Saturday, May 5, 2007

USANA a Fraud? (USNA)

USANA is a health and beauty company. They produce, research, and sell health and beauty products mostly through a Multi-Level Marketing operation (direct selling). Their growth has been phenomenal and they have been a publicly traded since 1992. Their stock has appreciated from $.60 a share in 2002 to a high of over $60 a share just within the past few months. In the past few months all sorts of negative news has come out, the biggest is which ex-convict Barry Minkow has published a 500 page negative report on USANA basically saying they are a fraud, and the SEC has opened up an investigation into USANA. There were also new class action lawsuits announced late last month.

Addressing the Multi-Level Marketing Scheme Accusation
When I read about and watched a YouTube video of how USANA has supposedly lied to new associates about the money they can make, I just thought to myself of all the same schemes or businesses my friends/associates throughout the years have offered me. Some lie, some just only talk about the positives, no one ever talks about the negative aspects and how tough it actually is to make it as an associate and make a lot of money (for Usana, the top 3% of distributors make 70% of the commissions). When I did ask a question about the risk involved, there is a change of topic or some how the question is not answered. If the new associate/distributor does their own research or actually think about what they are being told, there would be a lot less people signing up. I have never been involved in a MLM operation, but I would guess there are specific directions they follow when answering questions regarding risk. There obviously is an issue with USANA's MLM, but I think it will pass, it is just temporary negativity.

Here is an interview with an actual USANA Distributor or “Victim” as Barry Minkow calls her:

Barry Minkow interviews actual USANA Distributor / Victims

Regarding the Product Problems
I am more worried about the product issues. Barry Minkow said in his report that some of the products fall short of the claims made on the labels for ingredients. This is from Barry Minkow’s report for the Usana’s product Essential Mega Antioxidant:

o Folate (as folic acid) claimed 500 pgs per serving and only tested for 390
pgs per serving.
o Vitamin B-12 (as cyanocobalamin) fell significantly short from the claimed
100 pgs per serving and only tested for 63.8 pgs per serving.
o Alpha Lipoic Acid fell short by 8% from the claimed potency on the box.
o By far the most serious and significant shortage resulted from the mega
antioxidant ingredient Coenzyme Q-10, which scored only 14% of the
“guaranteed potency.”

The other issue with the products is that, according to Barry Minkow, the prices are extremely high compared to similar products. One example is USANA HealthPak 100, taken from Barry Minkow’s report:

The Usana product has a regular wholesale price of $118.89 for a 28 day supply, while
the Animal Pak product has a price of $18.50 for a 22 day supply.
Usana 28 day supply @ $ 118.89 = $ 4.25 daily cost
Animal 22 day supply @ $ 18.50 = $ 0.84 daily cost
As you can see, the Usana daily cost of $4.25 is $3.41 more per day than the Animal Pak,
or 406% more expensive.


There are a significant amount of other products that laboratories compared and the USANA product was clearly more expensive when the potency of the two products were similar. There were also issues where the potency did not match the label claims.

Valuation
Their trailing price/earnings ratio is 17.07 and their forward price/earnings ratio for fiscal year 2008 is 13.32. Both great numbers for a company growing as fast as USANA, the PEG Ratio is .86. Their gross margins for the past 3 years have increased from 75.2% to 76.1%, most of their costs are associate incentives/commissions and SG&A expenses. Their operating earnings have been 16.6%, 18.1%, and 16.6% for the past 3 years. They have a very strong balance sheet with over $32 million of cash and cash equivalents on their books and no debt. Their growth has been phenomenal with sales going from just over $133 million in 2002 to just over $374 million in 2006, that is over 29% per year. Just recently on April 10th, they announced an increase in their stock buyback program to $65 million.

Technicals
To put it mildly, it’s been trending down in the past few months. Volume has been big in distribution days, all of the momentum is down. This is not the place to buy. On the bright side, RSI and MACD are both showing over sold, but they have been both showing over sold for the past few months. USNA is close to support from last summer at around $37.50 a share, which is a good level to keep an eye on it. The down trend is not confirmed yet by the moving averages, but the 50DMA is getting ready to cross the 200DMA this week and that will be the confirmation.



Conclusion
The negativity this company is currently experiencing is tremendous. The stock price is definitely displaying it, some of it is definitely unwarranted. The issues I am worried about are their products, some of which do not support their claims and being much more expensive than comparable products for other brands. If what Barry Minkow said in his report about their products is true, I expect to see margin pressures from USANA trying to increase their product potency's to match the claims on the products and from price pressure since comparable products are so much cheaper. (Their 1st quarter results had no signs of these pressures as gross margins increased by 220 basis points compared to their 1st quarter results in 2006.) I would avoid this stock for now and wait to see what happens to their sales, earnings, and margins in a full quarter after the accusations. The technical picture does not look great at this point either.

Disclosure: I don't have a position in USNA.

64 comments:

TeenMoney said...

You say that the some of the criticisms of USANA are unwarranted, but don't really elaborate at all. Here are some questions for you:

Why won't the company disclose the attrition rate. If 88% of people sign up for the product rather than the business, why is the attrition rate so high?

Why are the products so much more expensive than the competition?:

Why did one Wentz write to the FTC and say disclosing the attrition rate would harm their ability to RECRUIT if 88% just want the product? Why did the company say something different in its SEC filings?

Why won't the company address Minkow's allegations head-on?

Alex Shadunsky said...

I definitely think there is a major issue, I just think the situation is temporarily overblown, which the market tends to do often. The 88% number is obviously wrong, I have no idea how they came up with that. If people are signing up to become distributors they are definitely trying to make money off of this. I wrote in my article that the product situation is a big issue. But at the same time, I also think that all multi-level operations experience the same issues regarding attrition. It is never as easy to succeed with the distribution as the recruiting member claims, most people end up failing.

Thanks for stopping bye.

bp said...

Alex, you are correct in that the product issues are very important but to base your "facts" on Minkow's report is erroneous. Below are the facts coming from Usana. Thanks for taking the time to read this as I'm sure you were unaware of this before you had written your article.

FALSE: “…over-the-counter vitamin products that are comparable in potency and benefit…”

TRUTH: USANA products were compared to Universal and Now products based on the assumption that all of these products were on a level playing field. In direct contrast to this assumption, The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements rated USANA products with an average score of 5 out of 5; Now products averaged 2.44 out of 5 while Universal averaged 2 out of 5.


USANA stands behind its potency guarantee. As part of our company’s pharmaceutical-grade Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), all USANA supplements are routinely analyzed in our company’s laboratories to confirm label claims. Moreover, the results of our in-house tests have been corroborated repeatedly by third-party laboratories in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Pacific Rim.

Accurate analysis of USANA products requires the use of appropriate methods. Our Mega Antioxidant and Chelated Mineral are complex nutritional formulas, each containing multiple ingredients. And because the presence of one nutrient in a formula can interfere with the analysis of another (just as the strong taste of one food ingredient in a recipe can mask the taste of another), accurate chemical analysis of complex formulas can prove challenging. Our experience has been that standard, by-the-book methods are often unreliable and that specialized procedures must be developed, fine tuned, and validated to achieve accurate test results. Over the years, USANA has developed and validated reliable methods for the analysis of its Mega Antioxidant, Chelated Mineral, and other supplements. These methods have been fully documented and reviewed in government GMP audits. Moreover, we have shared our validated methods with third-party laboratories involved in confirmatory testing.

Consistent with our experience, third-party labs that do not develop or use analytical methods specific to our products often obtain unreliable results for some nutrients in the formulas. Consequently, we are not surprised by the third-party results summarized in Mr. Minkow’s report. We are, however, gratified that for most of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants tested, the third-party results were consistent with our in-house results and confirmed our label claims. On average, the third-party assays averaged 105–110 percent of label claim, which is fully consistent with our manufacturing formulas. (Our products are formulated to contain 100 percent of label claim plus, for many ingredients, an additional 5–30 percent of label to ensure potency and shelf life.)

We did note that there was considerable variation and uncertainty in the test results reported by Mr. Minkow. For example, vitamin B12 was tested three times by two laboratories, and results ranged from 64 percent to 136 percent of label. Clearly the test procedures used were imprecise. USANA routinely analyzes vitamin B12 in its Mega Antioxidant and HealthPak 100 using validated methods and routinely detects 115 percent of label (fully consistent with our manufacturing formulas). Furthermore, these results have been confirmed by independent laboratories. Overall, the disagreement between laboratories across the range of nutrients tested in our HealthPak 100 averaged 12 percent. For example, when one laboratory tested alpha lipoic acid at 92 percent of label, the other tested it at 104 percent of label. Again, this is not surprising given that neither lab validated their analytical methods specifically for our formulas.



