SCAM ALERT: LCRHealth’s Active-PK Is An Overpriced, Overblown Diet Pill

LCR Health peddles piles of pills and we believe they are all overpriced.  Dr. Rand McClain claims that his Active-PK supplement will assuredly get rid of unwanted pounds.  For just $89 each month, his supplement will “help fight fatigue and abdominal fat.”   He points out that this supplement will use “natural compounds to help activate AMPK — your metabolic “master switch” — which tells your body to stop storing fat and start converting it into clean, usable fuel.”   Should you buy Active-PK?  Or Active Stem?  Or Master Cell?  Or Telogenesis?  Or any of the other high-priced pills LCR Health is peddling?  And is McClain who he claims to be?   There are a lot of questions that we’ll attempt to answer below.   At the end of this article, we’ll share our bottom line with you.  But here’s a sneak preview:  you’ll want to think more than twice before you start shelling out your money for Dr. McClain’s nutraceuticals.

Who Is Rand McClain and Do His Credentials Check Out?

McClain claims to be a doctor who as dedicated over 35 years of his personal and professional life studying nutrition, exercise, herbs and supplements and is also a Master of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.   After some digging, we determined that McClain is an osteopathic doctor who has incorporated non-traditional approaches to medicine.

Dr. McClain also claims to be Chief Medical Officer of Live Cell Research; a company dedicated to the “discovery and development of products designed to enhance health and quality of life through epigenomic manipulation”.   In fact, it is a web-based supplement company that sells high-end “nutraceuticals” online.   The BBB has validated that it exists.  But the BBB also has a long list of consumer complaints about LCR Health’s customer service practices.  DirtyScam.com has also attracted a large number of complaints, largely about supplements that don’t work or can’t be easily returned.  In fact, a Google search turned up a significant number of dissatisfied customers at a number of different websites.  Check out the conversation about McClain’s Active-PK on Quora — it’ll give you an idea of who and what LCR Health is all about.

McClain has also posted a video at a website called the Longevity Study  which makes some pretty bold and largely unprovable claims.  They include:  he is one of the world’s top physicians, featured on talk shows and in magazines, people wait months to get an appointment with him and that his clients (patients?) include top athletes and some of the richest people in America.  Consumer advocacy groups refer to these kinds of claims as “puffery” — i.e.  a overstatement bordering on an outright falsehood.   Notably, his bio claims that “His work is published in peer-reviewed and popular journals”.   We did a search of any journals that published his work and came up with nothing but a 2014 comment by McClain in a medical journal.  None of the websites that tout McClain’s credentials list any peer-reviewed studies authored by him.   And one study cited by McClain for a “Vital Stem” supplement comes under fire by an investigative physician.

Another website also checked into McClain’s credentials and found that his research experience consists only of a two-year (2001-3) stint as a research assistant and that he gave two presentations at an Epilepsy Foundation Conference in 2002 related to epilepsy treatment: one on Traditional Chinese Medicine and one on exercise and nutrition:

“McClain’s website bios claim that he has studied the causes of aging for over a decade, not just in the lab, but with thousands of his patients (elsewhere in the video he says hundreds). However,according to his Bio, his research experience consists only of a two-year (2001-3) stint as a research assistant where his job was to “collect and maintain data” related to a potential treatment for osteoporosis. He gave two presentations at an Epilepsy Foundation Conference in 2002 related to epilepsy treatment: one on Traditional Chinese Medicine and one on exercise and nutrition. I searched PubMed and found no articles by McClain R or McClain RS on any subject relating to stem cells or aging.”

Is Dr. McClain an infoscammer like the infamous Ryan Shelton?  Probably not.  McClain is not a naturopath masquerading as a physician.  And he’s not trying to sell you something for every possible malady.   But Dr. McClain has failed to provide the kind of transparency that one would expect from a medical doctor.  And his products are unreasonably expensive.   Worse yet, he’s seizing upon AMPK to sell his high-falutin’ diet pills. In so doing, McClain is coming dangerously close to the infoscammers who exploit the well-documented placebo effect.

