Quack To The Future | Crooked Media
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September 30, 2019
America Dissected
Quack To The Future

In This Episode

Traditional science-based medicine has some gaps—but what happens when grifters and scammers take advantage? Dr. Abdul El-Sayed leads us inside the underbelly of the cult of wellness. Dr. Jen Gunter, Twitter’s “Resident Gynecologist,” helps us understand modern quackery—and how we can apply scientific principles to make our best health decisions.

 

_________________________

 

ABDUL VO: It’s 1920. Middle America – Milford, Kansas, to be exact. You’ve lost a bit of your…verve. And sometimes, you’re just not as…enlivened…as you might have been.There’s not a ton of help to get you…up…and out of your situation.

 

You open your newspaper one morning. And there’s a baby on the front cover–a miracle baby. Not jesus, but still heaven sent. His name is little Billy. 

 

… also known as the world’s first goat gland baby.

 

ARCHIVAL: John Brinkley speaks about miracle cure…  

 

Yep, that’s right. To get back that verve – or maybe get yourself a kid – for just $750, John Romulus Brinkley – a man who never graduated from medical school – could implant goat testicles right into your scrotum. What could go wrong?/./

S

 

[possible other archival… ]

 

Wait, WTF!?!

 

I could spend a whole series talking about John Brinkley. But today on The Vitals, we’re gonna talk about why people go to people like Brinkley in the first place. Why do people trust quacks–folks who are so obviously scammers, grifters – people who push completely fake, scientifically unsubstantiated, fabricated medical care?

 

Brinkley wasn’t the first – or the only one, of course. Before Brinkley and his miraculous goat balls, there was August Pleasanton – the Civil War General, who started the Blue Glass Craze – basically the idea that looking through blue glass could cure everything from insomnia to male pattern baldness; and of course, the Fowler Brothers, who toured the country practicing phrenology — a completely made up science linking the random bumps on people’s heads to their mental traits. 

 

And in the 1920s, people started purposely exposing themselves to radiation–drinking radium tainted water as a cure-all for everything under the sun. It literally made people glow. And they liked it. Except that it was also killing them, because, you know, radiation.

 

But, it’s good to know we’ve moved past all this crazy shit. After all, modern medicine has more than proven its worth. 

 

ARCHIVAL: News clips about “miracle cures” gone wrong; Goopfellas podcast garbage; Paltrow hawking products, etc.

 

ABDUL VO: Orrr….not. 

 

SERIES THEME STARTS

 

This is America Dissected with Abdul El-Sayed, I’m your host. Today we’re talking about modern medical scams – unsubstantiated treatments that might hurt us – or at least our wallets – more than they help us.

 

To be clear, we’re not talking about acupuncture or yoga for back pain – those things actually have some scientific evidence backing them up. We’re talking about today’s equivalent of gazing into blue glass or implanting goat balls. And why, with all that science has provided us, we still pay money for treatments that have no basis in it.

 

  • SERIES TITLE & THEME

 

ACT 1: WHY PEOPLE TURN TO QUACKERY

 

[early convo banter]

 

INTV – ABDUL: [00:19] Hey, How are you?

 

INTV – SEUTHE: [0:33] Hi! I’m good! How are you? … 

 

INTV – ABDUL: [00:23] I am good. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it

INTV – SEUTHE: [00:26] Thank you for having me talk about goop — any opportunity… 

 

INTV – ABDUL: [00:38] All right. I appreciate that. So Carolyn, can you can you introduce yourself?

INTV – SEUTHE: [2:59] I mean let me first say I feel like it gives a lot of fodder to my enemies to publicly associate myself with Goop. I feel like there’s just nothing more hateable and she, they, do a lot of dumb stuff. 

 

INTV – SEUTHE: [00:44]  I’m Carolyn Seuthe. I am a writer living in Los Angeles where I work on a newsletter called Staunchly. 

 

INTV – ABDUL: [4:33] Have you ever bought a product on Goop? 

