Did Visalus Shakes Play a Role in the Jet Blue Pilot Outburst?

Last week the national news was littered with stories and even a cellphone video of Jet Blue pilot Clayton Osbon having an apparent psychiatric episode mid-flight and having to be detained by passengers while the plane made an emergency landing. As Osbon was formally charged by the courts this week, the mystery behind his actions still remains.

Clayton Frederick Osbon, 49, was charged in the U.S. District court yesterday. He’s charged with interfering with in-flight crew members. If convicted, Osbon could face a 20 year sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chief of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University Medical Center, shared his thoughts about what may have taken place last week. Liberman felt Osbon either had a psychotic disorder, a neurological event, or was intoxicated by a substance. From information at the scene, Lieberman suggested that substance influence may have been the culprit.

Because Osbon is a direct marketer for health shakes sold by Visalus Sciences, Liberman made educated speculations from that fact.

“If you said, ‘what is your guess,’ one thing that I noticed is that he apparently had been selling a diet supplement. So, one might infer that he was in some kind of nutritional program to lose weight, in some kind of diet. In these substances there’s stimulants or when you go on a diet you tamper with your brain chemistry. And this could have been a factor.”

DietsInReview.com’s dietitian Mary Hartley, RD analyzed the shakes from Visalus and found them to be typical and similar to many other nutritional meal replacement or supplement mixes. However, Hartley leaned towards Liberman’s thoughts about him possibly being on a diet to lose weight. While the shakes are safe, if used properly, perhaps Osbon wasn’t using them correctly.

“…Who knows what else the guy was eating? He could have been having shakes only.”

While the shakes may have played a role in Osbon’s melt down, Hartley explained that there are many factors and without the medical exam results, the possibilities are vast.

“A constellation of factors could have come together, drugs or drug withdrawal, medical conditions, severe stress, lack of sleep, etc. and physiologic changes can occur during ascent to high altitudes.”

Hartley concluded her analysis with the very valuable piece of wisdom about health and diets. “Bottom line: Never follow a fad diet, and most especially if you’re flying a plane.”

Captain Osbon was released from the hospital but will remain in federal custody. In the meantime, opinions are still being considered for the cause of his erratic behavior, including the role these shakes may or may not have played. On the March 27 flight, Captain Osbon was forcibly removed from the cockpit after the co-pilot and crew realized he was interfering with instruments and telling the Vegas bound plane members, “We’re not going to Vegas.”

Once he was removed from the cockpit, he began screaming at the passengers about a bomb, telling people to pray, banging on the cockpit door, and ranting about religion and terrorism.

Thankfully a group of passengers were able to detain the pilot while the co-pilot and crew diverted the plane to Texas and made an emergency landing.

While the entire ordeal was terrifying and confusing, thankfully all passengers remained safe.

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