When I wrote in 2017 about Finland’s leading pharmacy chain intentionally selling magnesium spray snake oil to its customers, I wasn’t aware of the scale of the transdermal magnesium scam. There are hundreds of manufacturers and sellers, and there are dozens of such products on sale in finnish pharmacies.
One company caught my eye: Nordic Health, which maintains websites for all nordic countries. It has “Magnesium Sleep lotion for mothers and babies“, “Magnesium butter“, and 17 (!) other transdermal magnesium products. The tagline: “Scientifically proven“.
According to Nordic Health, its magnesium is effectively absorbed through the skin. If true, that would be strikingly different from all other transdermal magnesium preparations. The company presents studies to bolster its claims (click to open).
- #1 looks like an incomplete citation of a real, published scientific study.
- #2-#6 are sponsored, unpublished statements about different products (Magnesium, vitamins) allegedly done by an university. Obviously it’s nothing about these specific Nordic Health formulations.
- #7 and #8 are unrelated studies about inflammatory bowel disease (!) in eastern Europe.
- #9-#12 are mainly unidentifiable, unpublished sponsored statements.
I managed to find #11 online; it’s an uncontrolled questionnare test (“did you sleep better with this product?”)
To make it short: This is no scientific proof, this is not even science. And it’s accompanied with logos of universities and the NHS. I bet Nordic Health hasn’t any right to use the NHS’s mark to pump up sales.
Nordic Health Sprays tells it’s a finnish family business. …but what kind of family?
But wait, there was a real study at the beginning, right? The incorrect citation was
- Watkins, K., Josling PD. 2010. A Pilot Study to determine the impact of Transdermal Magnesium treatment on serum levels and whole body CaMg Ratios. European Journal For Nutraceutical Research.
Fake Journal, Fake Study – Good Product?
This study is widely quoted and reproduced on webshops which sell transdermal magnesium. Get it, for example, from the “Magnesium Health Institute” (PDF). It is even cited in papers in (allegedly peer-reviewed) scientific journals. Although it’s not found as an original paper in any citation database.
It is not in PubMed/MedLine, and no-one seems to know the “European Journal for Nutraceutical Research“. I’ve done a lot of research into predatory journals (soon to be published), but this one baffled me. The journal is not in the NLM catalog, meaning it has not even existed at any point in time. There’s no trace whatsoever currently on the net. Nonetheless, it’s widely used and cited by shady and half-shady businesses – like extempore, the customer magazine of the finnish pharmacists’ association.
Finally, I identified the “journal” through the always-appreciated internet archive. The “European Journal for Nutraceutical Research” has been a sub-blog on the defunct phytomedcentral.org website. It had less than five entries and was accompanied by other fakes, like Plant Taxonomy Journal, Plant Anti Cancer Journal, Veterinary Plant Medicine Journal, and Pharmaceutical Plant Research Journal. These were all used to push questionable supplements or “herbal remedies” by junk studies disguised as scientific journal articles.
It’s in a way a copycat of Andrea Rossi‘s method to publish his cold fusion junk papers in his “Journal of Nuclear Physics“, which is in fact only his blog.
If it wouldn’t be so symptomatic, it would be funny. The source is long gone, but the misinformation lives on. I won’t go into details of the study, the strange titles of the authors and the obscure “Herbal Research Center” where it was done.
And this is the best existing evidence for transdermal magnesium?
It is, according to this review of transdermal magnesium, which was also published through a controversial publisher. Generally, at the moment only sub-standard stuff like this exists.
- Nutrients. 2017 Aug; 9(8): 813. doi: 10.3390/nu9080813
ps. the address, where “Nordic Health Sprays” (Pohjoismaiden Terveyssuihkeet Oy) claims to reside, is a family home on sale: