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Pyrroloquinoline Quinone and mTORs

As a general statement, mTORs are cellular regulatory proteins essential for the activation of proteins specific or important to growth and cellular replication.  Almost any factor important to protein synthesis affects mTOR activation to some degree by interacting with the TSC1/TSC2 protein complex.  Relevant to the question, the underlying mechanisms for many tumors and cancers involve dysregulation of mTOR cell signaling pathways (usually an abnormal up-regulation of mTOR components).  Thus, as an approach to controlling the growth of cancerous cell lines, the use of mTOR inhibitors has been proposed.  The question or concern related to PQQ evolves from such observations, specifically the report by Kumar et al. in Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2015;15:1297-304 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25832358).  These researchers observed that PQQ exposure lessens the growth of human leukemia HL-60 Cells through Inhibition of mTOR.  Thus the question – Could something similar happen in muscle?

The cells in question versus muscle cells:

HL-60 (Human promyelocytic leukemia) cells are derived from a type of blood cells, known as neutrophils.  HL-60 cells proliferate continuously in suspension cell cultures.  Accordingly, they are used in cell proliferation studies or studies in which cells with the characteristics of phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils, are the focus of an investigation.  Phagocytic cells are cells that are recruited to the sites of infection, cell injury, and inflammation.  An interesting observation is that when activated, some of their mitochondrial content gets extruded (cf. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15548627.2015.1063765) in to plasma/blood.   In this regard,  plasma levels of mitochondrial DNA (from phagocytic and the targeted damaged cells) can be used as a marker for the extent of inflammation in human and animal subjects. Phagocytic cells can even generate hydrogen peroxide and superoxide radicals to aid in the chemical modification of inflammatory by-products and cellular debris.

Muscle cells, of course, are different.  In vivo, they do not replicate or “turn-over” rapidly, in contrast to phagocytic cell lines.  Their mitochondria stay intake and are not extruded.  Oxygen utilization is efficient and used for ATP production, which in part is in contrast with phagocytic cells, wherein some of the cellular oxygen is directed at “oxidant” and superoxide production.  The point here is that interpretation of results related to cell signaling is cell-type and process dependent.  When the only data available are derived from cells in culture, it ‘s hard to make assertive conclusions without a lot of nuance and other assumptions.

mTOR, PQQ, and Muscle

So – can mTOR levels influence muscle growth.  The answer in some situations is yes.  Several research groups have noted that there is a sarcopenic effect (presence of lower muscle mass and either lower muscular strength or lower physical performance) with long-term mTOR inhibitor use (e.g. for long-term cancer treatment. (cf. Gyawali et al. Muscle wasting associated with the long-term use of mTOR inhibitors. Mol Clin Oncol. 2016; 5:641-646).  Importantly, only very very potent mTOR inhibitory agents have been studied.  Thus, to what extent this has a direct relevance to a normal exercising person taking PQQ is not clear.  Moreover, as it relates to PQQ, there are few comparative studies of using differing cells and their response to PQQ exposure.  We know of only one.   Min et al. reported (J Cancer. 2014; 5:609-24, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25161699)

PQQ exposure enhanced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumor cells (3 types of tumor cells were studied) but promoted no apoptotic changes in the normal cell lines derived from renal and umbilical-derived cells.  Accordingly, an answer to the PQQ/muscle question is, if there is an effect, it is probably modest, if at all.  Importantly, exercise “trumps” most known dietary factors and nutraceuticals taken as supplements to optimize muscular function or maintenance.

As a final comment, for questions such as the one posed, going to the resveratrol literature is sometimes helpful.  In many respects PQQ and resveratrol (RV) influence similar cell signaling pathways.  A PubMed search identified over 50 papers addressing RV, tumor growth, and apoptosis, i.e. RV suppresses tumor growth.  In contrast, there are dozens of paper suggesting RV improves many aspects of muscle function.  For PQQ, although the literature is not as extensive, the available reports suggest similar findings.

