laminineLaminine the happy pill?

LifePharm Global’s Laminine dietary supplement popped onto my consumer advocacy radar when I received a new Twitter follower whose profile referenced some sort of happy pill.

I chased up the lead which led me to an egg protein pill and, after further investigation, I located what appeared to be ground zero:  LifePharm Global’s Laminine.

Laminine is a multi-level marketing (network marketing) product which appears to be sold mainly in the United States and Canada, but now appears to be making the rounds in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.

Laminine Marketing Claims

According to LifePharm’s official website, Laminine is a combined amino acid, vitamin, and mineral dietary supplement which purportedly contains the “life essence of a nine day-old fertilized avian (hen) egg,” apparently important because “all the necessary life-giving ingredients to create life are at their highest levels” on the ninth day.  LifePharm’s website marketing copy claims that Laminine is a “perfect super-supplement” which is “far from a mythical tale.”

The company claims its extraction and freeze drying techniques “rediscovered by Norwegian scientists” are “patented” and the “amount of clinical studies and research…had yielded nothing less than stunning results.”

Unfortunately, much of this appears to be little more than a lot of hot air and egregious marketing embellishment eerily similar to that used to sell Liproxenol – FYI, similar sentiments about echoed on the Real Raw Health website.

Laminine Ingredients

Laminine’s ingredient list names the OPT9 Proprietary Blend (620 mg)  which is comprised of:

  • Fertilized avian egg extract – protein from a hen egg like you’d buy at your local supermarket.
  • Marine protein – no mention if this is from marine plant or animal sources.  It would be helpful for the company to list a breakdown of the product’s specific nutrient profile.
  • Phyto protein – plant protein  (phyto means plant).  The label provides no further details about which plants or the specific nutritive value of it.

Other ingredients for product stability and freshness:

  • Vegetable gelatin – thickening, stabilizing agent
  • Silicon dioxide – anti-caking agent to prevent ingredients from absorbing moisture and clumping together
  • Magnesium stearate – often used as a lubricant to prevent supplement contents from sticking to the machinery that processes them.

Without a specific, standardised list of ingredients, it is difficult to know what active ingredients might plausibly be associated with specific health claims.

Inconvenient Truths that LifePharm Doesn’t Want You to Know

I’ve been doing consumer health advocacy writing for over 17 years and, based on my observations, I think Laminine ranks among some of the most overblown marketing hype I’ve seen for a dietary supplement.

The promotional website is littered with a massive volume of basic nutrition and physiology facts meticulously interwoven with pseudoscientific marketing jargon.

The end result: the company stops short of making any overtly false claims but appears to lead consumers down a path which implies it is a proven product. Legal yes, but is it ethical?

Brilliant business plan: never let the inconvenient truth get in the way of a good marketing plan or profit.

Therefore, the aim of this article is to provide consumers with the other side of the story, the one that LifePharm Global has not disclosed to the public.

After thoroughly evaluating the entire website, my biggest challenge is addressing the sheer number of misleading and confusing statements.  I will therefore try to be as systematic as possible for ease of understanding and focus on the most glaring claims.

But before I do that, I’ll need to preface my comments with the following:

Laminine Testimonials and Why You Can’t Trust Them

“But Dr. Bill, I TRIED Laminine and it WORKED for me!  Are you calling me a liar?”  Actually, no, I don’t think you’re lying at all, but you may very well be mistaken.  I genuinely believe that you believe it worked for you.  However, from a scientist’s perspective, personal testimonials are not always trustworthy.

