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Liquid Creatine Monohydrate Serum Is it a Fraud?

By Wesley James
http://www.pipeline.com/~wjames/MuscleMaker/

In all probability you've seen ads for the new product from Socal, Turbo Blast 600, in the national magazines. You may also have read the "adverticles" in Iron Man. I have too. On reading the claims made in both and having more than a passing knowledge of the published science on Creatine I found the claims dubious and unsupported. When I received a promotional piece in the mail, making additional outrageous unsupported claims, I felt moved to write the letter that follows. I will tell you before you start to read it, I have not heard from anyone at Socal since it was sent. By the way, the Phillips referred to in the letter is Bill Phillips of EAS/Muscle Media.


Greetings Mr. Bradshaw,
  You don't know me, my name is Wesley James and I'm the editor/publisher of Muscle Maker Journal. Don't fret, I'm not trying to sell you anything; we don't accept advertising. The reason for this note is that I recently received an advertisement from your company and felt it required this action since our last issue included an editorial mentioning your company and its new product, Turbo Blast 600, in cautious tones. (A copy is enclosed.)

Before I get into the main matter of this letter, let me commend you for your efforts to offer innovative products generally and your new product in particular. Let me also commend you for attempting to scientifically validate your new product before bringing it to market. The industry needs more responsible companies that test their products, to prove efficacy, before offering them to the marketplace. I was truly hopeful your company was taking steps toward becoming a responsible supplement pioneer, albeit a zealous one. Now, having received your ad, I am left to wonder what's goes on in your minds. Here's the point, when you draw unscientific and/or illogical assertions from inadequate facts you should expect argument. Argument is part of the scientific method as it is practiced today. When you make assertions which are harmful to a successful business, you can expect a fight. In our litigious society the fight is likely to take the form of legal action. Understand, I'm not a competitor I don't sell the types of products you do. I'm not an enemy I've praised your company in the past. I'm a scientist, a bodybuilder and a publisher. My goal is to help improve these fields. In the process, I'm obligated to share the truth, as best I can discern it, with my readers. It is that end which prompts this letter.

My position on the claims you've made for your Turbo Blast 600 are set forth in my editorial, I need not repeat them here. Your recent ad is another matter. It raises new and very real issues about both Phillips and your company. This letter will invite you to address and expand on the issues you've raised. Your response will guide the information I pass along to the 240,000+ readers that access my editorial each month.

You assert that Phillips is "... asking a Federal judge to stop its sale." You include, as support for this assertion, what appears to be a boiler-plate cover page from a Civil Summons. This is stated to be proof. In fact, what you present doesn't even speak to your assertion. The summons doesn't state that he wants you product's sale stopped. Allowing that the text you include is an accurate abstract from the text of the Summons, it asks nothing. It could be what you say it is, a request for an injunction against sale, but why didn't you include the relevant section of the Summons.

What seems likely, based on what you've submitted as "proof," is that it asks for an injunction against false, unsubstantiated and disparaging statements made in advertising, promotional literature and magazine articles. Since E.A.S. products are specifically named in your literature, Phillips seems within his rights to ask a court to decide whether injunctive relief is justified. It could be argued that he would be remiss not to attempt to protect his products. Based on what you offer, Phillips makes it clear the statements with which he takes issue. They are not unreasonable. I too would like to know how the 40% figure was reached. I am quite familiar with the published research and can find no substantiation for this figure. I would also like to see substantiation for the assertion of 629% more effectiveness than powdered creatine. Elevated serum level of creatine is not a measure of effectiveness since the activity of creatine takes place in muscle not blood. There are a few ways you could validate your assertion of 629% more effectiveness but measuring serum levels is not one of them. The measure of effectiveness for creatine are increases in muscle mass, strength and/or endurance. I recognize it would take more time and a more complex protocol to document such improvement but at minimum you need to determine tissue levels at muscle sites. Your failure to do so suggests a very poorly designed or intentionally restricted experiment.

Understand, I'm not assuming you are wrong. The absorption problem may be as widespread as you contend. Your product may be every bit as good as you claim. Frankly, for many reasons, I hope it is. If it is, your company should earn a handsome profits selling it and I will applaud you all the way. The problem is you've offered no evidence on these two most crucial points.

Phillips et al may, as you state, have asked the federal courts to stop the sale of your product. He might even know he has no legal grounds on which the injunction can be granted. That wouldn't necessarily stop him from having his lawyers file suit. He may calculate he can force your company to spend money you can't afford to defend against the suit. He may even believe he can drive you out of business by burying you in legal costs. Such practice is shoddy, shameful and, I believe, unethical. If that's what's going on here, the bodybuilding community should be made aware he has engaged in it. He has shown the tendency to be "high-handed" in the past. He has even been chastened by the courts for his excesses (the Met-Rx suit). The full text of the summons either supports your assertion or it doesn't . There isn't a lot of wiggle room.

I have my suspicions about what has happened and I'll lay them out when I present the matter to my readers. Still, I remain fully open to any reasonable explanation. I understand that you're neither a scientist nor a lawyer but you are marketing a product requiring scientific validity and you need to understand your legal situation in any event. I'm not, therefore, asking you to engage in any activity you wouldn't in any case. Further, to make your task easier, let me clearly indicate the three issues I'd like you to address for the bodybuilding community:

Will you present scientifically valid proof of your assertion that 40% of those who have used creatine have derived little or no benefit because they can not absorb it?

Will you provide evidence your product is 629% more effective, as distinct from assimilatible, than powdered creatine?

