Company that says products affect telomere length bows to FTC demand to dial back claims

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Company that says products affect telomere length bows to FTC demand to dial back claims

Related tags Senescence Ftc

Healthy aging claims are back in the spotlight with the settlement of a complaint by the US Federal Trade Commission against Telomerase Activation Sciences, a company that markets dietary supplements and skin care products based on TCM ingredients that the company claims have powerful anti-aging effects.

According tothe FTC action​, the company had overreached in its representations of the effects of its products. FTC claimed that the company and its CEO, Noel Patton, were making false and unsubstantiated claims about two of the company’s products, TA-65MD, which comes in capsule and powder forms, and TA-65 Skin, a topical cream.

Going beyond the research

According to a statement from FTC, the company, Falsely advertised that both TA-65MD and TA-65 Skin reverse aging and that TA-65MD prevents and repairs DNA damage, restores aging immune systems, increases bone density, reverses the effects of aging skin and eyes, and prevents or reduces the risk of cancer. TA Sciences also allegedly misrepresented that TA-65 Skin decreases the time needed for skin to recover after medical procedures.

TA Sciences bases their products on a patented combination of ingredients common to Traditional Chinese Medicine preparation. Chief among these are various extracts of the botanical astragulus. Also mentioned in the company’s patent documentation are ginsenosides.

Unlike some companies that are the subject of FTC actions, companies that base claims on general studies on ingredients or don’t bother to connect their claims to research at all, TA Sciences has done some clinical work on its formulation. One study purported to show the formula can lengthen telomeres​ in a 12 month trial that included 117 relatively healthy​ participants who ranged from 57 to 85 years old and tested positive for cytomegalovirus exposure. The research showed a trend toward longer telomere length in the treatment group, though the difference was not statistically significant.

Telomere science

Telomeres are the structures at the end of DNA strands that have been shown to protect DNA during replication. One of the theories of aging research is that as the telomeres erode over time, the DNA strands themselves can start to be degraded. Errors can then start to creep in during replication, which is one of the postulated mechanisms by which the body’s tissues become less resilient and efficient over time.

Progressive shortening of telomeres leads to senescence, apoptosis, or oncogenic transformation of somatic cells, affecting the health and lifespan of an individual. Shorter telomeres have been associated with increased incidence of diseases and poor survival,​ according to a review of the recent research published in 2011​.

According to FTC’s administrative complaint, however, TA Sciences’s claims had gone far beyond what the research it done on its formula would support. FTC said that without adequate support TA Sciences had claimed that its products would:

  • Reverse aging;
  • Prevent and repair DNA damage;
  • Restore aging immune systems; and
  • Increase bone density.

Promotional relationships

FTC also said that the company had failed to disclose a promotional relationship it had with a celebrity endorsing the product. The company’s products were featured on a segment of The Suzanne Show​, which was hosted by actress Suzanne Somers. FTC said the company had failed to disclose that Somers was paid almost $90,000 for the segment, and that users of the product featured on the show had been supplied with free goods.

In addition to falsely claiming that some of these supposed results were supported by scientific evidence, TA Sciences allegedly misrepresented that a 2012 segment it paid for on ​The Suzanne Show was independent, educational programing instead of advertising for TA-65MD. Also, the FTC charged that TA Sciences deceptively represented that consumers in its ads were independent users, expressing impartial opinions of the product. In fact, they received free bottles of TA-65MD, worth up to $4,000, in exchange for their endorsement,​ FTC said.

The proposed settlement order​, which is open to public comment before being made final, prohibits the company from any representation about the health benefits, performance, efficacy, safety or side effects of its products unless the representation is not misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The company must further refrain from misrepresenting that any paid promotion constitutes an independent endorsement of its products. It must also set up a compliance procedure, set to run for up to 10 years, to make sure its licensees who sell the product don’t make any unsubstantiated claims, either.

TA Sciences did not respond to a request for comment.

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