 

INTV – SEUTHE: [4:47] Yes, I buy a lot of her beauty products. They’re actually pretty good. She has really great face oil, a really great like instant exfoliating facial. That’s what I’ll say like the actual skin care and body recommendations are pretty strong. Like the quality of their product is great.  

 

ABDUL VO: The “she” that Carolyn is referring to is, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow – actress and founder of Goop – the infamous website for all things wellness-related. 

 

I called up Carolyn, who’s a friend of some of the folks at Crooked, because, well – she’s a Goop user, even though she kinda gets why it’s problematic. 

 

INTV – SEUTHE: [18:13] I mean I definitely don’t think that someone should you know rely on rose quartz to heal their cancer or Gwyneth has recommended something called grounding? It’s basically like you put your feet on the grass and I don’t know your autoimmune disease goes away or something. It’s really ridiculous.

 

It’s like I… fundamentally believe in science, like subscribe to like, I’m not a skeptic in the most real way, like I believe vaccinations, believe in… doctors aren’t lying to us. Like I do believe in all that. But I also see how all my friends just feel so unhealthy and I think part of it is mental, and the part of it that’s mental is sort of healed by holding a crystal in your hand and feeling like it makes you feel better – and if you think that, it sort of does.

 

ABDUL VO: Carolyn is like many of us. She’s looking for an answer to her health challenges that she sometimes can’t find through the usual means. She hasn’t rejected science and medicine per se, she’s just looking for answers they’re not offering. The problem, though, is who’s offering answers. Goop, which started as a newsletter in 2009, is now a sprawling website estimated to be worth $250 million. Simply put, Goop is making BIG MONEY for its founder and CEO, Gwyneth Paltrow. It attracts over 2 million visitors per month. It is, in some ways, the locus of what some people – including our next guest – call the “wellness industrial complex.” 

 

Now before you get all upset at me and shout, “That’s not fair. Not EVERYTHING on Goop is a scam!” – I hear you. Sure, not *everything* is dangerous or completely off base with science. It’s just that so many things ARE. Like crystal-infused water, or walking around barefoot to heal yourself.

 

INTV – SEUTHE [5:00] I don’t know if I want to admit this on air, but I did try to buy a jade egg because she said it would heal my hormones, but they were sold out. That was years ago.

 

ABDUL VO: Oh, and then there’s the infamous jade egg. Carolyn was far from alone in her interest in the jade egg. At $66 a pop, these jade eggs – also known as yoni eggs, or simply vagina eggs – were hot sellers. They were being marketed to women to fix all kinds of things: to balance hormones, to regulate menstrual cycles, to prevent uterine prolapse, and to increase bladder control. Basically, you insert this egg, made out of jade, into your vagina, and voila! You’re… better?

 

If that sounds awfully similar to goat balls–that’s cuz it is. 

 

It might sound harmless, but – the use of these eggs could lead to infections, and worse–things like toxic shock syndrome, which can kill you.

 

And here’s the important thing: Paltrow and her people were advertising these jade eggs to do all those things with absolutely zero scientific evidence to back it up.

 

In the medical world, that’s a big no-no. We don’t recommend treatments for people unless they’re backed up by rigorous scientific evidence, that come out of scientific trials – that’s the backbone of what we call “evidence-based medicine.”

 

But the wellness industry exists in this gray area – outside the purview of the Food & Drug Administration, who regulates most medical products. Instead, it’s regulated by the FTC – the Federal Trade Commission–the folks who regulate television and radio. Which means it’s not subject to the same kind of standards of testing and labeling that we put on other products.

 

Goop had been flying too close to the sun for some time – getting hit for making false medical claims on their site from the Better Business Bureau and Truth in Advertising, on products from Moon Juice–a collaborator–and practices like earthing. And in 2018, the jade egg caught the eye of authorities in California. They hit Goop with civil penalties amounting to $145,000 for making dangerous, unsubstantiated claims about what the jade eggs could do. Paltrow’s response? She told a group of students at Harvard Business School, about the cultural firestorm over the product: “I can monetize those eyeballs.”

