“Healthy Directions” Is a Double Misnomer

Healthy Directions sells dietary supplements without scientific evidence. A better name would be Misdirections that Won’t Make You Healthy. 

Historical examples of patent medicines. Healthy Directions similarly offers untested products without scientific evidence of efficacy.

The Healthy Directions website says it is “A Better Way to Better Health.” There’s no reason to believe it is any such thing! It is a sales site for dietary supplements. It offers only misdirection and it offers no evidence that its overpriced products will improve the customer’s health.

Instaflex spray

The home page prominently features a product called Instaflex spray, promising that it will spray away your toughest pains, providing extra strength relief with a 360 degree continuous spray that is perfect for hard-to-reach spots. It has two active ingredients: menthol 5% and methyl salicylate 10%.

Other menthol/methyl salicylate sprays or topical treatments are available at lower cost. Some examples are Tiger Balm, Salonpas, Bengay, and Icy Hot. They often contain higher amounts of active ingredient. Icy Hot contains 16% menthol. Bengay contains 30% methyl salicylate.

Are menthol/methylsalicylate sprays effective for pain?

According to Harvard Medical School

Menthol used in topical pain relievers is a harmless substance that causes a pleasing sensation that counteracts pain, but it doesn’t influence the underlying cause or inflammation.

And

Products that contain methyl salicylate might provide some pain relief, but there’s no solid proof. Anyone with an aspirin allergy or who is taking blood thinners for cardiovascular disease should consult a doctor before regularly using topical medications that contain salicylates.

Other products for sale on Healthy Directions

You can search by doctor for the products the Healthy Directions doctors recommend. A typical example is “Complete Neurovascular Support” which contains Vitamin B6, B12, alpha lipoic acid, benfotiamine, and a proprietary blend of lychee extract and green tea extract. Nowhere is there any explanation of a rationale for the mixture, nor are there any scientific studies showing efficacy. They offer supplements for every imaginable purpose. Some of the top sellers are Omega Q Plus Max, Cholesterol Solutions (with a powerful citrus fruit extract), Heart Healthy Multivitamins, Magnesium Broad-Spectrum Complex, Heart Healthy Probiotic Solutions Extra, Eyedrate, and Gut Restore Advanced. Dr. Sinatra’s Omega Q Plus Max is advertised as revolutionizing heart health with one product that has many benefits. I urge you to browse the website and look at some of the mixtures offered. And take a gander at the prices! I can’t help wondering who is buying these products and how they decide which one or ones to order. And the customers are not all happy. There have been numerous complaints to the Better Business Bureau. And there are plenty of reviews on the Amazon website saying the products didn’t work or caused side effects.

The doctors

There are several doctors featured on the Healthy Directions website. Information about their training and practice is included, as well as the specific products they recommend. Are they science-based doctors whose advice we can trust? Judge for yourself.

Dr. Joseph Pergolizzi, Jr. is an MD with good credentials who has published studies, but few of them have anything to do with dietary supplements. He is an anesthesiologist who specializes in practical pain management. He endorses Instaflex.

The three Sinatras. Health Directions appears to be a family affair. Three Sinatras are listed:

  1. Stephen Sinatra is an integrative cardiologist with impressive credentials, but with some questionable beliefs. He says cholesterol is not a serious risk factor for heart disease, and he says the best way to protect yourself is to reduce inflammation by such steps as eliminating sugar from the diet. He has called refined sugar “public enemy number one”. He says a CoQ10 deficiency is a common cause of lack of energy and fueling your body with CoQ10 is one of the most important things you can do for your heart. He was one of the first to warn about the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and he is working to keep WiFi out of the school system. He is a certified bioenergetic psychotherapist, whatever that means. He advocates grounding or earthing. He advocates nutritional supplementation that includes a high-potency multi-nutrient, fish oil, magnesium, vitamin C, and coenzyme Q10. He also advocates “detoxification,” one of the typical buzzwords of alternative medicine.
  2. Drew Sinatra, Stephen Sinatra’s son, is a Bastyr-trained doctor of naturopathic medicine who claims to address the root cause of disease and focuses on the gut microbiome. He has his own line of digestive health products that are vegetarian, gluten free, and minimally processed without artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial preservatives, and HFCS. They are also made without wheat, eggs, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, and when at all possible, dairy and soy. He holds a Master’s of Science (Science??!!) in 5-Element Acupuncture.
  3. Briana Sinatra is Drew’s wife, also a Bastyr graduate with an MS in Acupuncture. She focuses on women and families.

Dr. Aaron Tabor is an MD and “beauty expert” who specializes in anti-aging and skin care. He developed Gene Facelift, a biotech spin-off that “enhances damaged DNA growth factors to help heal wrinkles, wounds, and inherited skin diseases”. That claim raises some red flags, and I couldn’t find any supporting research.

David Williams presents himself as a doctor, but he is actually a chiropractor. ‘Nuff said. The website says, “Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are one type of proof that Dr. Williams considers, but he is open to traditional use and other forms of scientific research as well”. He uses the Mom Test: would he give it to his Mom?

And last but not least (although arguably the worst):

Dr. Julian Whitaker. Where have I heard that name before? Oh, yes, he’s the anti-vaccine expert who debated Steven Novella at FreedomFest in Las Vegas in 2012. Steve was a last-minute replacement for the pulmonologist who was originally scheduled to present the pro-vaccine side. As David Gorski put it, Steven Novella “handily wiped the floor with Dr. Whitaker“. Gorski said, “he brought the stupid. Oh, man, did he bring the stupid… it’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a glaring example of mathematic, statistical, and scientific illiteracy”. Whitaker even projected a slide of this graph, which has to be the worst graph ever:

The y-axis for number of autistic spectrum disorder children per 100 goes up to 120, as if 120 out of 100 children could have ASD. It absurdly extrapolates from current data to predict that by 2038, 100% of US children in the general population will be autistic. As if that weren’t bad enough, the graph then shows that 100% of girls in the US will be autistic by 2041. Weren’t girls part of the general population that was already 100% autistic in 2038? I have never seen such a stupid graph. It says the graph is courtesy of Shawn Siegel: he deserves a booby prize. Whitaker not only accepted it but featured it in his newsletter and used it as an argument in the debate; he deserves prize for a degree of gullibility nearly impossible to imagine in a scientifically trained doctor. The teachers who awarded him his MD degree must be rolling over in their graves.

Whitaker testified at congressional hearings in support of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). He is an activist who advocates freedom of choice in medical care. He was a cofounder of Linus Pauling’s California Orthomolecular Medical Society and he ran the Whitaker Wellness Institute from 1979 to 2018, when it closed. As David Gorski explained in his article about the debate, Whitaker has also claimed that metformin doesn’t work, antibiotics don’t work, and conventional medicine doesn’t work. He treats patients with diabetes and heart disease with acupuncture, nutritional supplements, diet, hyperbaric oxygen, chelation therapy, and a wide variety of other questionable therapies. To top it all off, he’s a big fan of the infamous Stanislaw Burzynski and was the primary pro-Burzynski medical expert in Burzynski: The Movie.

Do you trust these “experts”?

Since you are reading the Science-Based Medicine blog, you presumably value medicine based on good science and you want to see the evidence that supports health recommendations. It should be obvious that the Healthy Directions website is not a source of reliable information about science-based medicine. And you will have noticed numerous examples of treatments that have not been tested or that have been tested and shown not to work.

Bottom line: The Healthy Directions website is devoted to slick marketing but not to science. Not recommended.

This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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