method is somehow useful to the rest of us.

The first link, titled A new treatment under study by NASA-funded doctors could reverse bone loss experienced by astronauts in space, takes you to an article that was written in 2001.

Here is a passage from this article: “Whether astronauts would benefit from a vibration-plate regimen is a question that can only be fully answered by conducting experiments in space. Such tests have been proposed, but none are scheduled yet [my emphasis].”

Here’s another interesting passage: “According to this thinking, the remedy for bone loss in space should be exercises that duplicate stresses on our muscles and skeletons experienced during a daily and active life on Earth. Unfortunately, without the pull of gravity it is very difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate loads routinely experienced by our muscles and bones on Earth.”

And finally, Dr. Clinton Rubin, a professor of biomedical engineering at SUNY-Stony Brook, “hopes that future experiments will reveal not only whether vibration therapy works, but also why [my emphasis].”

Since this article first appeared in 2001 and the Hypergravity people don’t provide us with any additional updates from this story, we can conclude that the jury is still VERY much out on whether or not WBV works for astronauts. And there is no way anyone can conclude that WBV will do anything for us non-astronauts. The head researcher himself doesn’t even assert that WBV works.

The second link is titled Shaken Not Stirred: Mixing Vibrations With Genetics May Help Reduce Bone Loss for Astronauts, and takes you to a NASA site and an article very similar to the first article. This item was posted in 2002 and features the research being performed by SUNY-Stony Brook’s Dr. Rubin.

Here’s the most interesting passage of this article: “These results (animal and preliminary studies featuring postmenopausal women and children with cerebral palsy), while still preliminary, show that the platform may be an effective counter-measure in space. Astronauts could stand on the platform a few minutes a day, even performing other tasks at the same time because the stimulus is so minimal [my emphasis].”

What this means is that researchers proposed in 2002 that the astronauts would use WBV in a weightless environment to combat the effects of weightlessness. Even these researchers weren’t proposing that the astronauts would use WBV once they arrived back on Earth as part of a rehabilitation program. And these studies were not conducted, they were just proposed.

Just like in the first article highlighted by the Hypergravity people, there is no recent update to this story. There is no reason to believe that any of this has ever gotten off the drawing board.

What all of this means is that there is no data from NASA that indicates that Whole Body Vibration is a valid method of exercise or treatment for astronauts or members of the general population.

In the next installment of debunking the myth of WBV training I will review the first six studies on the Hypergravity website’s “Researches [sic]” page that are provided to somehow prove the efficacy of WBV.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Are Athletes Using Experimental Drugs To Help Them Recover Faster From Major Surgery?

I've written a piece that's posted on blogcritics.com that discusses the possibility that athletes are using experimental drugs in order to recover quicker from major surgery.

Here is a piece I posted on my old website way back in the fall of 2004.


The October 2004 edition of Muscle and Fitness features another puff piece detailing the “revolutionary” training regimen of a professional athlete. Read why Terrill Owens’ routine is nonsense.

Despite what “Team TO” says at the end of this article, they have not helped to create “an otherworldly brand of athlete.” This “team” as been able to attach itself to Owens - a genetic freak - and they have been allowed to affect him with their own brand of nonsense. They will no doubt enrich themselves as a result.

Here’s the case.

Terrill Owens is an All-Pro Football player thanks to his genetics, or what some people call “God-given ability.” There isn’t a workout program or trainer that can make him “more All-Pro,” more dominating or more ANYTHING.

He was 6’ 1” 175 pounds as a freshman in high school. He got a full football scholarship to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, was All-Southern Conference three years and walked-on and played three years on the UTC basketball team.

He ran a 4.6 second, 40-yard dash during his first year at college.

He is 6’ 3”, 226 pounds with 6% body fat.

“T.O.” was picked by the San Francisco 49’ers in the third round - the 89th overall pick - in the 1996 NFL draft. He has been one of the best receivers in the NFL for the better part of a decade.

Plain and simple, this is the resume of a genetically gifted, elite athlete. Owens certainly is not a product of his recent training regimen.

But here we have Muscle and Fitness telling us that Owens’ has embarked on a training regimen to make him even better. We’re told that this “Star Wars” training program, that seems simple to the uninitiated, is going to make Owens even better. But to the initiated, this program is ridiculous.

And while it’s nice that T.O. is going to bat for his trainer, there’s nothing in this program that has anything to do with Owens being, or staying, a dominant receiver. If anything, this article – once again – just serves to reinforce my position that elite athletes are born and not made.

The cornerstone for this program seems to be “taxing pelvic contractions” that “represents the latest advance in core training.” Don’t believe that pelvic contractions are going to help a guy on the football field. To paraphrase Oscar Madison, “Taxing pelvic contractions, without brute strength will leave a lot of cleat marks on the back of your head.”


When we read the following the fraud alarm really goes off,

“Owens typically lifts four days a week, employing exercises and rep ranges clearly influenced by his trainer’s background in bodybuilding (my emphasis).”

Most absurd is that TO’s trainer comes from a body building background. Just in case any of you are newcomers, I’ll repeat my mantra that body builders do not belong anywhere near real athletes, especially when program design is involved. Nothing can be further from real athletes and real athletics than body builders and their “sport.”

Let’s skip all the other garbage in this article and go right to the sidebar where we get the details of the program, under the heading “The Making of TO.”