 

I guess no press is bad press. 

 

In an interview with the BBC, when asked if Goop was practicing pseudoscience, Paltrow defended her company… 

 

ARCHIVAL PALTROW: Yeah we disagree with that wholeheartedly… We really believe that there are healing modalities that have existed for thousands of years, and they challenge maybe a very conventional western doctor that might not believe necessarily in the healing powers of essential oils… we find that they are very helpful to people, and that there’s an incredible power in the human body to heal itself. And so I think any time you are trying to move the needle and trying to empower women, you know, you find resistance, and we just think that’s part of what we do, and we’re proud to do it.

 

ABDUL VO: That last point, about the need to empower women is important. While I wouldn’t call selling women jade eggs that could kill them “empowering,” Gwyneth is right that women have been marginalized in the healthcare system for a long time. 

 

INTV – SEUTHE [13:58]: Every woman I know has in some ways been unsatisfied with the level of care she’s received from traditional medicine and traditional doctors and you know…  feels she’s hasn’t been listened to and I think that Goop kind of enables women to seek alternative paths to Wellness and explore outside of traditional medicine sometimes to an extreme, but I feel like most often not…

 

INTV – SEUTHE: [30:04]  I think it’s so easy for men to denigrate these efforts and to dismiss them as frivolous without really reckoning with the facts that the medical system was set up for men – like the more studies we learn about, you know, women being 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack… you know, statistics like that don’t make me feel like, you know, doctors are always right or completely to be trusted. But especially with women. And I think that’s why… I understand the outrage intellectually, but I just can’t get there emotionally because I just… feel like women haven’t had that many other options in a way, like, we have a system that was set up to basically let us die – like seat belts are made for men, specifically, like white average sized men… we’ve had to sort of like be creative and kind of like, you know, MacGyver our own solutions and clearly we’re not nailing it every time but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that. I think we have to work on fixing the gender biases in the medical system. And then I think that there’s less space for a thing like Goop.”

 

ABDUL VO: Since the dawn of evidence-based medicine – as Carolyn says – scientific research has either implicitly or explicitly focused its attention on one demographic: white men. In fact, everything I learned in medical school is optimized to one person: the 70 kilogram man. (That’s 154 pounds, for the people trying to do the math in their head.) Which means that Carolyn is right– there’s this yawning gap – this space in which evidence-based medicine has left whole groups of people – namely, women – ignored.

 

That study that Carolyn cited – about women and heart disease – that’s a big one. Heart disease is the deadliest disease in the world. But the stereotypical symptoms that we always hear about, left-sided crushing chest pain? It turns out that that’s not the way that heart disease presents as often in women. And so heart attacks are more likely to be missed–because we’ve created a stereotype about how a deadly disease presents itself constructed entirely around men. The study that Carolyn is talking about, included more than 180,000 people. It found that women were three times as likely to die of heart disease because they were less likely to get treated–and that was because they were less likely to get the right diagnosis in the first place. 

 

And when you know that, even if you were to get the most deadly disease in the world, you might be misdiagnosed and mistreated–simply because you’re a woman–I can appreciate why you’d be in the market for alternatives. Now, it’s certainly true that there are other facets of medical scamming and quackery that target men and women alike, but the truth is that our failure to center women in healthcare has left them vulnerable in two ways–first to being mistreated by the healthcare system, and then to being exploited. 

 

In addition to the fact that scientific research has focused mostly on that 70kg white man,  there’s also the problem that evidence-based medicine just  hasn’t really answered some of our more amorphous medical questions – that nagging pain, that tired feeling that just won’t go away, those “hormone” issues that Carolyn referred to.

 

All of this helps explain why Carolyn, who believes in science–turns to a place like Goop. 

 

By failing to center and appreciate our diversity, and in failing to listen and empathize, we’ve left quacks like Gwyneth the space to prey on people’s insecurities. Evidence-based medicine has to do a better job of addressing these things. But how do we do it? For that, we turn to Twitter’s anti-quack in chief. After the break.

