The turkey tryptophan myth – Uncle George keeps repeating it

turkey tryptophan myth

Every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, the United States celebrates a holiday called Thanksgiving. Part of the tradition, along with watching football (the American version), is eating mountains of food, including a roasted turkey. And this is where Uncle George regales the guests with the turkey tryptophan myth – that is, eating a mountain of turkey, which he claims is high in tryptophan, makes you sleepy.

Because I know the average reader of this blog is pro-science and snarky, I post this article for you to embarrass Uncle George. Well, he’s probably a Trump supporter who wouldn’t know any science because it isn’t a pedophile in Alabama. Oh sorry, I did go there.

Back to Thanksgiving and the turkey tryptophan myth. Only a few countries celebrate Thanksgiving, and just a handful of countries eat turkey in any amount, other than the USA and Canada. Surprisingly, 87% of English holiday dinners will include turkey, a bird that is native to North America. So, I guess when gobby Uncle George (loyal Chelsea football fan) starts with the turkey tryptophan tosh, you can tell him to bugger off with this article.

Just in case you want to impress friends and family, the other places that celebrate Thanksgiving, similar to the USA and Canada, are Liberia (which is populated by descendants of freed slaves who returned to Africa from the US), Grenada (a small English-speaking island in the Caribbean), Puerto Rico (a Spanish-speaking territory of the USA), and Norfolk Island, an Australian territory of like 1500 people. The only thing I thought that was on Norfolk Island was the Norfolk Island pine. And now I wonder if they import turkeys for the dinner.

For Americans, the holiday celebrates white English settlers arriving in North America. The tales usually include some peaceful sharing of food between the white settlers and native Americans (a nice myth without much actual historical support) prior to the first winter. Canada’s backstory on Thanksgiving is much more complicated, including ships getting stuck in ice and other legends – it is very Canadian.

In both Canada and the USA, the celebration includes tonnes of food (per person) usually including a roast turkey. Other foods may include mashed potatoes, yams (sweet potatoes), other meats, pies, corn, stuffing, and more food. It is a high calorie meal of epic portions!

Generally, everyone, after finishing this dinner, would want to take a long nap. Thus, we find the origin stories of the turkey tryptophan math. However, the science of eating, sleeping, turkey and tryptophan doesn’t support this myth. Not even close.

Continue reading “The turkey tryptophan myth – Uncle George keeps repeating it”

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of contributions to this website

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations. I know a lot of writers out there will link to one of her articles here as a sort of primary source to tear down a bogus antivaccine message.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. This article will be updated as new articles from Professor Reiss are added here.

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Syracuse University mumps outbreak – bad anti-vaccine math

Syracuse University mumps outbreak

Partially because I’m an alumnus, and partially because I watch new reports about infectious disease outbreaks all over the world, I’ve been following the recent Syracuse University mumps outbreak. As of 13 November 2017, Syracuse University (SU) Health Services has reported 41 confirmed cases and 78 probable cases of the mumps on the SU campus.

One of the age-old tropes of the anti-vaccine statistics world is that kids who have been vaccinated against the mumps (or measles or any disease) are more likely to get mumps (or any disease) than those who are not vaccinated. I squashed this myth before, but you know what happens – the anti-vaccine zombie tropes tend to reappear over and over and over and over again.

Now, the anti-vaccine statistics deniers have jumped into the Syracuse University mumps outbreak with their alternative facts, or should I say alternative math. So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. We will take down this trope. Continue reading “Syracuse University mumps outbreak – bad anti-vaccine math”

Children’s book review – “Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor” for vaccine

children's book

Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor” is a recently published children’s book written by Ann D. Koffsky  and illustrated by Talitha Shipman.

It’s not aimed to introduce children to the science of vaccines, or to convince the heistant. It is, however, incredibly useful to parents who intend to vaccinate and want to help young children – maybe around the age of 2-6 – deal with fear of shots. And no, it’s not only for Jewish kids, though the Hanukkah theme may need explaining for others. It’s just a sweet, accessible story.