Monday: Abs, Back Triceps
Decline sit-up
Hanging leg raise
Hammer-Strength pull down
One-arm dumbbell row
Low-back extension
Cable press down
Seated dip machine
Hammer-Strength chest press

Tuesday: Abs, Chest, Biceps
Decline oblique crunch
Lying alternating leg raise
Flat-bench dumbbell press
Incline dumbbell press
Standing straight-bar curl
Hammer curl
Seated dumbbell curl

Thursday: Abs, Quads, Shoulders
Decline sit-up
Hanging leg raise
Leg press
Hack squat machine
Leg extension
Seated shoulder press
Seated lateral raise
Angled lat pull down

Friday: Abs, Hamstrings, Calves
Decline oblique crunch
Lying alternating leg raise
Standing leg curl
Dumbbell stiff-legged dead lift
Lying leg curl
Standing calf raise
Seated calf raise

That’s it. No compound movements, no ground based movements, no explosive movements. No squats. No lunges. Mostly machine-based exercises. Three different kinds of biceps curls. This is a joke.

As a matter of fact, this isn’t just a joke it is a scam. I’ll go one step further and say that if this is in fact the actual workout, Owens runs the risk of injury by following this program. The leg press, hack squat machine (!), leg extension and leg curls are demonstrably counter-productive and should be avoided by athletes and no-athletes alike.

More red flags of nonsense are raised when the discussion turns to the “team” of people that takes care of Owens and helps him to deal with the stresses of playing in the NFL.

Owens employs a chiropractor that is also a biomechanics export. Chiropractors should never play a prominent role in the program design and implementation of an athlete at any level. Chiropractors can certainly offer relief in some cases, but if you need a biomechanics expert, get an MD.

More sketchiness is evident when we’re told that Owens employs Hank Sloan, ND (?) who prescribes Owens’ hyperbaric therapy (click here if you want to read about it http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/HBOT/hm01.html) and administers “natural, non-steroidal injections to help re-grow tendons and ligaments in injured areas.”

Um, there are no known, legal substances that can re-grow tendons and ligaments. The stuff doesn’t exist. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there trying to sell what’s known as prolotherapy as a valid form of “treatment.” Click here for some background http://www.aetna.com/cpb/data/CPBA0207.html.

This is plain and simple just garbage, the whole kit and caboodle.

I’ll say it again in case it sinks in: Terrill Owens is a star because of his genetics and because he apparently practices clean living, but this training routine has nothing to do with his success or his talent.

Let me know if you disagree.


Here was a person who disagreed, none other than Dr. Hank Sloan himself, a member of Owens’ team of “experts.” This is the exact email that I received.

Wow,
I just came across your editorial piece and read this rediculous piece of bias nonsence. I am the Doctor ( trained in Europe and yes sports medicine) that works with T.O. for 2.5 years now. I currently work with 12 NFL teams and Biotech companies and we are healing tissues, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, etc, without surgery. And yes they are mostly natural ingredients. Why do you take an attitude of opposition about things you have no idea about. I will attatch some research to this email just to prove the results of IFG-! injections repairing tissue. We are on the same team. My goal is to help everyone overcome their injuries. You have no idea about TO and his injuries and what our team has dome for him. Have you read his MRI's and x-rays. How did he come back so fast last year after completely braking his clacicle and having surgery? And as far as his core training is concerned, that part of his training is specifically for a groin injury, which you have no idea about. No matter how much genetic potential you have, NFL players will get hurt and our job is rehab. I am an honest, dependable scientist and physician who has helped thousands of people in pain. We are proponants for training and you take the attitude that for some reason we are against you. Next time, give me a call and we can discuss there things before you put information out there for others to see. Your comments on "Um, there are no known, legal substances that can re-grow tendons and ligaments". Are you a doctor or just printing thoughts with out doing one shread of research. So I guess you think TO is stupid for having his team around. Dont you think a player of his caliber will have the best. And by the way, who are you?
Dr Sloan. MD, NMD, MD(AM0, NMT FICAM

Below is you lack of knowledge abou things you have no idea.
"Um, there are no known, legal substances that can re-grow tendons and ligaments. The stuff doesn't exist. However, this doesn't mean that there aren't people out there trying to sell what's known as prolotherapy as a valid form of "treatment." Click here for some background.
This is plain and simple just garbage, the whole kit and caboodle.
We'll say it again in case it sinks in: Terrill Owens is a star because of his genetics and because he apparently practices clean living, but this training routine has nothing to do with his success or his talent. "
Attached to this rambling email were abstracts of certain studies – all of which were done on animals or in laboratory settings - that this Dr. Sloan thought constituted proof that IGF-1 was suitable for use in humans, and that there were in fact substances that could be used to re-grow tendons and ligaments.


Here is the response I sent to Dr. Sloan.

Dr. Sloan:
Thanks for taking the time and effort to respond to my item.

I read through all of the abstracts you forwarded. None of them suggest that any of these growth factors are effective in a living, breathing human. Sure, they demonstrate some efficacy in vitro, in murine species, equines, and in other culture media, but none of the studies you forwarded suggest any activity in the human body. Also of importance, most of the abstracts that included in vivo experimentation were done in Japan, Switzerland, and China.

Sure the guys at Cornell demonstrated an effect when human-horse IFG-1 was injected into young horses, but they killed them to determine whether it actually worked.

The bottom line is these abstracts suggest this stuff might work in rats, horses, and in some lab dishes. However, none of these abstracts studied the effect in a human. Where are the studies that suggest this works in humans? Even if these growth factors are effective at repairing human tissues, how will the effect be measured?

Certainly scientists are not going to kill people to determine whether ligaments, tendons, and/or cartilage was repaired. Furthermore, how do you account for the studies that may have been done that may suggest that this stuff does not work?

Although promising, I find it hard to believe that someone would inject growth factors into a living, breathing human such as Mr Owens at this stage of research. Talk about a high risk experiment. Typically, and as you surely are aware of, phase I/II human trials are conducted to determine the safety and efficacy of a therapy, but in most cases All-Pro athletes don't volunteer for such research. Subjects are most often people looking to earn a quick buck, and research firms maintain databases of thousands of such individuals.

