10. Spurious Products Sold Through The Mail
Probably the most extensive study of mail-order health advertising was done in the summer of 1977 by the quackery committee of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. The committee screened five-hundred nationally-circulated magazines and found that about a quarter of them carried ads for mail-order health products. Altogether, about one-hundred-fifty such products were offered by fifty promoters. The products included weight reducers, bust developers, blemish removers, hair-loss remedies, longevity formulas, aphrodisiacs, impotency aids, and others.
According to Postal Service estimates, mail-order fraud costs Americans at least $150 million a year.
In January 1978, some two million copies of a four-page brochure were accepted for insertion into the various editions of eighteen city newspapers from coast to coast. The brochure promoted a handbook, “Modern Solution to Age Old Physical Problems,” published by the Midwest Health Research Laboratory. The handbook, it was claimed, “contained a solution or prevention for as many as forty different diseases and illnesses,” including arthritis, diabetes, and hardening of the arteries. More than one thousand readers surrendered to the inviting logic of the promotion: “Our special introductory offer of $9.95 can save you unnecessary visits to the doctor, the hospital, and save you money.”
Those who mailed money received a twenty-five-page booklet revealing the secret cure-all and end-all of disease —”colonic irrigation,” otherwise known as an enema, preferably “two and three times a week.” Coupons were available for those desiring “personal Home Treatment Kits” at $29.95 apiece.
The Washington Post and eleven other prominent publications carried full-page ads for Thera-Slim-100, the “diet aid” that supposedly “burns away more fat each 24 hours than if you ran 14 miles a day.”
Research conducted by the Consumer’s Union resulted in several conclusions concerning some of the more widely-publicized health “cures”:
- Wrinkle removers – No cream or liquid that’s safe to put on the skin can do more than temporarily increase the water content of the skin, and then only to the point of masking the most superficial of wrinkles. ‘Anti-aging’ pills containing RNA, DNA, or other chemicals have no beneficial effect at all.
- Baldness remedies – Male pattern baldness, the most common type of baldness, is considered to be hereditary. (But other factors are also involved.) Medical science knows of no pill or cream that can arrest that genetically-determined condition. In some instances, loss of hair may also be symptomatic of various emotional and physical disorders.
- Aphrodisiacs – Most pills and powders with aphrodisiacal pretensions contain ‘Spanish fly,’ a legendary ingredient celebrated for its purported effect on women. Today’s ‘Spanish fly’ consists mainly of red pepper. It causes nothing more than mild irritation of the urethra. The ginseng root, long used as an Oriental cure-all, has recently acquired a reputation in this country for improving sexual prowess. The FDA has unearthed no evidence to support the root’s reputation.
- Diet pills, protein supplements, reducing devices—there is no proof that such gimmicks are effective for weight loss. Most nonprescription diet pills contain either phenylpropanolamine or methylcellulose. Some evidence indicates phenylpropanolamine can act as an appetite suppressant, but only for short periods. Methylcellulose is a ‘bulking agent,’ which supposedly expands in the stomach to relieve hunger. There’s no evidence that it works. Weight-loss powders are usually accompanied by instructions bidding users to follow a rigid low-calorie diet as well. The diet might very well promote a weight loss, but protein products contribute nothing. Clinical studies by the FDA have shown that ‘body wraps’—devices wrapped around parts of the body for selective weight loss—are useless. Some can be harmful.
- Megavitamins – Everyone recognizes that adequate amounts of vitamins are necessary for good health. But none has ever shown that extra large or ‘megavitamin’ doses produce better health. Depending on the vitamin, amounts beyond the National Academy of .Sciences/National Research Council’s Recommended Daily Allowances can be dangerous or just a waste of money. Too much of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D can build up in the body to dangerous levels. Doses of water-soluble vitamins that exceed what the body can use are simply excreted in the urine.
There are many other “cures” being sold through the mail and magazine advertisements, but all are worthless. They are all dishonest attempts to make money from an uninformed or unknowing public. There are no “cures.”
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Herbal “Cures”
- 3. Acupuncture
- 4. Megavitamins
- 5. Reflexology (Zone Therapy)
- 6. Relaxation Therapy
- 7. Ultrasound Therapy
- 8. Radiation Therapy
- 9. Laetrile
- 10. Spurious Products Sold Through The Mail
- 11. High-Fiber Diets
- 12. Fructose Diet Cure
- 13. Bland Diet For Peptic Ulcer Patients
- 14. DMSO
- 15. Mineral Water Therapy
- 16. Bee Products
- 17. Macrobiotic Diet Cure
- 18. Questions & Answers