Billion Dollar Maybe

There are a certain number of buzzwords that appear almost as ‘mandatory prefixes’ in every vitamin supplement and healthy eating blurb worth its pink Himalayan rock salt. If you are at all interested in not dying tomorrow, you probably can list them yourselves, ‘super’, ‘anti’, ‘lowers’ ‘prevents’ and their all-powerful big brother ‘MAY’. As in maybe.

These small, but powerful, words are the absolute lynch pins of the ‘buy it online to keep you alive for longer’ market.

Don’t believe me? Type any reasonably well-known or totally bizarre fruit, vegetable, herb or spice into the Google machine and count how many times you read those five words in one single article.

The thing is, as descriptors they don’t do a bad job, but their over-use can make us question the claims being made regarding the particular ingestible being touted.

Rightly or wrongly, these 5 small words are both the result, and cause, of a credibility gap.

The world of home-front health and wellness is an interesting one.

It’s an industry that remains in its adolescence scientifically, almost in spite of itself, but it wants, very much wants, a seat at the adult’s table.

This is not an unreasonable desire. Some of what is being sold has merit, and it is undeniable that what we put into our bodies has a great effect on our health overall.

Clinical trials of certain chemical substances such as, say, carotenoids – of which there are over 600 types and which can be found in everything from carrots and algae to photosynthetic bacteria- are known to be anti-oxidant. That means that they work to reverse the damage done to human cells by attacking ‘free-radicals’, the chemicals released into the body by exposure to toxic particles or even stress.

Science has proven that free radicals can alter human DNA and can cause the cells to change and mutate. When cells change and mutate, we call that cancer.

Anti-oxidants are real, and they work. Carotenoids are real…they are actually pigments that make things orange, red or yellow….and they work.

So, carotenoids are anti-oxidant, they are found in carrots, so eating carrots prevents cancer…. Whoa, whoa, whoa Nelly…not so fast.

Science has come a very long way in a short time. Penicillin is 92 years old. 93 years ago, you could die from a cut on your finger. In terms of the Earth’s timeline, science is a sperm still looking for an egg.

Today we expect scientists to be able to tell us, with the same specificity and certainty that they can tell us about which penicillin is best for which bacteria, exactly how many carrots we will need to prevent cancer.


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