So what does your cocktail include? In the M&F article it states "natural," but in your email you state "mostly natural," which is it? Are you injecting Mr Owens with IGF-1 and/or HGH?

Additionally, are you saying that what you injected into Mr. Owens helped his clavicle heal quicker, and therefore is promoting faster bone growth as well?

You also mention you work with biotech firms as well as other NFL teams, but the you have not provided specifics of this in either your email or in the M&F item.

Regarding Mr Owens' training routine, if you really had any knowledge on this subject you would keep a body builder who uses a body building routine far away from a real, professional athlete. Body builders know so little about performance-based training it boggles the mind that anyone would permit Mr Owens to waste his time with such nonsense.

Core training is a nice little catch-all phrase, and it may help to rehab an injury but it is hardly revolutionary and certainly isn't the key to Mr Owens success. The same holds true for the ludicrous assertion that the workout under the heading of "The Making of T.O." is responsible in any way, shape or form for Mr Owens success, and is a tribute to the kind of ignorance of performance training that is the hallmark of body builders.

Finally, the "how dare you, who are you" tone that permeates your email is hardly the stuff one would expect coming from a man of letters, such as yourself. Your thin skin is curious.

All the best,
Sal Marinello, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA)
USA Weightlifting Certified Coach
Head Strength Coach, Chatham High School (NJ)
President, Millburn-Short Hills Athletic Club
Publisher, OnlineAthleticClub.com

THIS IS THE ACTUAL EMAIL RESPONSE FROM DR SLOAN WITH MY BOLD TYPE ADDED.

Dear Sal,
You would find that I would be much more responsive if you were not so confrontive. Please ease up a little. I sent you a few research studies that you are basing my entire therapy on. Being trained by different doctors around the world, my view of injury and rehab. is much broader than the typical Orthopedic training. We use many different injection techniques and substances. IGF-1 is extremely beneficial and works very well for healing ligament, tendon and cartilage. I just recently healed a 60% tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in a Pro Baseball Player using a combination of GH, IGF-1, and prolotherpy. We have the team MRI, pre and post, to prove it. Also, I have healed a couple of anterior meniscus tears without surgery. There are others as well. I am a clinician and I am also helping with human trial studies at this time. There is NO unwanted side effects of anything I use. SO, we either get great results or mediocre results. But we get results. A great practitioner not only knows what is wrong, but what to use to fix the problem. IGF-1 is not extremely experimental, its not even dangerous, used properly. I'm very cautious and use almost all natural agents, seeing that I am trying to heal tissue, not band aid injury. IFG-1 is used sparingly and in very specific protocols.
There are other companies and other research, too much to mention. I'm not sure why you have taken such interest in this topic. You know I cant mention any treatment regarding TO, and I probably shouldn't have to explain myself in any fashion. The proof is in the pudding, I always say to my patients. What matters is if people get better. I'm sure you take a similar philosophy. I take my life's work very seriously and I don't have time to defend myself in emails from people around the world who are curious about the next great future step in medicine. Please don't take that offensively. Exciting advances are coming soon.
Sincerely, Dr.M. Hank Sloan


HERE IS AN EMAIL THAT I SENT TO TERCICA, THE COMPANY THAT HOLDS THE LICENSE TO CONDUCT TRIALS WITH IGF-1.

Ms. Kraemer:
A man who claims to be NFL player Terrill Owens' doctor has written me and said that he is using IGF-1 as a therapy to regrow/heal injured tendons and ligaments. I have included a copy of his latest email.

I publish a fitness-based website that deals with, among other things, frauds and illegal activities perpetrated on the public in the name of health and fitness. One of my items was critical of the claims of this doctor, Hank Sloan, that he had a regimen of injections that could regrow tendons and ligaments.

During my research I have been in contact with clinicians, scientists, doctors and researchers and they all say the IGF-1 has not been approved for use in humans, and that the research that is being done is in the area of endocrine related disorders.

Being that your company holds the patent on IGF-1 I wanted to make you aware of this Dr Sloan and his claims, and to find out if what he is doing is proper.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


HERE IS THE RESPONSE I RECEIVED FROM TERCICA.

Dear Mr. Marinello:
Thank you for your inquiry. We are reviewing the communication you forwarded. As you noted, rhIGF-1 is an experimental therapy. We are developing it for use in short stature and associated metabolic disorders. We are not studying it for use in other indications at this time.
Regards,
Kimberly Kraemer,
Senior Director, Corporate Communications & Investor Relations
Tercica, Inc.

Needless to say I never heard from Dr. Sloan again.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Healthy Skeptic: The Radicals At The Center For Science In The Public Interest Threaten Starbucks

Now that they have the wimps at KFC quaking in their boots, the radical Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), headed by radical vegan and bummer of a guy Michael Jacobson, is making noise about going after Starbucks. It seems that Starbucks serves drinks and foods that are high in fat. And apparently people who order coffee with caramel syrup and whipped cream, and pastries, need to be told via signs and food labels that they are killing themselves if they drink and eat Starbucks products. What's even worse is that Starbucks offers their employees unlimited coffee and leftover pastries during their shifts.


It seems that the CSPI has contacts with a group known as the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. This “union” is made up of a few baristas in three – THREE – Starbucks located in New York.

So in THREE Starbucks - out of almost 5000 nationwide - Starbucks there are a couple of shlemiel coffee jockeys tied into the CSPI, and they have “organized” so that they can complain that Starbucks offer employees free food and drink, and complain that the fact that consumers can ask in-store questions about the nutritional value of Starbucks products isn’t good enough.

