Thursday, May 1, 2014

Snake Oil

Years ago there was a promise being advertised on radio stations across the country. People who wanted to lose weight effortlessly were told they simply needed to take chitin and that, along with a couple very simple habit changes, would cause their weight to simply melt away.

Two things always bothered me about those commercials.

The first was that chitin is found—in among other places—bug exoskeletons. Where was the proof that bug skins would cause weight loss? (Back then there were no tests to look to, but all studies done since seem to show that chitin does not do what was being promised.)

The second problem I had was that this program claimed to work when the consumer cut out sodas and quit eating three hours before bedtime. You could eat anything you wanted and as much as you wanted but as long as you took chitin and followed those other two rules you would lose weight. My contention was that the chitin had nothing to do with the weight loss. And, even though I wasn’t overweight at the time, I tried a little experiment.

When I cut all sodas and quit eating three hours before bed time I lost as much weight or more than the ads claimed I would, all without buying and taking their bug pills. The key to success was healthier habits and not some easy fix.

Since those days the chitin claims have gone away, but there are more and more claims every day of products to which we should look to replace healthy choices and hard work.

When I was a kid I used to see movies and TV shows about the “Old West” days where charlatans sold some sort of snake oil to gullible crowds promising to heal all sorts of ails. I used to pity those poor crowds. They couldn’t see a list of ingredients or results of careful studies to help them evaluate the claims of the salesmen. They didn’t have the mobility to chase the men down once they left town or to warn others about their lies. I used to think how glad I was that those days were over. How na├»ve I was!

We are told that in our current postmodern world people decide what they want to believe and then ignore all evidence on the subject. Truth is no longer about reality, but simply about what makes us feel good. The current state of medicine and nutrition science demonstrates this so clearly. From demonized vaccinations to magic supplements that fix all our problems, it seems we live in a modern day wild, wild west.

(More thoughts along this line here.)


  1. The other side of the coin is when people have a jaded attitude because of all the fraudulent things out there fail to even look at new supplements or medicines because the results seem to grand. just a couple of years ago in the jungles in Cambodia we came across a child who was running a high fever and it took us an hour or so to convince the mom to give him Tylenol to bring down the fever because she had never seen modern medicine. Or last year in the jungles of Indonesia where 1 out of every 10 children are dying of diarrhea because they are to afraid to use the water out of a filtered well rather than the river where they defecate because it seems so weird and simple. There will always be doubters because there are many posers! How many people reject Gods grace because the notion of salvation by faith alone seems to promise to great of rewards for so little or simple of an investment. Sure many are often duped but then some are so set in their ways they fail to recognize a good thing when they see it because they refuse to look deeper.

    1. Yep. Good thoughts. Faith in and of itself is not always a good thing. It has to be a belief in truth to benefit. The situation today is one where people simply pick and chose what they want to believe and then ignore anything that does not support their choice. The other good example is the vaccine thing. How many illnesses are being reintroduced simply because a lot of people chose to believe vaccines are bad without any evidence. A belief worth its salt is one that stands up to testing. Spiritually speaking, a lot of people cherry pick things that make them feel good and ignore the harder aspects and teachings. It is a frustrating time to a person who likes consistent thought!


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