Analysis of an Ad for ZNatural

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

On November 10, 2013, my local paper, the Raleigh News and Observer published a half-page ad which claimed that ZNatural® "might wipe out the cause of 75% of your health problems." Prudent readers should realize that a claim like this is impossible because if a new product is found to conquer even a single disease, it would make headlines everywhere and would be widely prescribed.

The ad goes on to say that toxins cause "up to 70% of disease" (which is false), that "a toxin-free body would not only heal itself but could actually reverse illness" (also false).

The ad also claims that ZNatural is so unique it is patented by the US government and that its primary ingredient, "clinoptilolite," attaches to toxins and expels them before they can do any harm. Checking online, I found that in 2001, a company called LifeLink Pharmaceuticals obtained a patent for what it called a zeolite compound that it claimed would destroy epithelial cancers and various types of germs in laboratory experiments [1]. Clinoptilolite is one type of zeolite. To patent a dietary supplement, it is not necessary to demonstrate that it has any health value; one must merely show that it differs from previously patented products.

The ad goes on to claim that ZNatural is supported by "a whopping 14 impressive studies and groundbreaking laboratory tests" to increase memory, vitality, focus, weight loss, energy levels, metabolism, and concentration and to decrease sleeplessness, joint pain, and fat mass. The ad doesn't indicate the seller's name, but I was able to identify the seller—LifeHealth Science, LLC of Cleveland, Ohio—which refers to the product as ZNatural® Toxin Remover on its Web site. The ingredients are identified as a liquid solution of sodium aluminosilicates and magnesium. The site hosts one report of a study in which ZNatural was tested [2], but I found nothing about the other 13 purported studies on this site or any other site.

The posted study measured urine and saliva acidity (pH) and used two devices said to measure and interpret resistance to the flow of electric current through fluid in various parts of the body. The authors reported various differences among 20 people who took ZNatural and 20 others who did not for about 3 months. The study provided no evidence that ZNatural can improve health as claimed in the ad.

The ad ends by describing a "special opportunity" to get a totally risk-FREE sample of ZNatural so you can see for yourself, without risking a penny. The ad then promises that if you don't see a "massive difference" in your joint pain, energy, memory, and the way you look, feel, and think, you can get a full refund including the shipping cost. When I called the toll-free number, I was told that a 2-month supply would cost $119.95 plus shipping and that a "free" 60-day supply would be added.

During the past 35 years, I have examined thousands of print media ads for mail-order pills and potions marketed with health claims and found that none of them could live up to the claims made for them. I have also found that refunds are usually difficult or impossible to get.

In October 2013, LifeHealth Science filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, listing assets of about $398,000 and liabilities of $546,000 [3]. Other documents indicate that the company lost $343,000 in 2012 and $491,000 during the first 9 months of 2013 [4].

Experts at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have concluded that "zeolites have not been shown to treat cancer or other conditions in humans." [5]

The FDA has sent warning letters to three companies that marketed zeolite products with illegal claims [6-8].

After reading this ad, I sent an e-mail to the News and Observer's newsroom suggesting that they write about why the paper was willing to accept an ad like this. The N&O's vice president for display advertising replied that the paper had relied on a trusted advertising agency to vet the ad but will suspend publishing of similar ads that "serve no useful purpose and could be misleading to readers." [9] Bravo!

 

References

  1. Epithelial cancer cell drug. US Patent # 6,228,045, Sept. 11, 2001.
  2. Haas EM, Hubbard ET. Evaluation of the physiological effects of ZNatural. March 2011.
  3. Schedules. In re: LifeHealth Science LLC. U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Ohio, Case No. 13-16985, Oct 16, 2013.
  4. Debtor's submission of (1) balance sheet, (II) profit and loss statement, (III) statement of cash flows, and (IV) federal income tax return pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 1116. In re: LifeHealth Science LLC. U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Ohio, Case No. 13-16985, Oct 7, 2013.
  5. Zeolite. MSKCC About Herbs Database, June 12, 2013, 2013.
  6. Baca JR. Warning letter to Zeo Health LTD. June 29, 2007.
  7. Autir DM. Warning letter to Secrets of Better Health. Dec 1, 2009.
  8. Schafer PK. Warning letter to James A. Howenstine, M.D. Dec. 28, 2011.
  9. McClure J. E-mail to Dr. Stephen Barrett, Nov 18, 2013.

This article was revised on November 24, 2013.

Links to Recommended Vendors