Summary

In an active individual, is PQQ going to do much independent of the effects of exercise?  Few external factors promote muscular or mitochondrial function as well as exercise itself.  The mTOR cell signaling pathways are clearly essential to muscle function, but any mTOR inhibitory response that PQQ might have is probably overridden by other factors.  For example, PQQ has been shown in animal studies to have clear positive effects on neonatal growth, anti-ischemic/cardio-protective effects, neural protective effects, an ability to enhance fatty acid metabolism via mitochondrial oxidation, and anti-inflammatory effects.  Rather, than increasing performance per se, the benefits of PQQ, if any, are more likely related to recovery following an episode of intense activity.  In this regard, some mTOR suppression may have some utility.

Why You Need More Fun in Your Life, According to Science

Why You Need More Fun in Your Life, According to Science
—George Bernard Shaw
Most of us want to have fun, it just seems like it is not as easy as it used to be. The reasons are many: guilt (because others aren’t having fun), perceived inappropriateness (because others around us cannot have fun) or lack of time (because our commitment to others won’t let us have fun). Yet, science gives an encouraging nod that we need to make time for fun and should perhaps prioritize it.

Since the term “fun” can be ambiguous and is often used in different contexts, let us first look at the standard definition of the word. Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines fun as: amusement, especially lively or playful. Staying true to the definition we generally connect the word fun to things that are entertaining and enjoyable to do. Fun is also sometimes used interchangeably with play — although there is a distinction as fun is argue that play is a state of mind; a certain attitude we can incorporate into any and every activity (Brown, 2009).

It is important to keep in mind that what is fun for you, might not be fun for somebody else. Therefore, fun can be difficult to investigate using standardized scientific methods. As such, scientific conclusions about the benefits of fun come from subjective observations and less rigorous studies. Nonetheless, there are enough studies that indirectly link to the concept of fun and play that a case can be made that we all need fun.

Here are five reasons science suggests you should have fun:

  1. Fun improves your relationships, both at work and in life

Research shows that when we have fun with others, these experiences have a positive effect on building trust and developing communication. Having fun gives us an opportunity to connect and be creative. When we laugh together, this sends an external non-verbal message that says: “We are alike, we share values” (Everett, 2011).  It can also make us look more vulnerable, but at the same time approachable and friendly, which can help build connections and bonds. Drs. John and Julie Gottmann, relationship experts from the Seattle’s Gottman Research Institute, have been studying happy and unhappy couples (and their patterns of behavior) in a systematic way. They found that couples who are happy know how to have fun together. It appears that when we have the ability to create and partake in acts of humor and affection, our conflict resolution skills improve as well.

Studies show that fun activities at work can improve our relationships with co-workers. These strong bonds developed with our colleagues have been linked to improved performance and productivity (Kansal, Puja, & Maheshwari, 2012).

  1. Fun makes us smarter

According to science, one way to improve our memory and concentration is to have fun. Partially, this has to do with the stress reduction that happens when we engage in something we enjoy. However, the benefits of fun activities seem to stretch further than that. The British Cohort Study — a study that has been following 17,000 people born in 1970 — found that reading for fun improves our language skills, and more surprisingly our proficiency in math as well. It appears that fun activities that introduce us to new ideas and concepts foster self-directed learning. The rewards we gain from these experiences might expand beyond the obvious benefits. Scientists are now also exploring if reading for fun can also protect us against cognitive decline as we age.

  1. Fun reduces stress

You probably do not need science to inherently know this already: engaging in enjoyable activities can be an especially powerful antidote to stress. It has been recognized in several studies that spontaneous laughter has a stress-buffering effect that helps us better cope with stress. According to one study, individuals who laughed less had more negative emotions when compared to those who laughed more. In contrast, those who laughed more showed fewer negative feelings even when stressful situations increased (Kuiper & Martin, 1998). Interestingly, this same study found that there is no correlation between having a good sense of humor and displaying stronger or more intense emotions. As such, therapeutic laughter programs are now being developed and evaluated, and are sometimes offered as treatments for depression, stress and anxiety (Kim et al., 2015). It appears that there is some truth to the adage, “laughter is the best medicine.”

