Carlon Colker, who has a long history of hyping sketchy supplements, including a deadly speed-like drug, is back at it with another new “miracle” product, and he’s getting a big push from pop singer Justin Bieber, who is hyping the product to his 59 million Twitter followers.
Bieber is hyping Colker in conjunction with the release of his new ads for Calvin Klein. They feature Bieber shirtless in seductive poses with model Lara Stone.
Colker says that he and a “team of scientists” have discovered an extract from egg yolk that inhibits Myostatin, a chemical that naturally occurs in the body and plays a role in muscle growth.
Forget the fact that legitimate researchers have been trying for 10 years to do the same thing without much luck. According to the federal Food & Drug Administration, no effective Myostatin inhibitor is currently on the market right now. Approval of the first effective drug is still a few years away.
But you wouldn’t know that according to Colker, a physician and bodybuilder. He’s been hyping his product as an inhibitor and selling it for as much as $90 a bottle.
Myostatin principally acts as a brake on muscle growth, which is important for a number of reasons. By blocking its effect, the argument goes that it would allow someone to pack on significantly more muscle.
But the complete role Myostatin plays in the body is unknown and blocking it can cause serious side effects. That’s been the conundrum of serious researchers.
A study in mice performed at the University of Michigan, suggests that while Myostatin inhibitors may bulk up muscles, they cause tendons to shrink and become brittle. The study was published in the Jan. 8, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“When you lift weights at the gym, muscle tissue gets damaged. That sets off the release of Myostatin, starting a process that clears away damaged proteins and sets the stage for muscle rebuilding,” the study’s first author, Christopher L. Mendias, said in a statement.
“It also appears to make tendons bigger and more flexible,” Mendias added.
Some research also suggests that Myostatin plays a role in preventing cancer by controlling cell growth. Either way, anyone who takes Colker’s supplement doesn’t have to worry about affecting Myostatin levels.
The active ingredient in the supplement is supposed to be a miracle extract from egg yolk. In reality, the substance is just protein, the kind you can get from any number of supplements, or be eating more fish, meat and yes, eggs.
While Colker claims his protein targets Myosatin, the body actually breaks down all protein taken orally the same way. It turns them into amino acids in the intestines, according to legitimate medical references.
But the fact that it’s just another protein supplement doesn’t mean it’s safe to take.
Eating more protein than your body needs can interfere with your health and fitness goals in a number of ways, including weight gain, extra body fat, stress on your kidneys, dehydration and leaching of important bone minerals, according to health references.
A 2006 article in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism found that eating more than 200 grams of protein daily can result in an excess in the body of amino acids, ammonia and insulin. The effects are observable after just one meal of 40 grams of protein or more, but health problems only become severe or chronic over time, the article noted.
In fact, the dangers of excessive protein in a diet have been long known.
“I don’t think there’s any evidence to support [the notion] that adding high amounts of protein plays an important role for athletic training, although they buy [protein supplements] like crazy and waste their money, Steven Heymsfield, a medical doctor told WebMD in a 2000 article.
“If you take in too little protein, you lose body protein. If you take in too much, you just burn it as calories.” said Heymsfield, then a professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York City and at the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.
Serious researchers like Mendias have warned that Myostatin inhibitors may create a black market for another illegal performance-enhancing drug in organized sports.
Oddly, Colker was asked the same question about myostatin inhibitors in an NPR interview last year. He warned that inhibitors would be abused. “There’s no question in my mind,” he said.
Colker must have been anticipating product liability lawsuits to come. The most frequent legal defense of supplement makers is to claim users aren’t following directions when they take their supplements.
He certainly has experience to draw on. A 2004 investigation by Forbes magazine, entitled “Poison Pills,” detailed the development and marketing of a diet supplement known as ephedra, in which Colker was a player.
Cytodyne, a company that produced diet supplements based on the drug, retained Colker’s health clinic, Peak Wellness in Greenwich, Conn. to conduct a “clinical study” on the effectiveness of the ephedra-laced supplement Xenadrine RFA-1.
After Colker produced a favorable study, Cytodyne put him on the payroll for $5,000 a month to answer questions and promote the study’s findings.
But ephedra had serious side-effects that Colker’s research allegedly played down or failed to note.
In 2003, Baltimore Oriole pitcher Steven Bechler died suddenly. Cytodyne’s Xenadrine RFA-1 supplement was found in his locker.
Bechler’s autopsy showed that ephedra toxicity contributed to his death, leading to congressional hearings, according to Forbes. The federal Food & Drug Administration banned ephedra in 2004.
In all, the speed-like stimulant was linked to more than 150 deaths, according to The New York Daily News.
An avalanche of product liability and wrongful-death lawsuits followed Bechler’s death and the death of high school football player Sean Riggins, who suffered a heart attack while taking an ephedra-based supplement. Colker was named as a defendant in at least four of them.
In each case, the product makers argued that their supplements were safe if taken as directed; those who suffered side effects were abusing them, they asserted.
In one case, a class action filed against Cytodyne, San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn ruled in 2003 that California consumers had been defrauded by ads claiming weight-loss benefits and ordered the company to pay $12.5 million in restitution to consumers.
Styn also found that Colker’s claims about the drug “lacked credibility.”
Colker also provided the “clinical study” of another supplement called the “V-Factor Natural Pack,” manufactured by a company called Vital Basics, Inc. The company was smacked by the Federal Trade Commission over false advertising involving V-Factor and another product called “Focus Factor.”
Colker’s study was used extensively in promoting V-Factor as “safe and effective at improving sexual response and function,” although the study never actually proved that.
Colker has consistently denied manipulating data in his research. But he actively promoted the substance in infomercials which were banned from television by the federal regulators.
After his legal problems and FTC run-ins Colker didn’t fold up shop, he merely moved on.
The former body builder and celebrity physician is now a motivational speaker who has promoted wellness with such celebrities as Christie Brinkley, and former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. The Bieber alliance, however, is a new twist.
It’s unknown at the moment whether Bieber is being paid to hype the supplement, or is just another Colker Belieber. Either way, he’s sadly exploiting his fans.