Un po' di storia degli strumenti in legno del Massaggio Dea+

 I Rulli da Automassaggio Vintage "Punkt Roller"

- La Scienza contro -

Dall'autorevole NCBI la ricerca scientifica del 2009 che denigra pesantemente la folle FantaScienza della presunta funzione dimagrante delle miniventose dei rulli da automassaggio Punkt Roller del primo dopoguerra, nonché di altri strumenti che assicuravano allora il medesimo miraggio. Eppure, come scritto, se ne vendettero moltissimi.

From plunger to Punkt-roller: a century of weight-loss quackery

“People trust the quack with their lives who would not trust him with the loan of a sixpence. They seem to believe advertised testimonials as if they were guaranteed by a prominent physician, forgetting that many obscure prints can be got to write any falsehoods and back up any quackery under the sun. These lying testimonials are paraded in papers that ought to know better than to insert them, and the public believe in their statements as if they were scientific truths.”1 — Dr. Nathaniel Edward Yorke-Davies, 1901

From I Love Lucy–style body jigglers, to heated “slenderizing” jeans and tens of thousands of fad diets, weight-loss quackery has dominated this past century's snake-oil market. While the marketing of hope will always have its victims, with some of these products it is truly difficult to understand the mentality of the buyer. Did people in the late 1800s really find hand-drawn before-and-after testimonial pictures to be compelling? Was there really a large German market for the turn of the century's Punkt-roller, the suction-cupped rolling pin? Were there armies of jiggling bodies in basements hoping their weight would bounce away?

Sadly, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes”; preying on the vulnerabilities often associated with obesity has shown itself to be a lucrative business.

Unfortunately, it was not only unscrupulous business people preying on the vulnerable, sometimes it was medical doctors. Take for example Dr. Thomas Lawton. In his 1917 book, The Lawton Method of Weight Reduction, he reports, “I have reduced the weight of thousands of other people and can do it for you. Get that firmly in your mind — you are going to be brought to a normal, comfortable and vigorously healthy weight.2 What was his method? Believe it or not it involved using what looks like a toilet plunger to “dissolve” fatty tissue.

Fad diets are not new either. In Dr. C. Stanford Read's 1909 book, Fads and Feeding, he soundly bashes a popular diet of the day, the “Salisbury diet,” which apparently involved consuming large quantities of rump-steak, cod-fish and hot water. Read's own recommendations seem similarly suspect. They included living by the seaside, having a, “tumblerful” of hot water half an hour before breakfast and avoiding soups at dinner while of course minimizing everything that tastes good.3

Unfortunately, even today it seems that the possession of a medical degree does not automatically guarantee that the holder possesses ethics, morals or a respect for the scientific method (see page 367). While it may be fair to explain the turn-of-the-century doctors' recommendations as being the products of a belief-based, rather than our current evidence-based focus to medicine, what of our modern day Lawtons with their financially driven weight-loss plans and products?

So while you view some of my collection of memorabilia bear in mind that there is no shortage of weight-loss collectibles in today's marketplace and, as always, the adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” holds true today as much as ever.

Yoni Freedhoff MD Medical Director Bariatric Medical Institute Ottawa, Ont.

CMAJ. 2009 Feb 17; 180(4): 432–433.

PMCID: PMC2638042

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