Have you checked your antioxidant level lately? Want to know whether all that spinach and tomato juice you've been imbibing has actually increased your carotenoid count? Well rejoice, pilgrim, for your search has ended: The scientists at NuSkin Enterprises (NYSE:NUS) have devised a machine called The Pharmanex BioPhotonic Scanner, which uses a laser to measure your body's level of free-radical-fighting carotenoid antioxidants. Nu Skin is hoping that the Scanner (sold through its subsidiary, Pharmanex) will be just the ticket for convincing millions of Chinese and Japanese to boost their antioxidant levels by buying more LifePak multivitamin/mineral supplements.

And so far, so good: Nu Skin recently reported first-quarter 2005 earnings per share growth of 25% and record revenue of $289.4 million, up around 10% from the same quarter in 2004. On the downside, sales also slid 6% from the last quarter of 2004 ($306.3 million), and diluted EPS dropped 19% from $0.31 to $0.25. But the company considers this just a slight sag on the way to tighter and brighter earnings forecasts. The company is expecting a second quarter revenue near $300 million and EPS coming in around $0.30.

So far, the Scanner has been helping increase sales of supplements in the U.S. and early indications are that it'll go gangbusters in China and Japan, too. But is the Scanner truly a scientifically sound assessment tool or a snake oil dispenser? At least one report (by Stephen Barrett, MD, published on www.quackwatch.org) maintains that "neither the scan nor the products have been proven to lead to improved health outcomes," and that both are "a waste of money." Nu Skin itself states that none of its supplements have been approved by the FDA. But the company seems committed to seeking evaluation of its products from reputable agencies. In March 2005, Nu Skin announced that LifePak had received certification from three major independent testing groups: NSF International, ConsumerLab.com, and the Banned Substances Control Group.

And a study of the BioPhotonic Scanner, presented in late 2004 to the American College of Nutrition, concluded that the results from the machine were "statistically significant" in analyzing antioxidant levels.

Back in October 2004, Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy suggested that Nu Skin's plan "to apply an ample amount of recovery gel in hopes of more soft and supple days" might just pay off, depending on how the business goes in China and Japan. It's going pretty well for cosmetics competitor Avon (NYSE:AVP), whose balance sheet is glowing from last year's $220 million infusion of revenues from China.

So what's it gonna be? Do you really want to eat five pounds of spinach a day? Or would you rather place your hand on the machine and receive your fortune in supplements? And an even more interesting question: What do you think millions of Chinese and Japanese folks will do?

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Fool contributor Ellen Dowling owns no stock in either Nu Skin or Avon, but she does take supplements and hopes to live forever.