Consider the following (please read carefully):

  1. Testimonials do not differentiate between cause and effect or coincidence.   Because two things happen at the same time (coincide) does not mean one caused the other.  For example, let’s say you decided to take Laminine because you’ve been feeling tired and worn out, but at the same time you also started eating better and going out for evening walks.  There is a tremendous amount of scientific evidence to support that eating right and exercising will improve health and give you energy.   You may be inclined to believe that it was Laminine that made you feel better, but if you didn’t give ample credit to the healthy food and exercise, then you’re missing the big picture.
  2. Whether or not you did anything else while taking Laminine, there are other extraneous circumstances which might explain why you feel better.  The DESIRE to feel better can be VERY powerful.  The INTENTION to feel better can exert a strong mind-body effect.  If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, then you’re taking Laminine with the INTENTION of feeling better.  When I look at the testimonials that litter the internet, most are from people (many selling the product) who tell a similar story – “I was tired, sick, overweight, out of energy, etc but then I started taking Laminine and my depression was cured in three days.”   Seriously, I did see a testimonial from someone that said their depression was cured in three days.  But true organic depression does not disappear in this short a time frame which clearly made me very suspect.
  3. When we carry out a scientific study on something like a supplement, we need VERY strict controls to make sure that the effect, if any, is due to the product itself and not other variables such as eating healthy, exercising, becoming more social, etc.  Testimonials do not control for all these factors and therefore, from a science-based perspective, are unreliable.
  4. “But Dr. Bill, have you TRIED Laminine?”  Answer:  No.   “Ah HA!  But how can you write a review when you haven’t tried it?”  Because I’m human like everyone else and I can’t tell any more than the rest of you if any effect (positive or negative) is due to Laminine, my imagination, my expectations, my hectic work schedule, my diet, my exercise regimen, stress levels, etc.   A testimonial is just my opinion, your opinion, or the next guy’s opinion.  It is not irrefutable evidence.
  5. All the above aside, the fact remains that there is insufficient scientific evidence to support all of LifePharm’s marketing claims for Laminine.  If you want to believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, that is your prerogative, but for me, personally, I like to see a legitimate body of evidence for products.
  6. If you’re on the sales end of things, maybe you know people like to be misled and that you can make a buck hawking dietary supplements to the weary and unsuspecting.  Whether it works or not is irrelevant.  There are plenty of sheep out there who will buy it because you say it works, but then it becomes a question of ethics.

Laminine on PBS’ American Health Journal

In July 2012, Laminine was a featured topic on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) show American Health Journal.  This episode has been plastered across the internet by Laminine distributors as evidence that Laminine works.

As I watched the half-hour segment, I cringed as I realised the episode played out more like a for-profit infomercial than independent scientific reporting.  Many, if not all, of the experts they interviewed appeared to be affiliated with the company which, by default, would constitute a conflict of interest.

There were numerous testimonials, but they did not really give any hard evidence of product efficacy generated from independent researchers.  Moreover, they had company directors telling the camera how great their product was. Well of course.  What else are they going to say?

I also noted that a number of the interviewees had a promotional website address listed below their names. When I went to the site, I found it gave only two options:  one icon to click and buy the product and the other to plug in your details so someone could contact you (a salesperson, I’d guess).

Overall, I give the American Health Journal a big thumbs down for overblown and biased “reporting.”  This episode is not evidence that Laminine works, but appears more like good sales copy.

Categorical Review of Laminine Marketing Claims

Claim
“LAMININE provides the most essential proteins and amino acids our body needs, along with the proper transport mechanisms to direct these nutritional building blocks to where our body needs it the most.”

Analysis
This claim is misleading.  I am not familiar with any objective evidence that nutrients can be “steered” to specific locations in the body via normal digestion.  I would like to see LifePharm’s independent support for this claim.  My search of the biomedical journal databases did not produce a single result for Laminine and/or its ability to “direct” nutrients in the body.

Laminine is comprised of “essential proteins and amino acids,” the same as those found in an ordinary piece of meat, fish, or poultry from your local supermarket.  The “proper transport mechanisms” to direct these nutritional building blocks to “where our bodies need it the most” are already innately built in to our physiology.

In short, if you eat any protein source, your body will digest it down to its component amino acids (protein’s building blocks), absorb them in the intestines, and then shuttle them off normally in the blood stream to areas they’re needed.  No special bioengineering required.

 

Claim
“Laminine is a natural, synergistic super food… Laminine is nature’s most perfect food and the perfect combination of life-giving sustenance sourced from land, sea and plant.”

