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Jillian Michaels Doctors: Dr. Arne Astrup

January 9, 2010

Note:  I have been holding onto this entry and the next one in this series because I have been waiting for responses from Dr. Astrup and Jillian Michaels.  I haven’t had a response and I have given each of them over a month.  So here are the final chapters.

Jillian Michaels,TV’s toughest trainer, the celebrity leader of the black team on The Biggest Loser, famous for saying, ‘there is no magic pill to lose weight’, has released not one, but three ‘magic’ pills.  She has a ‘fat burner’, a ‘appetite suppressant’ and a’triple detox and cleanse’.  Although I can’t recommend any of these pills for weight loss, I was especially bothered by the detox and cleanse.  I was devastated to see someone that I trusted selling snake oil.  You can read about about my feelings regarding detoxes here.

In any case, I was tweeting my feelings about detoxes and Jillian Michaels felt the need to tell me and her followers:

@URNotAFitPerson Read the ingredients & science behind products then comment. Cleanse is probiotics & herbs 4 liver & kidney support. No laxatives or fasting involved. Developed w/ 1 of best bariatrics doctors in the world named Arnold Astrup at Harvard.

I was startled when I received this tweet.  It was strange because I was discussing this issue with several doctors and they said to me, there is no way that an actual MD would support this triple detox and cleanse as a way to lose weight.  They were so sure of themselves that I figured something was wrong with what Jillian Michaels was saying.  I did a google search for Dr. Arnold Astrup, but I figured he must be some questionable MD for hire, with a medical degree from a mail order medical school.  When I couldn’t find anything on a Dr. Arnold Astrup through google, I became even more concerned.

Then I found Dr. Arne Astrup.  Jillian Michaels could be forgiven for thinking his name was Arnold, as she probably thought that Arne, was short for Arnold.  So, a little research into Dr. Arne Astrup turns out to be a doctor with quite a resume in the medical weight-loss industry.  His resume can be found here.  This resume is of vital importance to what will come later, but for know you can note his extremely long and illustrious list of jobs and awards.  Clearly if he is willing to put his reputation on the line and support a ‘cleanse and detox’ then I am wrong in going after Jillian Michaels for this product. Instead I need to understand what Dr. Astrup thinks.

So, I contacted Dr. Astrup and wrote him the following email:

Dr. Astrup,

I was following up from a discussion I was having with Jillian Michaels in which she said that her cleanse was developed by a Dr. Arnold Astrup at Harvard.  I believe she was referring to you.  Is this correct?  If so, could I get your opinion on the following claims that her product makes:

Formulated to Help:

  • Reduce Belly Bloat*
  • Reduce Body Waste Buildup Without Harsh Chemical Laxatives or Fasting*
  • Support Colon and Digestive System*
  • Support the Liver’s Natural Detoxification Process*
  • Make You Feel Lighter and More Energized*

As well, do you feel that a cleanse such as this is good for weight loss?  Thank you very much in advance for your time and attention.


Mark Vaughan

About this time Jillian Michaels came forward with the claim that there was another doctor involved in her cleanse product,Dr. Nathalie Chevreau, PhD.  I contacted Dr. Chevreau as well, but it really wasn’t important if she was involved with the cleanse or not, because she was the key to answering the riddle of who was making this product in the first place.  The answer is, Basic Research.  To recap, Basic Research is the company that ran afoul of the FTC for numerous issues and to quote Stephen Barrett, M.D:

A suit seeking class action status has been filed against Utah-based Basic Research, LLC; Dynakor Pharmacal, LLC; Western Holdings, LLC; Dennis Gay, Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D.; and Mitchell Friedlander. The complaint (shown below) charges that defendants “engaged in a deliberate campaign of widespread fraud and deception” and racketeering by marketing Akavar 20/50 with false claims that it could produce weight loss without dietary modification or increased exercise. It was also falsely claimed to have been “designed by a team of doctors working in a recognized university” and to have been validated by published research. Mowrey has been associated with herb-related schemes for more than 20 years. Friedlander is one of the most egregious mail-order health scammers of all time. During the early 1980s, doing business as the Robertson-Taylor Company and at least six other companies, he took in tens of millions of dollars for fraudulent weight-loss aids, hair restorers, sexual stimulants, impotence cures, arthritis remedies, and other vitamin products. The U.S. Postal Service ended these promotions with a series of cease-and-desist orders. In 2006, Mowrey, Gay, Friedlander, and Basic Research settled FTC charges that they had falsely advertised other weight-loss products. The claims for Akavar violate the FTC settlement agreement. In May 2008, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that contains more details of the Akavar scheme.

