Sergeant Tony's Blog

Archive for May, 2017

Do You Know Joe?

May. 20th 2017

Let’s make some money!
We’ll have to be a little unethical, white lies mostly, maybe a little slight of hand.
It won’t hurt anyone. Not really.
In fact, it might actually be kind of good for them.

Here’s what we’ll do.
We’ll develop a nutritional supplement.
Maybe a pill or a drink or something to eat.
It’ll have healthy ingredients.
Or at least the kind of ingredients we think of as healthy.

We’ll give our product a cool name.
We’ll make some pretty bold claims about it.
It’ll make you faster.
It’ll make you stronger.
It’ll help you recover quicker.
It’ll help you lose weight.
The claims may or may not be true.
Some people will feel better.
Some people will be faster.
Or at least they’ll think so.
More than likely it’ll be the placebo effect.

We’ll market our cool product and get well-known people to endorse it.
We’ll make a lot of money.

I don’t know if this is how the shelves get filled with the latest snake oil. (It may be worse than this.) Or the process may be slightly less benign. It depends on the product and the people.

What’s the consumer to do?

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of products sold by drug stores, vitamin shops, online stores, and friends selling stuff through hundreds of multi-level marketing companies that don’t measure up. The majority of those products are nothing more than the same kind of vitamins and minerals and other health foods that have been around for years. Some products are good sources of vitamins and minerals, to be sure. But some products just produce expensive urine. The vast majority of those products are grossly overpriced and unnecessary.

I bought my first plastic bottle of snake oil in 1977 and have been studying the claims and effects of those things ever since. What was in that bottle I bought in ‘77, you ask? The label said, “predigested protein” and was sold by a company owned by the legendary Joe Weider. (I was a young Corporal in the Marine Corps, lifting heavy and running 6 days a week, and was looking for nutrition to help me recover quickly.) If you were involved in health, fitness, weight training, and bodybuilding in the 70s and 80s, you knew about Joe Weider. He was a master marketeer, entrepreneur, salesman, businessman, publisher, and “father” of modern body building. His name was on everything you could think of in fitness and exercise. Trump probably took branding advice from Joe. But Joe wasn’t a scientist and the products that bore his name were usually little more than repackaged products already available from other sales people. But you were buying the Joe Weider name.

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What exactly was in that bottle of “predigested protein”?

No one really knew. I certainly didn’t. I was no food scientist. But I CAN verify that it tasted NASTY! And I CAN verify that I couldn’t say with any degree of assurance that the product did what it said that it did. It might have worked. I couldn’t be sure. And the FDA was no help.

The FDA isn’t involved in dietary supplements. Period. Let that sink in.

There’s no requirement for the supplement industry to publish the ingredients of their product nor to prove their claims. Anyone can sell anything and call it whatever they want and make any claim they want. The companies are left to police themselves. Let the buyer beware. It truly is the Wild West in the supplement business. Snake oil in the modern world.

Every week, it seems, I see a new product introduced on social media or someone tells me about some something they’re taking or selling. It’s almost impossible to keep up. And so MANY people want me to sell it. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve told a friend or acquaintance “no” when they asked me to represent some product they stumbled on.

So, what is the consumer to do?

First of all, and this applies to everything, not just dietary supplements: get out a copy of your resume and check your areas of expertise. What does your formal higher education and experience say about what you’re an expert in? What subjects do you have a graduate or terminal degree in (a masters or doctorate)? What skill, trade, or area of research do you have 10,000 hours or more in? That is what you’re an expert in. Everything else is outside of your “wheelhouse,” not inside your “silo.” Everything else will require the consultation of those people who ARE experts. If I have a toothache, I don’t Google “toothache” to see what I should do. I go to the dentist. If I’m considering vaccinating my children, I don’t ask a Hollywood starlet for advice.

Since the FDA isn’t involved in dietary supplements, the consumer has to rely on the experts. The consumer has to do their homework and research the work of experts in the field. We have to depend on science, demand proof, and expect transparency.

Imagine that you and I want to develop a product, but we’re going to operate above board and are going to produce a genuine and effective supplement. We want to produce a product as effective as Gatorade or GU. These are some of the steps an honest developer might go through.

1) Research what the needs are in athletic performance and endurance, general health, or recovery from workouts or illness.

2) Gather experts: Registered Dietitians, PhDs in Food Science, PhDs in Exercise Science, PhDs in Human Performance, etc.

3) Secure research funding through grants and other science investments. Receiving a grant requires a lot of work and details related to your project. About 99% of all grants are intended to advance the human race forward, not make a profit for unnamed investors or stock holders. (I recently took a grant writing class and wrote two grants and can tell you that an organization or individual who receives a grant has done their homework and have convinced a panel of evaluators of the merit of their project.)

4) Develop and test the product. Over and over and over again.

5) Conduct double-blind comparison and contrast research of the product.

6) Seek out peer review research into the product.

7) Make necessary adjustments to the product.

8) Repeat #4, 5, and 6 until satisfied with the results.

9) Secure additional funding. Step 1: Apply for grants, Step 2: Ask the experts from step 2, Step 3: Seek investments from those who fund evidence-based research and science.

10) Secure patent and legal ownership of the proprietary intellectual rights.

11) Seek FDA approval.

12) Manufacture finished product.

13) Promote product through advertising and marketing that relies on science and field success, depending on the testimonials of those involved in the research, development, and assessment of the product. Since the product is designed for athletes, the testimonials would include athletes, coaches, trainers, and other sports professionals. Think Gatorade.

Anything that doesn’t rely on science and research, and doesn’t promote those things with expert testimonials is, AT BEST, suspicious. (I’m obviously impressed by products that were initially funded through grant money.) And you can almost certainly bet that a supplement or product that is as good as the claims isn’t going to be marketed and sold by a multi-level marketing company. Gatorade, developed in 1965 by members of the faculty of the University of Florida (Dr. Robert Cade, Dr. Dana Shires, Dr. John Lloyd, Dr. Harry James Free and Dr. Alejandro de Quesada), isn’t being sold by the University of Florida. In 1969, the developers entered into an agreement with Stokely-Van Camp, a canned food packaging company, to produce and distribute Gatorade. After being acquired and sold a few times since then, Gatorade is now owned by Pepsi-Co and accounts for 75% of all sports drink sales world-wide.

In my experience, if a product designed for health, fitness, and athletic performance is, after 3 to 5 years of its development and introduction to the market, still being distributed by people selling products out of their garage or in booths at expos, there’s every reason to believe that that product doesn’t do anything significant in the area of health, fitness, and athletic performance. Every pro athlete and pro sports team in the world, every college team and athlete are ALL looking for an edge and will quickly adopt any legal drink, paste, pill, ointment, bar, supplement, meal substitute, or piece of equipment that will give them that edge. Think Gatorade.

The internet has made “experts” out of people with no expertise. When you go to their websites, their education deficiencies are hidden behind adjectives and claims that mean nothing. “Life Style Expert” isn’t a real thing. Neither is “Food Enthusiast.” Nor is “Exercise Guru.” Look for graduate level degrees, earned doctorates, and post-doctorate research and experience from accredited colleges and universities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve researched the claims of someone only to find their education is bogus and their “degrees” come from a paper-mill and not a legitimate accredited university. (There is a well-known “celebrity trainer” whose only certification was from a paper-mill in Dyersburg, Tennessee.)

Look at your resume.
If you aren’t an expert, ask one. Do your research.
Demand evidence!

Caveat Emptor!

Posted by Tony Ludlow | in Uncategorized | No Comments »


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