Analysis
This is a classic case of “if you can’t convince ‘em, confuse ‘em with meaningless pseudoscientific jargon.  The following Laminine marketing terms are misleading and have no real qualitative or quantitative value:

1) “Natural” – this term has been used repeatedly over the years (with much success) to spruik dietary supplements.  The assumption is that if it’s “natural” then it must be safe and effective.  Unfortunately, lots of “natural” substances can be quite harmful (i.e., rattlesnake venom, hemlock, arsenic, or even water if you drink enough of it!). Moreover, “natural” does not necessarily translate to efficacious.

2) “Synergistic super food” – this is just ambiguous marketing jargon which has no practical meaning.  What exactly do they mean by “synergistic?”  And how exactly IS a super food quantified?  As of this writing, I am unaware of any independent “superfood” classification criteria.

More relevant yet, one single food or supplement is only a minor part of our overall diet, and our overall diet is one piece of the broader lifestyle puzzle.  You can eat all the “super foods” you want, but if you’re smoking, drinking too much, and doing zero physical activity (i.e., desk job), then the possible benefits of a so-called “super food” would likely be negated by the sum of all the bad habits.

3) “Nature’s most perfect food….perfect combination of life-giving sustenance” – This is more marketing puffery.  What exactly IS a perfect food anyway? How is this defined and quantified?

Supplement companies are notorious for propping up their marketing campaigns using ambiguous jargon which is difficult to quantify or verify.  This may elevate the product in consumers’ minds but, in reality, it holds little tangible relevance from a scientific perspective.

 

Claim
“Laminine…contains most known vitamins, important trace minerals, all eight essential amino acids”

Analysis
This claim celebrates the mundane and ordinary.  A varied diet which contains a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources (meat, fish, poultry) will also give you the exact same vitamins, trace minerals, and amino acids, plus valuable health promoting phytochemicals.  Therefore, a reasonably sensible diet would also classify as “natural synergistic superfoods” – giving you the same results and without the added expense of costly supplements.

 

Claim
8 clinical tests have been conducted which showed Laminine’s positive effects on Physical, Mental, Emotional Strengths and Overall Health”

Analysis
I believe this claim to be more marketing hoodwinking because a “clinical test” in advertising parlance is not a well-defined or regulated phrase and can therefore be interpreted to mean anything to anyone.

A search of the scientific journal article databases (PubMed etc) did not produce one single published study on Laminine.  The company claims “8 clinical tests” but we have absolutely no indication if they were conducted by independent scientists, evaluated for methodological rigor (i.e., minimize bias), or that they were even published in a scientific journal for public review.  I challenge LifePharm to provide information on their clinical tests for independent review.

 

Claim
“So, can your life use a change? Can you use more stamina? How about an incredibly positive outlook on life? A new feeling of wanting to affect every area of your life…you simply have to try Laminine TODAY.”

Analysis
More unquantifiable LifePharm ambiguity.  Sure, we could all use a “change.”  Sure we could all use more “stamina.”  We’d all love a “positive outlook on life.”  But remember, these terms mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Again, this product contains all the same basic nutrients you can easily get in a normal diet which negates the need for additional supplementation.

 

Claim
“…partially incubated, fertilized hen eggs contained a special combination of amino acids, peptides, and protein fractions that could help provide an incredible array of health benefits when consumed by humans.”

Analysis
It is true – eating eggs provides nourishment.  However, this claim appears to be celebrating and embellishing the ordinary.

Notice the loose choice of wording, “…protein fractions that ‘could’ help provide an incredible array of health benefits…”   Translation: there is a chance it ‘could’ or it ‘could not’ provide some unspecified ‘health benefits.’  Just more ambiguity.  To which specific health benefits is the company referring?

 

Claim
“In theory, these partially incubated, fertilized eggs – specifically 9-day-old fertilized eggs, contain all the nutrients required to start a new life. This includes vitamins, minerals and proteins, as well as important defense factors, growth factors, hormones and other biologically active components.”

