Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bad Science: There is no magic pill.

When I first wrote this article, I started by naming off the top-10 bad pseudo-scientific health items I have to deal with all the time in my career.  After deciding to reel it back a bit less combative, I got rid of the top-10 and watered it down to make it more digestible... I can sum up this article in a single sentence...

"Being healthy takes putting in the effort, and there is no replacement for hard work."

At some time in the future I may put out my list (depends on how angry I am that day), but here we go...

The Path Of Least Resistance

We all want a magic pill that would cure what ails us.  Wouldn't it be nice to wake up one day and all you have to do to be lean, sexy, and healthy is just take a pill or drink a smoothie?  

Well, there is a word for that... 


Being Healthy just as making money, success in a career, or finishing your education; all things require effort and persistence.  Most people don't want to make time for that though...  especially when their favorite celebrity is promising to help them lose their love-handles and have a sexy 6-pack in the next 4 weeks. 

Snake Oil Salesmen

Open the newest men or women's magazine or turn on the TV to Dr. Oz and you will see plugging the newest "Miracle Cure".  These products always promise fantastic results, curing pretty much everything.  All you have to do is take this new pill or rub on this new cream...  Many times they will be billed as "Homeopathic" or "All-Natural" and "Free from Side-Affects".

Well, guess what...  Snake Oil Salesmen have been around since humans first invented sales.  

First, let's look at what they are selling you.  Looking back over the last few years alone there have been

several diet pills, creams, rubs, etc... that promise a lot but have not lived up to the hype.  The HCG pill form, but was simple a blend of stimulants and fillers (and had nothing to do with the real Human Chorionic Gonadotropin).  One of the big ones now is Garcinia Cambogia which in a single flawed study performed on rats in China showed "significant" results in fat loss.  None of these products were ever studied in clinical trials before being released to the public.    

Take a Dose of Ancient Chinese Secret with a Glass of Homeopathic Water

There is always a salesman that will try to sell you on the idea that they know some secret from the ancients or some alternative to real medicine.  If you walk into any health food store you will find shelves full of herbal remedies, colon flush systems, and vitamin pills.  The supplement business is a 6-billion dollar a year industry and the vast majority of the items out there are pixie-dust, full of wishes and make-believe. 

One of the biggest things people use is the fallacy that because it's "All-Natural" it has to be good for you...  well, your urine is "all-natural" and even was thought to have healing properties for centuries thanks to pseudoscience salesmen.  There are still people today that will wash their mouth out with urine and shy away from mouthwash because of fear campaigns and misinformation.

Unless you do some research, you may not know the difference between "All-Natural" and "Homeopathic".  Homeopathic remedies (which have been around since the 18th century) would have us believe that if you take something that normally would make you sick or kill you and dilute it up to 10,000,000,000 times (that's not even 1 molecule of the original substance per gallon) then it will have healing properties. 

" of the most common concentrations of remedy that homeopaths use, mentioned above: A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth."  ~James Randi Explains Homeopathy

James Randi, a professional skeptic and debunker of pseudoscience claims explains Homeopathy best in this video...

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If the video doesn't load go go here:

Another big illogical argument is because it is exotic and foreign, it must have supernatural powers to heal us.  Salesmen will claim that some ancient tribe used a special herb, root, or ground horn and it magically heals everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction.  These big claims go unfounded and when put under the microscope of clinical trials, hardly stand up...  still want some rhino horn over Ibuprofen during your next migraine? 

Now, I will admit, some of our best medications are manufactured from natural sources; however, these are high concentrations of the molecules that actually do work in our cells. They are not dilutions where the base ingredient is not even present anymore.

Feeling Better Is Not Getting Better

Now, if something you are doing now seems to be working for you I'm not telling you to stop it.  Just be sure to do some research on the subject so you know exactly what you are doing to yourself.  

One pseudo-scientific remedy I used to be into was reflexology.  As I did more research though, I realized there are claims out there that it could even cure diseases with it, so I started investigating it's claims.  There was no scientific basis to the claims but hell, a good foot rub makes anyone feel better.

However, if you are plagued by depression, a diabetic relying on insulin, or have a history of disease DO NOT let some health food nut convince you that some single herb, essential oil, or tea leaf -that may have cured a friend of a friend of their's symptoms- is going to cure you.  Go get professional help from qualified experts.

So, What Does Work?

It comes down to only a few things.  Your Nutrition helps build a sound foundation.  Fitness training will help keep you strong, mobile, and conditioned.  Being aware of your hormonal balance, blood serum results, and general health checkups lets you preempt any disease that may sneak up on you.  

If you are wanting a weight loss cure or build muscle...  try getting your diet balanced and a good fitness regiment set up.  If you are having trouble then consult a professional.  A dietitian can examine your food intake and a personal trainer can help you build a routine that will help you burn off the fat and build some lean muscle.  It will take time but can happen if you stick with it.

If you are depressed, go to a professional psychiatrist who can diagnose you and help you get the treatment right for you.  If you just keep trying expensive supplements, acupuncture, and essential oils you will end up broke and depressed (but you will smell good).

If you have a real disease or cancer, go to a reputable treatment center.  You are putting your life in danger by reading some 50 year old "Cure Everything with my Trick" book that was based off of flawed pseudoscience.  Get some real help!

In short, if you want to be healthy get some real professional help.

~Your Trainer
    Richard Sterling Tarleton


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