  1. Finding fun in physical activity balances your hormone levels

It has been well-established that high stress levels negatively influence our hormones and neurotransmitters (especially cortisol and noradrenalin). Stress also affects our endocrine, metabolic and immune functions. Hormones can have an amazing effect on our mood — this is true for both genders (Koelsch et al., 2016). Certain hormones, such as cortisol, insulin, testosterone and estrogen, can be particularly influential and cause havoc when we have an imbalance. One way to naturally balance hormones is to engage in pleasurable physical activity (e.g. Abbenhardt et al., 2013). In other words, adaptation is not reliant on intense physical activity but rather consistent recreational exercise. When it comes to exercise, find what fun means to you and bake it in to your routine.

  1. Fun can make you more energetic and youthful

Stress is draining — it can suck the life out of us, making us tired and cranky. When we effectively reduce our stress levels, this can often provide us with a new boost of vitality. Having fun and playing have traditionally been connected with children and the early years of our development. However, many philosophers and psychologists emphasize the importance of play as we get older. Plato professed that life must be lived as play, and George Bernard Shaw famously said: We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

Fun at Work

Having fun at work might be just as important as having fun in your personal life. Everett (2011) concludes that since we will spend more than 90,000 hours of our lives at work, we might as well have fun there. Some of the benefits of playing on the job include:

Higher recruitment and retention rates. Organizations that nourish creativity and playfulness in employees have less difficulty recruiting and retaining good staff, and it is an encouraging trend that more modern organizations are balancing work and play than in prior decades (Everett, 2011). For example, here in the Bay Area Google is known for having a fun workplace and is also a very desirable company to work for. Sponsoring fun activities has also been recognized as a measure to prevent burnout (Meyer, 1999).

– Increased job satisfaction. Employees must feel satisfied to be productive. There are many factors that contribute to job satisfaction, which logically also correlates to overall life satisfaction. When we can laugh and have fun at work, we can also build better relationships and help create connections with our workmates. Doing fun things together creates a joint history with our fellow employees. When we have fun together we tend to relate to and identify with our coworkers better. Some authors believe that “teams that play together, stay together,” so it is important to create organizational culture that supports that (Berg, 2001).

Increased customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is generally closely linked with employee satisfaction. Workers who have something to smile about are usually better equipped to make customers smile than their melancholy counterparts. Fun seems to be contagious — as shown by studies looking at work environments. For example, when a fun work philosophy was adopted at Sprint, this resulted in their call center agents handling 30 percent more calls, and customers expressing an increased level of satisfaction with their services (Karl & Peluchette, 2006).

Everett (2011) also points out that fun should not be made mandatory. It ceases to be fun then, and can actually contribute to feelings of stress among employees. It is important to consider that people’s perceptions of fun (and what fun means to them) may vary and that they do not necessarily want to have fun in a certain way, at a certain time.

[FUN FACT]: Did you know that according to a study from 1998, adults only laugh on average 17 times a day (Kuiper, & Martin, 1998)?  If you have a good joke, leave it in the comments so we can help push up this average.

 

Sources & further reading:

Abbenhardt, C., McTiernan, A., Alfano, C., Wener, M., Campbell, K., Duggan, C., & … Ulrich, C. (2013). Effects of individual and combined dietary weight loss and exercise interventions in postmenopausal women on adiponectin and leptin levels. Journal of Internal Medicine, 274(2), 163-175.

Berg, D. H. (2001). The Power of a Playful Spirit at Work. Journal for Quality & Participation, 24(2), 57-62.

Brown, S. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Avery.

Everett, A. (2011). Benefits and challenges of fun in the workplace. Library Leadership and Management, 25(1), 1-10.

Kansal, M., Puja, & Maheshwari, G. (2012). Incorporation of fun and enjoyment in work: Builds the way for success and generation of long term benefits. ZENITH International Journal of Business Economics & Management Research, (12), 98-113.

Karl, K., & Peluchette, J. (2006). How does workplace fun impact employee perceptions of customer service quality?. Journal Of Leadership & Organizational Studies, (2), 2-11.

Kim, S., Kim, Y., Kim, H., Lee, S., & Yu, S. (2012). The Effect of Laughter Therapy on Depression, Anxiety, and Stress in Patients with Breast Cancer Undergoing Radiotherapy (CP). Quality Of Life Research, 20, 84.

