Somewhere between "Bracelet Showcase" and "Now You're Cooking" biologist Ferid Murad made his QVC television debut on January 21, 2007. The winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology graced the studios of one of the largest American home shopping television networks to hawk his new book, The Wellness Solution, penned with QVC's own Medical Wellness Doctor Edward Taub. Taub's regular program "Nature's Code with Dr. Taub" has been spotlighting the book along with Taub's line of Nature's Code non-drowsy allergy medications and supplements.
The book, which comes with a journal to chart your progress ($24 plus shipping and handling), presents a philosophy on how to prevent disease and live healthier based on Murad's award-winning research on nitric oxide (see "Nobel prize honors pioneers of NO," www.the-scientist.com/article/display/18288/). And QVC is currently the only place to get it.
"It's a huge, huge audience," Murad says. "They reach more homes than CNN...we wanted to try and get the word out." According to Taub, it's working: In the first week nearly 15,000 copies of The Wellness Solution sold, with the authors logging just 40 minutes of air time. "There's no question in my mind that a Nobel prizewinner as a co-author on a book like this will help sales," Taub says.
In the 1970s Murad, now at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, showed that nitric oxide production in the endothelial lining of blood vessels causes them to dilate and promotes blood flow. Defects in nitric oxide production can lead to atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Murad says the book's objective is to encourage behaviors that promote the body's production of nitric oxide: exercising, managing a healthy weight, eating vitamins, reducing stress, even laughing. "What we wanted to do was inform readers about nitric oxide and why all these [behavioral] programs make sense," Murad says. "And they make sense because they enhance nitric oxide production or activity."
But that connection falls somewhat short of definitive. David Harrison at Emory University School of Medicine says, "It's a little bit of a leap of faith that nitric oxide will be responsible for the effect." He says it has not been shown that increases in nitric oxide in healthy people improve health. "There have been a lot of indicators," says David Wink, senior investigator and chair of the redox biology faculty at the National Cancer Institute. "For example, an increase nitric oxide improves mitochondrial function. But there has not been a serious epidemiological study."
Nevertheless, Harrison and Wink are pleased to see a book about nitric oxide for a general audience. "I would daresay 95% of the population has no idea what nitric oxide is, and most physicians don't understand it well," Harrison says. "People should learn about nitric oxide. It's an extraordinarily important molecule."
Taub, who has written six previous health and wellness books and approached Murad to co-write this one, sees nitric oxide as establishing "a unified theory of health and disease." Waxing metaphysical, he says, "We posit that for religious individuals... they could believe the molecular equivalent of god's first breath is this molecule... We posit that it's the spark of life." Not only that, he says, but because the book is so easy and pleasurable to read, "just going through it will increase nitric oxide."
Murad is not the first to capitalize on nitric oxide. Louis Ignarro-who shared the prize with Murad in 1998-has been selling Say Yes to NO, a health guide to preventing heart disease, and a nitric oxide-boosting powder of amino acids called Niteworks, sold through Herbalife (www.ignarro.com).
Murad admits that his own marketing move is unconventional. He says he's received a little ribbing for pushing his wares alongside best sellers like the Rowenta Steam-N-Press Dual Function Steambrush/Iron, but he ignores the criticisms. "There will be some wisecracks from friends or competitors, but that doesn't bother me because I think it's a very important product. We're going to teach people about some science and good behavior, and perhaps improve degenerative disease."