By the way, the Starbucks website offers plenty of detailed and responsible information with regards to their drinks and baked goods. People aren’t dragged into a Starbucks without prior knowledge, so being able to get complete nutritional information from the Starbucks website is a much more efficient and effective way for people to learn about the stuff that they like to eat and drink.



A person quoted in this article is identified as a member of this “union,” and Reuters reports as fact this person’s baseless assertion that Starbucks employees gain weight when they work at the chain because they have access to free refreshments. Can you believe this nonsense? This is the basis for a threatened lawsuit? A handful of fat, lazy java jockies?

And for as ludicrous as this scenario is, Reuters’ decision to treat the discussion of this “union” seriously – and giving credence to this story - is even more ludicrous. By setting this scenario up and making noise about Starbucks, the CSPI is laughably pathetic. Reuters is a willing participant in this scam and should be ashamed of themselves. Somehow Starbucks is at fault because their employees make poor choices when taking advantage of the free stuff? They’re fressing and it’s the boss’s fault? Oy vey.

This Jacobson character is not only a member of the Food Police but he’s part of the No Fun Gestapo as well. He’s been quoted as saying that he would never eat a cookie, and he would have taken the coffee machine out of the CSPI offices if his employees didn’t revolt. He’s made some truly bizarre pronouncements over the years. Here are but a few:



“We can envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses and meats.”


“I’m not on the fence … about litigation [against restaurants]. I think it’s an extremely important strategy.”
- Public Health Advocacy Institute’s “Conference on Legal Approaches to the Obesity Epidemic,”, 6/21/03




“CSPI is proud about finding something wrong with practically everything.”
-Washingtonian magazine, February 1994
And he makes silly comments like this about Starbucks: "People expect foods from Dunkin' Donuts to be unhealthy, but Starbucks has more of an upper middle class, healthy, hip, politically correct facade," Jacobson said. "But the food is just as harmful to your arteries."

Perhaps it comes with the territory of being a food tyrant, but Jacobson makes comments like this that have no scientific basis. No matter what Jacobson and his fellow true believers think – and would have you think – going to Starbucks for an occasional Venti Frappa-Whatchamacallit will have no effect on your arteries, and eating a croissant once a week isn’t going to contribute to coronary artery disease.

Jacko really wants you to think that Starbucks’ legitimate community-conscious activities and contributions are just a “fa├žade” that Starbucks puts up in order to addict fat and lazy people to their products, and the fact that people can – but may not – order regular coffee or Tazo tea is Starbucks’ fault. The CSPI wants you to view Starbucks just as you would view the neighborhood drug pusher who contributes money to the community center by day, with the money he makes from selling drugs to neighborhood kids by night.

I think that this kind of statement is – as lawyers say – actionable.

People have choice. There’s been a very important, hot-button issue that has been around for years that hinges on a woman’s right to choose. The ability to choose is what makes us truly free. People like Jacobson want to shackle us to their views. No meat, no cookies, no coffee, no fun. This despotic approach to food can -- and will -- be applied to other things if this garbage is allowed to continue and if people like Jacobson aren’t shouted down by the rest of us.

I’ve been warning this for years. You may think it’s great that smokers have been chased out of public places. But now that these oppressive meddlers have gotten their way with smoking they are moving closer and closer to YOUR habits. Smoking yesterday, fast food today, coffee tomorrow and then what? No drinking in public? Mandatory portion control? A “no doggie bag" policy?


You may laugh, but if Jacobson and his dogmatic disciples are allowed to get away with this nobody will be untouched by this lack of choice.

The CSPI cabal wants you to think that food labeling would help people make better choices. Well this week the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published the results of a study that concluded that consumers probably would not pay attention to the kind of food labels that the “CSPIdiots” are clamoring for. In the study carried out by the University of Vermont Department of Psychology researchers found that 44%-57% of people would not make use of food label information if it was provided in restaurants. Previous research has indicated that people who already have poor eating habits are unlikely to use food labels because they just don’t care. Kind of make sense doesn’t it?

Jacobson himself is on record as saying that food labels may not be enough. From a Time Magazine article, "Jacobson insists that too many people will look past the calorie, fat, carb and fiber counts on the menu. What's needed, he says, is sanity in portions". In the CSPI’s view, “sanity in portions” can only come about through government intervention.

And by the way, the Starbucks’ web site does in fact provide all the labeling information that anyone could ask for. Anybody who really cares about this kind of stuff needs to do nothing more than surf over to Starbucks.com to find every detail about every item on the Starbucks menu. Without a barista or in a crowded shop, and from the comfort of their homes.

As a person who works in the fitness business – and has almost 20 years of experience – I would love for people to live a healthier lifestyle. But I know that you can’t force people to do so. If people want to ignore my advice, that’s fine. I’m here to help those who want to be helped, and I don’t care to help everyone. Some of my closest friends are people who eat fast food, are overweight, don’t get enough exercise or sleep and drink too much booze, but I still love ‘em. And I’ll help them when they ask.

George Carlin, when he was more-funny and less-angry, said “Religion is like a lift in your shoe. If you need it and want to use it, great. Just don’t go and nail lifts to the native’s feet.” Michael Jacobson and his ilk are in the business of nailing lifts to people’s feet while telling them it’s for their own good. These people need to go away.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Major League Baseball May Have A New Drug Scandal Brewing Thanks To Jason Grimsley

Jason Grimsley of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a pitcher of little accomplishment who nonetheless has made at least $9 million over the past six seasons, has revealed to federal investigators that he’s used Human Growth Hormone, amphetamines and steroids.