Koelsch, S., Boehlig, A., Hohenadel, M., Nitsche, I., Bauer, K. & Sack, U. (2016). The impact of acute stress on hormones and cytokines, and how their recovery is affected by music-evoked positive mood. Scientific Reports, 6doi:10.1038/srep23008

Kuiper, N., & Martin, R. (1998). Laughter and stress in daily life: Relation to positive and negative affect. Motivation and Emotion, 22(2), 133-153.

Meyer, H. (2000). Fun for everyone. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 28(2), 45-48.

Should I avoid PQQ if I have kidney disease?

The answer is that it probably makes little difference, if prudent. The amounts of pyrroloquinoline quinone and its derivatives in the diet are in the milligram range, if that. Most PQQ supplements that are currently sold range in amounts from 5-20 mg to be taken on a daily basis.

On the positive side – PQQ is an activator of the sirtuin family of proteins and other factors important to cell cycling and repair, which seem important to renal protection. For example, these factors when poorly activated may contribute to metabolic kidney disease, such as that this is associated with diabetic nephropathy.

On the potentially negative side is that many so-called antioxidants (PQQ included) under some conditions may act as “pro-oxidants”, particularly at high concentrations. In an acute study using rodents, nephrotoxicity was observed after 3-4 days when rats were given doses above 10 mg per day by intra-peritoneal injection (Hiroshima J Med Sci. 1989; 38:49-51). The most prominent finding was necrotic and degenerative changes of the proximal tubular epithelium of the kidney. As a direct comparison, that would be the equivalent of being injected with 2.0 to 2.5 grams of PQQ on a daily basis or even after various metabolic based corrections, 200-250 mg of PQQ (e.g., a person weighing about 150 pounds). For further perspective, many common vitamins are toxic at this level too, when administered by injection.

In another study, rats were given doses of 0, 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg body weight per day by gavage (the administration of food through a tube into the stomach) for 13 weeks. However, in this case NO toxicologically significant changes were observed based on what was described as “thorough pathological and toxicological examinations”. It is important to mention here that pyrroloquinoline quinone taken orally is subject to a broader range of metabolic modifications, than when injected directly.

Summary: PQQ supplements seem safe when taken orally (e.g. even at 10-20 mg doses daily) by those with normal kidney function. In animal models with kidney disease, PQQ seems to provide some protection for metabolic-related kidney disease. However, there are no human studies that address this point nor studies that speak to kidney diseases of more genetic-based origins, such as polycystic renal disease. To be prudent, as you would be with any substance taken in substantial quantities when there is also qualifiers, such as evidence of renal or liver disease, please consult your physician before making dietary changes.

Fitness and Health App Downloads Are On the Rise

If you have been following my stuff or just know tech you are already aware mobile app usage in skyrocketing. Health related apps make up a significant portion of this growth and are becoming more and more popular among Smartphone users in both developed and developing economies. For example, fifty-two percent of all adults with a Smartphone now use mobile health apps more than they had in previous years. Wakefield Research released these statistics on mobile health apps after conducting a survey involving one thousand adults in the United States. Citrix commissioned this survey. Here are more highlights about mobile health apps:

Increase in Popularity of Fitness Apps

It seems as though staying fit is a key concern of the average Smartphone user. Fitness apps are generating a greater network load than other kinds of mobile health apps. This higher generation of network load stems from the fact that fitness apps involve periodic updates in reference to the status of the user as well as continuous tracking of activity. For instance, even a casual jogger that logs 12 miles a week (four 30 minute sessions) is creating an immense amount of data. The increase in popularity of wearable fitness devices is likely to increase the network load already occupied by fitness apps. These wearable devices include brands such as FitBit, Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, Pebble and Nike+. 

