San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
My wife and I keep a list on our refrigerator of the greatest things people have invented—everything from zippers and manmade fire to insulin and smartphones. Trying to come up with things to add to it is one of our favorite pastimes.
We both agree that the Internet, and search engines that access it, are among humankind’s best achievements. But with such wonderfulness comes a caution: While using them gives us access to gobs of information at the click of a mouse or the jab of a finger, a lot of what we run across is bogus. Just today I ran across a website selling a product that promises to reverse type 2 diabetes in 30 days.
The first “tell” was that except for this website there has been absolutely no news elsewhere about a breakthrough diabetes reversal product. If the claim were legitimate, every news organization on earth would have been shouting out about it.
The second tell was that there was a money-back guarantee. There is no such thing as a cure—or even a powerful new drug or therapy—whose maker promises you your money back if the cure somehow fails to. . . cure.
Are there any BS detectors type 2s can use to sort news about real advances in diabetes therapies from the huckster come ons? I use a few rules of thumb :
- Words like “cure,” “breakthrough,” “dramatic,” “reverses diabetes,” “30-day guarantee” get my antennae up. Scientists who produce astounding results always couch their announcements in low-key language. They’re smart enough to know that outside actors like the American Diabetes Association, Reuters, or the Associated Press will be the ones to tout a real breakthrough with the appropriate power adjectives and dramatic headlines.
- Website ads that show a doctor in a white coat, surrounded by large boldface type, set off my alarms. The white coat is a classic appeal to authority, and the doctor sitting or standing alone is intended to make us think of the inspired lone genius who has slaved away for years in his lab before bringing his gift to the world. That’s not how modern science works, especially with diabetes, which is a far more complex disease than we imagined even 20 years ago.
- Endorsements like, “I tried X and within 15 days my fasting blood glucose dropped from 177 to 89.—Mike T., Sarasota, Fla.” or “I’ve used X for six months now, and have been able to stop using both of my diabetes medications.—Sylvia M., Boise, Ida.” The problem is that there is no Mike T. or Sylvia M. They are imaginary people who live in the copywriter’s head.
- I even take product announcements from reliable manufacturers with a grain of salt. Many new features on standard diabetic paraphernalia are more incremental than ground-breaking. I understand any manufacturer’s desire to tout a feature that cost a lot to bring to market and that it is hoping will secure its niche, so I know there’s absolutely no attempt to defraud here. But I also remember it is human nature to sell the sizzle along with the steak.
I live in perpetual hope for some spectacular breakthrough that leads to a cure for type 2 diabetes. But even something as wonderful as hope needs be bounded and tempered. When copywriters start playing at seducing my hopefulness, I mentally tell them to take a hike.