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289802.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:47 am Reply with quote

Question: Do you want to buy some snake oil?

Forfeit: No, it’s a useless bit of quackery

Answer: Yes please.

Despite its reputation as being about as useful as homeopathy, snake oil actually does work. While most snake-oil salesmen no doubt peddled some useless elixir, if they sold real snake-oil, then they could not be called frauds.

For centuries snake oil has been a folk remedy in Chinese medicine, used primarily to treat joint pain such as arthritis and bursitis.

The oil from the fat-sacks of snakes is actually a particularly rich source of Omega-3s. Chinese water-snake oil contains 20 percent eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while salmon, one of the most popular food sources of omega-3's, contains a maximum of 18 percent.

289877.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 5:24 am Reply with quote


289966.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 7:16 am Reply with quote

However, as this article and many other recent ones point out:
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may be less clear than originally thought. A review of the evidence of the effects of omega-3 on mortality, cardiovascular events and cancer has shown no clear evidence of benefit (BMJ, online 23 March). The reviewers looked at 89 studies of the effect of omega-3 when taken for at least six months and found substantial variation between studies.

That's the trick with homeopathy too - convince people that some ingredient is essential, and has a suitably scientific-sounding name, and you're away.

Even articles like this one may only be a reflection on the fact that enough people have been sufficiently convinced that Omega-3 is good for them that it's worth making a business out of it. And if you can convince a government authority to allow you to add it to food or water, and be paid for it, you're also away. (See also 'Fluoride'...)

It 'sounds like' it is good for you, but nobody knows why or how, which leaves the door wide open for peddlers with a financial interest.

289990.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 7:50 am Reply with quote

Ah yes, but surely the point is that they were selling a genuine product - whether or not it’s actually good for you is irrelevant. People today buy vitamin pills and nicotine patches; they may well be mugs for doing so, but the people selling them aren't ripping them off. So the phrase “snake oil salesman,” as we use it, doesn’t really apply to snake oil salesmen. Which is nice.

290010.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 8:16 am Reply with quote

Unless they were pretending it was snake oil.

290028.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 8:41 am Reply with quote

Well both the UK and US governments (FSA & FDA) currently advocate the increase of omega-3 in people's diets.

Chris, your study above may say that the benefits are "less clear than originally thought", but it certainly doesn't debunk them. I'm quite sure that you wouldn't stand by the fact that omega-3 oils and homeopathic remedies belong in the same pigeon-hole; certainly not on all the evidence available at the moment.

Personally, I'm happy for us to qualify the question by saying that the evidence is not yet conclusive, but I think that the fact that Snake Oil has more of an ingredient that is widely thought to be beneficial than salmon (which is what most people would think was one of the best sources of such fats) is too good to miss.

290331.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:59 pm Reply with quote

Well, like most people, I've not seen the evidence. I'm just naturally suspicious of (a) marketing, (b) anybody making sweeping generalisations about which substances are 'good' or 'bad' for you, when 'it depends' is far more likely to be a reasonable statement, and (c) governments identifying things that 'need' to go in food, and giving companies piles of cash to make it so.

But I take the point about the fact that the snake oil is genuine, even if it does nothing. Of course, homeopathic remedies are 'genuine' as well (they 'are' homeopathic remedies), but that doesn't mean that homeopaths aren't ripping people off by telling people that they're clinically good for them.

290353.  Tue Mar 04, 2008 4:19 pm Reply with quote

At minimum it's a good note to go with a question on poisonous v venomous.

298430.  Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:41 pm Reply with quote

Snake venom is an ingredient of at least one homeopathic medicine.

299430.  Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:05 pm Reply with quote

Some good stuff on Omega 3s here.

Apparantly beef would be a good source of omega 3s if we still fed our animals on grass instead of a factory diet of corn etc.

Fish also get their omega 3s from grass: sea grass, algae, other sea vegetables and plankton.

Not sure where snakes get it from though, they don't eat grass do they?

299472.  Thu Mar 20, 2008 2:37 pm Reply with quote

Michael Pollan, in The Omnivore's Dilemma, goes into a lot of detail about how corn actually makes beef cattle ill, despite fattening them up - and yet they advertise 'corn fed beef' on menus (at least, they do over here) as if it were a good thing.

299868.  Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:27 am Reply with quote

Could fit into Fakes, or as a Gen Ig question, with two wrong answers:

Q: Who are these people?

F: Unemployed people; actors.

A: Members of Hendon Young Conservatives.

And another question:

Q: How many of them are there?
A: About 20, superimposed over and over again. There were supposed to be more, but only 20 could be bothered to turn up ...

In 1999 "Labour Isn't Working" was voted poster of the century by a jury of ad people assembled by the advertising industry magazine Campaign


Molly Cule
303314.  Wed Mar 26, 2008 1:52 pm Reply with quote

Fakes, forgeries, Frisland

Frisland is a made up island, which was one of the first possessions of Elizabeth I’s British Empire. Yet it was an entirely fictional place. In the mid 16thC a Venetian geographer and cartographer called Zeno feeling put out that Columbus was getting so much credit for discovering America set up a great hoax. He forged letters from his forefathers about an island called Frisland full of natural resources and native people. In these letters his forefathers also explained how they sailed from there to America long before Columbus, so it was the Venetian brothers, not the Genoese Columbus who was the true discoverer of America. The accounts were published in a work called De I Commentarii del Viaggio in 1558 along with a map.

The hoax surprisingly worked. Mercator used Zeno’s geography in his seminal 1569 map of the world. The island of Frisland caused confusion for decades. Frobisher thought he had found it in the late 1570’s (infact he ‘found’ Greenland) and claimed the island for Queen Elizabeth. He then found Greenland but because of the faulty map, thought it was Baffin island, so all his descriptions of Baffin Island were actually about Greenland. For many years ‘Frobisher’s Strait’ which is actually a bay was marked on maps of Greenland rather than Baffin Island.

When Zeno published this apocryphal work in 1588, it was accompanied by a woodcut map. The copperplate engraved version of the map, shown here, was included in every edition of Ruscelli's Geographia from 1561 to 1599. Frisland is depicted in considerable detail, with many place names indicated. Maps throughout the 16th century continued to show the fictional islands, especially Frisland. The long-held assumption that the geographic data were derived from a valid source lent credence to their existence.

Frisland remained on maps until as late as the 18th C on a map by T.C Lotter.

want to get into jstor;2-L

303893.  Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:02 am Reply with quote

I like that - surely we coudl do something with Fictional lands? last series I mentioned the Fantasians - post 162293


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