There was considerable variation in the test results reported by Mr. Minkow. It is noteworthy that he did not point out the variation in test results between laboratories. Nor did he point out in his repeated allegations of nutrient short falls (for choline, magnesium, manganese, biotin, folic acid, vitamin B12, and alpha lipoic acid) that when one laboratory tested the product at below label claim, the other laboratory tested the product at greater than 100 percent of label claim. Mr. Mankow’s reporting of results appears to be selective, misleading, and misrepresentative of the facts. He shows bias toward results from one lab or the other in an attempt to disparage USANA’s products.



Mr. Minkow’s statement that no n-acetyl-L-cysteine exists in its tested sample is false. The truth is that only one of the laboratories reported testing for n-acetyl-L-cysteine, and according to the scientists at that laboratory, their analytical methods were unable to measure this ingredient even when the product was spiked with additional amounts. As such, the lab noted “Not Detected” in its analytical report, meaning its methods didn’t work, NOT that there was no n-acetyl-L-cysteine in the product. USANA has tested its products numerous times for n-acetyl-L-cysteine, using suitable methods, and has routinely found full label amounts. Moreover, we have corroboration of these results from independent laboratories.



Mr. Minkow stated that his tests found only 13.3 mg (30 percent) of the 45 mg of grape-seed extract claimed on the HealthPak 100 label. This statement is misleading and misrepresents the facts. USANA does claim 45 mg of grape-seed extract per serving in its HealthPak 100. But Mr. Minkow’s third-party laboratory actually analyzed for and reported the amount of proanthocyanidins (a component of grape-seed extract), not the amount of whole grape-seed extract.

Importantly, while the results confirm the presence of grape-seed extract in the HealthPak 100, they do not indicate that the product fails to meet its label claim. Tests confirming the amount of grape-seed extract in the HealthPak 100 would require concurrent analysis of the grape-seed extract raw material. In the past, USANA has worked with an independent laboratory to confirm the amount of grape-seed extract in its products, and in doing so, we also supplied that laboratory with our grape-seed extract raw material. Importantly, that lab confirmed that we formulated our products with the stated amount of grape-seed extract.



Mr. Minkow claimed there were serious and significant shortages in USANA’s Mega Antioxidant of the nutrient coenzyme Q10, which scored only 14 percent of the “guaranteed potency.’” Mr. Minkow failed to temper this statement by pointing out that in the analysis of USANA’s HealthPak 100, the coenzyme Q10 (supplied in Mega Antioxidant tablets) tested at 89 percent of label. In other words, he failed again to point out significant variability and uncertainty in his test results.

Furthermore, it is important to note that coenzyme Q10 exists in two forms in the body and in supplements: a reduced and an oxidized form. Both are active, and in fact, they are rapidly inter-converted one to another. Our experience has been that proper analysis requires testing for both forms independently and that the amounts of each be added together to achieve an accurate result. We have no indication that the independent laboratories followed this important procedure.



Mr. Minkow reports that USANA’s TenX Antioxidant Blast is not 10 times, but just over two times, stronger than eight ounces of grape juice in antioxidant power (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC score). He is technically correct but misleading in his representation of USANA’s product and associated claims. USANA has consistently claimed that TenX contains, ounce-per-ounce, at least 10 times the antioxidant activity (as measured by ORAC) of most juice products. Our claim is made on an ounce-per-ounce basis not on a per-serving basis. We do this because ounces are absolute units of measure while serving sizes can vary widely between products. For example, a serving is 1 ounce for some exotic juices, 1.4 ounces for TenX, 8 ounces for grape juice, and 12–16 ounces for some diluted juice products.

On an ounce-per-ounce basis, using Mr. Minkow’s own data, USANA’s TenX Blast provides 16.4 times the antioxidant activity of Langer’s grape juice, which is consistent with USANA’s claim. With respect to the cost comparison, TenX is more expensive than grape juice when only ORAC score is considered. But TenX has other significant advantages over juices: each TenX also provides three grams of fiber, the equivalent of two fruit servings, and convenience.

Spooks said...

Well said, I get so miffed by the inaccuracies in the Minkow claims in regards to the product and also the business.

People fail in this business for the same basics reasons they fail in any business, poor business skills.

This is a real business and should be treated as such. Education is the best thing any business new owner can do for their business. If you have never owned or run a business, you should definately invest in marketing and accounting classes, they are tax dedutible after all...

Alex Shadunsky said...

Usana's gross margin was 78.0% for the last quarter. They make their product extremely cheap.

"The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements rated USANA products with an average score of 5 out of 5; Now products averaged 2.44 out of 5 while Universal averaged 2 out of 5."

Shouldn't Usana's product be 2 to 2.5 times more expensive? Instead of 4 to 5 times more expensive?

I could be wrong, I just don't think that at this stage USNA is worth an investment with so many investigations and lawsuits in progress considering there are thousands of other companies out there.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

So which would you prefer then, the special Wolfgang Puck dinner or the Denny's special...

Anonymous said...

I think Barry Minkow needs to be investigated, not USANA. Read Len Clements’s articles (www.marketwaveinc.com). That clearly show Minkow either lied, or grossly distorted the facts. To the tiny amount of truth he says “so what”. Clements is an expert on the networking marketing, and gives good objective insight to the positive and negative aspects of this industry. “Done right, NWM is legal, moral, ethical, and the best way for the average person to achieve their dreams. USANA DOES IT RIGHT” (Quote by Utah’s Chief Legal Council at USANA’s convention two years ago.).
Clements addresses potency claims made by Minkow. If you still have questions, contact USANA. Ask them about product potency. They guarantee 100% potency. They can prove it by independent testing. The laboratories that Minkow used did not have the ability to test properly.
Study the “Comparative Guide for Nutritional Supplements” (www.comparativeguide.com) carefully. USANA is rated the “best of the best” with 5 stars, and a Gold Seal (Only a few products have been awarded this seal) Minkow compares that to products that are only 2 stars. Huge, huge, difference!!! USANA is competively priced with quality products. It is like comparing a stripped down Chevy to a Mercedes. Both are cars, but which would you rather drive?
Go to www.Sanoviv.com, to SITE Map, and Bio for Dr. Wentz. He is truly a man that “Walks the Talk” He has given so much to mankind.
My experience is that people who fail in this business, fail in other areas of life. They blame someone else instead of taking personal responsibility and changing themselves. USANA gives fantastic training to help people grow. Those that apply it, succeed. It is the best company I have ever been associated with. Please check out the facts. Those that do, see Minkow for what he is.
P.S. The lawsuits are Boilerplate. They are attorneys looking for clients based on Minkows report. As his report falls apart under scrutiny, so will the lawsuits. The suit to watch is USANA against Minkow!

Anonymous said...

"Why won't the company address Minkow's allegations head-on?"

Who say's they aren't? They have a law suit against him, and while the suit is in progress it is appropriate to let their legal team deal with the riff raff.

Besides i think it's kind of funny how Minkow keeps adding false hoods with this thing, he reminds me of the little boy who cried wolf. The truth will out.

Anonymous said...

Too many issues here.

Clements has a vested interest in MLM. He is an industry shill. His own website defines Usana as a pyramid.

Usana's products have a premium whose only purpose is to feed the commission engine. the premium is the pyramid scheme currency.

Why are the products overpriced? Is it to help pay for the R&D? Usana spends nothing on R&D.

Usana is full of conflicts. I.e. the medical advisory board - all top level distributors.

The comparative guide is conflicted as well. do some homework.

its a scam

Anonymous said...

You wrote: "The Usana product has a regular wholesale price of $118.89 for a 28 day supply, while
the Animal Pak product has a price of $18.50 for a 22 day supply.
Usana 28 day supply @ $ 118.89 = $ 4.25 daily cost
Animal 22 day supply @ $ 18.50 = $ 0.84 daily cost
As you can see, the Usana daily cost of $4.25 is $3.41 more per day than the Animal Pak,
or 406% more expensive."



The pricing you quoted above for the Health Pak 100 and the "animals?" is comparing apples to oranges.

The health pak 100 includes 3 different products in daily packets while the Usanimals (you called them "animals") are daily vitamins only for kids.

So if you want to compare the daily vitamins only for adults and kids then you would be comparing apples to apples.

The daily vitamins for adults, (Essentials), wholesale for $44.39; the daily vitamins for teens, (Body Rox), wholesale for $19.94; and the daily vitamins for kids, (Usanimals), wholesale for $13.89.

So as you can see the disparity is certainly not 406%. Also, an adult vitamin would have a larger quantity ingrediants than kids or teens products which would naturally increase the price.

I just wanted to set your record straight on the quote at the top, assuming the "animal pak" you were referring to is USANA's Usanimals.
Thanks

Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous poster from May 20th - you need to do your homework:
You said - "Why are the products overpriced? Is it to help pay for the R&D? Usana spends nothing on R&D."
How do you know they spend nothing on R & D? They have just been awarded a patent for a self preserving skin care system and have a few to several patents in the pipeline.
How can they do this without R & D?

You said: "Usana is full of conflicts. I.e. the medical advisory board - all top level distributors."