Analysis
Yet again, this is just more celebrating the unremarkable and ordinary (i.e., you’re simply eating a hen’s egg). More specifically, I am unaware of any peer-reviewed scientific evidence which supports the contention that the most nutritious eggs are specifically 9 days old.  Why not 7, 8 or 10 days?  I challenge LifePharm to provide independent evidence in support of this claim.

LifePharm mentions that Laminine contains defense factors, growth factors, hormones and other biologically active components.  While these substances may prove useful for the chicken’s own development during incubation inside the egg, when ingested by humans they would simply be broken down by stomach acid like any other protein source and would likely have no physiological effect as their original constituents.

 

Claim
“A patented process extracts the critical nutritional fluid from the white of an egg at the protoembryonic stage, so we called it ProtoEmbryonic Stage Extract (PESE).  The extract not only provided a mechanism of rapid transport of very critical nutrients, but also contained Basic Fibroblast Growth Factor, which is most probably responsible for the amino acids and peptides to be utilized in the right manner, by “directing” their correct use by the body.”

Analysis
A search of the medical article databases for Proto-Embryonic Stage Extract (PESE) revealed no search results for these terms.  A search of Google Scholar only produced two results, both of which were just US patent applications.  Unfortunately, a patent application does not provide any scientific validation to justify marketing claims.  If the company can provide independent evidence that PESE has specific actions and benefits within the body, I will happily consider it and publish it here.

The company’s claim that it can direct the use of nutrients in the body does not appear to have been independently verified as of this writing and, as such, appears to be speculation and conjecture.  However, recall above where I mentioned that the body is quite efficient on its own at digesting the nutrients we consume and shuttling them off to where they’re needed.

 

Claim
Laminine for Mood Enhancement and Reduced Depression?
“Depression is caused by many external factors, including stress. In the brain, the serotonin uptake and release mechanism is affected. Laminine contains the amino acid Lysine; derived from PESE and vegetable proteins. The combination of these two components delivers a higher level of Lysine in the OPT9 than either ingredient would by itself. Lysine is known to regulate serotonin levels in the brain.”

Analysis
This is a case of misleading cause and effect associations.  For example, here the Laminine marketing script says that 1) depression is associated with serotonin levels; 2) Laminine contains the amino acid lysine; and 3) lysine is known to regulate serotonin levels in the brain.

All of the above is technically “true,” but it gives me the faulty impression that taking this product will improve depression. To the best of my knowledge, I have not come across any independent evidence to support the idea that Laminine has an effect on depression.

LifePharm goes on to state that “clinical studies have shown that Laminine may be beneficial in enhancing libido among those taking anti-depressants” but my search of the clinical trials databases did not reveal a single result to this end.

The company later states that “many people taking Laminine report a pronounced improvement in their mood and an increased ability to manage stress on a daily basis.”  This is more emotive sales copy.  It is based on an anecdotal testimonial data and is not part of a tightly controlled scientific experiment.  Amusing, but not independent evidence of efficacy.

 

Claim
Laminine Enhances Cardiovascular and Libido?
“The PESE and Vegetable proteins provide a very potent dose of Arginine.  Arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide and plays a vital role in a variety of biological processes. The inner lining of blood vessels uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax, thus resulting in increased blood flow. Effects include modulation of the hair cycle, and increased libido. Nitric oxide is also known for growth hormone formation, increasing defense of the organs against effects of aging.”

Analysis
This claim is misleading because it’s not a claim at all. Rather, it is a statement of two facts which may lead consumers to draw faulty conclusions in their own mind: 1) It may be true that PESE and vegetable proteins contain arginine; and 2) it is involved in nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation (increasing blood vessel diameter).  The assumption here is that because this product contains arginine that it will lead to enhanced libido and cardiovascular function.

To the best of my knowledge, I am unaware of any published independent scientific studies that Laminine can improve libido, cardiovascular function, or defend organs against the effects of aging.

