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Good Health and Bad Medicine:
 Obesity - Part 3



 Fatigue, Weakness, Poor Appetite And Tonics - Part 1

 Fatigue, Weakness, Poor Appetite And Tonics - Part 2

 Sexual Weakness, Impotence And Frigidity

 Stimulants-coffee, Alcohol, Tobacco And 'pep' Pills

 Physical Therapy

 Arthritis And Rheumatism


 Read More Articles About: Good Health and Bad Medicine

Fatigue, Weakness, Poor Appetite And Tonics - Part 2

( Originally Published 1940 )

Poor Appetite

Another common symptom for which tonics are advertised is poor appetite. Like fatigue, poor appetite is a symptom of many disorders—acute and chronic, physical and psycho-logical. During acute infections, appetite is invariably poor, but no tonic can cure the infection. More likely it will disturb the digestive processes, which are already under the handicap of an incapacitating infection. Rest and appropriate medical care are the only logical treatments for infection—the appetite will be restored automatically as the infection clears up.

Chronic infections, such as tuberculosis, are another cause of poor appetite. Or it may be a symptom of diseases of the stomach, intestines, heart, gall-bladder or kidney. In fact there is no organ in the body which, when its function is disturbed, may not produce as one of its symptoms an impairment of appetite.

It may be that medical examination will disclose no organic disease as the cause of lack of appetite. A study of diet habits may then suggest that poor appetite is based on poor nutrition. Malnutrition, in the sense of inadequate amounts of essential foods in the diet, is more common than is realized. The proper remedy, however, is not an iron tonic, a yeast tablet or a vitamin capsule—it is a well-balanced diet. Vitamin supplements may be very useful in such in-stances, but only as supplements to the balanced diet. They must never be depended upon exclusively for the correction of nutritional disturbances.

In every discussion of symptoms, psychological factors turn up. Poor appetite is no exception. In infants and children, disturbed emotional behavior is a common cause of poor appetite. For example, a child may refuse to eat after the birth of a new baby, not because the appetite is impaired, as is so often assumed, but because the child wishes to express its resentment over the arrival of a newcomer, of a competitor. A conflict between child and parent may occasion a distaste for food. The best way to handle such a situation is to wait until the child eats of its own accord, not to force or coax it. Forcing tonics on the child only makes things worse. If the child is not physically ill with some acute or chronic ailment, if the food is of the right kind and attractively cooked and if the child is left to eat it or not as he wishes, he almost always will eat what his appetite demands.

Underweight is another condition for which drug and food tonics are ballyhooed. Like fatigue, weakness and poor appetite, underweight should be considered as a symptom of some body disturbance requiring more fundamental treatment than a proprietary medicine or food.

There are many people who are normally thin or below average weight. If their health is good, they needn't worry about it. They probably have thin bones and are carrying all the muscle and fat they need for good function.

Underweight associated with other symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness and poor appetite, is another matter. Such a combination of symptoms occurs in many serious ailments, such as hyperthyroidism, rheumatic fever and tuberculosis. In such cases, a tonic may result in temporary gain in weight or may diminish the feeling of fatigue or weakness, but the underlying disease will progress to more serious proportions. Therein lies the danger in the use of proprietary tonics: they mask important symptoms and give a false sense of security to persons suffering from deep-seated, frequently serious disorders. Doctors do prescribe tonics, but chiefly as a supplement to the main plan of treatment directed at removing the cause.

Let us examine some of the popular tonics on the market today.

Ovaltine claims, among other things, to build up children and to cure underweight. As already stated, Ovaltine is essentially a chocolate-flavored, dry malt extract containing a small quantity of dried milk and eggs. Any value it has in promoting weight lies mainly in the milk with which it is mixed. If a child prefers to take milk flavored with chocolate powder, there is no harm in using Ovaltine. But don't believe that it will cure nervousness, weakness or insomnia. Ordinary chocolate powder is cheaper and will do just as well as a flavoring agent for milk.

The word "malt" has, to many people, a very persuasive effect when it appears on a patent medicine or food label. The value of malt extract in promoting digestion, good appetite and improving the blood is nil. Its effect is chiefly to increase the caloric or energy value of any product in which it is incorporated.

Advertisements for yeast tonics—Fleischmann's and Ironized—have filled magazine pages for many years. The Federal Trade Commission finally took action against Fleischmann's Yeast. In 1938 it issued an order specifying that Fleisehmann's can no longer claim that it will rid the user of pimples, or that it can be relied upon to keep the skin clear, that it will remedy or prevent a fallen stomach, that it will cure or prevent constipation, bad breath or other manifestations of irregular digestion, or that it will keep the whole intestinal canal healthy.

After the order had been issued, the company took a new tack and advertised the yeast for "a steady improvement of that run-down feeling due to lack of certain vitamins." Al-though it is not stated in so many words, the impression is created that consumption of yeast will relieve fatigue or a run-down feeling and that the common cause of such fatigue is vitamin deficiency.

While it is possible that fatigue may be due to poor nutrition, no responsible physician would recommend Fleischmann's Yeast as an adequate remedy for it, or as a substitute for a well-balanced diet.