 

AD BREAK – MIDROLL

 

ACT 2 – DR. GUNTER & THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS

 

INTV – ABDUL: [4:45] When was the first time … Goop came on your radar? 

 

INTV – GUNTER [4:48] Someone sent me a post from theirs that suggested that bras were a cause of breast cancer and the hypotheses were so ludicrous. It was beyond belief, you know that the underwire was picking up Wi-Fi and that the bras were so tight they were causing lymphatic compression. And I was looking at this thing. You don’t even need medicine to… debunk this, you just need to have actually worn a bra, but besides that, you know, a lot of people believe that myth and it was amazing to me how common it was and fear sells, right? So I decided to take that myth down and then it just kind of started from there.

 

ABDUL VO: That’s Dr. Jen Gunter. She’s a gynecologist and pain medicine physician. When she’s not actually taking care of people, she writes about people like Gwyneth Paltrow–why they exist, and what we need to do about it. She’s been called Twitter’s resident Gynecologist and she has dedicated her career to unpacking modern medical scammers –– specifically, what she today refers to as the Wellness Industrial Complex. 

 

INTV – ABDUL: [06:18] How do you think about wellness? And what is Wellness to you?

 

INTV – GUNTER [6:38] I think Wellness, like natural and organic, has been co-opted to mean other things and you know… I thought of Wellness as things that you could do, to make you a little bit healthier and maybe help your longevity and a little bit happier. That would be how I’d look at wellness and obviously now has been co-opted into being afraid of toxins and you know going for cryotherapy, you know, we put your whole body in a cryo chamber like all these crazy you know, these things that zero basis in science and actually could be harmful.

 

ABDUL VO: I want to be clear: the wellness industrial complex is way more than just Goop. Goop’s just an obvious example. Remember Alex Jones of InfoWars? 

 

ARCHIVAL ALEX JONES: [something batshit crazy]

 

ABDUL VO: Yeah, he was hawking all kinds of questionable supplements, right alongside his globalist conspiracies. Point is – there are countless other magazines and websites and blogs pushing all kinds of products today to cure all kinds of things. All together – the wellness industrial complex – is a 4 TRILLION dollar per year industry. Full of products and “therapies” you’ve probably never even heard of. And that’s probably a good thing.

 

INTV – ABDUL: Can you talk about some of the other you know, your top 10 list of crazy products that you’ve seen out there? 

 

INTV – GUNTER: … I think I would say the the the top things that bothered me are anything that is geared towards toxins. Oh thermography. Oh, that’s a big one that bothers me a lot.

 

INTV – ABDUL: What is thermography? 

 

INTV – GUNTER: So it’s the idea that you can use like heat sensing imagery like the kind of stuff you’d see like in like Mission Impossible where they’re trying to decide if there’s somebody in the room or not, you know that you would use that to scan your breast to tell you if there’s hot spots and you know, maybe you need you should have a biopsy for breast cancer.

 

INTV – ABDUL: So it’d be like infrared imaging?

 

INTV – GUNTER: Yeah, yeah like that and apparently some people – some people who are uneducated or grifters, I guess are telling people that they can use screen for breast cancer with that and you can’t and the FDA is very clear that thermography is not valid, you know Imaging for breast cancer screening… So thermography is certainly number one on my Hit List probably because we could do away with it by you know, arresting people who offer it, which I think should happen. You know, I think that Homeopathy is certainly, you know in my top list because that’s Magic Water and that’s ridiculous. Anti vaccines certainly in my top list and anybody who you know who promotes fears over toxins, I would say that’s you know up there and supplements.

 

INTV – ABDUL: Why do you think people care what somebody like Gwenyth Paltrow thinks about health? 

 

INTV – GUNTER: Well, you know, I think celebrity has always had allure. I’m sure people wanted to look like Cleopatra right?

 

INTV – ABDUL: As an egyptian American I can say I think that’s probably true.