Another falsehood with general claimes and no real substance. Out of the 5 currently on the board (USANA.COM WEBSITE) there are two that are active distributors and at "Ruby" level they are certainly not "top level".


You Said: "The comparative guide is conflicted as well. do some homework."

In what way is it conflicted? If you are going to make a sweeping statement you should back it up. If you are refering to the author, he was not a USANA associate when he first published this guide. He became an associate after the fact and because of his research - that USANA was superior to anything else that he compared it with.

Homework is a good idea all around.

Lesli said...

I was a Usana associate for two years, until I accepted that I'd never earn a profit, and I could not afford to continue. The products were good but far overpriced. And The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements has suffered from a conflict of interest in the past, being far too closely associated with Usana. Reviewer Denis Waitley, a Usana board member, has been discredited, and another reviewer, Dr. Christine Wood, is closely associated with Usana. I see they do not appear on the cover of the new edition, so perhaps some positive changes have been made in the comparison bases as well.

I do want to say that not all network marketing companies have such appallingly high attrition rates. After my loss with Usana, I found a company where people actually do remain as customers without building a business because the products are worthy.

Anonymous said...

Someone Said "Another falsehood with general claimes and no real substance. Out of the 5 currently on the board (USANA.COM WEBSITE) there are two that are active distributors and at "Ruby" level they are certainly not "top level"."

You sure about that?

I guess you can scratch Ladd McNamara's name off that list.

Anonymous said...

Well, I too was a USANA "rep" for a few years and the claim that 88% join for the product or product discount is such a bold face lie that I can hardly believe I read it. It's all about money and getting people in the business so you can get rich quick and quit your job. It's basically no different then Amway no matter what you are told. Trust me on that one!

DavidT said...

Alex,

I wanted to thank you for your assessment of these charges against USANA. After reading Mr. Minkow's statement on his "fraud institute" site I, like you, was so moved. Too the contrary I was unmoved by a lot of it. As your article pointed out it seemed one sided or that while presentated as just the facts, only choice facts found throughout his investigation were brought to light. The ones that made USANA look like they were hiding something. I Goggled Mr. Minkow to find out a little more about just who he was and perhaps what motivated his attack. While the cost of setting up a website and making a video for U Tube are fairly inexpenseve. Taking out an ad in the Wall Street Journal, not so much. and pay to take out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal to perpetuate you in my opinion amounts to a lot of smoke and mirrors.

In my Google search I was directed to Wikepedia which describes Mr. Minkow like this: "an American religious leader and ex-convict." It goes on to outline how Mr. Minkow is not just any old felon but was convicted of fraud with ties to organized crime. According to the information from Wikpedia he ultimately bilked investors (like the ones he now claims to champion) out of over $28 million. I believe that the saying goes; something smells rotten in Denmark.

As the fraud sits on his high horse pointing fingers as the self-appoints judge of others integrity, he seems to do so with very little regard for truth. Much like when he was convicted, rather than offer any kind of remorse for the lives he'd destroyed, he made the excuse that "had intended to form a legitimate business empire and pay back everything before he could be found out." There is no mention made of him making any form a restitution for the millions of he swindled.

Sentenced to 25 years but only served 7 & 1/2 after he found religion during his rehabilitation. While I herald Mr. Winkow finding God, I'm suspect that it has truly taken based on his actions here. Fool me once-shame on you, fool me twice...

I really didn't need the Wikpedia information about Mr. Minkow as he list his real reasons on his website. Mr. Minkow bought options against USANA "after his investigation" that would only be of value if the company stock by 20% or greater. He did this in spite of every outside indicator that this was a solid growth company with excellent earnings as you point out in your own assessment. Why would he buck all outside resources and other experts in the field? Crystal ball? Rool of the dice? The most obvious answer is simple-the options. It would seem that he systematically set out to destroy this companies reputation and the livelihood of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of associates who partner with this company to manipulate the value of the companies stock for one primary reason, greed. Now his attacks make sense. That couldn't be it could it? He couldn't possible be showing he true colors yet again could he? Is this fraud just guilty of sloppy investigating or just reverting back to what he knows best?

I'd like to believe that this is an honest mistake on his part but the fact that he has such a vested interest in seeing this company do poorly it makes me pause. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it typically is a duck.
Perhaps he could use his sudden winfall to make restitution to all the real vitims of his fraud who did not have the fortune of consumer's advocate like himself as their protector.

Alex I also took a look at the USANA site to check out the prices because I couldn't understand why anyone in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars for vitamins. What I found was that that they have see the prices and found some errors in your report. USANA offers a basic multi-vitamin (Chelated Minerals) at a retail price of $16.15 or wholesale price of $13.46. I did a search on Vitaminshoppe.com and 20 pages of multi-vitamin ranging from $5.99 to $24.99. Where is the over pricing? Sound pretty much what I pay at my local health food store. Finding health through proper nutrition os far cheaper than a hospital stay these days. I know I should eat better and exercise more and yet I don't. If this company offers what it say it does and I gain better health as a result than who is this Winkow to judge?

One last thing I notice on the USANA sight was in addition to all their manufacturing claims they make and their own subjection to regular outside audits they also submitted to auditing and testing by the NSF (National Science Foundation) who certified them. I'll take their results over some lab that some fraud puts up anyday of the week.

The Health Pak that you spoke of was a multi-vitamin, a mega antioxidant, active calcium and an AO Booster. I'm sure that a major cost of these pack is the old convenience factor. Instead of bulk bottles that we ussually get or even their own "Chelated" Minerals or the "Mega" Antioxidants the come in "easy and convenient" AM & PM packs.

How is that any difference than paying $1.49 for a single serving bottle of soda at the gas station when you can buy a 2 liter bottle at the grocery store, For that matter, buying Coke or Pepsi for $1.49 when you can the store brand cola for $.89. Some people will never see the value of paying twice as much for a name brand, the don't see the benefit-others do. I guess it's nice to have the option. I buy a soda every night at work from the vending machine for $1.25 when I could buy them in bulk when I grocery shop and bring them in with me for half the cost. Perhaps it's stupid but it's my choice. We live in a society of people who value convenience even when it seems to defy common sense. Am I being ripped off, yes and no. I know I have the option of looking around but I chose to take the easy way out.

I watched the video and while moved at the obvious feeling of loss this couple felt, ultimately felt it was an obvious ploy on my emotions. These people weren't dupe. Business is like an investment-there is always a risk. The purest definition of entrepreneur is risk taker. The lady in the video while seemingly very sincere didn't do her due diligence. She only took the information from the companies perspective. I have the responsibility to fully investigate something before they get involved. To honestly access if I have the skills necessary to succeed. 90% of all business fail within the first few years for a variety of reason. Nothing is 100%. This couple didn't go bankrupt, lose their house, car or other assets that people typical do when they lose a business. She invested a few hundred bucks and a few weeks or hours and expected to get what? A million dollars? She readily admits she gave up and quit. The people who stay with are the ones the company shows you because their still around, does Allstate tell you about all the disgruntled claimants or that your in good hands? Does Microsoft advertise about how many updates and errors a new product has or the benefits of the product? Of course not.

This seems more like sour grapes. I personally tried network marketing before, not once but twice. I failed both times. Does that mean it doesn't work, it's a scheme, a scam, a ripoff? No, it means it wasn't for me. I did like the lady in the video, went through my friends, got frustrated when I wasn't make hundred or thousand os dollars instantly and quit. I also still bet the lootery everyday just in case but I don't blame NY state when I don't win.

Like the lady in the video, I too had the I told you so spouse who let me get involved even though they knew better because of how excited I was. We made it through as did this couple but I hope that my wife and her husband voice their concerns before. Probably wouldn't have changed anything, I'm kinda hard headed but still. I could list a few things she's wasted money on that were a lot more frivolous than trying her hand at starting a business. My friends for gave me and we've even laughed about it over beers since then. We gave it the old college try. Who knows, I may even find the right company and be tempted to try it all over again...maybe I'll make a video about it!

Anonymous said...

Using USANA's Chelated Minerals as an example is some what deceiving as this is by far one of USANA's most inexpensive items. Do a comparison with many (most?) other USANA products and you will see that the price difference to competitors is jaw dropping!

Anonymous said...

Analysing the ratio of this share should not give you a true picture. The price were pushing up by investors. It's hard to say currrent price is right price.

But market should give it a right one. What happen if Mr Minkow lose? Should USANA price go up again?

If you are an investor, should you understand about how nutrition supplements can help people's health and these work on people's body before you make a decision to invest in this industry, then particularly lock into USANA?

Actually, it's very easy for an investor to make a decision whether worth or not. Just go to buy one animal Pak and Health Pak, to experience whether there is difference. If yes, that means price is not over price. If no, please don't invest in USANA but Animal.
To compare just paying $150 or $300 to try the nutritioin to the investment of $10K, It should give you any answer.

Mathematic calculation doesn't give you any truth unless you personal experience.

Anonymous said...

As associate of USANA, I would like to say, thank you, USANA.

