If I were unscrupulous and cared more about money than my reputation then I recon I could do well in the world of dietary supplements. Allow me to sell you my wonder supplement Metalo-Lappin-Detox.
The industrial age has seen an unprecedented increase in heavy metal pollution that can lead to mental and physical deterioration and accelerated ageing. The human body tries to protect itself from this onslaught through a protein called metallothionein-2A that detoxifies heavy metals such as cadmium. Metallothionein-2A is made from amino acids and its most abundant and important amino acid is cysteine. Innumerable scientific studies have shown how cysteine is incorporated into proteins and how its nucleophilic properties are essential to detoxification.
You can now enjoy the health benefits of cysteine through Metalo-Lappin-Detox, a unique combination of amino acids all contained within a fast release capsule especially formulated by the renown toxicologist, Dr Graham Lappin. The unique mixture is fortified with cysteine and its precursor, sulphur, critical to metallothionein-2A activity.
Dr Graham Lappin, is an expert in the metabolism of toxins. He has over 30 years experience and has held 3 professorships, including those from the Medical University of Vienna and Duke Medical School in the United States, the home of Nobel Laurette Robert J. Lefkowitz.
Metalodetox is only available from Dr Lappin’s website and is priced so you can afford it. Take just one 250 mg capsule per day and a week’s supply is just £10. What price would you place on your health?
The above description is a lot more accurate than many detox claims but is still bogus. And yet, everything it says is true (although “renown” toxicologist might be pushing it a bit). Heavy metal pollution has increased with industrialisation and is associated with mental and physical deterioration. Many heavy metals when ingested lead to oxygen radicals which are associated with ageing. The body has evolved systems to neutralise heavy metals, because life has been exposed to them (in varying concentrations) since it climbed out of the primordial ooze. Metallothionein-2A is one of the key proteins that protects the human body from heavy metals such as cadmium. Metallothionein-2A is made of amino acids and sulphur-containing cysteine is one of the most abundant. The links to the scientific literature are genuine and the studies are valid. My list of my credentials is also accurate.
All of these individual facts are verifiable via Google and all seem feasible. It is however a classic example of pseudoscientific exploitation. The trick is the way the individual claims are joined together – or more accurately the way they are not.
The biggest gap – the breadth of the grand canyon – is simply the notion that taking a cysteine supplement will somehow increase the ability of metallothionein-2A to do its job. Metalo-Lappin-Detox also contains sulphur which is present in cycteine but is not incorporated into protein in its elemental form. Furthermore, the body makes its own cysteine and we do not require a dietary source of this amino acid. A healthy person makes more than enough cysteine for incorporation into all of the proteins. A supplement of 250 mg per day will make no difference whatsoever to the body’s ability to cope with heavy metals.
Reference to the scientific literature is particularly convincing. The first study quoted, entitled “Role of metallothionein and cysteine-rich intestinal protein in the regulation of zinc absorption by diabetic rats” sounds right on the money. The paper has nothing to do with the claims of Metalo-Lappin-Detox but most of the public could not assess this – which is exactly what the sales pitch is relying on. In fact the claims for Metalo-Lappin-Detox are full of science-sounding terms such as “nucleophilic”, which again if Googled would appear to be used correctly.
The ploy of listing credentials is almost universal in pseudoscience, so much so it’s a trade-mark. At least in my case I hold a genuine PhD and not bought off the internet from the Hogwarts University of Technology. Robert J. Lefkowitz is indeed a Nobel Laurette at Duke University and I held a adjunct professorship there. I have however, never met him nor had any involvement in his groundbreaking work. If the reader makes any assumptions then that’s up to them.
The pricing seems reasonable until I tell you this is three times the price for analytically-pure laboratory grade cysteine. A fast release capsule is in fact, a capsule, just like the ones used for paracetamol (acetaminophen in the USA) you can buy cheaply over the counter.
Finally, I would keep a close eye out for any celebrities purchasing Metalo-Lappin-Detox and then make sure I add this to the website. I’d even give a year’s supply for a celebrity endorsement.
Many detox and other “natural” remedy claims are nowhere near as “scientific” as the one above. Many include explanations about energy flow or they invoke quantum effects. It’s all too easy to make this stuff up and it’s all big business.
Now anyone know of a good website where I can buy my yacht?