2475: Health Drink

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Health Drink
You'd need to keep track of so many people! Would you use, like, Excel or something? Far too fancy for a simple country nanoenzyme developer like me.
Title text: You'd need to keep track of so many people! Would you use, like, Excel or something? Far too fancy for a simple country nanoenzyme developer like me.


This comic pokes fun at health fads, alternative medicine, pseudoscience and the like. It points out that many such products will go out of their way to market themselves as legitimate and cutting-edge by using impressive-sounding scientific terms, yet fail to perform even the most basic part of actual science: running a randomized controlled trial to determine results. When Cueball points this out, White Hat reacts as though this process is unreasonably complicated, which clearly demonstrates that his product is either nonsensical or an active scam (or both).

Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. For example, certain proteins aid digestion by breaking down large molecules. Nanoenzymes are synthetic materials that perform similar functions to ordinary enzymes. While enzymes are, indeed, necessary to healthy functioning of the body, adding more enzymes is typically not helpful for a healthy person. In cases where someone has a deficiency in specific enzymes, diagnosing such a system and designing a treatment would be a complex medical process, not something that could likely be delivered through a commercial drink. Amino acids are the chemicals that make up proteins, and therefore all natural enzymes are made from amino acids. Using such redundant but technical-sounding terms is a common practice in pseudoscience, as they hope to impress and bewilder laypeople by presenting themselves as scientifically skilled.

Cueball responds to this by asking if White Hat had given the drink to people to see if they got sick less often. While this is clearly very simplified, it is a good basic description of the scientific method. If the product is claimed to "fight infections", then one would need to compare groups of people who do and do not use the product, and determine whether there's a significant difference in how well they resist or recover from infections. A scientifically rigorous process would involve creating a set of criteria, recruiting subjects, randomly assigning them to control groups versus test groups, administering the product (preferably using placebos for control and a double-blind procedure), and tracking the health of each group. And, of course, keeping good records and analyzing the data properly would be critical to forming any conclusions.

White Hat's response to this suggestion implies that he's completely unfamiliar with even the concept of such a study, commenting only that it "sounds way too complicated." The title text shows him speculating as to how one would keep track of such data, and he suggests using "like, Excel or something." Microsoft Excel is a popular spreadsheet application which is commonly used to store data, but is not designed as a database, and wouldn't be appropriate for a rigorous study. Since Excel is commonly used by the general public, claim that such rudimentary data storage is "far too fancy" for him reinforces his total lack of technical knowledge. He then calls himself a "simple, country nanoenzyme developer", which highlights the conflict between presenting himself as highly versed in cutting-edge science and not understanding the basics of how science works. All of which implies that his technical descriptions are actually nonsense, designed to fool the credulous.


[White Hat holding a bottle and standing next to Cueball]
White Hat: My new health drink is packed with amino acid nanoenzymes that I designed to train your immune system to fight infections!
Cueball: Can you give it to some people and see if they get sick less often?
White Hat: Whoa, that sounds way too complicated.

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Actually, there would be quite a lot of scientists, experts in their fields, which may have trouble using excel or think excel is good way to store data. However, White Hat likely isn't scientist, and "nanoenzymes" may actually be normal enzymes just with cooler name suggesting nanotechnology, because, well, they have the right size for that. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:15, 16 June 2021 (UTC)

Nanoenzymes are inorganic nanoparticles (typically many thousands of Daltons) with artificial catalytic enzymes stuck on their surface. I don't think they're ever administered by ingestion. And as pertains to the comic, they are impossible to engineer without a solid working familiarity with experimental design. 09:54, 16 June 2021 (UTC)

I can think of a few famous medicines being promoted by government right now with insufficient testing data.Seebert (talk) 13:00, 16 June 2021 (UTC)

Probably not worth even a Trivia entry but, w.r.t Excel, my first thought about the Excel mention was this thing from last year: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-54423988 15:56, 16 June 2021 (UTC)

It should probably be noted your body is unlikely to absorb nanoenzymes through the digestive tract. Even regular enzymes or polypeptides not really absorbed intact through the digestive system. Even if the nanoenzymes could train the immune system, they would be of little value in a health drink. Finally, anything mucking with the immune system should probably go through the healthcare system, not a health drink. 14:55, 17 June 2021 (UTC)

My interpretation is that the nucleic acid nanoenzymes are viral. With or without a capsid shell (some can work that way, and in concentrated amounts there may be some flock-like protection from the environment) and other helper-proteins (not always necessary, if the D/RNA exposes the right key elements from its packing to create enzymish active sites), what you've basically got there is a whole lot of virus... erm, viruses/viri/viroxen... Which of course trains your immune system to handle a virus, or you'll die trying. 12:09, 18 June 2021 (UTC)
The details of what nanoenzymes actually are is irrelevant to the point here, it's just meant as an example of the fancy sounding claims on all sorts of the many supplement products on the market that then claim they help the immune system or other generalized health benefits, but have not experiments or testing done to actually back up or their claims, and make no effort to do so.-- 23:18, 29 June 2021 (UTC)

Actually what Cueball proposes does not even meet the requirements of a randomized controlled trial, he seems to be suggesting an exploratory field test; which is much less rigourous than a randomised controlled trial. Of course even that is too much for white hat. 15:06, 24 June 2021 (UTC)