Rebecca Skloot has replied to my comment on her blog in a way that makes me feel like she is, in fact, one of the good guys. She seems to have genuinely believed that the formula seller in question was really trying to make people think about body image and not just taking money to try to get newspaper space for the company that hired him while using his credentials to make people think it was “real” science. I think she is wrong to trust him on this, but as I understand this sort of scam is mostly a British thing so she would reasonably be less sensitive to it.
Also if it is just a one off bit of silliness in a magazine it is quite different to every week in the news pages of the dailys.
Just for kicks here is a classic of the PR-driven equation-for-X genre
EDIT: Actually Skloot’s further comment is even more interesting. She says the researcher in question was very open about the PR-ness and claimed to be taking advantage of the situation to make a point of his own.