Iron tonics advertised to the public for the treatment of anemia are no better than other tonics. Claims that such tonics cure anemia are either misleading or completely false. If the anemia is of the pernicious type (also called primary anemia), no amount of iron will cure it. In fact, there is no known substance that will cure pernicious anemia. But a physician can check or relieve pernicious anemia by the continued administration of large amounts of liver extract. Another important and more common type of anemia is known as secondary anemia, so-called because it is secondary to some other cause. That cause may be an unbalanced diet, digestive disorders or repeated small bleedings such as occur in cases of hemorrhoids and abnormal menstruation. Secondary anemia can be cured by a proper diet and treatment of the disorder responsible for the bleeding or impairment of digestion.

Doctors do prescribe iron in secondary anemia, but in doses that are much larger than are present in any patented "iron tonic." Aside from the fact that Nuxated Iron and Ironized Yeast do not restore pep, vitality or sexual vigor or "rebuild nerve tissue," they would be effective in secondary anemia only if pints or pounds were taken daily. In an entire bottle of Nuxated Iron, costing about $1.1o, there is reported to be about 2½ grains of iron salt. This is about one-third of the daily dose required for the effective treatment of secondary anemia. When doctors prescribe iron by mouth, the daily dose generally costs no more than two to four cents.

A widely advertised iron tonic is Crude's Pepto-Mangan. This preparation was exposed in 1905 and again in 1917 by the American Medical Association as a concoction worthless in the treatment of anemia. Its advertising was found to be based on false claims and misrepresentations. After a period of quiescence there has been a renaissance in the exploitation and marketing of this product, and the old ballyhoo has been trotted out in modern dress. As in most tonics, a main ingredient of Pepto-Mangan is ethyl alcohol. In days of Prohibition, tonics used to be an excellent source for a drink of liquor—and they still are. In 1936 the Federal Trade Commission ordered the makers of Pepto-Mangan to "cease representing that this product restores health by enriching the blood, revives weakened blood cells, or creates new energy."

Many other "tonics" have acquired popularity because of their high alcoholic content. In some people, alcohol in small doses does stimulate secretion of stomach juices and produces a feeling of mental relaxation. In fact, the "tonic" effect of most liquid and alcoholic tonics is due almost solely to these two properties of alcohol. The amount of iron, strychnine and food materials mixed with the alcohol and water is too small to exert an appreciable influence on the digestive tract, nutrition or quality of the blood.

Lydia Pinkham's, the most notorious of the vegetable "tonics," contains about 18% alcohol plus some herb and vegetable material. Neither alcohol nor vegetable sauce can have the slightest beneficial effect on disorders of the female genital tract. "Female weakness" is simply a catch-phrase for diseases of the uterus, tubes, ovaries, cervix or vagina. Some of these diseases are serious and require surgical treatment; others require expert medical care. But not one of these disorders will be benefited by alcohol. Some, such as gonorrhea, may be made worse. That many women insist that Lydia Pinkham's has "cured" them of "female" trouble means nothing. These women would also be "cured" by a pink sugar pill if the pill were ballyhooed by sufficiently persuasive advertising.

Ultra-Violet Light

Ultra-violet light, whether from the sun or from a lamp, will not improve the condition of the blood, whip up the circulation, cure anemia, increase physical or mental efficiency, or prevent or cure "colds." The exhilarating effects of moderate sun bathing and tanning are due to a large extent to the simultaneous exposure to air and to exercise. The acquisition of a tan also has a psychological effect. The improvement in appearance, the ruddy glow of the face, confer a feeling of strength and vitality which soon disappears if there is no real basis of good health to support that feeling.

Perhaps the most important biological effect of exposure to sunlight is the production of vitamin D in the skin from the action of ultra-violet rays on the skin. Almost all foods are deficient in vitamin D,` so that an adult who gets no exposure to sunlight will not get any vitamin D. While the needs of infants and children for vitamin D are pretty definitely known (see page 158), those of adults are not known. In the present state of our knowledge it would seem sensible to get a moderate exposure to natural sunlight in whatever season it is possible.

There is at present no evidence that an artificial source of sunlight (as during the winter months) is essential for good health. Neither natural nor artificial sunlight can take the place of a good diet and proper health habits. Ultra-violet light is used by physicians only in a few specific disorders, namely, rickets, osteomalacia (rare in the United States), tuberculosis of bones, joints, intestines and certain skin disorders.

Almost every illness in child and adult is attended by poor appetite, weakness or fatigue. Often the illness is acute and easily recognized by a physician. More often, the illness is chronic and insidious, so that the person may be aware of only one of its symptoms, such as poor appetite. Medical care, so essential for the understanding of other symptoms, is equally essential for the understanding and treatment of poor appetite and weakness. And the treatment will vary with the cause. If the cause is disease of the stomach, tuberculosis or heart trouble, different treatments will be required. If the cause is poor nutrition, good diet is essential. If the cause is psychological, psychiatric treatment may be necessary.


Brad field's Female Regulator
Fleischmann's Yeast
Gude's Pepto-Mangan
Ironized Yeast
Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable
Shapeley's Vegetable Prescription
Tall's Female Tonic
Tan lac

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