Infoscammers Who Sell Supplements Exploit the Placebo Effect

The idea that your brain can convince your body a fake treatment is the real thing.  It’s referred to as the placebo effect and has been around for as long as humans have attempted to heal other humans.  However, scientists have been able to actually document how placebos work and have found that in some cases a placebo can be just as effective as traditional treatments. Infoscammers rely upon this effect to help them sell their questionable supplements.   Whether it be pills or diets or lifestyle changes, almost half of the people who buy into these schemes are likely to experience some degree of relief due to the placebo effect.  Sadly, McClain’s Live Cell Research website has zeroed in their marketing strategy to exploit the placebo effect.  In short, as many as 50% of the people who buy LCR Health pills are likely to feel some effect.  And, once hooked, they’ll be faithfully buying McClain’s shady overpriced pills for a long time.

AMPK Is A Magic Bullet?

A metabolic protein called AMPK (“adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase”) has been labeled a “magic bullet for the health”, not by some slimy marketers but by the world-renowned Salk Institute.  (the slimy marketers use terms like “youth enzyme” or the “youth switch“) Some limited studies have suggested that compounds that activate the protein have health-promoting effects to reverse diabetes, improve cardiovascular health, treat mitochondrial disease — even extend life span.  A relatively small study of Metabolaid suggested some hope that AMPK can be stimulated by some herbs.

Salk scientists have developed a new system that lets them study in more detail than ever exactly how, where and when AMPK carries out its molecular and therapeutic functions. In a study conducted by Salk scientists, lab mice had activated in the liver. Then, they fed a subset of these mice high-fat diets leading to diet-induced obesity and an excess accumulation of fats in the liver. (this is the rodent equivalent to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in humans).  .In both mice with and without NAFLD, levels of fats in the liver dropped when AMPK was activated — new fat production was slowed and existing fats were metabolized. Moreover, when AMPK was activated in mice that were fed a high-fat diet, the mice were protected against weight gain and obesity and had fewer signs of liver inflammation.  Salk’s researchers say the study results indicate that AMPK could potentially be a powerful treatment to a host of diseases in humans.

The Salk findings essentially provide other researchers with some tools that will help science search for the weight loss Holy Grail.   And one company, in particular, is probably jumping at the chance to use these tools.

How to Avoid the AMPK Scams

A large group of questionable Internet marketers haven’t let that stop them from promoting AMPK products.   These supplements are usually called “AMPK metabolic activators” and they claim to do what Nestle (and others) have been unable to accomplish.  Please know that there are NO scientific studies that have found pill-based stimulators of AMPK.   None!   However, there is one fairly reliable AMPK stimulator that is free and widely known:  exercise.   Specifically, high-intensity short exercises.   As the Mayo Clinic reports,  high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a proven way of stimulating AMPK in the human body.  A typical HIIT session might include a three-minute warmup, four to six repetitions of a 30-second sprint followed by a 60-second active recovery, and a three-minute cool-down.

So if you want to activate your body’s AMPK levels, some short exercises will do the trick.  But if you want to wait for a pill to accomplish the same, you’ll have to wait until  some other well-funded company, comes up with a solution.   The supplements currently being hawked on the Internet will only deplete your savings and stimulate your anger. However, if you want to activate your body’s AMPK levels, some short exercises will do the trick.  But if you want to wait for a pill to accomplish the same, you’ll have to wait until some well-funded company, comes up with a solution.   The supplements currently being hawked on the Internet will only deplete your savings and stimulate your anger.

What Are The Active Ingredients in Active-PK?

LCR Health claims that each serving of Active-PK contains 650 mg of three ingredients “that have never been combined before”. (Berberine, Quercetin, and Gynostemma).  We should note that there may well be a reason why these ingredients have not been combined by anyone.  The ingredients themselves are not uncommon.   Berberine is sold at Vitacost for about $12 for 50 capsules of 1000mg (a much higher dose, so it probably amounts to about two-months of supply compared to Active-PK) a little less than one month supply).  A one-month supply of Quercetin at Vitacost runs about $12 for a comparable dosage of 500mg.  Gynostemma is more widely known as jiaogulan, a Chinese herb.  A one-month supply runs about $10 at Vitacost.   So, you can purchase a one-month supply of each of these active ingredients for about $25 at Vitacost or you can pay LCR Health close to four times as much for their identical formulation.

We don’t recommend supplements that contain berberine.  We aware that WebMD (and other resources) have found that berberine is likely unsafe for pregnant mothers, children, people who suffer from low blood pressure or diabetes.  It also interacts with medications used for liver health or cyclosporine, a common treatment for psoriasis.  A common side effect is gastrointenstinal upset and hypoglycemia caused by blood sugar fluctuations.  Examine.com strongly urges that any person considering the use of berberine should consult with a physician.

