False and misleading ‘stem cell’ claims made on supplements

Consumer, Cell, Tissue and Gene Therapy Products, Health supplements, Cell, tissue and gene therapy products, Health supplements

Animal placenta supplements are being actively marketed through websites, social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram), word-of-mouth and through family and friends. Some sellers claim that these supplements are a form of live stem cell therapy, or even go to the extent of advertising their products as miraculous cures for diseases and medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

Do not fall prey to such claims. They are false, misleading, and not substantiated by scientific facts.

False claim #1: Animal placenta supplements contain live stem cells

Stem cells are cells that can divide and differentiate into a diverse range of specialised cell types. These cells are present in humans, animals or plants.

Claims that the currently marketed oral placenta supplements contain live stem cells are false and not scientifically plausible. For stems cells to retain activity, they need to be stored under very cold temperatures, as low as -196 ºC. Furthermore, stem cells consumed orally will be destroyed by the enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract.

False claim #2: Stem cells can regenerate new, healthy cells

For stem cells to regenerate heathy cells to replace diseased ones, they would need to be transplanted directly into patients. The majority of such regenerative medicine is currently still at an experimental phase.

In addition, stem cells used for such purposes must be obtained from the patient himself/herself or other human donors. It is not possible for stem cells derived from animal placenta to regenerate new human tissues.

There are also other untruthful claims that such products can cause embryonic stem cells in the body to form new tissues. This is not possible as embryonic stem cells are not present in adults.

False claim #3: Stem cells can prevent and treat diseases and medical conditions

There are no published clinical studies or scientific evidence that health supplements containing stem cells can prevent or treat medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

Products that contain live stem cells for the prevention and treatment of diseases and medical conditions must be approved and registered with HSA. These medicines are usually formulated as injections or infusions in order to maintain the biological activity and therapeutic effect of stem cells. They have to undergo rigorous clinical trials and are required to meet stringent safety, quality and efficacy criteria.

What consumers should do

  • Avoid purchasing and consuming health supplements with exaggerated claims.
  • Be wary of sellers who share stories of individuals who have been “cured” of their medical conditions after taking stem cells or animal placenta supplements. Such stories are not reliable proof of the effectiveness of a product for medical treatment.
  • Such supplements cannot replace medical treatment. If you take them in place of prescribed medication, you run the risk of delaying or interrupting proper medical treatment, which may worsen your medical condition.
  • Make informed choices about the supplements you consume. Get advice from your doctor or pharmacist when unsure of the right products for a particular need.

For more information, learn about getting savvy with health supplements.