Are more people falling for misguided solutions during this COVID-19 crisis, and paying for products that have yet to be proven to be effective against the virus?

First, there were EA masks, which were claimed to "work harder than a conventional mask", "protects...from catching diseases" and "gives you a 1m radius protection around your body 24/7".

You can read more here about how these EA masks lulled many consumers into having a false sense of security, and alarmingly, using them instead of wearing masks out. 

The latest is now over "transfer factors" in the form of capsule supplements, which is being marketed to supposedly provide immune protection against microbes (including bacteria and viruses), cancerous cells, and other antigens.

Now, I don't know enough about transfer factors, but that statement sounds highly doubtful to me, so I tried to find more conclusive scientific research papers or studies that would prove their effectiveness.

However, my search was futile. If anything, most of the studies merely suggested that results are still inconclusive. The closest was a Russian methodological study published in 2004, but even in there, the results and statistical tests were missing.

This recently caught my attention when several influencers started to market it on their Instagram. However, the most worrying were the statements made by a local celebrity influencer with 160,000 followers, Nadiah Binte Mohammad, who claimed that this would be safe for babies.

To support her point, she even has videos of herself feeding her baby the supplement in powdered form, and enthuses "yes yes yes yes yes!" in a video response* addressing on whether it is safe for such a young age group.


I spoke to Nazry Isa^ (who has a background in NUS studying Life Sciences with a specialization in biomedical science), who highlighted the dangers of feeding babies with such supplements that are made from cow colostrum and eggs - otherwise known allergens that could trigger several allergic reactions, depending on the baby. (Isa was also the one who shared the Russian methodology study with me, and it remains unknown on what the test results actually were.)

^Not his real name, due to privacy requests.

He shared that in mild cases, rashes and vomiting could happen. In severe cases of allergic reaction, a baby could even go into anaphylactic shock, which is a condition where it can block the baby's airways and cause breathing issues. This is particularly worrying for newborns because their bodies are so fragile that life-saving interventions may lead to further complications. 

Now, that doesn't mean that the product itself could cause such extreme reactions, but there's always a risk when known allergens are in the ingredient mix.

At the moment, 4Life seems to be the only company that uses transfer factors obtained from cow's colostrum and chicken egg yolk, while a lot of the existing research surrounding transfer factors refer to those obtain from the blood of an animal.

Influencers who are marketing it as a solution for people to take during COVD-19 times like these should be more careful about what they say, and note that misleading marketing statements can be even more problematic when you have a large following who trusts you. This is also not the first time influencers have been called out for misleading marketing - check out this, this and this.

Even if you fed your baby the supplement without any issues, doesn't mean that everyone else's baby will react the same way, so don't assume otherwise. When it comes to young lives, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

The supplements aren't cheap either - one bottle of 60 capsules go for S$84. 

I personally remain unconvinced that these supplements can help boost one's immunity against viruses, especially when you're dealing with something as highly contagious as COVID-19, and anyone who markets it in response to the crisis should really be more careful about making misleading statements like these.

*Latest update: the video has since been taken down, but the products are still being sold on Instagram.

As a consumer, I'll always be wary if something sounds too good to be true.

In the fight against COVID-19, no EA badge or immune supplement is enough to save you - instead, stay home as much as you can and wear a mask whenever you have to go out for essential runs.