Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meet the 750-Year-Old Grim Reaper Woman

I was reading through Parade magazine on Sunday, when I saw this almost-full-page ad.

Black and white ad, mostly text, with photo at right and headline reading 750-year-old European Health Discovery Ends Heartburn, Gas Pains, Indigestion, Even Allergies
At a glance, it seemed like all the usual puffery and outright lies that populate weight loss and cure-all ads, so I gave it a second look.

And my eye went straight to the photo at right... It must have been something about that big pointy scythe that caught my attention:

Photo of a stocky middle-aged woman holding a huge scythe, caption below reads Nobel Prize-winning doctor stumbles upon age-old health miracle while investigating long lifespans of Eastern European mountain villagers
What??! This woman with the grim reaper weapon is a Nobel-Prize winning doctor?

(Not to mention my momentary question about whether the woman pictured might also be a 750-year-old European.)

But neither of those meanings is what the ad intended to say. I can't tell whether it's badly constructed on purpose, or if they actually don't realize they're misdirecting the reader.

Basically, the story is that a biologist named Elie Metchnikoff documented the "disease-killing power of cultured bacteria" found in yogurt in the early 2oth century. Others had known about these "probiotics" for hundreds of years (750 years, in fact), particularly the family of a woman named Natasha Trenev. Now Trenev has a company that produces a probiotic supplement called Healthy Trinity. And no, that's not Trenev holding the scythe either, just some random peasant woman, I guess.

Probiotics (which I've written about previously in a post about the probiotic straw) are strains of bacteria that may be beneficial to digestive or immune system health. Remember all those people in the Crimea living to be 100? Yep, they ate a lot of yogurt.

I don't know if Trenev's Healthy Trinity product is helpful or not, but from looking her up online, she at least appears to be from a long line of yogurt makers. She presents herself as a microbiologist (uncredentialed, from what I can tell) .

According to Trenev's product sales website, Natren, a 30-day supply of Healthy Trinity sells for $60 — $2 a day. Plus $13 for refrigerated, second-day shipping. (A 90-day supply can be had at a rate of $1.50 a day, and the shipping cost isn't any higher, so if you wanted to take this supplement, that would clearly be the cheaper way to go.)

The offer in the ad is a bit unclear. It closes with mention of a "free one-month supply with purchase" -- but it never says what purchase is required. Is this another example of advertising ineptness, or a sly trick? A month free of something that costs $60 is a good deal, assuming the stuff has any efficacy.

I sure wish there were some readily available double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of this product. And that someone would make an ad that clearly states the costs without inept obfuscation.

No comments: