|LE Magazine September 1999 |
Should The Life Extension Foundation Become a Consumer Protection Organization?
Because of The Foundation's reputation for strict quality-control, the news media have been asking us to assay commercial dietary supplements to verify that the products meet label potency. When we tell the media that we are not an independent testing laboratory, we are told that the independent labs do not have the technical confidence to assay for unique ingredients such as SAMe, lycopene and lutein.
Two months ago, we were asked to analyze seven different brands of SAMe. The results showed that two out of the seven products had no SAMe present whatsoever. One brand used the wrong form of SAMe, while two others had less than 100% potency. Only Life Extension's (our brand) and Nature's Made's products had 100% of the proper form of SAMe. The consumers who trusted some well-known companies were clearly not getting what they paid for.
For many years, a mail-order company has promoted an "old clone" of Life Extension Mix at a price similar to the members' price for our new Life Extension Mix formula. We use the term "old-clone" because the formula on the label is identical to the formula we sold five years ago. (There have been many significant improvements in our formula since then). Foundation members who have seen the promotion of this "old-clone" are outraged. They get very upset when they see a doctor claiming that he did the research to formulate this product, when in reality he merely copied the formula verbatim from an old bottle of Life Extension Mix. When members called to ask us if we were private labeling our formula to this company, we said no, and warned that the blatant lies about who did the research for the formula caused us to question the integrity of the product.
After enough members inquired about the "old-clone" of Life Extension Mix, we decided to assay it to see if what was on the label was really in the product. For the most part, the regular vitamins were present in the proper amounts, though we question whether this company used expensive pharmaceutical-grade nutrients from suppliers such as Roche, BASF, Nutrition 21 and Masquelier. When it came to the unique, expensive ingredients, however, we found that the "old clone" contained only 2.6% of the lutein and 9.7% of the lycopene it was supposed to have. Consumers were thus being defrauded out of their money and their health when buying this counterfeit product.
An equally disturbing problem exists with companies that promote products with grossly exaggerated health claims. Increasing numbers of solicitations are being made for products whose efficacy is not substantiated in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. One of the founders of The Life Extension Foundation, Saul Kent, has spent the last 36 years investigating scientific methods of gain control over aging. Saul jokingly comments that all he now has to do is go to his mailbox to find a "new cure for aging." The sad fact is that there are many promising anti-aging therapies on the horizon, and too many companies are taking advantage of this research by claiming to already have what dedicated scientists are seeking to discover.
So the question begs, What can the consumer do to protect against fraud? The answer is, not much. Anyone who has access to the Web can check out Medline to help verify the accuracy of a health claim a company is making. This becomes difficult when deceitful companies come up with fancy trade names for their products that do not reveal what the supposed "breakthrough" ingredient really is. Don't even think the government is capable of deciphering all of this. "Regulated" products kill over 125,000 Americans a year and are often as worthless (and more dangerous) than the products sold with fraudulent health claims.
We at The Life Extension Foundation don't claim to be perfect, but we sure have a long track record to substantiate our health claims (see chart of The Foundation's 19-year historical summary). When we find a defect in any of our products, we don't just issue a recall. . . we send a free replacement to every single customer who purchased the product. Our latest recall occurred last year when we found that our 83% green tea extract only contained 59% polyphenols. We shipped replacement product containing 83% polyphenols to every customer with a letter of apology for selling them a product that only contained 59% polyphenols.
We like to think that Foundation members can ascertain the difference between buying products from a company seeking only financial success and an organization dedicated to achieving an indefinitely extended life span. We've been battling the Federal government for the last 15 years to obtain the scientific freedom to accelerate medical breakthroughs in our lifetime. The struggle has been slow and arduous, but the controversial predictions we made years ago are increasingly going mainstream. Will The Life Extension Foundation become a consumer protection organization? Other than to warn our members of fraudulent products we stumble upon, the answer is no! Our mission, to gain control over aging and death by the year 2020, is too important for us to spend the time to investigate every product in the marketplace. We will continue to use our analytical expertise to assure that our products meet the highest quality standards, but we are not about to test every commercial product on the market.
Foundation members are an elite group of pioneers who are willing to take extraordinary steps to stave off aging and death. When members buy products from us, they have assurance that the quality of the product is backed by the organization's commitment to achieving an indefinitely extended life span, free of the ravages of disease.
Life Extension Foundation
Back to the Magazine Forum