Chemistry Blog

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Aug 15

LeBron James Promotes Sheet-y Science


It’s been quite a year for the NBA All-Star: claiming his first NBA Championship, winning gold in the 2012 London Olympics, and now…promoting dietary supplements?

The product in question, Sheets®, offers variations on the “breath strips” made popular roughly a decade ago. Each strip contains different GRAS additives, such as melatonin to aid sleep, or caffeine in the Energy Sheets®. Despite the fecundity of the exclamation points in the FAQs, or even the curious swath of ‘beautiful people’ who promote this product, I’d be willing to give it a pass, if it weren’t for one teeny, tiny detail: the “Science page.”

Here’s the full scientific statement:

“It’s simple…Sheets® solve problems! Sheets® are paper-thin, individually wrapped pocket-sized strips. No cans. No bottles. Simply place on tongue and your problem dissolves. How? Sheets® are packed with nutrients/vitamins and other active ingredients that, when placed on tongue, will begin to dissolve allowing for easy digestion.

Hang on a second….AAAAAUGH!

OK, all better now. Let’s see if we can break that down further for our discerning audience. Apparently, the science of Sheets® involves dissolution (“place on tongue”) followed by digestion of nutrients/vitamins. Did everyone get/understand that, or should I repeat/rehash it again? Never mind those goofy pictures with the colorful stamped film, which looks uncomfortably like another orally administered molecule

Source: sheetsbrand.com

#EpicScienceFAIL

Let’s go to our good friend Google patents to find some real science on this sheet-y product. I dug up two documents in short order: US patent 4,713,243 (Johnson & Johnson, 1987) and US 6,419,903 B1 (Colgate, 2002). Both patents describe various technologies for impregnating thin, extruded films of soluble polymer with medicaments for oral administration. Translation – edible drug strips.

The base polymer of choice, even 25 years ago, seemed to be hydroxyalkyl cellulose, one form of which we call pullulan. Various swell-able filler polymers, such as gelatin, corn starch, or PEG (polyethylene glycol) mix with the pullulan to regulate its toughness and stiffness, as well as to serve as a carrier for the active ingredients. For the Colgate breath strips, these include zinc compounds or alpha-ionone, which help to fight volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in your mouth. The J&J patent reaches even further, engineering strips to fight bacteria (sulfadiazine), pain (potassium nitrate), or to reduce swelling (hydrocortisone).

Honestly? I was most surprised by the level of formulation science that goes into each strip: viscosity tests, dispersion, dissolution, adherence, blending, and extrusion. Sounds like the perfect job for a p-chemist.

Just don’t get LeBron involved. Please.

3 comments

  1. J-bone

    A more minor point, but shows an equal lack of attention to detail; LeBron is a small forward, not a power forward. He might play the 4 if they’re short on centers, but generally Bosh or Haslem play it.

    1. Chemjobber

      J-bone! Long time!

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