LifeClick: Another Test to Avoid

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

LifeClick™—formerly known as Better Body, Brighter Mind™—is an Internet-based "personalized health assessment" developed and marketed by James J. Mahoney, D.O., of Southlake, Texas, who refers to himself as "America's Natural Health Coach." Mahoney says that he created the system "to simplify the process of seeing patients." [1] According to its Web site, LifeClick will enable its users to (a) avoid illness, (b) enjoy a healthy active lifestyle, (c) learn the secrets of natural health experts, (d) discover hidden health challenges, (e) access the latest nutrition and fitness coaching tips, and (f) find the exact supplements you need to feel and look your best.

The centerpiece of the system is an online questionnaire with about 80 questions, most of which are answered "Yes" or "No." The questions are presented in seven groups, which are titled "current status," "brain and mind," "heart," digestion," hormones," and "lifestyle." Very few of the questions are related to nutritional problems, and no questions ask what the test-taker eats. Yet, according to the site:

The LifeClick™ System puts every one of your answers through “expert” software that is built to think like a team of specialized physicians, fitness trainers and nutritionists. Each area of health is investigated to produce a “virtual scan” to show the areas most likely to need attention through changes in eating, supplementation and activity. The virtual scan changes over time as body mass index (BMI) drops and health challenges resolve. The scan is not designed to replace regular medical studies but to educate the user on how all the body’s systems work together.

After the questions are completed, a software program generates reports that make recommendations for dietary changes, lifestyle changes, and dietary supplements. The "scan" report includes a graph with columns labeled "anxiety," "concentration, depression," "memory," "mental energy," "mood swings/irritability, " "stress," "digestive" "enzymes," " leaky gut," "stomach acid," "structural," "adrenal," "insulin," "testosterone," "thyroid," "allergic," "bacterial," "fungal," "and "parasite."According to the site, the scan points out areas that could benefit from "immediate action."

In August 2008, I took the test repeatedly to see how the answers influenced what was recommended. No matter what answers I chose, the reports recommended supplements that could be purchased by clicking on a link to a "one-stop LifeClick-approved supplier" called Imaginings Incorporated. When I selected the answers I believed would indicate no health problems, the report recommended taking a multivitamin, but when I clicked through to the supplier, the site greeted me by name and my shopping cart contained 15 products with a total cost of $226.19.

Some of the questions ask about current symptoms, some of which would be a reason to seek medical attention. However, when I answered "yes" to all of the questions I thought should trigger advice to see a doctor soon, the report made no such suggestion. One question, for example, asked about black stools, which can be a sign of significant internal bleeding from a peptic ulcer, polyp, or cancer. The report did not mention this or suggest that a doctor should be seen as soon as possible.

Some questions are meaningless. For example:

The LifeClick questionnaire can be taken repeatedly, free of charge, but keeping track of your "progress" and having access to additional information costs $9.99 per month.

Mahoney also operates a medical practice called the Center for Hope and Healing in Southlake, Texas, at which he purports to offer a "unique approach to healing . . . developed over fifteen years in the practice of Osteopathic Medicine" The center's Web site states:

We take the time to address the body, soul and spirit as well as troubling symptoms to find the root cause of body imbalances. . . .

As a resource for health coaching and consultation we do not provide primary care in the traditional sense. . . . We view health issues along a spectrum from optimal health to disease. We recommend treatment and changes in lifestyle to restore health and vitality and believe that there is no illness or affliction that is beyond restoration. The miraculous is always possible [2].

In 2007, the Texas Medical Board charged Dr. Mahoney with improperly managing the care of a 61-year-old woman. The Board's complaint stated that he did not evaluate her properly, did not keep adequate records, administered EDTA chelation therapy and several other treatments that had no therapeutic value, and failed to refer her elsewhere when her symptoms worsened [3]. In 2008, the case was settled with a mediated agreed order requiring Mahoney to attend a remedial course in medical record-keeping and then have his charts monitored for six-months [4].

The Bottom Line

A well-designed questionnaire could help a physician or nutritionist identify dietary areas that should be examined further [3]. However, no such questionnaire should ever be used as the sole basis for recommending products. Like several others discussed on Quackwatch, LifeClick's questionnaire is poorly designed and provides no basis for the company's recommendations. But the fact that the promoter is a physician may fool consumers into believing that the test process and supplement formulations have a scientific basis.

References

  1. About LifeClick. LifeClick Web site, accessed Aug 24, 2008.
  2. Welcome to the Center for Hope and Healing. Center University Web site, accessed Aug 24, 2008.
  3. Texas Medical Board. Complaint. In the matter of the complaint against James Joseph Mahoney, D.O., Filed Aug 24, 2007.
  4. Texas Medical Board. Mediated agreed order. In the matter of the license of James Joseph Mahoney, D.O., Signed and entered, June 27, 2008.

This article was revised on August 25, 2008.

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