Health benefits of CBD gummies are unsupported by scientific evidence; Shark Tank and other TV personalities didn’t endorse them
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is an increasingly popular compound found in cannabis. However, scientific data about its health benefits is very limited. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved only one CBD product for treating severe child epilepsy. Other CBD products are unapproved by the FDA, aren’t endorsed by TV personalities such as Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz, and didn’t appear on the TV show Shark Tank.
Factually inaccurate: TV personalities such as Shark Tank investors, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz didn’t endorse or sell any CBD gummies products, contrary to claims by ads on social media selling them.
Inadequate support: Clinical data about possible health benefits are very limited and they cannot support the claims that CBD products cure or alleviate several medical conditions, such as clogged arteries, tinnitus, sleep disorder, memory loss or anxiety. The FDA only acknowledges the health benefits of one particular CBD product for specific severe child epilepsy syndromes. There's also no evidence that CBD gummies improve sexual performance, as some Facebook ads claimed.
The legal market for cannabis is soaring in the U.S. since the 2018 Farm Bill classified hemp, a variety of the plant Cannabis sativa, as a crop and not as a drug. This market is expected to grow by 37% to reach 19.5 billion by 2025.
The main driver of this market growth is demand for cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as another, more notorious, cannabis component called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which makes it a good candidate for sales and advertising.
CBD gummies weren’t endorsed by Dr Phil, Dr Oz, Shark Tank
Multiple websites and ads on social media claimed that several TV personalities such as Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, or the investors from the Shark Tank TV show, endorsed CBD gummies as treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.
For instance, a Facebook page advertised a “Dr Oz CBD gummies for diabetes”. A website presented Shark Tank-associated CBD gummies as capable of boosting the memory of older people, while another claimed that Shark Tank-endorsed CBD gummies improved sleep quality and reduced anxiety. Another website claimed that Shark Tank and Dr. Phil teamed up to promote CBD gummies that cleaned arteries and improved cardiovascular health, a claim that also appeared on Facebook (Figure 1). Numerous Facebook pages associated the name of Shark Tank with CBD gummies, suggesting that the TV show endorsed or promoted the product.
Online sellers of other products such as diet pills have also claimed that Shark Tank endorsed their product. After verification, Health Feedback found that this claim was inaccurate.
Figure 1. Screenshot of a webpage claiming that Dr. Phil and the Shark Tank TV show endorsed artery-cleaning CBD gummies
However, in an interview with the entertainment news outlet TMZ, Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil denied having endorsed any CBD gummies. Furthermore, the list of the products that appeared on Shark Tank, last updated 11 March 2022, doesn’t contain any mention of “gummies”, “hemp”, “CBD”, “cannabis”, or “cannabidiol”.
As Snopes reported, several other personalities have also been associated with CBD gummies in the past. In all cases, it appeared to be an inaccurate claim, possibly an attempt at providing more credibility to the CBD gummies.
Snopes also provided details about the techniques used by some CBD companies to hide their business and deceive consumers. They reported that a fake Fox News-like webpage associating actress Mayim Bialik with CBD products was hidden in an apparently normal website for an online store. The fake Fox News page only appeared to whoever clicked on a given ad.
A similar technique was used for the claim that Shark Tank and Dr. Phil endorsed artery-cleaning CBD gummies. Indeed, this webpage seems to be an innocuous online clothing store. Clicking on the blue sweater takes the user to a normal page showing the item. However, clicking on the green sweater directs the user to a page that inexplicably promotes CBD gummies. However, if we archive the same URL, the archive displays the expected green sweater page (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Example of hidden CBD gummy advertisement. The native link (left image) leads to the CBD webpage, whereas the archived version shows a completely different webpage that displays a green sweater. Note that the URLs are identical.
No evidence supporting claims of health benefits from CBD gummy consumption
There is actually little clinical evidence showing that CBD provides significant health benefits or that it improves sexual performance, as claimed in some Facebook ads. As of March 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one CBD product, Epidiolex, used to treat severe forms of epilepsy in children. Any other CBD product claiming to provide a specific health benefit is therefore an unapproved drug. The FDA expressed concern about the proliferation of CBD products and wrote multiple warning letters to companies selling CBD:
“FDA continues to be concerned at the proliferation of products asserting to contain CBD that are marketed for therapeutic or medical uses although they have not been approved by FDA. Often such products are sold online and are therefore available throughout the country. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective.”
According to a 2019 report by the New York Times, data supporting the claim that CBD can relieve anxiety or alleviate sleep disorders are scant. The American Heart Association acknowledged that some studies reported a CBD-induced reduction of blood pressure and inflammation, which lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Still, data aren’t sufficient yet to establish CBD’s protective role for the heart and arteries.
Furthermore, the available clinical evidence was obtained with clinical-grade CBD, meaning that the dose and purity of the product is controlled, thereby ensuring that the potency of the product is consistent. In contrast, non-FDA authorized CBD products contain varying levels of CBD, along with several contaminants such as THC, based on testing conducted by the FDA.
In summary, the claim that several TV shows and TV personalities endorsed CBD gummies is false. The claim that these products have clinically proven health benefits is unsubstantiated by scientific evidence. In fact, the FDA has yet to approve any of them. The dishonest advertising and marketing methods used, such as false endorsements by celebrities, claims about clinically unsupported health benefits, and the use of misleading websites, all suggest that these advertisements are part of a viral scam.