Because of USANA, let me understand why we need nutrition supplements and how to select a brand of nutrition supplements.

Investment on share, we have so many type of models to analyze the return, then forecast its movement.

What's model or standard for nutrition supplement? It should not be so simple as what we thought.

Everyday, we are all interested about news of the airplane accidents, attacks...

But we are all not seeing every 3 minutes, an one 747 carring the people to die from heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes. every 3 minutes!!!!

If anyone have time here to argue about USANA, please take some time to look after your body.

If you are not believe that your end is on these diseases, please do something right now to prevent these diseases rather waiting a new tenology to extend the painful life.

Daily taking nutrition supplements has been proven helping the health. Whether USANA or other brand, all up to you. But if the products don't work, doesn't mean that the scientist give you wrong direction. It's you get a wrong brand.

Your life is just like a candle, burning out every second. If you are willing to use your priceless life to exchange for finding a product without overprice argument.

Does it worth to you to spend your life on something else.

So, thanks for USANA, it tells me a way how to look after myself. It's a knowledge I have never been taught in school,university.

You have your own 'USANA', I have my own. As long as it help your body, it's the good news I like to hear.

David said...

Many consumers of nutritional supplements, including CoEnzyme Q, do not realize that there is an impending danger to their Right to take nutritional supplements. Codex Alimentarius, or 'Codex' for short, a part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA, could result in an international body, the World Trade Center (WTC), restricting or banning the personal use of nutritional supplements. To prevent this from happening, consider supporting Dr. Ron Paul in his quest for the presidency of the United States. Ron Paul knows that individuals have rights and, as a Congressman, has introduced legislation to protect people's right to take nutritional supplements. Check it out at http://www.ronpaul2008.com/

Anonymous said...

Any pyramid scheme is a scam. Wake up Usana folks. You've been brainwashed.

Kimber said...

At this point in my life I am not with USANA. I have been in the business before and did not see any compensation for the money that I spent on my Auto-ship(monthly cost of keeping my business)
I will say this, eventhough I am no longer with USANA, I stand by their products. If people would just educate themselves on health and staying healthy, instead of just looking at the money they are saving, getting generic brands of vitamins, then they would see how innovative and worth the cost the actual products really are. They are unique not because I have been brain-washed but because I am have spent a great deal of time and effort learning about how the body works.

Plus, on a side note. . .
How much is leading a full and healthy life worth? Can you really put a price on that?

Anonymous said...

How can you all be so far off the science. Mr. Minkow is a felon and a fraud himself. Look at the science. My Mom has had MS for 32 years and has never taken a perscription drugs. She is a walking advocate for high quality nutritional supplements. SHe has been on Usana for several years and is amazing regarding her health. She is 77 and takes no drugs at all for anything. Do the research. If you did you would have found the following paper from Dr. Tim Woods VP of Research & Development for Usana Health Sciences.

The Case for Nutritional Supplements
In Primary Prevention

Tim Wood, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President, Research & Development
USANA Health Sciences, Inc.


Executive Summary

The value of nutritional supplements in promoting and protecting human health is intensely debated. Some argue that supplements provide a convenient and effective means for supplying the optimal intakes of essential nutrients that people need for good health. Others argue that there is no conclusive evidence that supplements provide any true health benefits at all. The latter argument has been bolstered over the past several years by a steady stream of negative research reports published in leading medical journals.

This paper examines the supplement debate and questions some of the recent evidence suggesting that nutritional supplements are ineffective and unsafe. It is argued that much of the current controversy and negativity surrounding nutritional supplements results from inappropriate use of a pharmaceutical, acute-care model in the clinical evaluation of nutritional products; products whose real value is in preventing rather than treating disease. As a result of this mismatch, nutritional supplements are often tested inappropriately, results of studies are interpreted less than objectively, and valid but non-clinical evidence of benefit is often discounted or ignored.

As a case in point, I focus on vitamin E supplements and their role in preventing heart disease. But the central tenets raised in this paper pertain to nutritional supplements in general, and to much broader issues surrounding the field of primary prevention as a whole. We now spend about $2.0 trillion dollars annually on healthcare in the US. Ninety-eight percent of this spending goes to the treatment of injuries and disease. And, the lion’s share goes to the treatment of chronic degenerative diseases (e.g. heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes), the leading causes of premature death and disability in our society. Only 2% of our healthcare dollars are spent on primary prevention; measures designed to keep healthy people healthy this, despite the fact that most chronic degenerative diseases are highly (60-90%) preventable.

In this light, increased emphasis on primary prevention holds tremendous potential for improving the effectiveness of our healthcare system. Most Americans have the opportunity to add years of health to their lives by embracing prudent lifestyle strategies and habits over the long-term. Clearly, such strategies need to be broad-based, encompassing diet, nutrition, exercise, stress management, and the avoidance of harmful habits like smoking. And just as clearly, a program of responsible supplementation, designed to compliment healthy eating habits and provide the advanced levels of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants required for lifelong health, can play an important role in this endeavor. The science, when approached broadly with an open mind, is convincing on this point.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Wood is Executive Vice President of Research and Development for USANA Health Sciences, Inc. He received his Ph.D. in the Biological Sciences from Yale University in 1980. He also holds an MBA from the Gore School of Business. Dr. Wood joined USANA Health Sciences in 1996 and has overseen the company’s Research and Development, Quality Assurance, and International Regulatory efforts since that time.

Introduction

The value of nutritional supplements in promoting and protecting human health is intensely debated. Some argue that supplements provide a convenient and effective means for supplying, on a daily basis, the optimal intakes of essential nutrients that people need for good health. Others argue that there is no conclusive evidence that supplements provide any true health benefits at all. The latter argument has been bolstered over the past several years by a steady stream of negative research reports published in leading medical journals. Several such papers have concluded that antioxidants and B vitamin supplements are ineffective at reducing the risks of heart disease and cancer (Lee et al, 2006; Kirsh et al, 2006;Zoungas et al, 2006). Others have reported that calcium and vitamin D supplements provide at best incomplete protection against osteoporosis (c.f. Jackson et al, 2006). Still others have questioned the safety of nutritional supplements (c.f. Bjelakovic et al, 2004, Bairati et al, 2005; Miller et al, 2005). Each time such studies appear, newspaper headlines blare “Supplements Proven to Be Snake Oil” or “Vitamin E May Be Deadly”. Morning talk shows feature doctors and alternative practitioners who argue over the latest findings. Sadly, the public grows more confused about what to believe concerning the role of nutrition and nutritional supplements in health.

This paper examines the supplement debate and questions some of the recent evidence suggesting that nutritional supplements are ineffective and unsafe. I argue that much of the current controversy and negativity surrounding the benefits of nutritional supplements result from inappropriate use of a pharmaceutical, acute-care model in the clinical evaluation of nutritional products - products whose real value is in preventing rather than treating disease. It is further argued that while the case against supplements may be evidence-based, the relevance of much of that evidence is questionable.


Healthcare versus Disease Management

This year, Americans will spend $2 trillion on healthcare (Borger et al, 2006). This enormous sum represents about $7,000 in healthcare spending for every man, woman, and child in the US. It also equates to a spending rate of more than $60,000 per second…and that’s 24-7-365. How is this money being spent? Ninety-eight percent goes to the treatment of injuries and disease, and the lion’s share of this goes to the treatment of chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and the like. Today, these are the leading causes of premature death and disability in our society (CDC, 2002).

In comparison, only 2% of our healthcare dollars are spent on primary prevention - measures designed to keep healthy people healthy. This despite the fact that all of the chronic degenerative diseases listed above are highly preventable. It is estimated, for example, that 60-70% of the current cases of heart disease could have been prevented through improved nutrition, better exercise habits, avoidance of smoking, and the adoption of other healthy lifestyle habits (Koop, 2002). Similar statistics apply to the prevention of cancer, stroke, cataracts, osteoporosis, and macular degeneration (c.f. Michel, 2002; Rosenthal, 2002). Type 2 diabetes is thought to be 90% preventable, largely through improved nutrition and exercise (Hu et al, 2001).

This lopsided pattern in spending is a clear reflection of today’s dominant healthcare paradigm; one that focuses on disease treatment rather than disease prevention. Ours is a reactive as opposed to proactive healthcare system. We wait for people to develop chronic illnesses, and then we spend enormous amounts of money treating those illnesses. The alternative, a focus on primary prevention and an investment in keeping healthy people healthy, receives lip service, but is largely ignored in practice. Clearly our healthcare system is less about caring for health and more about managing disease.

It is also a system of high-tech, acute-care medicine based on the promise of powerful, fast acting drugs and surgeries that produce therapeutic results in hours, days or weeks. We spend tens of billions of dollars every year on medical research in a quest to develop ever more effective diagnostics, drugs, drug delivery systems, implants, and surgeries (Meeks, 2002). And we spend billions more on patenting these technologies. Why? Because our healthcare system is lucrative. It is no accident that we spend $2 trillion annually on healthcare in the US, that pharmaceutical companies rank among the most profitable in America, and that our healthcare costs are rising at near double-digit rates that surpass inflation and growth in our Gross Domestic Product (Polich, 2005; Borger et al, 2006).

