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I get a lot of emails offering dubious health advice and dubious products. I recently got one with the alarming title “Five Fatal Foods” and a link to a video. It had a warning in big red capitals: WARNING: YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER! DON’T EAT THESE FIVE FOODS BEFORE YOU WATCH THIS VIDEO. “A shocking presentation the mainstream medical establishment does not want you to see.” You can watch the video here but I don’t recommend it. So you might interpret my lack of recommendation as supporting their claim: at least this one member of the mainstream medical establishment doesn’t particularly want you to see it. (Although I trust that most of our SBM readers are savvy enough that if you did waste your time watching the video, you wouldn’t just gullibly believe everything it says.)

I didn’t expect to get reliable scientific information from the video, but I was intrigued. In the first place, how could I not eat those five foods before I watched the video to find out what foods they were? And I was curious to know what foods were putting my life in danger. I presumed they were not talking about foods that were really fatal, like misidentified foraged mushrooms or improperly-prepared fugu. I tried to guess what the five foods were. People are always trying to tell us what to eat and what not to eat. What not to eat usually involves denying ourselves some of the yummiest foods we love. I thought of bacon, ice cream, pizza…

A challenge: before you scroll down, try to guess what the five fatal foods are. I would bet good money that you will guess wrong.

Who is making these claims?

The video is by Dr. Nina Koduru, an Internal Medicine Doctor at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She has been practicing medicine for nearly a decade and she “uses groundbreaking research and provides cutting-edge solutions that restore your body to its peak level of performance.” So she says. But there is a disclaimer that the information presented on the website is not intended as specific medical advice. Hmmm…

She says tens of millions of Americans over the age of 30 experience chronic fatigue, weight gain, low energy, and digestive problems. She says these symptoms can be fatal, and they are warning you about much worse health problems like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. She promises to reveal the one thing that finally gave her and her patients results after everything else had failed. It takes just 60 seconds a day, and is the most crucial thing you can do for your health, even if you don’t have any of those symptoms.

Dr. Koduru says millions of people have watched this presentation, and she is getting thousands of thank yous from people who have followed her advice with great results. Even celebrities. I wonder if Gwyneth Paltrow and the Food Babe know about the Five Fatal Foods.

She says the facts she presents come from years of experience. No, facts don’t come from experience. Testimonials come from experience. Facts come from scientific testing.

She warns that the video could be taken down at any moment due to the influence of big corporations that profit from the fatal foods. A soupçon of conspiracy theory always adds spice.

These five fatal foods are destroying our health

  1. Diet soda. She cites research showing that diet soda intake is linked to obesity, heart disease and stroke. Our own Steven Novella recently reviewed the research and came to a different conclusion: that artificial sweeteners are not a health risk and may even offer a health benefit. Koduru says diet sodas contain “less than zero calories.” Negative calories? How is that possible? She tries to explain how diet sodas cause harm, but her explanation is incoherent. She talks about gut bacteria. She says Candida is the main bad bacteria, (but of course Candida is not bacteria, it’s yeast/fungus). She says you want to have no more than 20% Candida and at least 80% good bacteria. She doesn’t say how she knows this, or how you could measure the percentage (by weight? number of organisms?). I found the same 20%/80% claim on the unreliable site Natural News, but their link to the original source no longer works. She says sweets and preservatives feed the Candida. If they predominate, they will absorb [sic] the good bacteria. What she doesn’t say: Candida colonizes 90% of normal people without causing any harm, and chronic candidiasis is a fake disease. And she never explains how diet sodas could affect Candida.
  2. Salad. Because salad dressings contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. They will make you fat and sabotage any health benefits from the salad vegetables.
  3. Juice. Because 60% of juices on supermarket shelves contain high fructose corn syrup. She says when you eat fructose, your brain doesn’t understand it, your hormones get out of balance, and it’s impossible to tell when you’ve had enough to eat. She says sugar is more addictive than heroin or cocaine, and over 75% of Americans are currently addicted. “The human body naturally converts any foreign substances into body fat.” (That is demonstrably not true!) She says choosing HFCS is equivalent to gluing fat all over your body. All this is highly misleading. What she doesn’t tell us is that HFCS has been unfairly demonized, as Jim Laidler explained here.
  4. Coffee. She says it causes constipation due to its dehydrating nature (Not true. The water in coffee compensates for the diuretic effect and regular coffee drinkers do not become dehydrated). She says it causes inflammation and heartburn by stimulating stomach acid production. But “the real problem is the absurd amounts of sweeteners and sugar that most Americans use in their coffee!” She says a venti latte from Starbucks has as much sugar as over 3 Twinkies. (Not accurate.)
  5. Yogurt. The milk in yogurt already contains sugar, and many brands have added sugar or (gasp!) HFCS. Claims of probiotic benefits are questionable because most of the good bacteria is destroyed when they pasteurize the yogurt.