This is a company so egregious it led to congressman Rep. James Greenwood, R-Pa., to call the  Basic Research executives “scam artists”.  Yes, scam artists.  You can read the complaint about Basic Research here.  It is worth the read, scroll down to Statement of Facts.  This company and its activities are sickening.  You can read more about this company and Dr. Nathalie Chevreau here.

So I was left wondering how deep does this behavior go.  Did Dr. Astrup take money from Basic Research to develop the ‘Detox and Cleanse’?  I didn’t have to wait long.  I received this email from Dr. Astrup:

Dear Mark Vaughan,

Thank you for the enquiry. I have meet Jillian Michaels, and has a very good talk with her about her programmes. Concerning the scientific evidence to substantiate the claims of these products, I am simply not the right person to ask. However I have consulted with the company about the science supporting the ingredients in the Jillian Michaels calorie control product (YGD), but I understand that other experts were involved in developing the cleanse and other products.

I suggest you make a enquiry directly to Jillian Michaels to get the correct information

Kind regards

Arne Astrup

So, Dr. Astrup didn’t help develop the cleanse.  It is official.  Jillian Michaels was at the very least misinformed about who developed her cleanse and detox.  It would be consistent to say that she was not telling the truth as well.  It just comes down to a question of whether she knew what products Dr. Astrup was involved with or even what if any science is behind her product.  The only thing that we appear to know is that Jillian has hired a company that has a history of such unethical and even illegal activity as to earn the moniker of ‘Scam Artists’ from congressman Rep. James Greenwood, R-Pa.  She obviously doesn’t want to admit this to her fans, because this would make one disturbing fact crystal clear.

Remember the resume I said we would come back to, well now we will (here it is again).  Researchers and professors at universities have to list their sources of income so that there is no unknown conflict of interest with their research.  Under conflicts of interest there it is, ‘Basic Research’.  Dr. Astrup works for Basic Research.  I have contacted him regarding this article and his work with Basic Research and their reputation, and here is his response:.

Mr. Vaughn,

My department is having collaboration with more than 100 private companies at a global basis, and try to avoid working with companies that do not comply with standards in terms of ethics, child labour etc.  We have been doing research projects with Basic Research over the last 5 years, and they have supported studies in the ethiology of obesity, and new potential options for prevention and treatment of obesity. Basic Research has always complied with all aspects of the contracts, and I regard the company as being a serious partner for doing research in this area.

My participation in such research is very much in line with my personal goal of developing our scientific knowledge regarding the causes of obesity, and methods for treating and preventing its development. I am sorry to say that it is beyond my expertise to go into the details of your criticism of the company.

Kind regards

Arne Astrup, Head
Professor, MD, Dr.Med.Sci.
Department of Human Nutrition
Faculty of Life Sciences. University of Copenhagen
Rolighedsvej 30, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C
Copenhagen – Denmark

I nearly fell over when I received this response.  The thing that really got to me was: I am sorry to say that it is beyond my expertise to go into the details of your criticism of the company.  Okay, if not you, Dr. Astrup then who?  Who should be commenting on whether a company is pedaling real diet products or not?  Who should be evaluating the products that they are selling?

Seriously, this is the biggest cop out that I have ever seen.  Here Dr. Astrup and his department are taking money for research from a company that has had the problems that this company has, and are turning a blind eye to their antics because of this.  Of course they have complied with all aspects of the contract, I am betting the contract reads: Basic Research is to pay all bills on time.  Great job on complying with the contract Basic Research.  I take back all of the things that I said about you, you must be a stand up group if you pay Dr. Astrup on time…  Wow, again my prescience astounds me.  In ‘You Are Not A Fit Person’ I said that everyone is out to screw you.  I really thought that I didn’t mean it.  I thought I was just exaggerating as I have a wont to do from time to time.  How wrong I was!!  Really if Arne Astrup is not going to call a company out like this one, and he is going to take money from them… wow.  People, we are on our own here!

In closing then, I asked Dr. Astrup to answer these claims in the following email:

Dr. Astrup,

Thank you for your prompt reply.  I am not concerned with the collaboration your department has with companies, but I am interested in your collaboration with Basic research.

