Legally Permissible but sleight of mouth


By Clive Lindley-Jones | November 17, 2009 3:24 pm

An example in the news recently of ‘legally permissible but substantially misleading’ is the use of the term Omega 3 fatty acids as a marketing tool by Unilever, the makers of Flora margarine. It is a long, complex story, but the bottom line is that by using the ‘good’ term omega 3 fatty acids on their margarine they gain a healthy halo effect. They know that many people are now vaguely aware that certain essential fatty acids of this description are strongly linked with a protective effect against obesity, brain disorders, heart disease and immune dysfunction. They also know that using adequate amounts of useful omega fatty acids in margarine would be expensive, so they use the term, but use cheaper and largely ineffective vegetable sources of these fatty acids, rather than fish sources that actually work but are more expensive. Result: millions of people will buy their margarine in the misguided understanding that this is a healthy product. Unilever make handsome profits, politicians are bought off, the truth is obscured and more people get ripped off unknowingly.

And that is the purpose of this spanking new edition of our Helix House Newsletter. I am an optimist by nature and believe that we can and must, take true, First Line, or lifestyle medicine, seriously. To do so intelligently in this nuanced, post modern world of spin and counter spin, we need to navigate through thickets of sleight of mouth: the legally permissible but substantially misleading.

While the worst culprits are often food and drug manufacturers and the politicians and scientists who take their money, we all need to be on our guard and we in medicine, in all its dimensions, are not free of guilt. So, with my ear to the ground on all these matters, I will try to tell it like I see it and will be willing to stand corrected if you can show me the error of my ways.
However, after a lifetime of interest in the field of health and wellness I have developed a fairly accurate mine detector for the bogus and the false.