An Example Of A Supplement That Takes Advantage Of The Regression To The Mean

The following is a summary of the directions from an immune boosting supplement:

Take two tablets every two hours for 12 hours, then take one tablet three times daily between meals for five days.

From the best I can tell, you start taking it once you feel a cold coming on or you believe that you are getting sick. This is probably going to be late on day one or on day two.

Let’s do the math:

There are 30 tablets in the bottle. One the first day you begin taking that tablets, you consume 12 to 14 tables depending upon how you interpret the directions. Every day there after, you consume 3 tablets per day for 5 days, that is 15 tables. You’ll have 1-3 remaining and will consume tablets for 6 days.

There is a big range in the length of time a cold will last - some as short as 3 days, others as long as three weeks. There is a reported average of 7 days.

What does this mean? Well, I don’t know. If two people get a cold on the same day, the one who takes the tablets will take the last tablet on the same day as the last day of the other persons cold.

It is entirely possible that the person who takes the supplement would have recovered by day 7 anyway; assuming that they are an average person, given that the regression to the mean.

If only there was a way to test the effectiveness of the supplement…. oh, wait, there is. In fact, it would be fairly easy to create an experiment to test the effect of the supplement vs. a placebo and, given the proprietary nature of the supplement, it would serve the company well to perform a high quality study. If they submitted it to a peer reviewed journal and the study was published, the results would provide evidence that their product worked. After that there would be more test and if the findings were repeated, we would have a real treatment for the cold.

To the best of my knowledge, that study has not been performed, or if it has, it hasn’t been published. Either way, that is revealing because colds cost billions of dollars a year and while not worlds biggest health problem, they do impact a lot of people in the western world where most of the wealth is. There is a lot of money to be made from creating something that actually works.

And sadly, there’s a lot of money being made through selling things that claim to work yet do absolutely nothing.

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