Sometimes I wish I had a background in science instead of just a Ph.D. in skepticism. The latter, however, is a seriously good quality to have in an election year. I’m already fully prepared not to believe a single word any candidate says.
And speaking of not believing anything, ‘tis the time of year for all the diet ads that promise us redemption for the food felonies of the holidays. It occurred to me as I read the ads for these products that maybe what you need for a career in the health and beauty world is not a degree in biochemistry but an MFA in creative writing. In this market, “science” could be defined as the systematic study of duping the general public into believing that those purely magical properties you’re proclaiming for the product are even remotely true.
As practice for what will be a wearying year of election rhetoric, I decided I’d start ratcheting up my parsing skills on the ad pages of current magazines. There was a lot of competition, but the ones that really captured my attention were the ads for “fat burners.” This is creative “science” writing at its best. Here are some of my faves:
• “Combo-Pilling” (love the techno term) “is the uber-trendy ‘underground’ practice of combining two or more diet pills to create ‘supercharged’ weight loss.” (Is it also known as overdosing? Is that how you end up ‘underground’?)
• “BiphedAdrene is a complex Phenylethylamine Provisional (note science-y words the reader is not likely to know, and even less likely to look up) plus an Aggressive Thermogenic formula.” (Would doing sit-ups in the sauna have the same effect?)
• “Vysera-CLS can not only help you lose weight but can actually resh-ape your entire body.” (Washboard abs, all without exercising! Could you lose weight twice as fast if you combo-pilled it with BiphedAdrene, above?)
• “The 14 day Jumpstart Kit target(s) your excess body fat with a Maximum Strength Fat Burner that promotes preferential loss of body fat mass… It encourages lipolysis (release of fat from mature cells) and inhibits the activity of phosphodiesterase.” (Note definition of lipolysis but no explanation for phosphodiesterase. If you don’t know what it means, you don’t deserve to lose weight, you oinker!)
But inquiring minds wanted to know. I looked up Phosphodiesterase: “an enzyme that breaks a phosphodiester bond in an oligonucleotide.” Well THAT makes me feel better.
• “Akävar-20/50 (note umlauts – foreign is always better, Scandinavian is better yet) is a Calorie Blocker (love the caps) that literally causes excess fat to be pulled from bulging parts of your body! Sound too good to be true? (Yes, actually!) This was all determined in a groundbreaking study [also known as “30 years of time-consuming detailed research”].
• “Zantrex-3 is a veteran in the Calorie Blocker market. It not only blocks calories to help you lose weight fast but is also famous for the incredible energy boost it provides. (Translation: it contains speed.) It has been shown to offer 546 percent more weight loss than American’s No. 1 selling ephedra-based diet pill.” (Not 542percent? And I was right about the speed.)
• The fat burner Xenadrine Ultimate promises “powerful weight loss” via its “key ingredient: c. canephora robusta.” Google that and you’ll find the “c.” is “coffea.” It’s coffee beans. Save yourself the $26.99 and drink a few Red Bulls!
• But I think my personal fave fat burner would have to be 1.M.R.VortexTM: “Turn your body into a lean, sexy fat-melting machine with 1.M.R.VortexTM! It uses one of the industry’s biggest weight-loss secrets: yohimbine. This powerful ingredient is extracted from the bark of a West African tree.” (Far away is always better. God forbid it should grow in Omaha.)
I hope yohimbine remains a secret. Online research described it as a “toxic crystalline compound obtained from the bark of the yohimbe tree, used as an adrenergic blocking agent and also in the treatment of impotence.” Who needs those little blue pills? And you burn fat at the same time! Probably from that all that sex?
“In addition to yohimbine, 1.M.R.VortexTM also contains white leadwort …which stimulates your central nervous system.” Boy, does it ever! HolisticOnline.com noted white leadwort “stimulates the central nervous system in small doses, while with larger doses paralysis sets in leading ultimately to death. The blood pressure shows a slight fall.” (I’m betting it’s more than a slight fall after death.)
But white leadwort only gets worse: Under Uses, HolisticOnline.com notes: “The root of this herb is a powerful acro-narcotic poison. It will expel a fetus, dead or alive.” Yowsers! Don’t sugarcoat it, HolisticOnline.com! Personally, I think 1.M.R.VortexTM comes with more excitement than I could stand.
I’ve concluded two things from this research:
1) Reading and evaluating product ads would be good practice for vetting claims by political candidates.
2) There are worse things than being fat.
— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org