And we reiterate that there has been no research on the ingredients in this particular dosage in Active-PK being used together in a clinical trial, with measurable outcomes.   So, you are treading in unknown territory when you take McClain’s Active-PK supplement.

 

Other Questionable LCR Health Products

McClain hawks a number of other supplements.  Let’s just take a look at two of them.  One is called Active Stem that allegedly boost cognitive ability and mental performance.  By drinking this reconstituted powder, McClain says you’ll prevent cell damage and live longer and healthier.  Not surprisingly, McClain offers no evidence anywhere that proves that this supplement will work as described. There are no links to any independent research that proves that the ingredients contained in LCR Active Stem will encourage the proliferation of adult stem cells.   Instead its just a combination of Vitamin D, L-Leucine and L-Carnosine.   Is that worth $74?   We recommend you check out Vitacost — where the same ingredients will cost you something closer to $25.

McClain also sells something called Master Cell.  It is a formulation of Agmatine and Ornithine that supposedly helps “turn on” autophagy, resulting in a health and energy boost all throughout your body — from your mental focus to your strength and mobility.   Yeah, well, here’s the thing about ‘cellular cleanses’ — they’ve got almost no scientific support behind them.   The Internet is widely infected by “detox diet” scams that promise that they’ll cleanse your body of toxins.  There’s no published evidence to suggest that detox treatments, kits or rituals have any effect on our body’s ability to eliminate waste products effectively.  “Detox” focuses attention on irrelevant issues, and gives consumers the impression that they can undo lifestyle decisions with quick fixes. Improved health isn’t found in a box of herbs, a bottle of homeopathy, or a bag of coffee pushed into your rectum. The lifestyle implications of a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, lack of sleep, and alcohol or drug use cannot simply be flushed or purged away. Our kidneys and liver don’t need a detox treatment. If anyone suggests a detox or cleanse to you, you’d do well to ignore the suggestion, and question any other health advice they may offer. All the potions, pills, enemas and lengthy books are doing little in the way of  cleansing and detoxifying.  To the extent they reduce your intake of processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, candy, soda, commercial meat and snack foods, you are giving your liver and kidneys a chance to step up and do their normal detoxification duties, since they’re no longer overburdened with bad food and not enough micronutrients and minerals to support their normal function.

Our Bottom Line

McClain’s LCR Health fails all three of our most important criteria:  scientific support, cost-effectiveness and transparency.   His formulations are exceedingly expensive, he offers no scientific support for each of his claims and his biography is sketchy at best.   In fact, there are a number of proven diets that WILL help you lose weight, so long as you combine them with exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.   Here are some free resources to consider before you send any of your money to Dr. McClain:

Smart for Life

Livestrong Diet –  Aims for a loss of about 1-2 pounds per week.

GM Diet  –  It’s not really a General Motors-designed diet plan.  It’s actually a short one-week detox program.   But it could be a useful starter to a major personal diet reboot.  Linora Low gives a helpful (and free)  step-by-step video and written guide to how to do this detox program.

The Lose Weight Diet –  It does what many of the diet scammers do (take free  information and distill it down to 3 easily understood phases) but he actually offers it for free!

CDC Research on Portion Size –  A 2006 Center for Disease Control study that documents how salty, high-fat, high-calorie foods have infiltrated our diets, in part, because portion sizes have increased.  You’ll never look at a menu the same way again after reading this very accessible evaluation.

Dr. Terry Simpson –  This doctor offers much useful and free information about diet and nutrition that is both thoughtful and scientifically validated.   In particular, his discussion about weight loss is a must read.

But the most important free diet information you can find is about the dangers of sugar and processed foods.   There are tremendous numbers of articles about these two health scourges, including a number of free articles at this website.   But if you really feel compelled to spend money about how to lose weight, the two best resources currently available are:  “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink and David Kessler’s “The End of Overeating” .  Both books are available on the Internet for a few bucks if you are OK with a used (previously read) version.

3 replies
  1. Susie
    Susie says:

    I thought he was a scammer! It’s unethical that so-called medical doctors should be able to sell pills like this! It should be stopped or he should lose his licence.

    Reply

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