Don't Buy the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse™

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In 2004, I noted that the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse™ had been marketed for several years with claims that were brazen, grandiose and illegal. It was promoted on the Internet and on cable television with a 30-minute infomercial [1] that featured the marketing company's founder and president, Paris A. DeAguero. DeAguero claimed that at the age of 27 he was diagnosed with breast cancer and advised to have "immediate surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatment." Instead—he said—he took a friend's advice, followed an herbal "cleansing" program, "shrunk the tumor out of existence," did several years of "research" to develop the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse™, and was devoting his life to "teaching people the secrets of vibrant health, beauty and freedom from sickness and disease." [2] His Web site further stated that he "is considered by many to be the healthiest man alive."

 

The basic theory behind DeAguero's program was that ordinary eating, especially of meat products, leads to constipation and an accumulation of from 1/4 to 2 inches of hardened "mucus plaque" on the inner walls of the large intestine (colon). According to him, this accumulates heavy metals, interferes with nutrient absorption, causes people to gain weight, causes "toxins" to enter the body, and becomes an underlying cause of nearly every type of illness [3]. There is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Components of the Product

The product advertised in the infomercial was the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse™ "starter kit," which sold for $89.95 plus shipping and was said to provide a week's supply. However, the Web site strongly recommended using the $178 2-week program (pictured to the right) because "although the 'One Week Starter Kit' will rid your body of parasites, unfortunately it leaves behind their eggs. Taking the program a second time within 8 weeks will eliminate the eggs guaranteeing you long lasting results." For even better results, the company offered the $293 6-week Ultimate Package—"the ultimate cleanse, total rejuvenation process and strongly recommended for those of you who strive for perfecting your body's optimum performance!"

 

Each of the kits had the same four components:

  1. Herbal Mucus Eliminator, which contained "milk-free lacto bacillus bifidus powder, bentonite in an herbal base of alfalfa leaf, cascara sagrada bark, rose hips, buckhorn bark, garlic goldenseal, and capseium." Its stated purpose was to "to eliminate and detoxify poisons and foreign matter from the vital organs and cells of the body." It was also claimed to produce an average weight loss of 10 pounds in less than 7 days.
  2. Super Boost Green Mix, which contained Hawaiian spirulina, alfalfa, gotu-kola, sea kelp, wheat grass, orange peel powder, and spinach leaf. Its stated purpose was to "provide necessary nutrition to help keep your energy high while completing the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse."
  3. Parasine 2, which contained wormwood, senna pods, fresh ground black seeds, fresh ground green black walnut hulls, fresh ground pumpkin seeds, organic cascara sagrada, fresh ground organic cloves, brucca, fresh ground wormseed, bioperine standardized extract of 95% piperine. This product was said to be deadly to parasites and worms in the human body." Senna and cascara are laxatives.
  4. An instructional booklet called 7-Day Miracle Cleanse: A Professional Detoxification Program.

The booklet stated that completing the Ultimate Cleanse six times in the first year will "return the colon to its original shape and remove the source of most sickness and disease—the hardened mucus plaque existing in it." However, the recommended program was considerably more elaborate than simply taking the products in the kit. It included additional products; dietary modification (eating mostly fruits and vegetables); drinking distilled water; routine use of colonic irrigation; cooking with non-aluminum pots; and use of herbal and homeopathic products.

DeAguero's claims were based on a theory of "autointoxication" that was medically accepted about 100 years ago but abandoned after scientific observations proved it wrong. In 1919 and 1922, it was clearly demonstrated that symptoms of headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite that accompanied fecal impaction were caused by mechanical distension of the colon rather than by production or absorption of toxins. Moreover, direct observation of the colon during surgical procedures or autopsies found no evidence that hardened feces accumulate on the intestinal walls [4].

DeAguero's program was similar to one that was marketed for many years by Victor Earl Irons (1918-1998), one of the three "pioneers of nutrition" whom Arguer cites as inspirational to him. Irons claimed that virtually everyone has a "clogged colon," that deposits of fecal material cause "toxins and poisonous gases" to "seep into your blood and poison all your organs and tissues," and that "if every person in this country took 3 home colonics a week, 95% of the doctors would have to retire for lack of business." During the 1950s, his marketing activities got him into considerable legal trouble. In 1957, he received a one-year prison sentence for misbranding a vitamin mixture sold door to door. In 1959, shipments of eight products and accompanying literature shipped by V.E. Irons, Inc., were destroyed under a consent decree because the products were promoted with false or misleading claims. Other seized products were ordered destroyed in 1959 and 1960 [5].