To be sure, acute, treatment-based medicine is useful and effective in dealing with urgent medical conditions such as trauma, infection, or incipient heart attacks. However, our almost singular focus on reactive, acute-care medicine also carries serious limitations, costs and liabilities. This approach is not particularly effective in dealing with chronic degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. After decades of research, we still have no reliable cures for these diseases. We can treat them and manage them, but we cannot cure them. Moreover, this approach is expensive, both in dollars spent and in years of health lost to premature death and disability. Chronic diseases rob far too many Americans of their health, independence, and quality of life far too early (Michaud et al, 2001). Finally, acutely acting medicines and surgeries have many undesirable side effects. Every year, prescription drugs - taken as prescribed - injure more than 1.5 million Americans so severely that they require hospitalization. One hundred thousand others are killed by prescription drugs, making such medicines a leading cause of death in the United States (Lazarou et al, 1998).

A Vital Role for Primary Prevention

Is there a better way? I would argue that rebalancing our healthcare system to include a larger emphasis on primary prevention is an essential step. I would further argue that we can act now. We know enough today about the principles of primary prevention, and about the basics of a healthy lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, stress management, avoidance of smoking, etc) to implement significant improvements without delay. And I would argue that nutritional supplementation can play a vital role in this arena.

The research is clear. Diet and nutrition play key roles in supporting good health (WHO, 2003). It is equally clear that Americans, as a whole suffer from generally poor nutritional habits (Frazao, 1999). As a nation we are overfed and undernourished. Two thirds of American adults are overweight or obese (Flegal et al, 2002; Hedley et al, 2004), and high percentages of us are chronically deficient for one or more of the essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (FASEB, 1995).

Some would argue that this problem lies in poor diet alone; that all we need to do is eat better. Clearly, a healthy well balanced diet is an absolute foundation for any program of optimal nutrition. But is a healthy diet enough? Can we obtain “optimal levels” of the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants on a routine basis from diet alone? Many, including myself, argue “no”; that optimal intakes of the essential nutrients, intakes required to optimize health and minimize the risk of chronic diseases, are significantly higher than the amounts that can be obtained routinely from food (and significantly higher than the current RDA’s). In my view, optimal nutrition is best achieved through a combination of a healthy well balanced diet plus a responsible program of nutritional supplementation. In my view, a healthy diet and nutritional supplements are not mutually exclusive. This is not an “either-or” proposition. It is an “and” proposition.

Is there substantial scientific evidence to support this notion? Yes. There are hundreds of scientific studies showing that regular and responsible use of nutritional supplements can benefit people’s health both in the short- and long-terms (Dickinson, 1998). Have all supplement studies shown positive benefits, and are all the findings consistent? No. As with any body of exploratory research, negative findings and inconsistent results appear in the mix. But when the science is reviewed in full, the evidence for defined benefits is convincing. There are scores of studies supporting the role of calcium and vitamin D supplementation for promoting strong, mineral-rich bones and reducing the risk and progression of osteoporosis (c.f. Chevalley et al, 1994; Dawson-Hughes et al, 1997; Chapuy et al, 1994; Recker et al, 1996; Larsen et al, 2004). There are scores of studies supporting the use of B vitamin supplements for reducing the risks of some birth defects and lowering some markers of heart disease (c.f. MRC Vitamin Study Research Group, 1991; Berry et al, 1999; Czeizel and Dudas, 1992; Lobo et al, 1999; Woodside et al, 1998; Bronstrup et al, 1998; Schnyder et al, 2002). In addition, numerous studies link antioxidant supplementation to reduced incidence of cataracts, heart disease, and some cancers (Jacques et al, 1997; Mares-Perlman et al, 2000; AREDS Research Group, 2001; Stampfer et al, 1993; Stephens et al, 1996; Clark et al, 1998; Meyer et al, 2005). Fish oil supplements have been shown to support improved cardiovascular health and neural development (GISSI-Prevenzione Investigators, 1999; Bucher et al, 2002; Studer et al, 2005; Carlson et al, 1993; Birch et al, 2000). And the list goes on.

Why then, is the role of nutritional supplementation in healthcare so hotly debated? Clearly, this is a complex issue, but I believe that much of this debate stems from a fundamental incompatibility between our current healthcare paradigm (acute, disease-focused medicine) and the basic tenets of primary prevention. Moreover, current approaches to medical research, geared largely toward the evaluation of acute, fast-acting medicines and surgeries, are in most cases inappropriate for the study of long-term primary preventive measures like nutritional supplementation. As a result, nutritional supplements are often tested inappropriately, results of studies are interpreted less than objectively, and valid but non-clinical evidence of benefit is often discounted or ignored.


Conventional Medicine Looks at Vitamin E: A Case in Point

These challenges are perhaps most evident in the scientific literature concerning vitamin E supplements and heart disease. In the early 1990’s, a large body of scientific evidence pointed to oxidative stress as a disease process in the onset and progression of atherosclerosis. This same research suggested in various ways that antioxidants like vitamin E might be important in preventing this disorder. Numerous epidemiological (population based) studies, many involving tens of thousands of subjects, concluded with consistency that people who consumed high amounts of vitamin E through diet and supplements were at 30-50% lower risk for heart attacks or death due to heart disease relative to those people who consumed minimal amounts of vitamin E (Stampfer et al, 1993; Rimm et al, 1993; Losonczy et al, 1996; Kushi et al, 1996; Meyer et al, 1996). Typically, the levels of vitamin E that were protective totaled hundreds of International Units per day, many times higher than the Recommended dietary Allowance (RDA).

A. An Early Clinical Evaluation

To further test this protective effect, clinical research on vitamin E supplementation and heart disease was undertaken at several centers. In January 2000, results from one of the first such studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Yusuf et al, 2000). The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) involved over 9,500 subjects 55 years of age or older who were at high risk for cardiovascular events because they had advanced cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or similar risk factors. Over half, in fact, had had a previous heart attack. Half the subjects in the trial were assigned at random to take 400 IU daily of natural-source vitamin E. The remainder were given placebo capsules. Average follow-up was 4.5 years, during which time, subjects were monitored for primary and secondary cardiovascular events such as nonfatal heart attacks, stroke, angina, and death.

Results of the HOPE study showed that, after 4.5 years, there were no significant differences in the numbers of heart attacks, strokes, reports of angina, or deaths due to heart disease between the treatment and placebo groups. The authors of the paper correctly and appropriately concluded that “in patients at high risk [emphasis added] for cardiovascular events, treatment with vitamin E for 4.5 years has no apparent effect on cardiovascular outcomes”.

Unfortunately, while the conclusions reached by the authors were appropriate, much of the editorializing in the medical and popular press was not. Instead, headlines and sound bites touted the results of the HOPE study as conclusive proof that vitamin E supplements provided no benefits for cardiovascular health. Others declared the findings as “the last nail in the coffin for vitamin E”.

HOPE is only one of several clinical trials to have evaluated the efficacy of vitamin E in preventing cardiovascular events in high-risk groups. While two such trials showed significant benefit (Stephens et al, 1996; Boaz et al, 2000), the majority, like the HOPE study, produced disappointing results (GISSI-Prevenzione Investigators, 1999; Collaborative Group of the PPP, 2001). Does this mean that vitamin E is ineffective as a preventive agent? In answering this question, two important issues need to be addressed.

First, the standard model for clinical research requires testing one remedy (one drug) at a time, so that the true, isolated effect of that drug can be identified and measured. This is good science. However, it is not necessarily appropriate in the field of preventive nutrition.

Humans require a full range of some 25-plus essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, in proper amounts and balances, to support good health. This is because vitamins and minerals work in teams to support, for example, robust energy metabolism and protein synthesis. Similarly, antioxidants work most effectively in groups and networks (Packer and Obermuller-Jevic, 2002), each playing a unique role in channeling and quenching the chain-like series of oxidative reactions that can result from a single oxidative event. As such, high-doses of a single nutrient represent an incomplete and inappropriate approach to boosting overall antioxidant protection. This would be analogous to testing the hypothesis that broccoli has cancer-preventive properties by putting people on an all- broccoli diet. It’s not likely to work, and it carries the risk of creating nutrient imbalances, unwanted side effects, and experimental artifacts.

Second, an important distinction needs to be drawn between primary and secondary prevention. Primary prevention involves keeping healthy people healthy. It is about preventing the development of disorders like heart disease in the first place. Secondary prevention is about preventing further progression of a disease that people already have (CDC, 1992). Moreover, because chronic diseases like heart disease and osteoporosis develop over a lifetime, primary prevention needs to be viewed as a lifelong (decades long) undertaking. It is not something that is accomplished over a year or a few years. Within this context, the HOPE study was clearly a secondary prevention trial. It had nothing to do with primary prevention. Study subjects were selected because they already had advanced heart disease. Consequently, attributing the findings of this study to the general (healthy) public is inappropriate.