Will you provide documentation for your assertion that E.A.S/Bill Phillips has asked a judge to "stop the sale" of your product, as distinct from enjoining you against making false, unsubstantiated and/or disparaging statements about his company and/or products? The filing is public information which can be obtained from the courts but I'm affording you the opportunity to argue your position beyond the document.

Your response is important. If you can sustain your assertions, we'll endorse your product and castigate Phillips for his behavior. Based on our past experience this would mean thousands of sales for your company and significant lost revenue to Phillips. If, however, you can not or will not, your credibility as a company will be impeached and the bodybuilding community should know about that too. The Web is an incredibly powerful medium for world-wide communication and word travels fast.

I and my 240,000+ readers await your response at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,



Wesley James
Editor, Muscle Maker Journal



In the interim, since sending off this letter in late October, I obtained a bottle of the product and tried it. What follows are my preliminary responses. They are not definative but they don't bode well.

To begin, based on the ingredients listed on the label, there is nothing new about the ingredients. The list looks like this:

Aloe Vera
Creatine Monohydrate
Glucose
Glycerin
Polyethylene Glycol
Propylene Glycol
Natural Flavor
Methylsulfonylmethane
Xanthan Gum
Sodium Benzoate

Aloe Vera, some claim, has benefits for the digestive process. When taken internally, it is generally regarded as a mild laxative and intestinal cleanser. The gel is strongly hydroscopic which is why it is so useful for topical use on burns and irritations. This feature also explains the laxative effect. The moisture drawn from the surrounding tissue serves to lubricate the intestines, facilitating evacuation. Some individuals complain of intestinal cramping when they ingest Aloe Vera. This is likely due to the increased osmotic action produced by the attracted water. It is possible that digestion is improved by Aloe but the evidence is almost purely empirical and theoretical. Nevertheless, even if digestion is improved I am aware of no data that suggests that it has any action in the body beyond the intestinal track. Aloe may also have anti-bacterial properties which may make it problematic for internal use. A healthy bacterial flora is essential to proper gut function. I would not cavalierly ingest Aloe on a regular basis. Doing so could lead to dependence, a common effect of many laxatives but exacerbated here.

The second ingredient, Creatine Monohydrate (CM), is, of course, the same form of creatine used in most other creatine products on the market. The promotional material Socal is distributing suggest their CM is prepared with some proprietary process. The fact that it is listed on the label as HPLC (Pharmaceutical Grade) suggests this is a misrepresentation.

Including Glucose in the formula breaks no new ground. Both EAS's Phosphagen-HP and Met-Rx's HY-Gear contain simple sugar. Many CM users have learned that taking it with grape juice provide the same benefit via the same mechanism. Research indicates that creatine is better absorbed in the presence of Insulin. Adding sugar promotes an Insulin release.

The inclusion of Glycerin suggests an interesting theory. Glycerin appears to draw water from the surrounding tissue into the muscles, improving muscle hydration. Following this theory, if you can dissolve CM in the water, you might be able to piggy-back it into the muscle. Of course, this is just theory. Neither Socal nor any other research I've seen have demonstrated it in practice.

Both Polyethylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol are forms of alcohol. Both also act as solvents. Are you beginning to get the idea? Socal appears to have used a number of tricks that may enhance the solubility of CM. Had they done their homework, they might more easily have used Creatine Citrate which is about ten times more soluble in water (though it yields less creatine by weight). The citrate component (radical) in Creatine Citrate is heavier than the hydrate (essentially water) in CM. Then again, I guess Champion's Choice Advanced Nutrition has some sort of exclusive on the citrate form. Perhaps Socal couldn't get a license.

Whatever natural flavor Socal is adding to their product, I find the flavor tough to tolerate. It's bitter. I realize that taste is a very personal thing. I'm not seriously faulting the product for its taste. Nevertheless, they would have been well advised to make it more universally pleasant.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally-occuring sulfur compound and dietary derivative of DMSO. It is also a natural form of organic sulfur found in the fluid and tissues of all living organisms. According to U.S. Patent #4,616,039, too low a body concentration of MSM results in adverse physical and psychological stress, tissue and organ malfunction, fatigue and increased susceptibility to diseases. What is probably important about MSM in this formulation is that it is reputed to aid the absorption of other compounds. This is probably reasoned from the fact that that it was first crystalized from DMSO (Jacobs, 1936). I'm unaware of any valid supporting evidence for this assertion though MSM is probably beneficial as a source of dietary sulphur.

Xanthan Gum is a thickening agent. My assumption is that it is added to help keep the CM in suspension in the other liquids. In other words, it improves the homogeneity of the product, a useful consideration. Nevertheless, Xanthum gum is essentially inert.

Sodium Benzoate is a preservative. It's a minor point but given a willingness to use a sodium compound as a preservative, all things being equal, I think sodium ascorbate would have been a better choice.

Having tried Turbo Blast 600, I'm unconvinced that it is notably better than any other form of CM. It may be that my muscles are already so loaded that it can have no additional benefit. Based on the information and experience I've had with it thus far, and what I can reason, it might be useful to someone who is just starting to use CM. It might also be helpful for individuals with difficulty absorbing CM, though I think Socal exaggerates the number of individuals with this problem. Finally, since Turbo Blast 600 is so much more expensive than other quality sources of CM, in spite of Socal's argument to the contrary, I find no compelling reason to recommend its use.

Copyright © 1996 Physique Tools and Wesley James

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