 

Claim
Laminine Removes Toxins?
“PESE contains Cysteine, which is a precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, receiving much attention nowadays for healthier looking skin.  Antioxidants fight free radicals, harmful compounds in the body that damage cell membranes and DNA. Free radicals occur naturally in the body, but environmental toxins (including ultraviolet light, radiation, cigarette smoking, and air pollution) can increase the number of these damaging particles. Free radicals are believed to play a role in aging as well as the development of a number of health problems, including heart disease and cancer.”

Analysis
It may be technically true that PESE contains cysteine and that this amino acid is involved as a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione.  As with nearly all of the other Laminine claims, this one is another misleading melange of words which lead to faulty extrapolations of efficacy in the minds of consumers.

To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen a single published independent scientific study which shows Laminine can protect against free-radical induced heart disease and cancer.

Does Laminine Work?

There are numerous weepy and emphatic testimonials scattered across the internet with people declaring Laminine worked miracles, changed their lives, and helped their dog sleep better, but this must be taken with a grain of salt given that it is a multi-level marketing product heavily promoted by LifePharm distributors.   Anecdotal testimonials may appear truthful and heart-felt and many users may in fact believe it helped them, but just the intention to improve can be enough to give the impression it “worked.”  Dr. Christian Thoma authored an interesting article on the placebo effect.  Over the past 20 years, I’ve seen dozens of network marketing companies just like LifePharm pop up, produce an army of distributors all claiming their product is the best ever, and then once the product runs its life-cycle and goes on the downslide, they pack up shop and move onto the next big thing.e

Laminine side effects:  is it safe? 

I am unaware of any consumer reports of significant adverse effects from taking Laminine.  Given that it is just an amino acid, vitamin/mineral supplement, I can’t imagine it would have much of a pharmacological effect in the body of a well-nourished individual.  One woman on RipOffReport.com claimed it gave her hot flashes but, in all fairness, this is a testimonial too and there is no way to determine if it was the product or something else that caused this.

Are There Any Laminine Consumer Complaints?

The bulk of internet information on Laminine appears to be driven by its independent sales distributors which appear to crowd out complaints from the search rankings.  However, the few consumer complaints that have appeared showed up on RipOffReport.com and ComplaintsBoard.com, with the latter referring to possible improprieties regarding cancelling his membership before the 30-day trial.  A number of other comments about Laminine, good and bad, appear in a bulletin board-style forum.

How Much Does Laminine Cost?

I performed an internet search to find out how much Laminine costs and where consumers can buy it.  I noticed a rather large disparity in prices which might be due to the fact that it’s a multi-level marketing product and perhaps its distributors are able to sell it retail for whatever they want.  One website had a Laminine 3 Pack on offer for $108 plus $8.95 shipping and handling, the Family Pack Plus for $320 plus $21 S&H, and finally the Fast Start Package which also looks to be a business builder package (become a distributor) for $1035 plus $36 S&H.  According to promotional literature on the LifePharm/Laminine website, the direct wholesale cost if you become a distributor is $33 per box and this can be on-sold via retail for $43.

I won’t say that Laminine is an MLM scam, but I do think you should do your homework before investing in any MLM “business opportunity.”  For more information on whether joining a multi-level marketing company is right for you, visit: http://www.mlmwatch.org

How To Get a Refund on Laminine

Consumer reports regarding refunds suggest that in order to get a refund, you must ship back the empty containers to the company at your own expense for $3.31.  There are also reports that a call center is uses to address customer service issues which means they can only follow the protocol they’re given (and probably not offer much else regarding health questions).

Conclusion

Overall, I find Laminine to be nothing more than a simple amino acid, vitamin, and mineral supplement, all of which are readily available in a standard diet.  The carefully orchestrated mix of invented jargon and scientific facts stops short of making overtly false claims, but may lead consumers to make faulty extrapolations of efficacy which are not substantiated by independent scientific evidence.  In conclusion, I would discourage consumers from purchasing Laminine or recommending it to others.

What do you think about Laminine?  Please comment below.