ARG-006

The following appeared in the summary of a study on headaches suffered by the residents of Mentia.

"Salicylates are members of the same chemical family as aspirin, a medicine used to treat headaches. Although many foods are naturally rich in salicylates, for the past several decades, food-processing companies have also been adding salicylates to foods as preservatives. This rise in the commercial use of salicylates has been found to correlate with a steady decline in the average number of headaches reported by participants in our twenty-year study. Recently, food-processing companies have found that salicylates can also be used as flavor additives for foods. With this new use for salicylates, we can expect a continued steady decline in the number of headaches suffered by the average citizen of Mentia."


Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.


According to a recently issued study regarding the therapeutic effects of salicylates, some health experts predict that the residents of Mentia will suffer from fewer headaches in the future due to an increase in the usage of salicylates in food and commercial products. While the conclusion is valid to some extent, the reasoning of this argument is unconvincing due to several unsubstantiated assumptions which, if proven wrong, will seriously challenge the author’s conclusion.


To begin with, the prompt mentions that salicylates are members of the same chemical family as aspirin, and, as we all know, aspirin is frequently used to treat headaches. Here, the author assumes that these two substances belonging to the same family indicate that they possess the same therapeutic effects. However, this assumption is potentially problematic since the same results may not be manifested in the people who consume salicylates. As there is no specific data to provide foundation for this claim, we must take a closer look at these questions and evaluate the weight the answers could have in relation to the claim. If salicylates do not possess the same pain alleviating abilities as aspirin, then it is likely that the health experts’ prediction will be incorrect. Therefore, the author’s conclusion will be challenged.


Additionally, the author assumes that the decrease in reported headaches was due solely to the use of salicylates. However, the decrease in reported headaches could be correlated to anything besides the salicylates, such as healthy eating, regular exercise, or the quitting of alcohol consumption and smoking. Minor or major adjustments to one’s diet and lifestyle, such as the addition of vitamin and nutrient rich fruits and vegetables or daily exercise, could be the real antecedents to fewer headaches, which could significantly hinder the progression of the health expert’s prediction. If any of the aforementioned scenarios turns out to be true, the author’s assumption will be undermined and the conclusion will be weakened.


Assuming that the salicylates are behind the overall decrease in headaches, the author’s conclusion could still be invalid because of another unwarranted assumption that people need to ingest large amounts of the substance, and, if so, would the amount they get from foods be sufficient to achieve this healing result. However, we need to question whether companies would need to add more salicylates to their products before a noticeable, more widespread change could be observed? Furthermore, the author’s conclusion also relies on another assumption that the people who need to consume salicylates would find the flavor of the products that contain trace amounts of it appetizing. If they do not find these food items to be appetizing, there is little chance that they will purchase them and proceed to consume them. Even if we were to put more of the substance into food products and told people that the product would benefit their health, it would still be unlikely that they would spend money on something they would not eat out of their own volition. If any of the aforementioned scenarios turns out to be true, the author’s assumption will be undermined and the conclusion will be weakened.


Consequently, while the author’s conclusion appears appealing, the questionable assumptions discussed above may deprive it of its feasibility.


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