Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen! Step Right Up and Buy Your Own Bottle of Stupid Pills!
OK, folks, I have a hot finanical tip for you this week. Go out and buy stock in any company that produces phosphatidlyserine. Do it right now, and then start putting down payments on a new house, boat, and rocket ship that will take you to your own plot of land on Mars, because you are going to be Oprah rich once word gets out that phosphatidlyserine actually reverses the effects of Alzheimer's disease. If you weren't aware of this miracle of modern medicine, it's probably because it comes at the word of an unnamed supplement saleswoman who was secretly being recorded by an undercover representative from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This is just one of several instances of world-class shenanigans perpetrated by sellers of herbal supplements, as reported by Kathleen Harmon in Scientific American.
Now, the "snake oil salesman" is nothing new. Since the beginning of civilization there has always been the miracle cure to pretty much everything, so I can't say that I'm overly surprised that some chicanery is afoot. What surprises me, however, is that it's not just coming from the guy who says he has a cream to make my dick grow three to four feet within a week. It's coming from people selling supplements that I see everyday at the store. While I'm not the kind of guy to take something like ginko, garlic, or echinacea, I always figured they had actual benefits for people who do use them. Apparently, however, whatever effects they do have aren't the ones being pitched by the people selling them.
According to snippets of conversations recorded by people planted by the GAO, phosphatidlyserine's ability to kick Alzheimer's ass is just the tip of the iceberg. Ginko biloba is harmless since it's an herb, so the FDA is obviously full of shit when they say "taking aspirin and ginko biloba together can cause a bleeding risk." Ginseng totally won't hurt you if you are diabetic, because it is a "sugar metabolism" (what the fuck does that mean?). And apparently, you can just go ahead and replace that prescription medication you've been wasting money on with.....get ready for it.....garlic! Who knew? I guess the bad odor that garlic gives your breath is from the trail of dead ailments that it leaves in its wake.
Now, as if it's not bad enough that the imbeciles selling these things are either knowingly or unknowingly passing out obviously bad information, Harmon also points out in her report that 80% of these pills have been found to contain trace amounts of lead, along with mercury, cadmium, or arsenic. Granted, none of the levels of these metals have been at what the FDA considers hazardous, but I think the obvious question here is WHY IN GOD'S NAME ARE THERE ANY METALS IN THESE PILLS AT ALL?!? I mean, honestly...arsenic? That just seems like a deliberate act of mean-spiritedness of Grinch-like proportions.
So, how is it that relatively intelligent people (let's just assume) are being duped into believing the local junior college drop out who tells them that garlic that has been laced with lead is a reasonable replacement for actual medicine? Oddly enough, I think I understand the mentality that would render a person susceptible to being fooled in such a way. I am a person who is fairly confident in the merits of medical science. But to be honest, whenever I take an aspirin or a shot of NyQuil, a tiny voice in the back of my head is telling me that the only power, if any, that the medicine has comes from someone telling me that it's good for me. So when people read a label that says something like "good for mental health" and then have a salesperson add, either by stupidity or by malfeasance, that it will cure Alzheimer's disease, then at the time it might seem reasonable. I guess the only cure for being duped in such a way is to remember that whenever someone is trying to sell you something, be it dietary supplements or anything else, they might not have your best interests in mind, so take a minute to really think about if you really need or even want what's being sold. Or, just say screw it and enjoy your lead pills.