This transcript has been edited for clarity.

welcome to Impact factor, your weekly dose of commentary on a new medical study. I am Dr F. Perry Wilson from the Yale School of Medicine.

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback (it’s still strange for this boy from Connecticut to say it) is probably the greatest quarterback of all time.


Source: AP Images

Super Bowl Sunday will mark Brady’s 10th Super Bowl, a record breaking. He already has six Super Bowl wins, a record. His career combined passing yards – over 91,000 – are the highest in the NFL. Same thing with career touchdowns – 661 of them. He is also the oldest player to be named Super Bowl MVP and the oldest player to win a Super Bowl as a starting quarterback.

Brady is 43 years old. He has been playing professional football for 21 years. The average career in the NFL is 3.3 years. Its exceptional longevity and unprecedented success have led many writers to ask the same question: what is its secret?

Look on the internet and you will see a lot of speculation. Die-hard sportsmen will point out that the The patriots protected him more than almost any other quarterback. He also throws the soccer ball quickly – averaging just 2.5 seconds after the snap – preventing it from being hit too hard. It’s easier not to get hurt if you never get tackled. Or maybe it’s his wife Gisele Bündchen who keeps him going.

But it’s hard to talk about what’s special about Brady and not stumble upon TB12. TB12 is Brady’s personal ‘peak performance’ website, which provides details on his training and diet methods as well as, of course, the ability to purchase a number of vitamins, supplements, tonics, equipment. and even individual training with a body coach.

I doubt Brady has a hard time making money, but that’s how fame works, right? You need to diversify. the The Kardashians have their makeup on, the The Olsen twins have a fashion line, and [Gwyneth] Paltrow has … whatever Goop.

On the surface, TB12 is pretty standard. Advocating a diet consisting primarily of whole, plant-based foods and exercise is reasonable and good advice for everyone.

What are they selling? Much is fairly standard, overpriced wellness fare. [An example is] 30 doses of one supplement called “Recover”, sold for $ 60. While the ingredients are believed to fight inflammation, a specific footnote states that “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease “.

But dig a little deeper and there’s some medically questionable stuff out there. Why? Well, TB12 seems to come from the mind of Alex Guerrero.



Source: AP Images

Brady credits much of his success to his “body coach” Alex Guerrero – and it’s a name many in the alternative medicine community are familiar with. Alex guerrero was sanctioned by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2005 for promoting his “Supreme Greens” diet – remember? – as being able to cure cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and many other diseases. He later marketed a product called “NeuroSafe”, that Brady approved, which he said would protect your brain from traumatic sports-related brain damage. The FTC got involved again, shutting down the business.

TB12, however, is still standing, and like all lifestyle brands, it’s a mix of good and bad advice, science and pseudoscience, and a lot of really nifty marketing. Here are some of the major principles.

Brady recommends drinking lots of water. Take your body weight, divide by two, and this is the number of ounces of water you drink if you are not to exercise.

So someone like me should drink around 90 ounces per day, or 2.6 liters. As a nephrologist, I can tell you that the water level in your body is one of the most precisely regulated systems you have. Drink when you are thirsty and you will be fine. Drink a lot and, assuming your kidneys are working, you will be peeing a lot. Yes, there is a risk of hyponatremia from drinking excess water, and I have treated several patients who have filled with water in epileptic territory after some sort of cleansing.

But the strange thing here is not that he wants you to drink a lot of water. That is why. Guerrero and Brady think water changes your body in one way or another – that it protects your skin from sunburn, for example, and increases something they call muscle flexibility.

One of the reasons he avoids injuring himself, says Brady, is that he keeps his muscles supple and supple through hydration, but also through specific exercises. It encourages deep tissue manipulation, which can be done with some brand name products like this “Vibrating Foldability Sphere”.


I don’t know what flexibility means. Is it the flexibility, the ability of a muscle to lengthen – which is, you know, measurable? According to TB12, this is certainly not the case.

Rather, it is a muscle “vascular … permeable … receptive to enzymes … efficient … elastic … contractile …[and] relaxing. It’s hard to quantify in a clinical study. And that’s, of course, emblematic of the problem with the wellness market: vague claims that sound scientific but really can’t be tested one way or another.

Another element of Brady’s approach that relies on fairly thin scientific ice is his promotion of a alkaline diet. Let me put my nephrologist hat back on and say this: you can’t change your body’s pH by what you eat. Another perfectly regulated system in the body is pH. I could drip acid directly into your veins, and your lungs and kidneys would work together to keep your pH at 7.4.

There is a way to think of TB12’s story as a regulatory success. You have this guy, Alex Guerrero, who does typical snake oil salesman stuff, promises cures he can’t afford, gets shut down by the FTC. He returns with TB12 – and here the line is not crossed. There is some weird advice, of course, and a lot of standard supplement language that isn’t really meaningful (like “optimize performance”), but nowhere did it promise to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

There is still a bit of flirtation with the scam. In March, as the coronavirus pandemic crashed onto our shores, Brady began promote some of the supplements as “immune boosters”.

Which is a bit gross, in my opinion.



Source: Instagram / Tom Brady

TB12 also received almost $ 1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (P3) loans. But honestly, this is as much an indictment against the PPP system as it is against TB12.

Here is my opinion. There are no easy fixes in medicine. There are very few miracle cures. The reason Tom Brady is Tom Brady isn’t because he drinks a lot of water or because he’s trying to alkalize his blood in some way. It’s because he’s working his butt. He’s incredibly strict with what he puts in his body, he exercises a lot, he studies, and he has a level of self-discipline that very few of us could match. But don’t be deflated. Yes [your patients] want to imitate him, [they can] wake up early, eat healthy and exercise. They don’t really need to send him more money.

F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, is Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Yale Clinical and Translational Research Accelerator. His science communication work can be found in the Huffington Post, on NPR and here on Medscape. He tweets @fperrywilson and hosts a repository of its communication work at www.methodsman.com.

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