DeAguero Threatens Me

In the infomercial, DeAguero claimed that users of his program would lose weight and achieve "a body immune to all sickness" by expelling plaque and parasites. He also claimed that "thousands of people overcome just about every health problem feared today, including AIDS, all types of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, migraine headaches, PMS, fibroid tumors, and all types of bowel dysfunction." [6] These claims—and many others in the infomercial—were both preposterous and illegal.

In November 2004, shortly after I posted my analysis of the infomercial, DeAguero threatened me by e-mail:

Our legal council [sic] has asked me to make this one time request for the recent slanderous and damaging claims you have made toward our company the 7 Day Miracle Cleanse. You have made an error in your judgment and obviously should have investigated our products and program before making such claims. It is a classic case of jealousy. We sell a wonderful program and products that actual [sic] produces [sic] positive result. I have personal aided many people in overcome [sic] just about every health imaginable. We only represent the opportunity for the human to heal itself. This is very straight forward and how dare you put our company in the same category as Don Barrett's shows!

We demand you retract your damaging claims against our company, the 7 Day Miracle Cleanse or you will leave us no choice but to file legal action against you. In addition, a letter of apology will need to be issued within 15 days of this letter. We will not contact you further if you don't meet our demands. Our legal council [soc] is a license [sic] law firm in the state of Pennsylvania. Again, you should do your homework before making claims against any business or you leave yourself wide open to litigation.

I replied:

Your infomercial states that:

  1. Most Americans accumulate large amounts of "mucus plaque" that healthy blocks the colon and predisposes them to cancer and many other diseases.
  2. Every American has colon disease or colon degeneration.
  3. Millions of Americans harbor harmful parasites
  4. Users of your product can lose 10 to 25 pounds in a 7-day period
  5. Use of the product can extend life by 10, 20, 30 or more years.

Please supply me with the scientific evidence that you believe supports these statements. I am most interested in knowing how you have determined that use of your product can make people live 30 more years.

I never heard from him again.

Regulatory Action

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act states that any product (other than a device) intended for the prevention or treatment of disease is a drug and that it is illegal to market new drugs that do not have FDA approval. I believe that the claims made for the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse violate this law. In September 2004, the FDA ordered the company to stop marketing its "Expanded Vision Colon Board," which it had advertised with claims of "detoxification, greater longevity, self healing, and improving health and the immune system." The warning letter stated that claims of this type made the enema system a Class III medical device that could not be legally marketed without FDA approval as safe and effective for its intended purpose [5]. However, the FDA did not pursue the claims made for the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse.

In January 2005, after the company ignored two inquiries from the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP), the ERSP asked the FTC to act. In February 2008, DeAguero, his wife Laura, and company co-owner Dieter Ammann agreed to settle FTC charges that they had falsely claimed that the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse program would cure cancer and other serious diseases [8]. The settlement bans them from involvement in future infomercials for any product, service, or program, except for informational publications, and from advertising health-related products in the future in any medium. The settlement orders called for a $70,000 payment from Ammann and a $14,455,123 million judgment against the trio that is suspended based on the their alleged inability to pay. This is the first time the FTC has imposed such broad restrictions in its first action against marketers who made false health claims. (Kevin Trudeau is similarly restricted, but he was a habitual offender.) I have asked the agency to disclose (a) why the case took so long to complete, (b) where the $14+ million went, and (c) what could be done to make it possible for scams like this to be stopped more quickly.

For Additional Information

References

  1. Seven-Day Miracle Cleanse infomercial. Downloaded from 7dmc.com, November 2004.
  2. DeAguero PA. My faith guided me to the correct healing process. 7dmc.com Web site, archived Sept 15, 2002.
  3. Do you need to cleanse? Calcomp Nutrition Web site, accessed November 12, 2004.
  4. Barrett S. Gastrointestinal quackery: Colonics, laxatives, and more. Quackwatch, Dec 7, 2003.
  5. Barrett S. Be wary of the National Health Federation (1993). Quackwatch, posted July 18, 2003.
  6. Barrett S. Analysis of the 7-Day Miracle Cleanse infomercial (2004). Infomercial Watch Web site, Nov 13, 2004.
  7. Ulatowski TA. Warning letter to Anthony DeAguero, Sept 21, 2004.
  8. Marketers of 7-Day Miracle Cleanse Program banned from infomercials. FTC news release, Feb 27, 2008.

This article was revised on February 3, 2008.

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