Picture 061The NY Times health blog (by Tara Parker Pope) ran an article about toxin levels in cats and dogs. The bottom line: our pets are full of toxins. Which, given what my dog and cat eats is not actually that surprising. My cat probably has very high serum bug levels, and my dog is especially fond of dirt. It didn't, by the way, say anything about lobsters. The question raised in the article was whether or not these levels were actually significant.

The analysis, released by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, used blood and urine samples from 35 dogs and 37 cats collected at Hanover Animal Hospital in Mechanicsville, Va. The study found high levels of numerous chemicals in dogs and cats, including chemicals used in the making of furniture, fabrics and electronics. Mercury was also detected at high levels, likely from fish used in pet food.Picture 148While the data sound scary, it’s not clear what they really mean. Pets chew on plastic toys and spend a lot of time on the ground, where chemicals and pesticides accumulate, so it makes sense they would have higher levels of various toxins in their blood compared to humans.But the report raises more questions than it answers. Is this added chemical exposure having a meaningful effect on pet health? More important is the question of how these chemicals affect people, through exposure to food animals as well as fruits and vegetables, but the report doesn’t go that far.

While people may get all upset about the fact that our animals, and perhaps we ourselves are being exposed to toxins, it came at the same time as the FDA issued this warning:

FDA Finds Hazardous Levels of Selenium in Samples of "Total Body Formula" and"Total Body Mega Formula"

Dietary supplement products linked to adverse reactionsbodybuilderThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that it has found hazardous levels of selenium in samples of certain flavors of the dietary supplement products "Total Body Formula" and "Total Body Mega Formula." The FDA has received 43 reports of persons from nine states who experienced serious adverse reactions using these products.On March 27, the FDA warned consumers not to purchase or use "Total Body Formula" in flavors Tropical Orange and Peach Nectar and "Total Body Mega Formula" in the Orange/Tangerine flavor of these products after receiving reports of adverse reactions in users in Florida and Tennessee (www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2008/NEW01812.html). The adverse reactions generally occurred after five to 10 days of daily ingestion of the product, and included significant hair loss, muscle cramps, diarrhea, joint pain, deformed fingernails, and fatigue.Selenium, a naturally occurring mineral, is needed only in very small amounts for good health. Selenium can boost the immune system. Generally, normal consumption of food and water provides adequate selenium to support good health. Excessive intake of selenium is known to cause symptoms to include significant hair loss, muscle cramps, diarrhea, joint pain, fatigue, loss of finger nails and blistering skin.Presently, FDA has 43 reports of adverse reactions including cases from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Analyses of samples of the products by FDA laboratories have now found most of the samples contain extremely high levels of selenium--up to 40,800 micrograms per recommended serving, or more than 200 times the amount of selenium per serving (i.e., 200 micrograms) indicated on the labels of the products.The FDA continues to investigate the matter to determine how excessive amounts of selenium were added to the products.

So what is "Total Body Formula?" The web site for the product states:


TOTAL BODY® FORMULA - BALANCED NUTRITION is a powerful combination of Vitamins, Colloidal Minerals, Amino Acids, Essential Fatty Acids and Antioxidants scientifically designed in a great tasting liquid formula to meet today's nutritional requirements for maintaining energy and sustaining health.

It goes on to state that the formula of "colloidal minerals" it contains are one of the keys, calling them "Amazing Nutrients."

The minerals in TOTAL BODY® FORMULA are nature's most amazing nutrients - COLLOIDAL MINERALS. Unlike metallic minerals mined from geological deposits which can be toxic, our colloidal minerals are taken from plants which have absorbed the elemental minerals from the earth. These plant-derived colloidal minerals are from natural organic mineral rich prehistoric plant-matter deposits from a mine in Utah.

It is interesting that on one hand we are trying to avoid toxins in ourselves and our pets, on the other we are ingesting things that are potentially harmful (and definitely unproven). The claims made in the website about colloidal minerals is not accepted in the mainstream of medicine and I am not certain it has any real scientific basis.Yet people keep taking this kind of thing. Why?

Because they work.image

You heard me right, they do work - in a certain percent of people. The placebo effect is very potent and for vague endpoints like "feeling better" or "more energy," a significant percent of patients taking this kind of supplement will succeed. They will attribute it to the supplement, but they are really just part of the placebo effect.

I am not saying that they think they feel better, the placebo effect is a real effect. It may make joints hurt less, blood pressure drop, and make people live in harmony. (OK, not the last one.)

Which is fine with me as long as it does not harm them like this supplement could do. I have patients coming to me all the time asking what I think of their taking Mona Vie, Glucosamine, or drinking an ounce of vinegar every day (really). As long as it does not harm them, I say it is fine. Although I do warn them of a possible side effect of wallet shrinkage.

So the real question is whether the pets are consuming Total Doggy Formula, stocked full of colloidal dirt. I know my dog would go for it.

She has been fatigued lately.