Nov 20 2015

Vitastiq – Indiegogo Pseudoscience

Crowdfunding is an excellent application of social media and the web. Anyone with a great idea, who can sell their idea, can get funding from the public. You don’t necessarily need big investors.

But of course, any tool or application that can be used for good can also be used for ill. Crowdfunding sites have been used to fund pure pseudoscience. A recently example was sent to me by a reader – Vitastiq. The campaign was 185% funded, for over $210,000.

What the product claims to do is measure vitamin and mineral levels non-invasively by simply touching a small probe against a specific location on the skin. I was immediately skeptical of these claims – how can the blood level of vitamin B12, for example, be measured on the skin? Further, the probe just has a simple electrical conductor. At best it is measuring skin conductance, which can be used to measure sweat levels but not much else.

Exploring further, the company claims that there are specific locations on the body to measure specific vitamin and mineral levels: Vitamin C on the thumb, Copper on the left abdomen, etc. This is starting to sound like acupuncture – and there is a good reason for that. It is based on acupuncture.

It is further based on “Electroacupuncture according to Voll” or EAV. The company claims:

Vitastiq is a single innovative concept that connects EAV methodology to your smartphone. Expensive tests and specialist check-ups are not needed anymore.

EAV devices essentially measure the galvanic skin response. This is a common target of quack devices, because it can look superficially impressive. It is used for devices like lie detectors, in order to measure sweating. It cannot detect medical conditions or measure blood levels of anything, however.

The galvanic skin response pseudoscience is then combined with acupuncture pseudoscience, leading to the claim that the conductance at a particular point on the body relates to a specific condition or physiological parameter. Such claims are completely devoid of scientific backing, however. In short, this is complete and utter quackery.

It is a sad commentary that enough people bought into this nonsense that the campaign was fully funded. Even the slightest curiosity about how such a device could possibly work should raise serious doubts about the claims being made.

Where is the vast body of scientific research that would be necessary to establish first the basic technology and then the specific application, namely the locations on the body that correspond to each vitamin and mineral? Vitastiq does not even pretend to link to any supporting research.

Think about what would need to be true if chromium levels in the blood could be detected specifically in the big toe. What would this say about human physiology?

Further, the FDA might have something to say about such devices. According to Quackwatch:

The FDA classifies “devices that use resistance measurements to diagnose and treat various diseases” as Class III devices, which require FDA approval prior to marketing. In 1986, an FDA official informed me that the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health had determined that the Dermatron and Accupath 1000 were diagnostic devices that posed a “significant risk.” [11] No such device can be legally marketed in the United States for diagnostic or treatment purposes. A few companies have obtained 510(k) clearance (not approval) by telling the FDA that their devices will be used for biofeedback or to measure skin resistance, but this does not entitle them to market the devices for other purposes.

Vitastiq does not mention FDA listing or approval of any kind, and I cannot find it listed under approved devices. I sent a notice to the FDA, we’ll see how they respond.


Vitastiq makes extraordinary medical claims without the slightest bit of plausibility or evidence. The only way to characterize such a device, in my opinion, is as medical quackery. Anyone relying upon this device to monitor their health and make decisions about diet and supplements is at risk.

Indiegogo should not only be ashamed of facilitating this quackery, they should be partly liable for it. At the very least they should not allow campaigns for unapproved medical devices.

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