Is it possible for something to be an effective primary preventive agent without being an effective secondary preventive agent? I believe so. Dentists tell us to floss our teeth to prevent tooth decay and avoid the need for root canal surgery. If you were to select a group of people with advanced tooth decay, many who had chronic tooth aches, and divided them into two groups, telling one to floss regularly and the other to refrain from flossing, what do you think would happen? Would the flossing group experience significantly fewer tooth aches, fewer tooth extractions and fewer root canal surgeries in the short-term? Probably not; the flossing came too late in the day to change the course of existing disease.

A similar situation may exist with respect to vitamin E and heart disease. It is very possible that vitamin E, acting as an antioxidant over the long-term, may help to prevent atherosclerosis. Epidemiological research certainly supports this notion. However, vitamin E may be ineffective in preventing the rupture of existing atherosclerotic plaques (thus triggering a heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death). The HOPE trial and similar clinical studies support this notion. As such, vitamin E supplementation may be an effective long-term measure for the primary prevention of heart disease, while being an ineffective short-term secondary prevention measure or cure (Lewis, 2004). Clearly this hypothesis deserves attention, and the following study put it to the test.

B. Vitamin E and the Primary Prevention of Heart Disease

In 2005, the results of a clinical trial on vitamin E supplementation for primary prevention of heart disease and cancer were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Lee et al, 2005). This randomized placebo-controlled study involved almost 40,000 women at least 45 years of age who had no history of heart disease or cancer. Half of the women were assigned to the vitamin E treatment (600 IU natural-source vitamin E every other day). Half were assigned to placebo. Average follow-up was just over 10 years. As such, this trial differed from the HOPE study in that it was a true primary prevention trial. Moreover, it lasted a full decade, an improvement over HOPE’s 4.5 year duration.

Results of the study indicated that vitamin E had no effect on cancer incidence or cancer mortality. However, there were notable benefits for cardiovascular health. Overall, vitamin E use showed a protective trend toward reducing the risk of total major cardiovascular events among all women in the study. While individual impacts on heart attacks and stroke were nil, there was a statistically significant 24% reduction in cardiovascular deaths among women in the vitamin E group. And importantly, when the data for women at least 65 years old were examined separately, there was a significant 26% reduction in major cardiovascular events, which included a 34% reduction in nonfatal heart attacks and a 49% reduction in cardiovascular death. These are very significant protective effects, and they are particularly relevant because women tend to suffer from heart disease in their senior years following menopause (Mosca et al, 1997). As such, if vitamin E were to have an effect, it would likely be most pronounced in this age group.

Despite these findings, the conclusions reported in the abstract of the study were as follows.

“The data from this large trial indicated that 600 IU of natural-source vitamin E taken every other day provided no overall benefit for major cardiovascular events or cancer, did not affect total mortality, and decreased cardiovascular mortality in healthy women. These data do not support recommending vitamin E supplementation for cardiovascular disease or cancer prevention among healthy women.”

This despite the fact that vitamin E supplements reduced cardiovascular deaths by 24% across all women and by 49% among women 65 years or older. Why was this benefit largely ignored? Because cardiovascular death, while measured in the study, was not a specified clinical parameter – in other words, because the study was not specifically designed to report on this benefit. So instead the authors concluded there was “no overall benefit” and that the results of the study “[did] not support recommending vitamin E supplementation for healthy women.”

These conclusions appear less than objective, and they beg the question of bias against nutritional supplements, or primary prevention, or both in the medical community. Would it not have been more appropriate to conclude that vitamin E had an apparent primary preventive effect against heart disease in women, and that the benefits were most significant in senior women…the group at highest risk for suffering a major cardiovascular event? I will return to this point later.

C. The Safety of Vitamin E is Questioned

In January 2005, a research article entitled “Meta-Analysis: High-Dosage Vitamin E Supplementation May Increase All-Cause Mortality” was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a respected medical journal (Miller et al, 2005). This study called the safety of vitamin E supplements into question. It was conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions who pooled the results of 19 clinical trials involving vitamin E supplementation at doses of 16 to 2,000 IU per day. In total, the 19 trials included almost 136,000 subjects. In none of the individual trials was a statistically significant increase in mortality observed from vitamin E supplementation. But when the 19 trials were examined together, there were weak but apparent trends towards decreased mortality in subjects taking low doses of vitamin E (< 400 IU/d) and increased mortality in subjects taking high doses of vitamin E ( 400 IU/d). The overall conclusion of the statistical analysis was that high-dose vitamin E may increase the risk of all-cause mortality by about 5%, and therefore, should be avoided.

Could the results be real? Yes, it is possible. At high doses, some essential nutrients can produce imbalances and adverse effects (Hathcock, 1997a). Nevertheless, three important points argue against the conclusions of this study. First, the toxicology and safety of vitamin E have been extensively reviewed, and experts agree that tolerable upper intakes are on the order of 1000 mg per day (about 1500 IU per day) (Hathcock, 1997b, Food and Nutrition Board, Hathcock et al, 2005). Second, several large epidemiological studies that identified and followed groups of people consuming high doses of vitamin E (>400 IU/d) over the long-term, did not show increased risk of mortality. In fact they generally showed a reduced risk of dying relative to those people consuming the least amounts of vitamin E (Stampfer et al, 1993; Rimm et al 1993; Losonczy et al, 1996; Meyer et al, 1996; Kushi 1999).

Third, while it is possible that high-dose vitamin E could have adverse effects for certain groups, the Johns Hopkins study did not provide conclusive evidence of harm. The study suffered from several important weaknesses. As noted by the authors themselves, all of the studies included in the meta-analysis were conducted on subjects who were chronically ill. They included patients with heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, or related disorders. In short, the subjects were at high risk for dying to begin with. In addition, many of the studies included in the analysis were small, containing several hundred as opposed to several thousand subjects. And in fact, the smaller studies were the ones that typically showed the larger deviations from normal mortality rates. Given these issues, the authors concluded that “the generalizability of the findings to healthy adults is uncertain”.

Moreover, a third and critical weakness of the analysis was largely overlooked. In all, the authors identified 36 studies involving vitamin E supplementation that fit the primary criteria for review. Of these, 19 were included in the final meta-analysis, five were excluded because mortality data was not available or was insufficiently reported, and 12 studies were excluded because not enough people died in them. This latter exclusion is suspect. The authors suggest that mortality data was available, but close to zero in both the vitamin E and control treatments. I would argue that this is not a sufficient and rational reason for excluding the studies from the analysis. And given the weak nature of the trends as reported in the paper, it is highly likely that no effect of vitamin E on all-cause mortality would have been seen had the 12 additional studies been included in the meta-analysis. As such, I believe that the results and conclusions of the study are seriously flawed and biased. I would be less critical if the title of the paper had been “High-Dosage Vitamin E Supplementation May Increase All-Cause Mortality in Very Ill Subjects at High Risk for Dying”; and if the conclusion had been that high dose vitamin E should be used cautiously by chronically ill people in that high risk group. But these distinctions were not evident in the paper or the press.


The Need for a Broader Healthcare Perspective

Our current approach to healthcare, with its almost singular focus on reactive acute-care medicine, presents challenges for the study and implementation of long-term primary preventive healthcare measures, including nutritional supplementation. As the cases discussed above illustrate, nutritional supplements are often tested inappropriately, results of studies are interpreted less than objectively, and valid but non-clinical evidence of benefit is often ignored or discounted.

Do these studies constitute bad science? Clearly, some of the methodologies are flawed. The criteria for exclusion of studies from the Johns Hopkins meta-analysis are questionable, and they likely biased the results and conclusions of this research. However, the real challenge is not so much one of poor science as it is one of inappropriate approach and trial design. The majority of studies on the health benefits of nutritional supplements have tested supplements as though they were acute-acting therapeutic agents expected to provide dramatic health benefits over the short-term in acutely ill people. This is a fundamentally flawed outlook.

The principal value of nutritional supplementation lies in primary prevention; that is, in approaches to keeping healthy people healthy. Importantly, primary prevention is also a lifelong undertaking. We suffer heart attacks and hip fractures as seniors, but the roots of heart disease and the beginnings of osteoporosis are evident in childhood and adolescence. As such, the prevention of these diseases needs to begin in childhood and progress lifelong. The timeframes of primary prevention are measured in decades and lifetimes, not in hours, days, months, or years.