The solution

So the problem seems to boil down to sugar and other sweeteners. But you don’t have to cut them out entirely. The solution is probiotics. She says, “There are many doctors that now believe probiotics are more essential than taking any other supplements or vitamins.” (How many doctors? Who are they? Where is the supporting evidence?) She says, “…probiotics may be one of the greatest health breakthroughs of the century.” I’m guessing there are very few people who would agree with that statement. She says having bad bacteria in your gut is like having poison in your body, and probiotics are the antidote.

But beware! You have to get your probiotics from the right sources. Yogurt is no good because the sugar in it counteracts the probiotics. There are two good sources:

  1. Eating fermented vegetables such as pickles, miso, and kombucha. But this requires a whopping 5-6 servings a day.
  2. High grade probiotic formulations (1) that contain at least 8 strains of probiotics, (2) that can pass through bile and stomach acids to reach the intestines, (3) that contain a very large amount of good bacteria (at least 10 billion colony forming units), and (4) that include Bifidobacterium and L. acidophilus.

No worries! She has teamed up with one of the most innovative and trusted probiotic companies in the world, Digest MD. Together they “created a breakthrough Probiotic Blend that is currently one of the most potent and effective probiotic formulas ever created.” It contains 20 strains with 25 billion CFUs, and they added two revolutionary prebiotics to feed the probiotics. She claims this proprietary formula will destroy all of the bad bacteria in your gut no matter how much there is in your system. It’s called Elite Biotics. She claims that it has all kinds of health benefits including more energy, weight loss, improved mood, clear skin, reduced digestive symptoms, improved metabolism, reduced cravings, higher sex drive, and improved sleep. She has lots of testimonials from customers, but testimonials are not evidence, and the product has not been scientifically tested. The retail price for a one-month supply is $67, but if you order through the video, you will get a reduced price of only $39, or a 3-bottle package for $99. A family pack is even less expensive. Limited time offer; stock up now! They even offer a 90 day 100% total money back guarantee.

Other opinions

A review article in Scientific American found that while there are demonstrated benefits for a few specific conditions, probiotics do not offer anything of substance to individuals who are already healthy, and “most of the health claims for probiotics are pure hype.”

Our own Mark Crislip wrote about probiotics. He explained the rationale and the evidence for probiotics and pointed out some interesting facts about the bacteria. From the perspective of an infectious disease specialist, he made these two predictions:

  1. Population studies will show an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary emboli as a consequence of the mild increase in the inflammatory state induced by chronic probiotics.
  2. Infections will increase in the month or two after stopping chronic probiotics.

Conclusion: No evidence

The video about “Five Fatal Foods” is misleading propaganda designed to sell a product. There is no evidence that those foods kill people or that avoiding them would result in better health. There is little published evidence for most of the many benefits claimed for probiotics. This specific product has not been tested for effectiveness or safety, nor has it been compared to other products on the market.

You might think this is a trivial issue not worth writing about, but if Dr. Koduru is telling the truth, millions of people have watched her video and thousands have used the product and been impressed enough to write to her with testimonials. They may be risking their health: if Mark Crislip’s predictions are correct, some of those users may develop heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary emboli. By posting this article on the Internet, I can at least give prospective customers a chance to learn that Dr. Koduru’s claims have been questioned by another MD, so they can make a more informed choice.

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Posted by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.