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Why the Theranos debacle/fraud should matter to the skincare industry

Why does it matter? Because pseudoscience fraud is still going on around you. After it picks money from investors, it will pick money from you, consumer of skincare, before you know it.

Humans default emotion is trust.  Unfortunately, crooks take advantage of this human tendency. Here is an example: people selling soup powders disguised as nutritional supplements, and using pseudo-science to do so. Why a soup? Because a “hydrolyzate of Vicia faba” is bean (borad bean, faba bean) soup. Once you call the dry bean soup “Peptistrong NPN1” you can charge 100 times as much, that’s how big the power of advertising can be.

How do they “prove” that this dry bean soup, sorry, NPN1 can reverse muscle atrophy? They do it both in vitro and in vivo.

In vitro: the authors used cultures of mouse muscle cells and human leukemia cells for their experiments to examine the effects of bean soup.  They looked at the effects of starvation and feeding on the cells using a series of assays, like phosphorylation. They also looked at the effect of dexomethasone, a steroid as a way to mimic muscle wasting caused by cancer, etc. and bean soup. The control was no dexamethasone and no bean soup.

Controls in any experiment are crucial to decide what conclusions you can extract from the experiment (or not).

I would have tried chicken soup, because that always works in my family for all kinds of ailments.

In vivo: mice were tortured but with ethical permision. Ethical approval was granted by the International Association of Religious Freedom. No, it’s not a joke, this association seems to exist. You can read the torture details in the paper (but you can’t unread), published in the journal Nutrients after paying $2,600. Apparently, feeding them bean soup attenuated the effects of torture on their muscles.

I thought we won that battle long ago, I mean, that lesson about torturing animals for no reason at all is bad..

So when you see this company looking for employees, run. And make your own bean soup, I am sure it’s good for your muscles, after all, protein is protein.

Here is a recipe for bean soup.

In the meantime, this company managed to raise millions of dollars from people who learnt nothing from the Theranos fiasco.

Remember: there are an infinite number of experiments you can do. The question is, are they worth doing? If this were a science fiction book, you know what would happen next.


Cal R, Davis H, Kerr A, Wall A, Molloy B, Chauhan S, Trajkovic S, Holyer I, Adelfio A, Khaldi N. (2020) Preclinical Evaluation of a Food-Derived Functional Ingredient to Address Skeletal Muscle Atrophy. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 29;12(8):2274. doi: 10.3390/nu12082274. PMID: 32751276; PMCID: PMC7469066.