It’s never been easier to access information. All jolly kinds of it. Everything from leading research in a refereed academic journal to the Super Big Gulp-induced ravings of a bipolar bigot living in his parents’ mouldy basement. With the whole wide world now turned into a giant information mall, how do you know if something you read online is legit?
Because once you get past the remaining big brand, bona fide media outlets, like The Economist or The New York Times, who still pay real money for stories and invest hard coin in researchers, fact-checkers and copy editors to ensure the highest possible journalistic standards, the landscape changes fast. Quantity is not the problem. But the quality yield drops. Gems can still be mined, but you’ve got to sift hard through the dross to find them.
Case in point: Jezebel.com recently ran a story about a new invention they named “the bulimia machine”. Got your attention, right? This name conjures images of a contraption, (using a finger is so ‘90s), created by a mad scientist that enables bulimics to keep doing that thing they compulsively do.
In fact, the A-tube, the ‘bulimia machine’ in question, has a distinguished pedigree. It was created by three physicians, in collaboration with Dean Kamen, an inventor who created the first drug infusion pump, and the Segway scooter. Using it involves surgery to create a port in your stomach. Within 20 minutes of eating that chicken quesadilla you had for lunch, you excuse yourself from the table and head to the loo. There, you activate the port to ‘aspirate’ up to 30% of the contents of your stomach before it can be assimilated by the intestines and converted to nutrients and calories. This takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes so bring an US magazine. You do this after each meal. Yick. And double yick.
On the other hand, morbid obesity is on the rise. If current trends continue, by 2030 more than half of Americans will be obese. And, as wealth increases in other countries, the blubber will follow, as well as illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers that come along for the ride.
For those who simply cannot lose weight, the gold standard has been bariatric surgery where a band is permanently fitted around the top part of the stomach to reduce the amount of food that can be consumed. It comes with a host of deeply unpleasant side effects, one them being death. In a newer version of the procedure, the surgeon cuts out three-quarters of the stomach and staples the remainder shut. Pretty hard core. In contrast, the A-tube is an out-patient procedure that is completely reversible and has fewer side effects. It may prove to literally be a lifesaver to those who have struggled and failed to lose weight.
To refer to it as a ‘bulimia machine’ is sensationalistic and a distortion of what it actually is. It’s also another big, fat reminder to take your online reading with a Super Big Gulp of critical thinking.