Traffic Data from ByteMobile

Citrix, the firm that commissioned the survey, also revealed mobile traffic data from the subscribers of ByteMobile. This data clearly shows that apps for weight loss and fitness were the most popular apps downloaded by ByteMobile subscribers. More specifically, statistics showed that users of fitness apps accounted for more than fifty percent of all ByteMobile subscribers. This is an increase of over eleven percent from the previous year. Apps on pregnancy and fertility were also popular

The Top Ten Mobile Health Apps

Top 10 Health Apps 2014

The study also included a list of the top ten most popular health apps (based on a  compilation of the overall number of network-connected subscribers each app had). Runtastic was the number one health app with more than twenty-five percent of all ByteMobile subscribers have this app on their Smartphone. MyFitnessPal came in second place closely followed by RunKeeper. More than thirty percent of all subscribers to ByteMobile used either MyFitnessPal or RunKeeper. Weight Watchers was the fourth most popular mobile health app, followed by Nike+ and then MapMyRun. Pregnancy and Period Diary came in at seventh and eighth place respectively. Lose It! was in ninth place and finally, Baby Bump was the tenth most popular mobile health app according to this particular study.

Wearables, Ethics, and the bizarre case of Sarah Slocum and Google Glass

It was inevitable that a controversial story about Google Glass and/or other wearable would eventually surface. Wearable technology has been raising privacy concerns ever since Google started slowly rolling out the devices to consumers. But thanks to “social media consultant” Sarah Slocum, we now have an example of what happens when people abuse wearables to stir up trouble.

Wearables and Ethics

Slocum has become a infamous name in tech circles after claiming she was attacked in a San Francisco bar just for wearing the device. According to documents filed in court, Slocum said patrons of the bar began to shout insults and obscenities just because she was wearing Google Glass, which is a head-mounted mobile device equipped with a camera.

Slocum claimed that patrons were accusing her of recording them with the camera. While Slocum argued that their anger was unfounded, she later released video to her YouTube channel, proving that she did ultimately choose to record–and then publish–video of the encounter.

Unfortunately for Slocum, her own evidence appears to incriminate her more than she might like. While there is video proof of a towel being thrown in her direction, Slocum is not merely suffering the unprompted assails of other bar-goers. She is actively video-taping them even as they put their hands over their faces and turn away from her camera. At one point, she raising her middle finger to a woman, curses at her and says she wants “to get this white trash on tape for as long as I can.”

Slocum’s experience raises a number of ethics questions regarding the use of wearable technology. But while some critics of wearables will use this experience to highlight the adverse effects that wearable technology can have, it’s important to consider Slocum’s reputation. The consultant has a track record of instigating conflicts and attempting to stir up trouble. As reported in the DailyMail, Slocum’s former neighbors had filed a restraining order against the woman in 2012. That comes one year after Slocum’s mother filed a restraining order against her, citing domestic violence.

Two former acquaintances of Slocum’s also said she had secretly recorded a conversation at their home. That’s the kind of privacy infringement that doesn’t require Google Glass to execute, and it discredits Slocum as a figure in the ethics debate concerning wearables. Slocum appears to be little more than a meddling agitator that simply wanted to stir up controversy and get attention. Google Glass could have been interchanged with any other device or object used to invade another person’s privacy.

A few bad seeds will always attempt to make a mess of certain privileges, but those individuals can’t be allowed to influence the ethics debate that concern the larger, responsible majority. 

The Role of Fitness in Medicine in 2014 and Beyond…

When experts try to elucidate the increase in global obesity the explanation is usually marred because they use a reductionist approach to explain the phenomena. Obesity has been blamed on the transition from strenuous work to the more heuristic work of our current information age. Other researchers have pointed to modern urban design and advances in transportation that decrease the need for physical activity. Sometimes nutrition is the culprit ranging from increases in dining plate circumference, as well as increases in portion size, to the strides made in food science that have created energy-rich, ready to eat products that make over-indulging easy and inexpensive.  In reality, we are likely where we are today because these events (and others) converged around the same time probably in the early 1970s creating a powerful force that would not be recognized as harmful until decades later. However, I’m optimistic that a convergence of a different kind is upon us today that will help correct this current trajectory and get us back on track. These convergent forces should open up new opportunities for health clubs as health care continues to be steered towards prevention and away from treatment.

