Digital Snake Oil

300px-Handlebar-moustache.svgEnvision a sleepy downtown in the Wild West, where horses slurp water from the trough in front of the general store and women bustle along the wooden porches to make their purchases.

The stagecoach pulls up, generating a dust cloud out of which emerges a foppish, yet dapper man with a big handlebar mustache and an even bigger smile. He hefts several battered, sturdy leather cases off the back of the wagon and sets them down around him, surveying the area for the best place for him to set up shop.

He’s here to make a fast buck, hustling oils and liniments that will cure everything from melancholia to thinning hair. That snake oil salesman will talk a mile a minute, promise the world, and then when the getting’s good… he’s off to the next stop to swindle more unsuspecting rubes. Melancholia remains. Hair continues to thin.

It may not be the Wild West anymore (which is good, because I’d be dead before I could wear a corset), but the stagecoach remains; these days, it’s called the Internet. The snake oil salesmen (And women, because we’ve come a long way, baby!) use videos and pretty pictures to sell their cures - and these charlatans are everywhere.

This morning, after a curious comment on a diabetes FB group, I did some fast research - and found digital snake oil. This particular individual in his six minute video claimed to be “cured” of his Type 2 diabetes and for only… get this… $97 per month… will give you his roadmap on how he did it and get you access to his diabetes expert (who is a doctor who writes diet books).

There was no “free trial” and there was no “guarantee” - just a guy who claims to have been diagnosed in  2002 and weaned himself off all of his medication after hearing from doctors that he needed to begin an insulin regimen. He actually states in his video that he repeatedly went against medical advice.

Let me save you some time and money - and this “roadmap” won’t cost you anything. I’m giving it all to you for free. (I know. So generous.)

1. There is no cure for diabetes. Type 1? No cure. Type 2? No cure.

Yes, if you are Type 2, you can live well without medication if your diabetes is well-controlled. There is no shame in having to take oral medication or insulin; your body may just not make enough insulin or not utilize it properly. Anyone who says to you: “Oh, you have to take insulin? You must have it bad, ” deserves to be heartily ignored or given a raspberry by an orangutan.

We’re clear on that now? No cure. Repeat after me. No cure. Yes, it’s not a happy mantra, but it’s a real one.

2. This is not the Wild West. You don’t have to be a maverick.

Don’t go it alone. Don’t go “against medical advice” repeatedly. It’s perfectly OK to use the Internet for research into new treatments and management protocols and it’s great to reach out and ask others to share their own experiences, but they are not your medical team. Find a medical team that you can trust and work with them. If you are an informed patient and believe that your medical team isn’t up-to-date on the latest techniques and protocols, either find a new medical team or share your scholarly articles with them and you can investigate together.

3. Here’s a short list of treatments that don’t work to “cure” your diabetes: exotic herbs and spices, embryonic stem cell treatments, colloidal silver, Brewer’s yeast, colonics, fasting, aloe vera juice, blubber from a walrus, and the ever popular cinnamon. 

What treatments do work? Lifestyle changes (otherwise known as “diet”, which is a word I abhor), exercise, medication, monitoring, a continuous feedback loop between your medical team and you, tweaking (not twerking, ewww) your diabetes management when needed, and support (like the amazing DOC or online support sites or face-to-face groups and conferences).

There are so many individuals who are misinformed, mistaken, and in need to help. I’m appalled that there are those who see them as an opportunity to make a fast buck, preying on those who sadly believe that this snake oil will cure them.

Because when the dust settles, these digital snake oil salespeople will be gone - along with the money.

And the diabetes will remain, tied up to the water trough, waiting patiently.



  1. fifteenwaitfifteen

    I saw the same post by a female on some other diabetic page one time…almost the exact same verbiage. Grrrr. It’s like all the diet and weight loss fad programs - pay us money and you’ll lose all the weight! (individual results may vary/results not typical in super-small-fine-print.)

  2. Scott E

    I will never, NEVER fall for one of those “Cure diabetes now, ask me how!” scams. (But if you have a phone number for that guy who can solve the thinning hair problem, do tell!)

      • Bennet Dunlap

        Obviously some folks do, ’cause snake oil sales folk would be selling bridges in Brooklyn or prime Florida real estate (maybe with giant snakes with which you can farm snake oil!) if the were not finding buyers of diabetes cures.

  3. runningwithoutsugar

    I don’t think I abhor any kind of person worse than snake oil peddlers, whatever it is they are selling and however they are selling it. Alarmingly, I’ve even encountered some with medical degrees. Those who prey on the vulnerability, desperation and ignorance of others ought to be pilloried.

  4. StephenS

    Hi… just read this (I’ve been mostly away for a week). I like to tell people that the information superhighway is just like a real highway. You meet lots of helpful, nice people along the way, and sometimes you meet creepy people offering candy. The creepy ones belong in the same bin as the “diabetic socks”.

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