You can’t cleanse away a smoking addiction

For every challenging medical issue, there’s a quick fix that exists in alternative medicine – and disappointingly, sometimes it’s sitting on a pharmacy’s shelf. This week I spotted an advertisement targeting an addiction, one that is the single biggest preventable cause of death worldwide: smoking. We associate smoking with lung cancer, but smoking kills in two other ways as well: cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Tobacco kills 6 million people per year, causing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of pain, suffering, and economic damage. [PDF]  Stopping smoking reduces the risk of dying – the damage lessens over time in those that quit completely.

Despite the known harms, quitting smoking is very difficult: 70% of active smokers say that they want to quit, 40% tried to quit over the last year, yet only 3-7% are smoke free after one year of quitting. With support and treatment, abstinence rates can climb to 30%+ (at best) but few seek medical attention and support. Some may be enticed by advertisements like the one I spotted. The website and ad have the same message: Continue reading

Coconut Water – Rehydrating with the Naturalistic Fallacy

I’m a runner, and have been actively running for over a decade. Since I started running, I’ve consumed Gatorade Lemon-Lime almost exclusively as my as my rehydration fluid of choice. Whenever my run will last over about an hour, I carry and consume Gatorade to offset fluid loss and give me some carbohydrate. The formulation is basic: sugar,  salt, and potassium. There are a hundreds of electrolyte products out there, and even Gatorade makes versions with exotic ingredients now. But I’ve been faithful to the original: It’s cheap, I don’t mind the taste (even when its warm), you can buy it nearly anywhere, and it’s a common beverage (besides water) offered at races. Plus, I’ve never been that convinced that it matters all that much – I focus on the engine, not the fuel. After exercise I usually stick with water, preferring to get my electrolytes and carbohydrates from food, rather than liquid sources.  But now I’m seeing advertising me  that sports drinks are both artificial and inferior. Is it time to upgrade my fuel?

Coconut water isn’t just at the West Indian roti shop anymore: From the grocery store to the yoga studio to the running club, it’s everywhere. The excellent Planet Money podcast recently did a feature on the skyrocketing sales of coconut water, so I decided to take a closer look. Is coconut water a fad beverage, like Vitamin Water was last week, and pomegranate juice the week before?It’s positioned as a superior product for rehydration. The marketing and packaging rely heavily on the naturalistic fallacy, and it’s clearly an appeal to nature: Coconut water naturally contains sugars and electrolytes. Natural is better than unnatural, therefore coconut water is a better beverage choice. Or is it? Continue reading