One trend is the increasing acceptance that exercise is potentially as effective as many drugs used to control diseases. Our industry has anecdotally known this for years but recent empirical findings from the Stanford University School of Medicine, London School of Economics, and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School have brought these facts to the forefront.  Advances in wearable technology that effortlessly track activity and other health metrics continue to improve and become more ubiquitous. Peripheral hardware to accomplish these tasks is quickly beginning to be consolidated and replaced by sensor-loaded smartphones and (soon) smartwatches, which will lead to even wider adoption. In parallel the Affordable Care Act is motivating physicians with monetary incentives to deliver positive patient outcomes, in contrast to previously being rewarded for treatment volume. However, this paradigm shift in the way doctors are compensated has yet to affect their patient load. Therefore, primary care physicians are increasingly going to look to allied health professionals to aid with the continuum of treatment strategies outside office visits. This is not simply conjuncture, it’s supported by the strides that the American College of Sports Medicine have made through ‘Exercise is Medicine’ and Kaiser Permanente adding exercise as a one of their ‘Vital Signs’.  As this trend collides with the deluge of data made available from the advancement and adoption of consumer health technology, electronic medical records (EMRs) will be populated with more data from exercise and activity modalities than medical visits. This will likely expand the scope of practice of many traditional health club roles as the concept of care is shifted from doctors to the empowering the individual. It will be more patient-led in contrast to provider-led, and it will start at the health club instead of the doctor’s office. As health clubs embrace this new role and evolve from the equipment rental business to becoming more of a partner in the well-being of their members the potential for increased opportunity is substantial and imminent.

This is the extended version of an article written for Club Business International, Fourteen in 2014. An original version of the Fourteen in 2014 article is available here.

The Role of Medical Fitness Centers in the Era of Health Care Reform

In this new era of health care reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), medical fitness centers must evolve their approach to keep up with the transformational change currently taking place. Hospitals therefore have an extraordinary opportunity to position themselves as facilitators of prevention rather than operating in the previous operational paradigm of disease-care. In these changing times it is clear that medical fitness centers will play a much broader role in the operating models of medical organizations. Americans are coming around to the notion that it is necessary that they actively participate in their own care. Clinicians are realizing that their role is changing as well – from one of ‘expert’ to one of ‘facilitator’.

Health care reform is requiring institutions to shift patient-care models to an upstream approach. In the paradigm preceding the PPACA, medical centers waited downstream for illness to progress to the point that high-cost acute care was necessary. This was supported by reimbursement programs that incentivized this type of methodology. However, as the PPACA gets rolled out and employer-sponsored health benefit plans become more prevalent prevention and self-management will rise to the top as key initiatives for any progressive medical organization[1]. What is the primary conduit for preventive medical care and patient self-management? Medical fitness centers. Care will soon start with the individual instead of the doctor. It will be patient-led instead of provider-led, and it will start in the home or the fitness center instead of the doctor’s office.

Another opportunity for medical fitness centers is an increased effort from coverage payers and providers to influence patient behavior (ex. WellPoint’s Health. Join In. and WellPower initiatives). Through incentives and education payers and employers are working together more than ever before to encourage and influence employees to increase their activity and adopt healthy habits[2]. A reasonable measure of a healthy habit is the consistent use of a fitness facility and this measure – club usage data – is already being used by some organizations as a success metric. The PPACA has also widened the available spectrum of incentives employers can use to reward healthy behavior, such as more attractive insurance premiums, lower deductibles, and other desirable rewards.[3]

Summary: It is clear that the growing trend of patient self-management supported by the PPACA will continue to have a positive impact on medical fitness centers as shared decision-making becomes the norm in health care. Furthermore, hospitals are being pressured to move away from economic models that favor volume and expensive services to models that offer patient value and positive outcomes. This creates an unprecedented opportunity for medical fitness centers to position their offerings as establishing the patient relationship, the relationship that historically was created between the patient and physician at a patient’s time of need. Through better positioning within the wellness continuum, and new economic incentives afforded by health care reform, medical fitness centers not only now have a seat at the table regarding patient care, they will likely play a much bigger role in the relationship a hospital has with their respective patients.



[1] Rosenbaum, Sara. “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: implications for public health policy and practice.” Public Health Reports 126.1 (2011): 130.

