Profit > Ethics.

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Should you build something people need or something people want?

If you’re doing something where need and want aren’t aligned, be very careful of choosing need.

The biggest reason why companies fail to launch or go bankrupt is that they’re selling something that users don’t want.

What people need is a quiet mind that they control (perhaps through meditation), what people want is constant distraction so they never have to be alone with their thoughts.

Ideally, you’d mix the two but that’s not always realistic.

Also, keep in mind that when you talk about need, you’re implicitly talking about your definition of need.

So you need to be careful that you don’t turn this into a mission to “cleanse the world” of your definition of sin.

Because, while you might think M&M’s are pure evil because they’re filled with sugar and trans fat, users might disagree and determine that the upside (pleasure) outweighs the downside (inflammation*1).

‘’ …it has been consistently reported that dietary sugar intake (more specifically, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB)) may be one stimulus of subclinical inflammation’’

Where it crosses the line IMO is if you’re lying to people.

Give them what they want, yes, but don’t sell horse shit if they can’t give informed consent. People have the right to do dumb shit, we all do. But they need to have all the facts and not be misled.

Supplements are a $30 billion racket-here's what experts actually recommend

‘’ Most supplements have little to no data to suggest that they’re effective, let alone safe. They’re often backed by tenuous studies in rodents and petri dishes or tiny batches of people. And the industry is rife with hype and wishful thinking — even the evidence for multivitamins isn’t solid. There are also outright deadly scams. What’s more, the industry operates with virtually no oversight.’’

This is what people like Gretta van Riel of SkinnyMe Tea do.

Capitalizing on fear, misinformation, and laziness, spreading confusion and misconception and turning that into an unethical profit machine.

She takes advantage of gullible, scientifically illiterate people by selling “detox, fat burning tea” and utilizing the common strategy of using social media influencers to shill useless products.

Anyone who even remotely understands how fat loss works, knows it’s just a matter of having a structural caloric deficit, no matter how u achieve that.*2

There are nuances in regards to optimizing how much of that deficit comes from fat (lipolysis) and how much from lean mass, protein breakdown.*3

But that “special” tea is not causing you to burn fat.

They did include a laxative, which explains weight loss. But they’re misleading people that weight loss equals fat loss.

Furthermore detoxing is another situation where the marketing instilled fear makes a variety of claims and promises, unhindered by the ‘burden’ that is scientific research since there’s no evidence that detox diets have any impact on the body’s natural ability to get rid of toxins.*4

(Notice how companies like this leave toxins and detoxes nice and undefined and are NEVER able to show that their product actually does what it claims.)

It should come as no surprise that a company as unethical as that is willing to steal the pictures of people with an eating disorder in order to promote their brand.

SkinnyMe Tea called 'evil' for stealing eating disorder survivor's image to plug weight loss brand

So the TLDR of today is this: 

Give people what they want not what they need (or what you think they need). If you can find a way to mix the 2 go for that. Always be ethical and don’t optimize profit by selling horseshit even if they want it, if you can’t get informed consent. You have a responsibility to make stuff people love but also to make their lives better and that starts by being honest.


References:

  1. Della Corte, K. W., Perrar, I., Penczynski, K. J., Schwingshackl, L., Herder, C., & Buyken, A. E. (2018). Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies. Nutrients, 10(5), 606. doi:10.3390/nu10050606

  2. Johnston BC, Kanters S, Bandayrel K, et al. Comparison of Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014;312(9):923–933. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10397

  3. Cava, E., Yeat, N. C., & Mittendorfer, B. (2017). Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 8(3), 511–519. doi:10.3945/an.116.014506. 

  4. Klein AV1, Kiat H2. (2015). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2015 Dec;28(6):675–86. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12286. Epub 2014 Dec 18.



RJ Youngling