Twenty-First Century Snake Oil

Snake oil. It’s actually a thing. Admittedly, I didn’t know the origin story until a recent trip into the world of Google, when I stumbled across the purportedly true story. The oil of the Chinese water snake was given to railroad workers in the 1840s, as it seemed to fend off arthritis and other inflammatory illnesses. In fact, there is recent scientific evidence that the oil from this snake does, actually, contain high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutritionally beneficial vitamins. Of course, in an effort to make a profit, some unethical entrepreneurs decided any oil would suffice and began selling cheaper concoctions with little to no benefit. Hence, the term “snake oil salesmen”. Fast forward to present-day, and the world of endless social media scrolling, ads perpetuating messages of the “perfect” weight loss, fitness, and wellness solutions, it’s hard to differentiate between the metaphorically pure “snake oil” and the fake. 

And who has time to dig through all the research anyway? Well, people like me find it uncommonly enjoyable to compare nutritional research data from various studies and try to make sense of it all. Because you may not have the same proclivity towards nutritional research, but you do want to know what to believe, I have a few tips for you when you come upon the latest wellness “craze”. 

Check Their Ego

One of the first red flags I find with a too-good-to-be-true fitness or nutrition claim is the influencer claims to have all of the answers. They may even throw in one or two scientific claims (with no relevant context). But the most glaring warning sign is when statements are made continuously knocking others in the industry as false. It’s one thing to professionally bring attention to potential public health risks, it’s another to unethically demonize the competition for monetary gain.

Listen to Your Gut

And listen closely to it. That uncomfortable feeling you get when you just know something isn’t right. When you are reading about the latest wellness craze or listening to your friend or co-worker go on about their speedy weight loss from a “miracle drink” it just doesn’t sound right? That’s exactly what I am talking about. Any fitness or nutrition statement claiming to deliver almost immediate results is most likely a false promise. I know it’s not exciting or sexy, but slow and consistent progress is really the only two cornerstones of wellness that deliver.

Check Your Sources (or Theirs)

If you have the time or inclination, it really will benefit you and your health to double-check any claim. After all, if you are looking for a wellness solution, you want to make sure you are choosing the right one. So, if a claim passes your gut check, look up the claim through another source. Maybe there is a podcast on it, or a study published in a scientific journal. Listen to the podcast, read the article, do whatever you can to be as confident as possible. Don’t allow an outside source to convince you that you are not the expert on your own body. The bottom line is that you have a Ph.D. in knowing how your body responds to any situation, and you ultimately know what will work best for you and your lifestyle. Trust that. 

The Theory of the Just World

As much as we would like to believe that every business and individual has our best interest at heart, this idea is not always true. Individually, we each have the responsibility to ourselves to do our own research and identify what is truly best for us. Not to say that we should live in a state of distrust, rather, being critical thinkers when it comes to observing our world, particularly when it comes to what we put in our bodies. Using this approach may save you from the false “snake oil salesmen” of the current social environment.

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