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…
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.