Such long timeframes are beyond the purview of acute-care medicine, in part because they pose significant operational challenges for clinical research. How does one manage a double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, the gold standard of medical science, over a period of decades? Epidemiological studies more easily embrace long timeframes, and as such are useful in studying preventive measures. However, they also tend to be less well controlled and less precise. This troubles many in mainstream medicine who then discount or disregard epidemiological science altogether. Does this constitute tunnel vision? I believe it does. Our understanding of the link between a balanced diet and long-term health is largely based on epidemiology. Our understanding of the link between smoking and lung cancer is largely based on epidemiology. In short, good epidemiological research constitutes sound science and should not be discounted or ignored (Kushi, 1999; Potischman and Weed, 1999). It was a mistake in 1964 when the American Medical Association refused to endorse the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking (the AMA was the last public health organization to do so), claiming that the research was inconclusive (Weiner, 1996). And it is a mistake today to overlook epidemiology in assessing the role of nutritional supplements in preventive healthcare. In short, advances in primary prevention will require healthcare scientists to review and give serious consideration to a broad body of scientific evidence that extends well beyond the clinical trial paradigm.

It will also require a more open-minded and objective interpretation of results. The finding that vitamin E supplementation, over a 10 years period, reduced cardiovascular deaths by 24% in women over 45 years of age, and by 49% in women over 65 years of age (Lee et al, 2005) may have been disappointing to those steeped in acute care medicine (although I don’t understand why). But these are significant and positive findings within the context of primary prevention. In short, vitamin E worked. Why then did the authors conclude that it “provided no overall benefit for major cardiovascular events” and refrain from recommending vitamin E supplementation for the primary prevention of heart disease? And why did the popular press lead their coverage of this study with headlines stating “Vitamin E Gets and ‘F’”? Simply put, the findings did not fit the paradigm.

Poor reporting and bias in the press is easy to understand. Most journalists are not trained scientists, statisticians, or healthcare professionals. As such, they are not qualified to interpret medical studies objectively and competently. Moreover, Job One at major news organizations involves selling more newspapers and capturing more viewers, and they accomplish this by crafting controversial headlines and scary sound bites. If you want the masses to listen, frighten them. Unfortunately, the delivery of objective and complete information appears to be a distant Job Two.

This is an unfortunate situation, in that many Americans rely on the popular press for their health information. As such, the sensational and controversial coverage given to nutrition news has generated confusion, doubt, and skepticism in the public’s mind, turning many against the diet and health message (Patterson et al, 2001).

Why would medical professionals have a negative bias against nutritional supplements? Several reasons come to mind. Most doctors receive no more than a few hours of nutritional training during their medical education. They know little about nutrition and the important role it plays in human health. Second, many express concerns that their patients might use supplements as an excuse to eat poorly. This concern has proved to be unfounded. Surveys show that supplement users tend to be health-conscious and to follow generally healthy habits. Third, many doctors have a low opinion of the nutritional supplement industry - and rightfully so. Too many supplement companies sell substandard products that fail to meet pharmaceutical standards for potency, purity, and efficacy. Too many companies fail to pay sufficient attention to safety. And too many companies make false and outrageous health claims for their products. Clearly this industry needs an overhaul to win the respect and confidence of doctors and the general public. But just as clearly, there are very reputable supplement companies in business today; companies that have adopted pharmaceutical standards for product quality, safety and efficacy; company’s that deserve the public’s trust.

These issues aside, I believe that the most significant barrier to the open consideration of supplement use in mainstream healthcare is the closed mind. Primary prevention, the focus of keeping healthy people healthy, lies outside the acute-care paradigm, and so it is ignored. Some in the mainstream pay lip service to prevention, but few base their practices or research careers on it. And sadly, because primary prevention is “alien”, it is often derided as “ineffective”, “too slow”, “unreliable”, “clinically unproven”, and “only partially effective”.

Unfortunately, these attitudes carry over to nutritional supplements. As tools of primary prevention, nutritional supplements also lie outside the acute care paradigm. When they are evaluated within that paradigm for short-term treatment / curative benefits, one or two nutrients at a time, on chronically ill people, they often fail. These failures, in turn, are judged as evidence that supplements have no benefit whatsoever.

Clearly it’s time to challenge these notions and views. Change may begin at the grass roots level, as rising healthcare costs threaten to close the doors of access to good medical care. Today, too many Americans literally can’t afford to get sick. Our alternative is primary prevention. We can choose to take charge of our health by adopting prudent lifestyle strategies and habits for staying healthy long-term. Nutritional supplementation can play an important role in this endeavor. The science, when approached broadly with an open mind, is convincing on this point. As components of healthy living, nutritional supplements can help people add years of health to their lives.

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Anonymous said...

To the previous poster, you might want to check Timothy Woods credentials again. He DOES NOT have a PhD in Biological Sciences. It's in Forestry.

There's also a HUGE difference between an independent report and one done by someone who works for the company.

Also, the company spends next to NOTHING on R&D had has almost no patents on their products or processes.

Anonymous said...

To the person who left the entire summary on the blog - next time, post a website address. That was 2 seconds of scrolling down that I'll never get back!!

I was approached by an USANA representative. When I spoke with her on the telephone (I don't really want to get into how I know her, but suffice it to say, we were not friends but knew one another in a professional setting), she was very personable and suggested we get together for a drink or coffee. I do not recall her bringing USANA up on the phone, however, I was at work and she may have (though I do not believe she did) mention that she had a home business. Home business to me does not automatically mean pyramid scheme. So we met up with each other for a drink, then she dropped the USANA bombshell on me. I was quite disappointed that she did not bring up her intention during our phone call, and it was at that point that my guard went up. USANA may be an excellent product, however, I do not appreciate being "tricked" into a "business" meeting with someone. I am not a person interested in joining a pyramid scheme (which she dismissed as saying "In school, there are principals, so they are at the top of the pyramid - the students are at the bottom. Everything is a pyramid scheme."), however, I was open to the idea of their health supplements and line of skin care. I became somewhat indifferent again when she encouraged me to come to a meeting, and set up the date. Maybe I'm not affirmative enough to say "No, sorry, not interested" and that's perhaps what I should have said. However, I watched the DVD, and became more certain that this was not for me. So, I decided not to go to the meeting. The next day, I received an email saying how she felt slighted. I did not bring up the fact that I felt used and angry that I was tricked into meeting with her so she could pitch USANA to me.

I have taken many psychology courses (I have my degree in psych), and USANA uses the tried and true tools of a sales person. I'm not saying this is wrong, but they do all the "right" things. It's funny, I actually learned something from my university education!! Like when I took a sip from my drink, she mirrored my actions. When I took my sunglasses off, she took hers off. When I leaned back, so did she, and so forth. Since I kind of know what to look for, I knew what the warning signs were. Plus she was very interested in listening to me, and stories about me, so that kind of tipped me off. I mean, hey, I'm an extraordinarily interesting person, but even I get tired of hearing me talk about myself!!

My point? Let people know your intentions when you meet with them to talk about USANA. That way, you avoid the mental block. Let them know that hey, if you don't want to join as an associate, that's cool. Try our product, and if you want to buy from me, cool. I did receive a sample of the skin care, and I plan on trying it, and if it's a good product, I will continue to use it.

Anonymous said...

honestly, usana is a company you need to look at yourself. make an appointment with them, and check it out. people totally misjudge this company. ive been to a couple trainings and appointments myself, and could never make anyone understand the way you do when youre actually there, listening to the presentation. you could also go to usana.com and watch the about me online. check out the apple experiment. then youll understand why theyre more expensive than their competition. ive only heard good things about this company, personally. check it out, seriously. joining this compan changed so many peoples lives for the better.

Anonymous said...

In response the poster above

If "The Apple Experiment" is the best you can come up with to try and give USANAs product claims a boost than they're in worse shape than I thought. I've read around on the net and I've checked out what people are saying and everything with USANA leads back to a financial incentive. The products have nothing which put them ahead of the competition. All USANA has is the comparative guide which is a complete hogwash. It's not independent and no real testing was done in writing it. Add to that all the fake educations of their editors and it's not worth the paper it's printed on. Do yourself a favor and get a product which is priced for quality not to support a pyramid scheme. Stay away from MLMs and just got to a store.

Anonymous said...

Hey you Americans, why don't you stop wasting your money buying stupid things like vitamins. You all have been brainwashed about "health". For Christ sakes, just eat good. Eat good food, and I mean good tasting food, with lots of nice fresh veggies. Keep off Mac & fake cheese.
It is hilarious to see Americans so concerned about healthy supplements and they don't look at the mirror to see how fat they are.
Just eat good.

NANCY said...

I absolutely love hearing everyone thinking USANA is a "pyramid scheme". I just laugh. I think it's hilarious. Can anyone define a pyramid scheme for me, please?

Those who take other people's word for it is like believing a rumor. How immature. Find out the facts for yourself. You can actually TALK to the people at the headquarters in Utah. I'm sure they will not turn you away.

As for the Comparative Guide. Obviously no one knows the background story to that. A Canadian athlete, Ben Johnson competed in the Olympics and won Gold. He was then tested positive for drugs from the vitamins he was taking so he was stripped of his medal as well as his country's. So he hired Dr. Lyle MacWillaim to do some research and rate the vitamin supplement companies in Canada and the US so people can find out which vitamin supplement companies actually work because he didn't want another person to have to go through what he had gone through. So there came the comparative guide which is a 3RD PARTY SOURCE. Dr. Lyle Macwilliam was not apart of USANA, although I guess he is now from what I just read? That is one thing I am not sure about but he is smart if he is apart of USANA.

