Every other day I happen to see advertisements on news programs such as 60 Minutes, A Current Affair, Dr Oz and morning TV, proclaiming the next biggest thing has just been found that will improve your health. It might be a weight loss supplement such as Garcinia Cambogia, a longevity supplement like Resveratrol, or another ‘recently discovered’ so called super food.
The frequency of these advertisements is really starting to bother me, and I wanted to share with you all some of the downright un-truths behind these money hungry marketing campaigns. Because that is what they are; profit focused marketing campaigns that prey on people who want to be fitter, healthier, thinner, or to live longer. And from working in an ethical health food store which refuses to stock the latest and greatest gimmick, I can tell you, it really is working on the general public.
When something comes out and totes the tagline ‘recently discovered’ what it usually means is either ‘recently discovered, bottled and sold by a company’ or ‘renamed, revived and rebranded’. Take for example, Chia seeds. This traditional seed had been used by the Aztecs since the 16th century at least. What recently discovered will mean in this case, is that a company has found it to be a profitable crop, able to be mass produced, packaged effectively and shipped without spoiling. In some cases, the popularity of the newest food can negatively impact the country of it’s origin. Quinoa, for example, has become such an expensive cash crop, the some native people of Peru and Bolivia are not able to afford their traditional food. Some ethical companies will ensure the produce is farmed with the community in mind, but this is a rare thing. Make sure to check for Fair Trade labels.
The other meaning of ‘recently discovered’ can be a product overhaul. 15 years ago, when I used to work in a pharmacy, we stocked Hydroxycitric acid complexes for weight loss. At the time they were popular due to a big marketing push, for about 12 months, and then they faded out of the public eye. This year Garcinia Cambogia has come to the forefront as the most popular weight loss supplement. It is simply hydroxycitric acid. Rebranded, relabelled, renamed. The public thinks it is something new, but really it has been around for years. And if this is the case, why did it fall out of popularity in the first place? Probably because it failed to deliver on its promises. Something to think about.
Miracle Compound Isolated
It is often the case that a specific component will be identified and toted as the next cure all. Take resveratrol for example. These is one component found in purple grapes and Japanese Knotweed plants. The number of other components in those plants could reach into the thousands. In fact, out of the 2000 odd suspected elements that make up an orange, we are lucky to have isolated and identified all of 120.
Natural medicine has a fundamental belief in wholism, and this does not just mean treating the patient as a whole, it means understanding that the whole plant gives us this one particular effect, and we know almost nothing about the synergy of all the components and how they work together. Isolating one single component and claiming it to be the only thing worth having from a plant that contains thousands of elements, I believe is quite an arrogant outlook. The truth is we don’t know, so I am always suspicious when products claim to have found the one miracle component.
This is an easy one. If it claims to deliver results that are too good to be true, they usually are. In some cases, the item may meet customer satisfaction, but I would estimate that these satisfied customers are in the very small minority. For example, weight loss products that say you don’t have to eat healthy, go on a diet or exercise and you can lose all your excess weight- I cringe. Healthy eating and exercise are two of the most wonderful gifts we can give to ourselves. We were not made to sit on the couch, eat rubbish and take a pill.
If they are famous, and they promote it, you can bet on the fact that the company is paying them a heap of money to do just that. It’s simply a job. Don’t believe them.
It is easy to fall into the marketing trap and get carried away by the glossy advertisements and ‘true stories’ companies use to sell their products. And sometimes there really is a great find, and something is ‘discovered’ that does change the word, penicillin for example. But this is not an every day occurrence. Hopefully you will approach the latest and greatest new item with a little more understanding and please, don’t be afraid to do your research before you hand over your money. Talk to your naturopath or nutritionist. They will be able to help you identify the money makers from the real deals.