Sunday, February 13, 2005

My Vitamin O

She had tears in her eyes. "I can't afford my medications. I had to buy my Vitamin O."

Pardon me, what vitamin was that?

"Vitamin O. It's expensive but they say I need it so I can get enough oxygen." you have it with you? Can I see it?

"No, it's at home."

Who said you needed it?

"Some man. Or something in the mail. I don't remember."

We turned to the computer on my desk, and googled "Vitamin O."

"There, that's it." We read it together:
FTC Attacks "Stabilized Oxygen" Claims

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Various products referred to as "stabilized" or "aerobic" oxygen," are being marketed with claims that they can cure disease by increasing oxygen delivery to the cells. Some claim that "oxygen deficiency" or "oxygen starvation" is an underlying cause of disease and has been increasing because the oxygen content of the earth's atmosphere has been decreasing and junk food does not contain enough oxygen [A, B, C, D]. These claims are absurd -- for several reasons.
• There is no reason to believe that the products actually deliver oxygen to the body. It is possible to use an electric current to add a tiny amount of oxygen to water, but to access it, a human would need gills.
• Even if they could, taking oxygen into the stomach through a liquid, pill, or food would not significantly raise the body's blood level of oxygen.
• Oxygen enters the bloodstream through the lungs. The body adapts to what it needs by changing its breathing rate.
• The oxygen content of air is not changing and remains constant at 21% regardless of the weather.
• If enough oxygen is available to sustain life, the body will extract what it needs from the air and deliver what is needed to the cells. Blood returning to the lungs contains surplus oxygen.
• "Oxygen deficiency" is not an underlying cause of disease.

Two-ounce bottles of "3%"or "5%" solutions cost about $20 per bottle. Earth Portals also markets a higher-priced "super-oxygenated solution at 25% . . . for serious competitive athletes and individuals looking to get the maximum oxygen into the blood stream." At least a dozen companies have marketed such products.

The FTC Reacts

On March 11, 1999, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit...The FTC says that the product appears to be nothing more than salt water.

The defendants had claimed that "Vitamin O," when taken orally, enriches the bloodstream with supplemental oxygen. The ads state that Vitamin O consists of "intact oxygen molecules in a liquid solution of distilled water, sodium chloride and trace materials."
And there, next to this link, were online ads for "Vitamin O."

She looked confused. "Don't I need oxygen in my blood?"

Tell you what, I said. We'll measure the oxygen in your blood, and see how you're doing.

"How much will it cost?"

Nothing. We'll check oximetry...this machine we have. You just might have enough oxygen already, you know? Maybe you don't need that vitamin. If you really need more oxygen, we'll get it for you, in an oxygen tank. Medicare should pay for that.

"Oh, thank you, thank you!"

(based on an encounter, which has been altered and fictionalized to protect confidentiality. See disclaimer in sidebar.)
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