And obviously our products are the best. We are in the PDR (Physican's Desk Reference) which is audited by the FDA every two years so if we were a "scam" we would have been shut down by now and we've been around for 16 years! The PDR has everything that your doctor's prescribe to you. They have guidelines to be in that book. It's Good Manufacturing Practices. We are the only public based vitamin supplement company in there. Obviously, after all that, you still believe it's a scam, I feel sorry for you. USANA is a great company and is unlike any other business in the world.

Speaking of the rest of the world, to the one who said Americans are brainwashed. Obviously you do not know that USANA is in 15 other countries as of right now so I'm sure your country has some Independent Associates there selling the products and are taking them as well. So technically, America is NOT the only country that takes vitamin supplements.

And those who have joined USANA and has quit from not seeing results.. tell me, how did your daily schedule look like? This is not a job where you just coast through it and you see a paycheck, it's a business in which you have to work HARD inorder to see results. The only way you can fail in network marketing is if you quit, don't listen and don't do anything.

You all only think USANA is a scam because they do not advertise. Tell me, if GNC were to do exactly what USANA is doing, would you think it's a scam? USANA does not advertise because that costs A LOT of money. They rather put that money into the quality of their products. Think about how much other companys advertise and how much money ACTUALLY goes into the products. Our founder, chose network marketing for a reason. He could have just opened a store and sold his products but he had a better vision for the world. Unlike other companies, our founder is a scientist so he's concentrated on the quality of the products rather than the money. A lot of people lack morals and ethics but I am proud to say that our founder does not choose money over ethics. There are good people out there running a business for the right reasons. People just like to believe every single person is evil and does not care for others. In believing that, you are obviously a cynic and very, very ignorant. If you think that, you too, are an evil person. Everyone else is evil besides you? That's crap.

It's sad that finally a good company is out and doing great things for the world is being accused of being a scam. That just goes to show that this world is incredibly cynical.

Yeah, we are such a scam. That's why USANA has a partnership with the Children's Hunger Fund. That's why Dr. Myron Wentz is helping children in Africa and Malaysia. That's why we don't advertise and want our products to be consistent in the quality. That's why we want to educate people on WHY taking vitamn supplements can help your life in the long run. That's why we educate those who are already taking vitamin supplements to take BETTER QUALITY so they are getting their moneys worth. Wow, we are such a scam. What terrible people we are. How can we live with ourselves?

usana said...

I have heard about that but not sure of it.

Anonymous said...

Notice how the USANA 'distributors' are here in droves leaving reams of false info or quoting from their site?


I lost my best friend of 30 years because:


She lied to me, along with her up the ladder leader that it was curing MS. (I had a friend with MS and she knew that)

They lied that it was all a tax deductible, then said later only if the Doctor writes a prescription, which would never happen.

They lied about how much of the business would be tax deductible.

They lied and said it would sell itself, was comparable in price to regular retail and that buying the business model would reap rewards with hardly any selling involved.

My friend bought product and made me buy it, using false claims.

The Usanimals were illegal to use here in Canada and yet stated on the label it was for children under 12. After the label was changed (pressured to do so so that the product could still come across the border) it was little dinosaurs which said 12 and up on the label, but was STILL offered by the sellers for children in the original animal/dinosaur shapes.(although their lawyer insisted they were only to be for teens and up, yet could not answer why they were still marketed in dinosaur shapes)

I could not go out for lunch without my friend tagging along so she could try to sell her product and claim the lunch as tax deduction...

No one in this business, unless they are ruthless scum, have no friends and only associates and high up the ladder, makes money at this. It is a scam.

anomymuos said...

issue: why are USANA products not sold in regular drug stores?

A. It is overpriced to support a pyramidal financial ladder. In order for the product to sell one has to "convince" friends and relatives of its "effectiveness" which is true to all vitamins. THEREBY UNKNOWINGLY OR BY GREED THE REPRESENTATIVES ARE SWINDLING THEIR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES OF THEIR HARD EARNED MONEY TO BUY AN OVERPRICED PRODUCTS OF COMPARABLE QUALITY READILY AVAILABLE IN REGULAR DRUG STORES.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS NOT ABOUT THE OVERWHELMING EFFECTIVENESS OF USANA PRODUCTS BUT IS ABOUT HOW TO SELL A REGULAR PRODUCT AT EXOBERANT PRICE TO SUPPORT A PYRAMIDAL FINANCIAL LADDER.

Anonymous said...

Please watch the animation "Welcome to the NHK!" episodes 17 and 18.

Not only are they relating to the MLM scene, but they are cut and paste of the exact thing that happened to me with USANA.

Keep Trying NANCY!!! said...

Nancy - YOUR COMMENTS ARE SO RIDICULOUS THEY MAKE ME WANT TO SCREAM!!!!!

What you're saying is so far off the mark its disgusting. You honestly believe Ben Johnson bankrolled Lyle MacWilliam book? You even call him "Dr. Lyle MacWilliam" *NEWSFLASH* Nancy, HE'S NOT A DOCTOR. HE'S NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR AND HE'S NOT A PHD. The book can't be third party because there are so many clear connections to USANA. I'm sure a Distributor like yourself is familiar with Dr.Ray Strand for example.

Your comments about the PDR is another WONDERFUL blunder on your part. The PDR doesn't do product testing or offer any evidence that USANA has a top notch product. Want to know how you get your product in the PDR? You have to have an upto date label (Either pharmaceutical for drug or food label for supplements like USANA) and you HAVE TO PAY!!! Those are your Guidelines. Way to go! You're also not the only vitamin supplement company in there!!!! READ THE BOOK!!!

Of course USANA has moved into new territories. Their opportunity in the US has practically dried up! Those foolish enough to join already have and with all the new information released (Think of USANAs complete failure to represent themselves in court against Minkow) few English speakers capable of doing a simple Google search to cut through the USANA BS are going to waste their time on a company where less than 1% see the "TRUE WEALTH" advertised.

We don't think USANA is a scam because they don't advertise. We think it's a scam because their products are over priced and recruiting seems to be the only way to make any money in this business. How's that for a definition of a pyramid scheme?

Dr.Wentz isn't helping kids in Malaysia. He's living high on the hog in Saint Kitts after tossing out his US citizenship and moving his companies stock to Lichtenstein. Keep drinking that USANA Kool-Aid Nancy. I'm sure it's doing you a whole world of good!!!!

Check my URL for some lovely videos produced about your companies bull.

Ivan Naluz said...

Guys, i just read this whole thing, and for me. Networking firms such as USANA or whatever company is a good way to get rich and earn a lot of money, reach dreams easier and stuff like that.

But like, before doing that requires you to be at the top. Pyramiding and all, they claim not to be but subliminally they are! i mean like, imagine, all these things that happened All throughout the whole company regarding the scam and all, and the arguements about their medical stuff regarding the definite grams that were missing and victims get brainwashed.

like, dudes. Wake up. There's no way you will get rich unless youre the very first associate in the company. Because whatever youre earning no matter how much you claim it to be bigger, the first ones who got there before you get the biggest! and yet you think yours is big already? and yet its just like a dot to what they get. I mean like, at the least you earn money right and you invested in something like that to make life easier, but like. Imagine, how would you feel about the associate you just hired/recruited when for example, the company gets sued or whatever and the company closes. Imagine all the invested money and the time spent and everything you have laundered on just go poof!

Medical stuffs, life saver, its all good and all. But like, need go through all this bull?

Its anyone's choice actually and im not commenting here to discriminate any networking/marketing firms, hey its a face-paced life and you gotta know pretty well where you spend your money on. and make the right choices, we all die in the end and if there is a way to prolong it that'd be so uber awesome, but if it would take your husband, your wife, friends, social life and change you for what you really are. I'd rather not take it.

I've had a lot of friends whom joined USANA and other networking companies who totally forgot who they were, literally threw away their friendship and some, actually left their own wives and kids and daughters just because of the money they "WERE" earning.

Just one last thing, dont let the money rule over, and never ever focus your whole life on just one goal, like, earning lots of money, making a fortune and everything like that. because like, in the end, if you give up everything just for the sake of making such amount of money, you might end up just with that money. No one to share it with, spend it with, nobody to enjoy it with, and if ever you may have anybody to share it with, it would only be people who are after what you have, or just plain happy-living associates sympathizing on your miserable life.

"I was once a networker." I earned the amount of money they claim to guarantee as long as you are determined and willing to give your all. But before everything went down in my life, i saw other people fall down first. and lots of them are very close friends, wherein money killed their whole personality and reanimated them into money-crazed table-talker maniacs. Never ever let it get to you.

Thank you sirs.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, and the analogue is?

Anonymous said...

USANA vitamins - I learn the truth as well

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't agree with it.

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