Buy Now, Die Later

Posted on June 10, 2010


The July issue of Discover magazine has a full-page ad for a product called Vinotrol, which is supposed to help you live longer. It’s one of those paid advertisements designed to look like a news article, and it refers to various doctors, scientific studies, and of course, researchers at Harvard Medical School.

Vinotrol is really Resveratrol, which is derived from grapes and is present in red wine. According to the article and claims found elsewhere, Resveratrol was tested on lab mice that were fed high-calorie diets. The mice gained weight, just as the control mice did, but the ones given Resveratrol lived months longer. Some people have concluded from these results that the substance may slow down the aging process.

Why not just drink more red wine? Because to match the levels of Resveratrol fed to the lab mice, you’d have to drink about twelve hundred bottles of wine a day. That could get expensive, especially if you buy the imported stuff.

I have no idea whether Resveratrol will prove to be an actual age-defying product, or just the latest in a long line of rip-offs that appeal to everyone’s desire for longevity. There’s no shortage of information. On November 1, 2006, the studies were featured on 60 Minutes, and then in The New York Times the next day. A quick online search will turn up numerous articles and web pages discussing the possible benefits of Resveratrol, and an equal number questioning the claims.

I’m just trying to understand this advertisement. Vinotrol is being marketed as “tomorrow’s age-defying pill.” If you can sift through the ad’s pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo, the impression you get is that taking Vinotrol will help you live years longer. And to get you to try it, the company is offering a 30-day trial offer (you pay only a shipping and processing fee). “If you are not 100% satisfied with the amazing results, simply return the unused portion.”

So we try this product that’s intended to extend our lives by years, and after thirty days we’re supposed to decide if we’re happy with the results. What results? What exactly would you say to yourself after thirty days? “Hey, this stuff must really work — I’m still alive. I’d better get some more right away!” Or, “It’s only been a month and I can already feel that I’m going to live an extra three years. I’m buying another hundred bottles!” Or, “Maybe if I order now, they’ll double the offer and I’ll live twice as long!”

Well, they’re not fooling me. I don’t fall so easily for obvious scams. Besides, I’ve been contacted by an important high-level minister in the Nigerian government, and I’m about to get involved in a very lucrative business deal. After that, I’ll have no problem affording the twelve hundred bottles of wine a day. Even the imported stuff.