Decision support for consumers

A new website, Body Language, lets people read what their bodies are saying in order to help them figure out what might be ailing them. The free site is sponsored by Sure Screen Diagnostics, which presumably hopes to benefit by causing people to worry and thus boosting demand for diagnostic tests.

The home page starts with an enticing flash presentation, which asks questions such as:

  • Do you crave butter?
  • Does your urine smell of maple syrup?
  • Do you sneeze in bright sunlight?
  • Do you produce excess ear wax?
  • Do you have shaking hands?

On the main site, you can click through on any given question to see what the website considers to be the underlying issues, usually related to some sort of nutritional deficiency.

I’ve sneezed when exposed to bright sunlight since I was an infant, so I clicked on that one. I’ve always thought my sneezing (a.k.a., photic sneeze reflex) was a result of having a fair complexion and light eyes, and the Straight Dope is generally in line with that.

However, according to Body Language:

You probably have a deficiency in METHIONINE

What is Methionine?
Methionine is an essential amino acid that is effective in liver detoxification and in the breakdown of fats. It is also a powerful antioxidant and helps protect the body from toxins and destructive free radicals. Methionine helps in some cases of schizophrenia by decreasing the blood level of histamine which can cause the brain to relay incorrect messages. It is also helpful in the treatment of depression.

Apparently, methionine is available in a variety of foods, including beans, fish and eggs. I eat plenty of those things so I’m sticking with my original theory.

It would be nice to have a tool to help patients identify underlying causes of their conditions, but this site is too simplistic.

July 5, 2005

One thought on “Decision support for consumers”

  1. This site is only a particularly blatant example of hustling to make money out of people’s health worries.

    The problem with the worry industry is that even doctors have stitched themselves into the fabric of the worry industry. Sure, we make money in the process, but at the end of the day it is bad medicine and we should labor mightily to stop doing it.

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