(from your conflicts of interest in your resume):

Conflicts of interest

Salaried author for Ude & Hjemme. Salaried Editor-in-Chief of Obesity Reviews, Blackwell Science. Advisor or member of advisory boards for a number of food and pharmaceutical producers etc.: Arla, European Almond Advisory Board, Communications and Scientific Advisory Board of The Global Dairy Platform, 7TM Pharma, Novo, NeuroSearch, Basic Research, Merck, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C., and Reuters Insight, and recipient of honoraria as speaker for a wide range of Danish and international concerns.

Ownership, in accordance with the Danish University regulations, of inventions and patents where Arne Astrup is co-inventor.

Arne Astrup has bought shares in Mobile Fitness A/S.

Executive Board member of Obesity International Trading (London), Beer Knowlegde Institute (Amsterdam), Global Dairy Platform (Chicago), and Nordic Food Lab A/S (Copenhagen).

My interest in this issue is one of public concern.

You say that you avoid working with companies that do not comply with standards in terms of ethics, child labour, etc.  I am curious, what due diligence do you do?  Why I am curious is, Basic Research developed, sold and marketed a product to obese children in a manner so egregious that they were charged by the FTC:

According to this archived email, the most disturbing thing about PediaLean is this:

Basic Research criticism is apparently a case of the kettle calling the pot black, perhaps because of its competing product, PediaLean, containing an unidentified product “Pediatropin” derived from the P. rivieri root – all shrouded in mystery and scientific-sounding hype.  A letter  from the Committee on Energy and Commerce points out the deceptive nature of PediaLean advertising and notes the lack of safety or efficacy data.  We found no genus to correlate with “P.” rivieri, but the plant in question may be Amorphophallus rivieri also known as Konjac Root.

By the way, when the FTC is saying they are making unsubstantiated claims, they aren’t saying that they are throwing out buzz phrases and claims without having any clinical research, but that they are throwing out claims of clinical research without having done any clinical research!!

Does PediaLean work? You bet it does! In a well-controlled double-blind clinical trial, each and every child who used PediaLean as directed lost a significant amount of excess body weight.. a success rate of 100%.”

PublIshed Medical Studies Don’t Lie…ClInically Proven Safe and Effective”

These studies were never published by the way, for all intents and purposes, no double-blind clinical trial took place.

Are you unaware of the PediaLean controversy?

This is just one example of the activities of this company.  They are currently being sued in a class action suit for an equally unethical action.  Additionally, the FTC has recently asked the Attorney General to bring an action against them.  Finally, they have been found guilty of mail fraud in at least 2 states.

If you aren’t the expert to determine the ethical quality of a company, what process do you use to determine this?  You say you don’t work for unethical companies, do you hire an expert to review the companies you work for?  If so, could you tell me who this is, so I can follow up with them?

I am very impressed with the work that you have done in your field and the roles that you have played within your profession.  I know that you are passionate about making the world better for those who suffer from obesity.  I am not sure if you are aware, but a startling amount of people are using detoxes and cleanses for weightloss.  As well, there is no evidence that the diet pills that reduce appetite or the thermogenics actually work for long term weightloss.  People are spending more than $20 billion dollars on these cures and not losing weight that have no science to support them.

As a doctor and a scientist, don’t you feel that people who sell and promote these products, especially ones that claim that there is science behind these products when there isn’t, don’t you feel that working for people who do this is wrong?


Mark Vaughan

So the final answer is, Dr Astrup is not associated with the cleanse and detox although he did consult on some portion of Jillian Michaels products.  As well, Dr. Astrup won’t comment on cleanses and detoxes.  Another hurdle then for us unfit people is the experts themselves.  Even when they are experts and they can be trusted in their research, they still may not be reliable regarding other issues as they may be compromised by endorsing products that aren’t helpful or they may be paid by companies that produce unhelpful products.

I never did hear back from Dr. Astrup though.  Stay tuned for the final chapter in this sordid tale.  In this final chapter we will see the conclusion of whether Jillian Michaels company actually uses Basic Research.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    April 1, 2013 11:35 am

    Perhaps You have already found this out, but Arne Astrup is one of the most corrupt “scientist” there is in this world- sadly not the only one, but surely one of the many bad people out there.

    Arne Astrup has ties to: 7TM Pharma A/S, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer Danmark,Beer Knowledge Institute, Global Dairy Platform and Danisco (which is the largest sugar company in Denmark). Trust him NOT!


    (Try with google translate 🙂 )


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