It appears that Grimsley has been caught up in the third round of the Balco Labs investigation, as the same investigators working on the Balco case are working on Grimsley’s case. The lead agent in this matter is none other than I.R.S. agent Jeff Novitsky, the man who broke the Balco/Barry Bonds case.

The second round of the Balco investigation netted Patrick Arnold, a well-known Internet juice head and chemist who is based out of Illinois, who admitted to providing Victor Conte and his Balco clients with the now infamous “the clear.”

Grimsley had been cooperating with the investigation until he suddenly dummied up back in April, but not before spilling a lot of beans to the feds. In the court documents mentioned in the ESPN.com item, Grimsley’s statements included plenty of details and plenty of names of players, but these names had been blacked out.

As a result of Grimsley’s change of heart, the government asked for, was granted and executed a search warrant on Grimsley’s house on Tuesday. There’s no word as to what the agents found as a result of this search, but I’ll guarantee that there are a lot of nervous players in the Arizona clubhouse and in clubhouses all throughout the major leagues.

Even though the sizzle of the Balco case has long since died down, the impact of what the government found out as a result of this case is still being felt today, and will continue to be felt for the foreseeable future. Grimsley is exactly the kind of guy that the feds would want to get their hands on, a small timer who doesn’t want to be a patsy for the big boys.
Grimsley – who failed a drug test back in 2003 – has already given up a lot of info, and who knows what else he may decide to give up in order to save his skin. As a 38-year-old mediocre pitcher, his career is certainly done but his life isn’t. So expect Grimsley to start chirping again.

And even if Grimsley doesn’t spill, he apparently has given the feds enough to encourage them to keep on digging. I’ve said it before; once the feds get on a case they do not give up. In a high profile case like this you can bet your bottom dollar that this issue isn’t going to go away.
Stay tuned. There will certainly be more to come.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Don't Let Your Kid's Early Athletic Success Turn Into A Negative

Almost like clockwork, at the beginning of every sports season I hear stories from my clients that their kids or grandkids are either the best or the worst on their team. I also hear about all of the stress encountered by families when their kid — or kids — try out for whatever all-star team or traveling team.

Folks, we're talking about eight and nine year old kids here.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

I'm here to tell you that none of this matters. Things have gotten crazy out there. The over-emphasis at low and mid-level youth sports has gotten out of hand, as have parental expectations. Kids are being put into competitive situations and leagues way before they should be. With very few exceptions, there is no reason for kids to start playing organized sports before they are in third grade.

It's tough to ignore the pressure to sign up your pre-schoolerfor tee-ball or for "squirts soccer;" I know, I ignored my instincts and signed up my son for tee-ball last year. But you and your little kids will be much better off if you opt for swim lessons or an introductory course to tumbling or gymnastics than by being involved in a team sport in a league setting.

If your kid wants to play a sport at an early age, look for a once a week activity that is designed to be introductory and educational in nature. And never, ever should a kid participate in more than one sport at a time, or play one sport exclusively throughout the year. Remember, you're the parent and you know best.

What a kid does as a third-grader, in their last year of Little League, or even during their freshman year in high school isn't necessarily indicative of anything other than what they accomplished in that given year.

Accomplishments at any level of competition can be indicators of things to come - both good and not so good - but there is no such thing as a sure thing. Kids mature at such different rates that in most sports early success really doesn't mean all that much, as this year's benchwarmer can be next year's key player. On the other side of the coin is the kid who was the best player on the team one year but struggles to make the team the next. This is just the way things happen with young kids and athletics. And just wait until high school when guys and gals discover the opposite sex - distractions times a thousand!

If your kid is the best, support and be proud of them, just as you would if they weren't the best! But temper your excitement - or disappointment - as things can change in a flash. If sports are important to your kids, encourage them to work hard and have fun and the rest will take care of itself.

Hard work and a positive attitude are as important to a young athlete's success and development as is their natural ability. The downside of placing too much importance on early athletic success is when a kid can't live up to what are often unrealistic expectations. Remember we aren't talking about high school or college athletes.

I can offer up dozens of examples from my personal experience of kids who dominated youth leagues yet faded, or didn't even participate, in high school sports. This happens with the change of every season. I can also tell you about high school kids who didn't look like they'd ever be able to step on a varsity playing field, but who wound up making all-conference and who played - and made a difference - in a state championship game.

The positive lessons that can be learned from competing in sports are obscured when unrealistic expectations and the pressure to succeed are put upon a kid, which can actually set them up for failure. So don't push your kids when they are competing at the youth sport level, but support them and encourage them to work hard as they develop as athletes and as people.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Steroids Will Never Be Permitted In Legitimate Sports

As the Bonds story drags on more people are weighing in on the subject of the use of performance-enhancing drugs known as steroids. There are way too many people who don’t understand this issue, but this lack of knowledge hasn’t resulted in a corresponding lack of opinions on the subject.

People need to realize that the use of steroids will never be permitted in legitimate sports.

Athletes – and others - will continue to use them on they sly, and in the future competitions may be organized that permit the use of these drugs, but Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL, boxing, international sports organizations and any other sport or independent minor league organizations will never permit the use of steroids.

Liability for the health problems and injuries that will come about as a result of the use of steroids is the simplest and most obvious reason that these organizations will never allow the use of these drugs.

The current state of research on the subject of steroids and health problems can be considered a work in progress. There have been studies that indicate that there are very real, serious and dangerous side effects that can come about from the use of these drugs. And like it or not, there are anecdotal findings that reveal there are a great deal of problems associated with the use of steroids as well.

Anecdotal evidence usually has no place when it comes to matters of science and research results. However, with regards to steroid use, anecdotal evidence cannot be ignored, for this evidence is some of the best evidence that exists on the subject.

Legitimate studies have been conducted in which individual steroids, administered in clinical dosages over a short period of time, have shown possible negative side effects.

