Decisions on Supplements

A member of my family (J) has alopecia (sp?) and has been "prescribed" (i.e. sold by a health store) colloidal silica gel (link below) to help.

I would like any practical advice on how I - as a non-scientific, non-medical skeptic - can make a judgement on how likely this product is to be helpful beyond placebo effect. The claims on the product page itself seem fairly woolly to me.

Link: http://www.healthchemist.co.nz/planet-health/planet-health-q-silica-coll...

Also any practical advice on how to _gently_ plant seeds of doubt in J's mind about bogus products would be useful (in no way am I implying that Q's silica gel IS bogus, lest I be sued for libel!).

- Linda

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Measurements ...

Well, how about getting them to consider how to measure the extent of the hair loss, and repeat that measurement on a regular basis in order to test the treatment (or lack of treatment)?

There's an official scale called the Norwood Scale http://www.norwoodscale.com/ but that seems like quite a blunt instrument. Another comment from a random googling gave the "how many hairs fall out" test - http://www.newbeauty.com/dailybeauty/entry.aspx?id=1892

There seem to be a lot of causes of alopecia, according to Wikipedia ... and a lot of potential treatments http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldness_treatments.

So, rather than criticise one specific product, give them a method for evaluating any product ... data collection is the basis of clams testing.

-jim

One thing I'd point out is

One thing I'd point out is even by the claims made on the product that it works "...By strengthening connective tissue and supporting collagen formation" it won't work to regrow hair that is lost, it only claims to work to make growing hair stronger (or something). You could also note that often with these types of claims, they are based on weak or no evidence - just because silica (or anything else for that matter) has a role in the body, it doesn't mean adding more is going to have an effect or even be beneficial. As always, if they are making vague claims, it means there simply isn't the evidence there for the product and they can't state outright it actually does anything. In addition, this appears to be for topical (external) use, I've used the point quite successfully before that the part of the nail and hair that you can see is actually dead, and the product, if it works has to penetrate through the skin/pores and get to the cells that are actively dividing and growing hair and nails to do it's thing. As the skin is meant to prevent stuff getting in, it would have to be a pretty exceptional product to have particles small enough to get through the barrier and get absorbed or carried in to do it's job. Colloidal only means "dispersed" so it's hard to tell just how small those particles are supposed to be and whether the skin could absorb minerals from the outside.