[2] Oppenheimer, Karen Pak, and Carol Medlin. “Governors’ Healthy America Initiative.” (2006)

[3] Harrison, Krista, and Anderson, Gerard, “Employee Wellness Incentives.” (2010)

Fitbug Files Legal Complaint Against Fitbit

In a recent complaint filed against Fitbit, Fitbug claims that Fitbit uses not only a similarly sounding name for their company, but also similar brand imagery and icons. They also claim nutrition-related advice available from Fitbit is almost identical to that offered by Fitbug. The legal action is based on unfair competition as well as trademark infringement and unfair business practices.

Fitbug vs. Fitbit

Fitbug claims the actions and products distributed by Fitbit have created massive confusion among customers, who tend to believe that the products and services of Fitbit are directly connected to Fitbug. Fitbug believes that market confusion is continuing to increase and has grown substantially over the course of the last year. One of facts Fitbug points to is their call center operators have received an increasing amount of inquires from customers concerned about their Fitbit devices. Customers, business partners and the media have started to associate Fitbug with Fitbit – not only do they have similar names, but both companies have very similar trademarks and services. The assertion from Fitbug is this disregard and disrespect of product differentiation on the part of Fitbit has put Fitbug at a disadvantage.

Fitbug has been in business for over 8 years helping people adopt a healthier lifestyle by offering various wellness innovations. Throughout the years Fitbug has managed to make a name for itself in the wellness industry, more prevalent in Europe but a modest and developing presence in the United States as well.

The name “Fitbug” covers not only their online-based services, but also the software package used by their member base to keep track of progress. Fitbug’s lawsuit alleges Fitbit entered the market four years after Fitbug and started distributing similar devices as well as developing similar online services that parallel the offerings of Fitbug. Fitbug believes that users will continue to associate the two companies if Fitbit does not change the way they currently market their brand and their products.

To see some of the similarities between Fitbug vs. Fitbit visit: http://media.fitbug.com/tm.pdf. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Personal Health Information Technology – pHIT

The concept of personal health information technology (also know as pHIT) encompasses all modern innovation in personal digital health including but not limited to biometric sensors, electronic health records, advances in genomics,  as well as activity and self-tracking devices.

Various pHIT systems improve self-knowledge as well as communication between users and various health care providers by increasing the ease by which one can store, share and access health information easily.

2013 – The Year of pHIT

This year is the year of personal health information technology. Over the past several years, the tracking and biometric industry has evolved greatly and made several major achievements, including the first FDA approved bio-tracking mechanism on a mobile phone.

Scientists and prominent figured in the field of self-tracking and biometrics are working on new, more accurate and more efficient devices that allow people to track their health information quicker and more effectively. The convergence of expanding ways to gather data about one’s self, advances in genomics, and the growing field of predictive analytics paired with PHR (personal electronic health record) collectives will improve the accuracy of diagnosis, along with the efficacy of the treatment.

In addition to this, converging self-tracking, genomics, predictive data analysis and biometric information with PHRs will redefine the way people see wellness – it will not only allow us to understand our bodies better, but it will also help us find new ways to improve our health status. Furthermore, it will better help us understand the effects of our lifestyle choices. We can begin to build a better “health map” that will allow us to prevent fatal diseases and conditions, based on personal biomarkers and other health information.

Another advantage of pHIT systems is that they considerably reduce paperwork and human error – all information is collected and stored electronically, therefore eliminating the need for records written by hand potentially reducing an avenue for error. Also, in theory, electronic data can be shared more quickly and safer than hand-written files.

Electronic Information and Privacy

Most personal medical information is protected by HIPAA, an act from 1996 that has established clear and severe rules regarding the security of electronic health information. HIPAA was revised in 2009, and now covers health care providers, along with insurance companies and their business associates. Currently there is still a lot of ambiguity about how HIPPA will be applied in evolving world of pHIT.

The Bottom Line

pHIT will undoubtedly evolve quickly but in my humble opinion is a win-win proposition, both for individuals (who get deeper insight into how their body uniquely works), as well as health care providers  who will undoubtedly have an increasing amount of tools, systems, and modalities in which to serve us better in a paradigm shifting away from disease treatment to one of prevention and well-being.