In the real world steroids are not used one-at-a-time, in clinical doses over a short period of time. The reality is that several kinds of steroids are used at one time – “stacked” as they say – in dosages and for durations that far exceed what could be considered responsible. There is no way that legitimate science will ever be able to conduct valid experiments on this family of drugs under these irresponsible and dangerous conditions.

There are volumes of anecdotal evidence on the subject of the damage that steroids can do. From local and big time body builders and power lifters to known and unknown professional wrestlers, illness and death have shown their faces time and time again. Young men – supposedly fit – have fallen to heart attacks and other various ailments for decades.

The lack of real science on the subject, combined with the fact that steroids mess with the body’s very delicate endocrine system and that there’s plenty of scary anecdotal evidence, guarantee that the various sports organizations will never allow themselves to be vulnerable to the potential health-related lawsuits that would result from the legalization of steroids.

If in at some point in the future science is able to determine that there are real dangers associated with the use of steroids – after these organizations had sanctioned their use - there wouldn’t be enough insurance in the world to cover all of the claims that would need to be paid out. As a matter of fact, on the day steroids are legalized I would enroll in law school – along with my three sons - in anticipation of the future need for lawyers well versed in the matters of steroids and steroid-related injury liability.

The next generation of performance-enhancing drugs and therapies may result in these substances and treatments being part of an athlete’s preparation, but the liability risk of steroids is to great of a risk to take for any sport to consider.

Monday, March 20, 2006

How Baseball’s “Culture Of Permissiveness” Contributed To The Drug Scandal

Did baseball’s culture of permissiveness give the players an excuse for using performance-enhancing drugs?

As a result of the “Steroids in Baseball” issue there has been a lot written – and said – about a “culture of permissiveness” that existed in Major League Baseball. The prevailing wisdom - or “P.W.” - on this subject is that for at least the past 50 years MLB knew that players were using amphetamines in order to get through the season, and that depending who you are listening to this use was on the order of about 70% of the players.

At the dawn of the steroid era, which despite what you may think started in the 80’s and not the 90’s, the P.W. employs the logic that since baseball already allowed – by ignoring – players to use “uppers,” the players had no reason to believe the league wouldn’t want them to use steroids. Especially since there were no rules that expressly banned steroids.

As baseball players started to look like football players, and the teams and the league reveled in the power and glory of the resulting emergence of the long ball, players had even more incentive to “juice up.” Teams like the Oakland A’s celebrated the size and power of their players, and even had a season long power lifting competition among the players, the results of which were posted on a blackboard in their clubhouse.

Other teams picked up on the lead set by the Oakland A’s, and certainly nobody in the league office wanted to do anything to derail this power train…after all chicks dig the long ball.

Which brings us back to the question of, “Did baseball’s culture of permissiveness give the players an excuse for using performance-enhancing drugs?”

The short answer is, “No!”

Here’s the long answer. There is no doubt that the baseball hierarchy – including the players union - knew that players were using drugs. This is evidenced by the way all parties conducted themselves during labor negotiations, negotiations that specifically dealt with drugs and drug testing. Speed was never prohibited, steroids were never prohibited, and there were no real testing measures in place to deter players from using, nor were there any real penalties in place to punish the players in the unlikely event anyone got busted.

This permissive culture did exist in MLB.

The problem with ascribing this excuse to the players for their use of these drugs is that the players themselves – with 2 notable exceptions – have NOT used this excuse!

Besides Jose Canseco and the late Ken Caminiti no player has come out and said that they used steroids because they worked, they needed them and they knew that no one would stop them because steroids weren’t prohibited by baseball. Canseco has been unrepentant in recounting his use of the juice and is on record as saying that there is no way he would have accomplished what he did if not for the steroids. He also has said that since the teams and the league knew that players were already using other drugs to improve their performance – amphetamines – the players who used saw no reason not to use steroids.

Now you can agree or disagree with Canseco, but he has owned up to what he did. If Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire came out and said the same thing, steroids in baseball would be a dead issue, or at least not the scandalous issue that has become. If McGwire had told us that that baseball knew what was going on and subtly encouraged this drug use his critics would have had a very tough time countering this position.

If Mark McGwire had come clean on this issue the vast majority of people would have taken his side. The players would have had the sympathy and understanding of their fans, and while actions may have been taken to keep steroid out of the game, this situation certainly would not have escalated to the present day’s scandal.

Instead, these guys decided to insult our intelligence; McGwire, by repeating his "I'm not here to talk about the past" mantra, and Bonds by telling us that he thought he was taking flax seed oil — flax seed oil that cost thousands of dollars.

But here’s the kicker. Despite the fact that the league didn’t expressly forbid the use of steroids, and despite the fact that many fans would have taken their side, these guys ALL know that using steroids is CHEATING. Deep down these players know that the vast majority of their peers aren’t using, and the users know that they would earn the ire of their fellow union members if they admitted steroid use. The users know that by using they are making more money than the non-users and setting records and earning accolades that other wise would go to the clean players. Steroid use does not occur in a vacuum.

I haven’t heard any player – user or not – express the position that since steroids weren’t specifically prohibited, that steroid use was ok. Fans and other supporters of these players have used this line of thinking, but not players. Players have used the argument that there aren’t a lot of steroid users, but never has the “it’s not cheating” argument been used.

MLB certainly can be held complicit in this whole mess but the players who have used, by denying their use, are ultimately to blame for their actions. For cheating.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Barry Bonds Has Used Steroids, New Book Alleges.

Since it seems like the Barry Bonds scam is coming to an end, I thought that this would be a good time for me to reprint an item I wrote almost 3 years ago where I told people something was not kosher with the Bonds, Conte Balco Labs relationship. For your reading pleasure...

