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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Education is failing us

11 April 2018

I feel so sad for so many people.

There is a local Facebook group used by the people of Tokoroa and in that group I regularly see postings from snake-oil merchants.

The hawkers of all sorts of ridiculous schemes and products have been pitched to the unsuspecting masses over recent times.. everything from super discount schemes that can save you hundreds of dollars on your weekly grocery bill, to even more outrageous potions and lotions that will protect you from illness and even cancer.

Of course there will always be folk who, out of ignorance or greed, prey on the gullible and ill-informed - but recently I've become shocked at two things

Firstly, just how many deceitful fraudsters there are out there who pitch this crap to the ignorant.

Secondly, just how many truly ignorant people there are who lap this stuff up.

The big scam being pitched right now is "Kagen water".

Sigh!

This crap claims that it will increase the pH of your body because a body that's too acidic can suffer from:

  • High-blood pressure
  • Gout
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Duodenal ulcers
  • Indigestion

Now this is *very* clever work on the part of the scammers. Now here do they directly say that their snake oil will fix any of the above -- they simply link those complaints (and cancer) to an acidic environment in your body. They then claim that the way to reduce body acidity is to drink their magic alkaline water.

The dim-witted out there (especially those who think they know a bit about science) will think "well that sounds right, if acid is bad, alkaline *must* be good".

Then they go on to state that being properly hydrated gives you more energy and a healthy skin -- undeniable fact. Dehydration will cause fatigue and poor skin tone (the skin-pinch test is a fundamental test for dehydration). Naturally, drinking their magic water (well as we know *any* water) will address these symptoms so they link this to their product without actually making false claims.

Now I'm pretty sure that all of Aardvark's readers will appreciate that drinking a glass or two of slightly alkaline water will do absolutely nothing to your body's pH. The human body has a pretty efficient acid generation system right there in your stomach which continually creates not-insignificant amounts of hydrochloric acid, since this is essential to the digestive process. A few hundred ml of slightly alkaline water will at best create a brief reduction in the acidity of the stomach but will have zero effect on the pH of your blood or other tissues.

Indeed, the pH of our blood is very tightly regulated by the body so as to remain slightly alkaline anyway -- between 7.35 and 7.45 -- regardless of the pH of our liquid or food intake. It is clear to see that this mechanism works well because it's not uncommon for us to ingest substances with a pH of as low as 3 (vinegar, carbonated drinks, etc) without changing our blood pH one jot.

Never the less, these snake-oil merchants, who very carefully sidestep the Fair Trading Act by making no direct claims of efficacy against a raft of diseases and illnesses but instead roll out a raft of implied benefits, are pitching their wares to the public.

Here in Tokoroa I think it would be fair to say that there are a fairy large number of people who have sadly not had the benefits of a decent education. These people, mainly through ignorance and naivety, are lapping this stuff up and swallowing, not only the water, but the hype that accompanies it.

One local claimed that he'd tried this water just the other night and felt its benefits.

And thus... it *must* be true!

Sigh!

And of course when a tiny handful of somewhat more educated and skeptical people wade in with the facts and ask why, if this stuff is so good, aren't hospitals using it and why hasn't it been recognised by medical science? -- we're told that there's a huge conspiracy by doctors to bury this magical water so that they can make more money from the sick and dying.

Sounds a lot like that "run your car on water" conspiracy where "big oil" was forcing the car companies not to use the magic HHO technology to extend fuel mileage eh? Strange though, that "big oil" hasn't stopped the very same manufacturers from rolling out EVs that use absolutely no fuel at all. Is that why the HHO scammers have gone quiet perhaps?

Anyway, it is very sad to see the poor people of this town being taken for a ride by people who are either unscrupulous or so naive that they themselves believe the benefits being inferred for this snake oil. Then again, when you see the number of those red trucks that prey on the poor by selling them stuff at three times usual retail prices for "just $10 a week" you'll understand why Tokoroa is such a wonderful target for these scammers.

Is it time that our schools started teaching cynicism and the skills needed to check facts and research the veracity of claims made by snake-oil merchants? Or even just some basic science perhaps?

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