Monday, September 01, 2008

Snake Oil

He's got a new book out. Just from his most recent column, five thoughts from Ben Goldacre:

1. these so-called "fish-oil trials" were so badly designed that they amounted to little more than a sham. In the case of the biggest, "the Durham trial", the county council has refused even to release the results, which I have every reason to believe were unflattering.

2. if you think about it rationally, any beneficial effects of fish oil on school performance will probably not be all that dramatic. We do not have an epidemic of thick vegetarians

3. The capsules Durham are promoting cost 80p per child per day, while it spends only 65p per child per day on school meals.

4. You are what you eat, and people die young because they deserve it. You hear it from people as they walk past the local council estate and point at a mother feeding her child crisps: "Well, when you look at what they feed them," they say, "it’s got to be diet, hasn’t it?" They choose death, through ignorance and laziness, but you choose life, fresh fish, olive oil, and that’s why you’re healthy.

5. because they cannot find new treatments for the diseases we already have, the pill companies have instead had to invent new diseases for the treatments they already have

Basically, the "best" marketing does not only sell you a solution, it sells you a problem that you did not know that you had.

1 comment:

R N B said...

I could barely believe what I heard on Today this morning, there are going to be fish-oil trials in UK prisons. After the joke that was the Durham schools study. The credulous pathetic BBC reporter (John Humphrys?) genuinely seemed to accept the line that by giving four fish-oil capsules to randomly selected younsters, positive changes in behaviour would be observable. It took a spokesman from the Howard League to puncture the superficial soundness of the trial … suggesting that a few pills would solve the kids' social problems was ridiculous. And that seemed to be the main thrust of Dr Goldacre's book.