Considering the current state of training techniques for athletes, Barry Bonds’ training routine is antiquated at best. The program is counter-productive since this is actually just a bodybuilder’s routine. From a program design standpoint, the five-day split, as is presented in the article, is a waste of time and effort. Three to four days during the off-season, and two to three days in-season is more than enough. And for an older, well-trained athlete, less time is required for training.

There seems to be only two ground based compound movements – squats and lunges. If Bonds squats in a Smith Machine (dangerous) – like the Angels’ Brad Fullmer (featured in another baseball-related article in this issue of M&F) – then Bonds is really doing only one ground based compound movement. This program is dominated by isolation (single joint), equipment-based movements and does nothing to maintain/improve range of motion, balance and joint stability. Not acceptable.

Furthermore, there are no explosive movements (cleans, jerks) incorporated in this program, which is not only unacceptable, it is shocking. Collegiate soccer players utilize these movements in their training! This makes us wonder if Bonds really uses this routine.

The Bonds nutrition regimen is where things get interesting, sketchy, hazy, perplexing, etc…first we’ll make a few points about his supplements. I’ve included links to the details about each supplement. The key sections to read on the links are the “Indications and Usage” and the “Research Summary.”

Overall the items on his supplement list are pretty standard bodybuilding nonsense…stuff that’s marketed to the hilt regardless of the level of substantiation. For example colostrum, which is generated by a mother’s mammary glands right after giving birth and is rich with anti-bodies beneficial to newborns, has been hyped as a fat builder, muscle builder, injury healer, mood improver, depression fighter and cancer fighter. Sounds good, except for the fact that there’s no credible evidence to support any of these claims. http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/nutsupdrugs/bov_0082.shtml


The use of glutamine peptides in this regimen is an example of how supplement companies market substances based on positive scientific evidence obtained in the study of individuals who are “metabolically compromised,” and applying the results to those who are not.

Basically an anti-catabolic amino acid, studies have shown than glutamine helps in the recovery of trauma, surgery and other critical patients. Yet there is no credible evidence that orally administered glutamine has any benefit for those who are not “metabolically compromised.” http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/nutsupdrugs/glu_0124.shtml


Chromium, in any form, has been shown in studies completed this year to provide no benefits whatsoever. http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/nutsupdrugs/chr_0073.shtml


The most puzzling items on this list are the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. Claims made in favor of these substances are mostly from an anti-depressant standpoint, and there’s no evidence that they are very effective. One study concludes that tyrosine may provide some protection against mood and performance impairment when encountering some forms of environmental stress such as cold and hypoxia. However more studies need to be performed on this. Phenylalanine has been shown to be somewhat effective in the treatment of vitiligo.

Our guess is that Bonds takes tyrosine because his camp believes in the purported stress protection offered. We can’t imagine why Bonds takes the phenylalanine. If he needs something for depression he should take a real prescription drug. By the way, phenylalanine is the main ingredient of aspartame, an excess of which has been shown in some studies to actually cause depression! http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/nutsupdrugs/lph_0201.shtml
http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/nutsupdrugs/lty_0256.shtml


Where things get a little sketchier, is with this Victor Conte the head of Balco Labs. In the article he’s described as a nutritional consultant. In a search of the web we came across Balco’s website and some interviews of Conte where he describes his philosophy and the theory of measuring the nutrient levels in the blood of athletes. Despite all of this very technical/medical sounding info, there is no indication of what Conte actually is. In one item Conte is referred to as an inventor and scientist, yet there isn’t a mention detailing his background.
http://www.balcolab.com/


The other thing that raises a red flag, is that even though he is involved with some legit athletes, he also works with professional bodybuilders, and was involved with C.J. Hunter, the banned shot-putting ex-husband of Marion Jones. http://www.canthrow.com/news/sept262000.shtml
If you read this article, the guy mentioned sporting the pencil moustache is Conte.
http://cbs.sportsline.com/u/ce/multi/0,1329,2826226_182185,00.html
This item provides more details about the Hunter situation and Conte’s role using the standard “Doper’s Defense.”

The Balco website is surprisingly cheesy and uses a lot of purposely confusing medical jargon to describe why their method of measuring the nutrient level can be important for weekend warrior and elite athletes alike. Our feeling is that this nutrient level analysis is just a bunch of pseudo-science garbage. Like the research used to “prove” that a supplement is effective, this nutrient level analysis is just a marketing hustle that now boasts legitimacy in the form of Barry Bonds. All in all we wonder how a guy like Conte gets access to a superstar athlete. You can draw your won conclusion.

To close with an analogy, to claim that this regimen is responsible for Bonds’ success is like saying a modern day newspaper is produced and printed around the world using only typewriters and printing presses.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Anna Nicole Smith Swears By Trimspa. Should You?

Trimspa offers “weight loss products” that are big on hype but offer nothing when it comes to scientific proof of efficacy.

By the way, “proof of efficacy” is a great phrase to use when discussing nutritional supplements…I highly recommend interjecting this idiom whenever appropriate.

You’d be hard pressed to find another line of weight loss supplements that contain as many suspect ingredients as are contained in the Trimspa product offering. For the sake of relative brevity, this item will just breakdown Trimspa X32. Next week I’ll provide you with a look at Trimspa’s other main products, Lipospa and Carbspa.

Here’s a quick rundown of the ingredients list for Trimspa X32.

First we have Chromium. Chromium is old school. Chromium also does nothing, as in NOTHING. As a matter of fact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gone on record and stated that claims that chromium can aid in athletic performance, building muscle or weight loss are unsubstantiated and deceptive. From a scientific study standpoint, only those diabetics who have a chromium deficiency may benefit from chromium supplementation. And this isn’t nearly a “for sure.” If anything, the science that exists indicates that chromium is of no value to anyone.