 

INTV – GUNTER: I think celebrities have allure and then you also have to remember. I mean they are stunningly attractive that’s part of the reason they’re celebrities. They have this genetic privilege and I think we all look at someone like Gwyneth Paltrow and say, oh I like to be Sunkissed in California.

 

ABDUL VO: It’s easy to mistake fame for knowledge. And that’s because there’s a curious thing about knowledge. Those who know the least tend to speak the loudest, and with the most confidence. After all, with knowledge comes the appreciation for how much of it you don’t actually know.

 

ARCHIVAL – TRUMP Nonsense… other celebrity crap… 

 

As scientists, we’re taught to speak only on what you know. Which, when it comes down to the grand scheme of the universe, the collective sum of human knowledge isn’t actually that big. So uninformed voices, they rise up – and with the Internet, they can amplify. When you couple that with an audience who is eagerly seeking answers…well…

 

INTV – ABDUL [24:12] Who in our society do you feel is most susceptible to this and at greatest risk of potentially being hurt by some of the misinformation and the unverified, unvalidated products that are being put out there?

 

INTV – GUNTER: [24:32] I mean I think everybody is at risk… when I delivered my children prematurely and they were in the Intensive Care Unit mean which is kind of how I got started looking at online information. You know, I bought all kinds of useless products for reflux because medicine didn’t have an answer and you know, some of them might have actually been harmful…I made a formula switch that I really wish I hadn’t…  [25:12] you know, even a physician obsessed with evidence-based medicine… can fall down that rabbit hole.

 

[26:00] But I think all of us are vulnerable to it, I think you know, it’s a combination of fear and desperation and propaganda and all your common sense and all your learning can fly out the window in a heartbeat.

 

ABDUL VO: And this is the point. Medical scamming isn’t something experienced by some far off “them,” it’s something we all can fall prey to from time to time. It’s a human thing to want answers–and to believe that successful people around you have them.  

 

So maybe we buy an upscale multivitamin or you take a memory enhancer endorsed by your favorite athlete or celebrity.

 

Most of the time, it turns out okay. Until it doesn’t. That’s where we glimpse the dark side of the wellness industrial-complex.

 

INTV – ABDUL [8:19]  Where does Wellness potentially become harmful? What’s that space between you know… buying a nice facial cream and then how and when does that get into potentially doing things that could really hurt you?

 

INTV – GUNTER [8:52] Most things that are offered as Wellness are, you know, under the modern Wellness industrial complex, probably have little to offer you health-wise, but the risks – besides spending a lot of money – are really significant.

 

[9:08]  So many of these products actually, you know have unknown substances.

 

[9:29]  So you’re potentially exposing yourself to an unknown substance, who knows what’s in it – could have lead, it could have antidepressants, it could interact with the medication you’re on.   

 

ABDUL VO: A lot of people don’t realize that vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. It’s the wild wild west out there. And we often don’t know that the things we’re putting into our bodies to make them healthier could actually wind up making them sick. 

 

ARCHIVAL – crazy story about supplements having some unknown substance in them–

–Supplements giving women facial hair – anabolic steroids

–Protein powders with high lead levels… 

 

ABDUL VO: A study by the group Center for Environmental Health found that two of the supplements that Alex Jones was pushing – one of which had the word “Caveman” in it – had dangerously high levels of lead – more than twice the daily limit. 

 

And then there’s the fact that many of these products become a gateway:

 

INTV – GUNTER: [9:45] Then there’s the idea that many people who are sort of part of this Wellness industrial complex are also into medical conspiracy theories. So they’re anti-vaccine, they’re anti-fluoride. There’s a lot of overlap there.

 

[10:00] So you have to kind of churn this Fear Wheel to keep people in, so say you toddle off to Goop and you’re like, oh I want to buy like the pashmina shawl there, and then you’re like, oh look at this face cream.

