Don’t Forget To Take Your Snake Oil, Dear

A growing probiotics market has led to the need for stricter requirements for scientific substantiation  of putative benefits conferred by microorganisms claimed to be probiotic. Although numerous claimed benefits are marketed towards using consumer probiotic products, such as reducing gastrointestinal discomfort, improving immune health, relieving  constipation, or avoiding the common cold, such claims are not supported by scientific evidence , and are prohibited as deceptive advertising in the United States by the Federal Trade Commission. As of 2019, numerous applications for approval of health claims by European manufacturers of probiotic dietary supplements have been rejected by the European Food Safety Authority for insufficient evidence of beneficial mechanism or efficacy.” Wikipedia.

I know, I know, Wikipedia isn’t the oracle that I might seem to be claiming it is, but if you do a much more thorough and way more time-consuming review of the literature you come up with the same result. There is a slowly growing suspicion that some gut micro-organisms might actually be beneficial to us. Perhaps. We don’t know which ones, for the most part. It wouldn’t be that far-fetched, actually, since we know that there is a whole army of them that are harmful. But the positive doesn’t prove the negative, etc. etc.

On the other hand, a trip to our local City Market you will find a medium-sized display of what are called “probiotics.” In addition, there are scads of labels around the store stating that there are probiotics in this or that product. This, my friends, is the modern equivalent of selling snake oil from the back of a wagon in 1858.

Our scientific knowledge on the subject is at the embryonic stage while these unscrupulous companies have geared up to fleece the gullible among us by pretending that they know what they are talking about.

******

******

Periodically there are diseases that become quite modish. So much so that not having the problem can make one feel inadequate at parties or other social gatherings, where the room seems to be filled with people discussing their symptoms at length. One of these conditions is “gluten sensitivity.” Grocery stores today are filled with products proudly stating that they are “gluten free.”

Now if you check medical texts on the subject of gluten, you find that there is an uncommon problem called gluten enteropathy (celiac disease), which, once considered, is fairly easily diagnosed with lab studies of the bowel, and which is treated by taking the patient off gluten entirely. The problem with “gluten sensitivity” is that there are only symptoms and no physical or laboratory findings to study. In fact, there are some researchers who doubt that it is a disease at all, but is instead a sort of fad. So the subject of gluten sensitivity is presently muddled, to say the least.

I won’t get between those two camps, I value my life far too much to do that. Mentioning this controversy to someone who believes that they have this disease could result in my being beaten about the head and neck with a loaf of Rudi’s, and really, who needs that?

***

Now, I am an eminently rational being if there ever was one, I have noticed that whenever I ingest a large plateful of pinto beans, there follows an evening of rumblings, hissings, and vapors like you wouldn’t believe. I think that I must be bean-sensitive, and will press my legislators to improve the laws regarding the food labeling process so that I never have to inadvertently have a trace of this poisonous foodstuff pass my lips. Why, only last night I became so distended after a dinner of beans and rice that I nearly took flight like some octogenaric dirigible.

It occurs to me that coming up with a line of bean-free products might be a good idea for the public health. It might also be profitable for yours truly. I will start with bottling legume-free spring water, which I will call Flatunot. Test marketing starts next Tuesday.

******

It’s been a while, but David Brooks has come up with a good one, in Friday’s NYTimes. The title of the piece is This Is Why We Need to Spend $4 Trillion, which alerts you to the territory he’s taking us through. He does spend time discussing our present dilemma where he sees it as a case of a vicious populism versus (the just as vicious) elitist insularity.

Read again Robert Kagan’s foreboding Washington Post essay on how close we are to a democratic disaster. He’s talking about a group of people so enraged by a lack of respect that they are willing to risk death by Covid if they get to stick a middle finger in the air against those who they think look down on them. They are willing to torch our institutions because they are so resentful against the people who run them. 

David Brooks, New York Times October 1.

I know that it sounds as dry as day-old toast, but it may be the best description of where we are as a nation that I’ve read.

******

Today, Sunday, Robin and grandson Dakota and I are heading for Cedaredge CO, a small town about an hour’s drive north from Paradise. The reason was the Applefest, which has returned after a year’s absence.

Applefest is a three-day celebration that is marked by the greatest set of smells in Christendom, as applegrowers in one booth after another put out their wares for the aroma-hypnotized citizens walking by. Apples, apple pies, apple crisps, etc. etc. You may make it past one or three of them without giving in, but there is no doubt where it all will end.

You and a plastic fork and a plateful of some baked apple creation all together sprawled on the grass of the town park.

It is a grand mass surrender to the not-so-nutritious-but-my-god-how-delicious part of life. You set aside everything you know about what’s good for you, block out the small voice in your ear that is your mother telling you you’ll get diabetes for sure if you eat that thing, and just go for it.

If we don’t get back, check with the local emergency room which I know will be jammed with cases of pie overdose and fritter poisoning. We’ll be the comatose trio on gurneys in the back, hanging to life by a thread, but with these gigantic smiles on our faces.

******

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s