Next in Anna Nicole Smith’s favorite weight loss concoction is one of these “blended ingredients.” Trimspa calls their secret ingredient “X32 Proprietary Blend.” X32 is a combination of Hoodia, Glucosamine, Green Tea Extract, Cocoa Extract, Citrus Naringin, Chromium Chelavite (goody, more chromium!), Vanadium, and Glucomannan.

Remember how the FTC feels about chromium while reading this passage from the Trimspa web site that describes what Trimspa’s chromium can do;
Chromium Chelavite is an important nutrient that aids in controlling glucose (blood sugar) and carbohydrate cravings; it also offers many other benefits. It helps the body's insulin metabolize fat, convert protein into muscle, and turn sugar into energy, supporting weight loss and the development of lean body mass. A lack of chromium in the diet can result in weight gain, sluggishness, and can trigger a craving for sugar and other carbohydrates.

Plain and simple, there is no data that supports this assertion.

Let’s take a peak at Hoodia, the favorite herbal appetite suppressant of the Bushmen of South Africa. The best “evidence” that I can find that attests to the efficacy (there’s that word again) of Hoodia as an appetite suppressant are silly anecdotal tales that revolve around assertions that the Bushmen have been eating Hoodia for thousands of years to ward off hunger during long hunting trips. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see some science to back up this claim.

Since there is no science, and since we only have the word of supplement manufacturers to fill the scientific void, I say “thumbs down” on Hoodia.
And by the way, the plant from which Hoodia is derived is on some kind of endangered/protected list in South Africa, and can only be exported under very tight licensing arrangements. This situation has resulted in unscrupulous Hoodia Brokers selling faux Hoodia to unsuspecting supplement maker types. Isn’t there any honor amongst thieves?

A weird choice for inclusion on this list is “Glucosamine.” While this substance has been shown to be effective in alleviating pain for those suffering from osteoarthritis there is no indication anywhere that this supplement has any effect on anything related to weight loss.

Oh wait…look how this substance is described on the Trimspa web site,
Glucosamine (Gloo-ko-so-meen) is an ingredient, patented by TRIMSPA for weight loss, that actually prolongs the amount of time glucose (or blood sugar) stays within the bloodstream after eating. This delay means that any extra insulin can be used directly by the muscles for energy, instead of being transferred too quickly to the "warehouse," or fat cells.

Now is it just me, or does this seem – shall I say – disingenuous (I’m being nice)? Apparently, the folks at Trimspa have been able to patent an unproven ingredient and use the same name as another ingredient that has other – proven – benefits. I’m having a hard time understanding what Trimspa is doing here. Are you?

There is no scientific evidence that any of the other ingredients in this blend, Green Tea Extract, Cocoa Extract, Citrus Naringin, Vanadium and Glucomannan have any effect on weight loss. And the only “evidence” that exists that supports the use of any of these ingredients comes from the web sites of companies that are selling these products.

For instance, if you do a Google on Citrus Naringin you will find page after page of the same information on the pages of different herbal remedy sites. Even Amazon.com sells Trimspa, for crying out loud. And not one of these sites includes mention of one shred of scientific evidence; they all just parrot the same line – in most cases word for word - with regards to the purported benefits.
And if you do a search on the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) for “Naringin” you will get a hit for “Hesperidin” which is found in oranges and lemons. In legit clinical studies Hesperidin has been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol), BY DRINKING A COUPLE OF GLASSES OF ORANGE JUICE PER DAY!

To me it makes much more sense to drink a couple of glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice than it does to buy and take Trimspa, especially when you consider what we know about what Vanadium can do for you.

Here’s a few excerpts from the PDR’s listing since my words can’t do justice in explaining just what Vanadium can do for you,

Vanadium salts have insulin-mimetic activity, and vanadium compounds are being studied as potentially orally active replacements for insulin. The doses of supplemental vanadium that may affect blood glucose levels are potentially toxic, and supplemental vanadium is not recommended for the management of diabetes, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia or insulin resistance. (My emphasis.)

The absorption of dietary vanadium and supplemental vanadium (usually vanadyl sulfate) is poor, and most ingested vanadium is excreted in the feces. It is estimated that less than 5% of dietary vanadium is absorbed.

The use of supplemental vanadium is not indicated for any purpose at this time.

Vanadium is showing promise in the treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but this work is still preliminary and utilizes pharmacological doses of vanadium with unknown long-term safety consequences. Claims that vanadium increases muscle mass have no research support.

Reports that vanadium promotes muscle-mass development are refuted by research.
The amount of vanadium in typical diets (less than 30 micrograms daily) appears to have low toxicity. In one study, 12 subjects were given 13.5 milligrams of vanadium daily for two weeks, followed by 22.5 milligrams daily for five months, Five subjects experienced gastrointestinal symptoms — nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps — and five subjects developed green tongues. In another study, six subjects receiving daily doses of 4.5 to 18 milligrams of vanadium for six to 10 weeks developed green tongues, diarrhea and cramps at the higher doses.

Chromium, ferrous ion, chloride, aluminum hydroxide and EDTA may decrease absorption of vanadium.

So why on earth is Vanadium is included in this mix? Why would anyone willingly put this into his or her body? Especially, since there are no indications on the Trimspa X32 label as to how much of this stuff is in their product. And since chromium may decrease the absorption of Vanadium, why would these two ingredients be mixed in the same formula? How can this product be sold?

TrimspaX32 cannot be recommended for anyone under any circumstances. Come back next week for my breakdown of Trimspa’s other two product offerings.