 

It’s all sweet and nice and it’s two hundred eighty dollars and I want to spend that on myself because I deserve it – fine. It’s your disposable income. But then you see an article by somebody who also sort of has this sort of soft sell against vaccines and you say oh well, that’s kind of interesting and then you click on his website and then now you’re in the hard sell against vaccines and so many of these Wellness sites expose people to medical conspiracy theories. So that is a significant problem because… [10:44] you have this phenomenon called the illusory truth effect, the more you’re exposed to something the more you believe it to be true. We all mistake repetition for accuracy. So now you’ve been on Goop and then you’ve seen maybe three or four exposures to something that might make you vaccine hesitant.

 

ABDUL VO: I’m reminded of what Ethan–the young man who got his vaccines against his mother’s anti-vax beliefs–told us last week: 

 

ETHAN LINE:You… gain so much by becoming a vocal leader in the anti-vaccine community… You can sell supplements, You can sell alternative medicine…you can sell essential oils you can sell vitamins, you can sell… nutritional products, anything… all the time people do this because – when you tear down the fabric of authority and trust in science and medicine, you can market anything you want.”

 

ABDUL VO: Okay, so hearing all of this – I decided to conduct my own experiment. I’ve been trying to get a bit of a mental edge lately, because you know, I’ve been working on this really cool podcast about health and all, so I want to be on my A-game. So I open up my browser, and toddle over to Goop.com and search under SHOP — WELLNESS… there I find “nerd alert.” That sounds like just the stuff. It boasts “a bite-size mental boost with two nootropics.” Just a dollar a day for one month’s supply. And oh, there’s a fun video of people dancing and finding their focus. 

 

But here’s the problem. I went to med school and I have no fucking clue what a nootropic is. But it *does* sound science-y. So I google it. I’m served a ton of adds of other “nootropics” from companies like “neurohacker collective”. I also find a definition from Wikipedia –colloquial–“smart drugs and cognitive enhancers.” Hmm. I place that suspicion on hold, and click over to Neurohacker Collective. And wow – there’s all these doctors and scientists recommending the products! But I’m still not sure. So I hop over to the Wikipedia page, which tells me these things are under investigation by the FDA and the FTC for false marketing claims. That’s all I need to know… and now I can start to appreciate how folks operate, dressing up bullshit in science-y sounding words…that have no actual definition.   

 

INTV – ABDUL [26:20] What would you say to somebody who… is using some of these products and says, you know, I don’t really have any answers anywhere else and I’m going to try this. What do you tell them? 

 

INTV – GUNTER [26:34]… You know, women have been dismissed by medicine since the dawn of time. So I think that you know that there are very valid reasons people can come to that. And then people have different belief systems, you know, I would say that, you know, If you’re using a product that is not conventional in any way, you know, where did you get that information? And if it was somebody who was selling that product – it’s not possible to get unbiased information from someone who sells product – and so I would ask them to think about that. 

 

The other thing I would say is you know, what is your bother factor and what is the way this is going to fix it? And I think that’s a question that we often neglect in medicine. You know, what’s bothering you? I mean, obviously if you show up in the emergency department with an open femoral fracture and your femur is sticking through your leg, I think we all pretty much know what your bother factor is. You don’t want your bone sticking through your leg, you’d like that fixed.

 

But you know, I think much of medicine is symptom management – you know, we have offered this lure to people… this idea that medicine cures and in reality, you know, we’re more about mitigation or more about improvement, right? I mean… I do chronic pain for women – cures are are something I don’t talk about. I talk about Improvement and setting expectations.

 

So I think that you know, I would ask somebody what’s their bother factor and what do they hope that this medicine is going to do for them or this treatment? And where’s the proof that it will – from a site that doesn’t sell that product or that service? 

 

INTV – ABDUL: [18:39] What can we do in the in the science and biomedical and public health world to try and qualify that, if anything?

 

INTV – GUNTER: Well, I think you know, first of all… teaching everybody how themselves to access information online and how to teach the people that you work with how to do that… how to spot bias, how to spot propaganda. You know, I think the internet is an amazing library and I would never tell someone not to go to the library, but I might say hey if you’re going to the library, here’s the best way how to use it. And you know, you don’t have to stop at the you know, the National Enquirer, that’s right in the front door… there’s actually really more amazing stuff if you just venture in a little bit more. So I think we have to teach people internet hygiene, and I think that is a very important thing that we need to teach that kind of literacy. We should probably teaching that you know in elementary school all the way up.

