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Formula 216 - exposing the fraud

Formula 216 (archive) (MozArchive) is a supplement that claims to increase your Vitamin C levels without ingesting the actual substance. Here is one quote from the front page where that is stated:

Early experience with FORMULA-216TM shows it may be delivering on its promise to raise internal levels of vitamin C without dietary or supplemental intake of vitamin C.

And another time from some other page (archive) (MozArchive):

Results of preliminary clinical tests are in and they confirm the unique array of ingredients in FORMULA-21TM double blood serum levels of vitamin C in all subjects tested without intake of this essential nutrient from dietary or supplemental sources.

Biologically, it's long been known that humans are one of the few animals that do not make their own Vitamin C. Therefore - if a way to re-activate that ability was discovered - that would summon quite the storm in scientific circles. Here we have a product that claims to do just that. Their evidence consists of five subjects reporting an increase of blood Vitamin C levels after taking the supplement:

Test results showing an increase of blood Vitamin C in five volunteers, after taking the Formula 216 supplement

Good science usually isn't done on this few subjects. But let's ignore that for a moment and assume they've got their results on 100 people. Why did this happen? Before we dig deep into the fraud, let us remember that the supplement is allegedly able to boost Vitamin C without dietary or supplemental intake of vitamin C. Scrolling down to the ingredients list, we finally find the elephant in the room:

Ingredient list of the Formula 216 supplement

How can they say that the increase is without dietary or supplemental intake of vitamin C when the product contains actual Vitamin C in it? Even though on another page they do admit (archive) (MozArchive) to supplying 275 milligrams of supplemental vitamin C, they are still surprised that it sticks around for the next day (the volunteer took FORMULA-216TM at 11:00 PM on a Tuesday evening and woke up the next morning with a “20” reading on the urine test strip 8.5 hours later (7:30 AM) which was unusually maintained for another 12 hours (7:30 PM.)) - even though that is what is expected (archive) (MozArchive):

Vitamin C can stay in the body for weeks. Levels of vitamin C in the blood are controlled by the kidneys through a process known as ‘renal reabsorption,’ which prevents vitamin C from being lost in the urine.

This is apparently the basis upon which they've decided that their additional substances activate actual production of this nutrient. Yet in the tables, the Vitamin C kept increasing only as long as people were taking the supplement (blood samples 1 and 2), then stopped when people didn't take it anymore (blood sample 3) and kept dropping (blood sample 4). I would really love it if a way to activate our bodies' production of this important nutrient was found - but unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be happening with Formula 216. The results are consistent exactly with a direct increase from Vitamin C ingestion, instead of any long term generation by special herbal ingredients.

The fraud does not end there though. One bottle of Formula 216 costs 30 US dollars (archive) (MozArchive) - this for 275mg of Vitamin C in a tablet. There are 30 tablets in a bottle - so overall, you get 8250 mg of the substance (the other ingredients are almost certainly irrelevant in terms of Vit C increase). Now let's compare that to a random other Vitamin C supplement (archive) (MozArchive). That one contains 500mg per tablet, with 120 of them in a bottle (60000mg overall). You get 7 times more Vitamin C for 3 times less price; therefore - per amount of Vitamin C - Formula 216 is over 20 times more expensive. Though Formula 216 contains a few other ingredients such as Vitamins A, D and Zinc - even if you count those, the price is still into the stratosphere. And those other substances don't have anything to do with Vitamin C production, therefore they don't erase the fraudulent claims nor make Formula 216 better than a cheap Vitamin C tablet (that's why people would want to buy it in the first place, right? For the alleged Vitamin C increase?). Even if you believed in the restoration of Vitamin C production in humans by the secondary substances from Formula 216, you can easily get those elsewhere. That cheap Vitamin C tablet contains the citrus flavonoids (or you can just eat an orange) and the effects of olive leaf extract can be presumably gotten from just using olive oil (and I can't find evidence that it increases Vitamin C production from a searx or pubmed search, anyway).

There you go, my friends. This fraud got me so angry that I actually bothered to whip out this essay. Certainly, I have never seen something so blatant (except at Mozilla). They even got a famous naturopathic doctor to endorse this product. Adding fuel to the fire, the site doesn't display at all without JavaScript. No matter, Diggy is here to bury the evil as usual. Have a nice, healthy day - hopefully without the need for trash like Formula 216.

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