 

ABDUL VO: Dr. Gunter is spot on with all of this — teaching people “Internet hygiene,” how to be skeptical consumers of information – weeding out the false, baseless and sometimes dangerous claims from the safe, helpful, evidence-based information is key.

 

But maybe we need to start even further up, like Dr. Gunter suggested. Maybe we just need to be honest about what science and what medicine can and can’t do… See, people want answers for their problems. And because of how we’ve communicated science and medicine, we’ve conditioned people to believe that there’s a cold, hard, decisive answer for everything. But there’s not. That’s just not how science works. 

 

See, science is not a body of knowledge. It’s a process of coming to knowledge. We set up a hypothesis, and then we try to prove it wrong. If the hypothesis survives, it gets to be the best answer we have–for now.

 

But the process leaves a lot of questions unanswered–even important questions, and even more so for important groups of people, like women. And that is frustrating. And into this void, step a whole lot of people attempting to answer those questions in the most irresponsible way possible.

 

So, what do we do about quackery? Well, first, we’ve got to make sure that science centers everyone–not just the 70 kg man. But we’ve also got to have a better conversation between scientists, doctors, and the public. And…That’s kinda why we’re doing this. But seriously, scientists and doctors have to be a lot better at communicating what we know and what we don’t.

 

But everyday folks have a part to play, too. When science hasn’t yet delivered a clear answer to a question about our particular aches and pains, we can’t leave scientific principles behind altogether. We should still bring the spirit of science to finding our answer. And that spirit is skepticism. After all, as we discussed, science is about posing a hypothesis and then trying to disprove it. So the next time we hear Gwyneth Paltrow tell us to stick a rock in it…well, we should treat it like a hypothesis. One that’s pretty easy to disprove.

 

In fact, we’ve got to be particularly skeptical about simple answers that sound decisive from people we’ve heard of before–especially when they’re trying to sell us something. 

 

That spirit of science matters a lot. It’s something we should be teaching our kids everyday in school. But today, science education is woefully underfunded, so we also have to make real investments–as a society–to making sure our young people understand the principles of science and can apply them in their daily lives.

 

All that said, you *can* still have a little fun with the more harmless products.

 

INTV – ABDUL [32:23]: What entry-level goop – what products should I look at? 

 

INTV – CAROLYN: Um, maybe a dry brush. 

 

INTV – ABDUL: I don’t really know what a dry brush is, so

 

INTV – CAROLYN: Yeah, it’s basically something you, it’s like a really kind of like rough bristle body brush that you do before you get in the shower to exfoliate and boost circulation so to speak.

 

INTV – ABDUL: That’s a pretty good like entryway into wellness world. 

ABDUL VO: Okay, so the nootropics – they’re a definite no for me. But my skin, it feels so fresh and so clean.

 

Next time, on The Vitals, we’ll consider what happens when the people we pay to answer the big scientific questions–like how to cure Hepatitis C–charge us way too much to do it. 

 

America Dissected is a production of Crooked Media. Our producers are Austin Fisher, Cary Junior II, and Katie Long. Andrea B. Scott is our story editor. Our sound designer is Daniel Ramirez. Production support from Alison Falzetta (Fall-ZET-ta), Elisa (AY-lisa) Gutierrez, Kara (CARE-ah) Hart, Daniel Porcerelli (PORE-sir-el-ee), and Tara Terpstra. Fact-checking by Dr. Nicole Aiello (aye-YELL-low). The theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa (TAAK-ah Yaas-oo-ZAH-wah) and Alex Sugiura (SOO-ghee-er-ah). Our executive producers are Sarah Geismer (GUISE-mer) and Mukta Mohan (MO-haan). Special thanks to Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tanya Somanader (SOW-men-ay-der) and Tommy Vietor. And I’m your host Dr Abdul El-Sayed. Thanks for listening.