The story starts with an introduction to Judah and his family. Judah has a little sister called Hannah – a baby. He wants to be friends with her, and the scene describing his less-than-successful efforts to friend her will be relatable to many parents of multiple children. His Bubbe – grandma – helps him deal.

His grandmother also tells him the story of Judah Maccabee, who, along with his four brothers, led a rebellion against the Greek Empire when the Greek Empire occupied biblical Israel. Judah is naturally excited to hear about fighting, and imagines himself in the role. His grandmother gives him a toy shield as a Hannukah present.

The next part of the children’s book revolves around the children’s doctor visit. They are both deemed healthy, and then Judah is told he needs a shot. He – naturally – does not want one. Not even when his father explains a shot is like a shield. Then his father explains little Hannah is too young to get her own shots, and by getting his, Judah will protect her – by being protected himself, he won’t be able to get the sickness and that will keep him healthy, and prevent him from infecting Hannah.

This message helps Judah be brave and gets the shot. The book acknowledges it hurts, but that passes, and Judah is proud of helping to protect Hannah.

It’s a very sweet story. The pictures are fun and clear, the message positive. Children will enjoy the book, should be able to relate to it and it can help them approach being vaccinated in a more positive way. Most parents protect their children and vaccinate – but all of us want to make it easier, and many children understandably don’t like getting a shot. I’m glad this book exists to help.

Disclosure – I received the first copy from the author with a request to review it. After reading the book, I ordered two more copies. I look forward to reading them to my kids.

 
 

Vaccines cause diabetes – another myth refuted and debunked

vaccines cause diabetes

If you cruise around the internet, engaging with the antivaccination cult (not recommended), you will pick up on their standard tropes, lies, and other anti-science commentary. One that has always bothered me, not because that it was a lie, but because I had enough evidence floating in my brain that I was wondering if it were true–that vaccines cause diabetes, especially the Type 1 version.

A lot of the vaccine deniers believe that vaccines cause a lot of everything, and several claim that vaccines cause Type 1 diabetes (or here), based on little evidence. As far as I can tell, this myth is based on the “research” from  J. Barthelow Classen, M.D., who has pushed the idea that vaccines causes type 1 diabetes, through some magical process that has never been supported by other independent evidence.

In another example of the antivaccination world’s cherry picking evidence to support their a priori conclusions, they ignore the utter lack of plausibility supporting any link between vaccines and Type 1 diabetes. At best, Classen has cherry-picked statistics to support his predetermined conclusions, “comparing apples to oranges with health data from different countries, and misrepresenting studies to back his claim.”

Moreover, Classen seems to come to his beliefs based on population-wide correlations that rely on post hoc fallacies, rather than actually showing causality between vaccines and diabetes. It’s like finding that a 5% increase in consumption of Big Macs is correlated with Republican wins in elections. They may happen at the same time, but it would take a laughable series events to show any relationship.

Continue reading “Vaccines cause diabetes – another myth refuted and debunked”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – Shaw and Tomljenovic debunked tropes

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

I’m beginning to feel some deja vu, since I am criticizing another anti-vaccine pseudoscience paper foisted onto the world by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic. These two University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology (you know, the study of eyes) have no background or training in any area vaccine research, including immunology, epidemiology, microbiology, virology or anything else remotely related. Yet they keep publishing anti-vaccine pseudoscientific junk medicine.

Yet, every time these anti-vaccine shills publish anti-vaccine pseudoscience articles in low ranked journals, the reactionaries jump all over it and try to use those articles as “science” to dismiss the scientific fact of vaccine safety and effectiveness. Except for one small matter – Shaw and Tomljenovic have a long record of retracted articles (here and here), publishing their “research” in low impact factor, predatory “pay-to-play” journals, and pushing anti-vaccine pseudoscience that has been hammered by respected scientific organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO).

Yes, many of us are wondering why UBC hasn’t tossed both of them out of the university for research malfeasance, but that’s not the point here. We’re just going to rip apart the anti-vaccine pseudoscience presented in another article from Shaw and Tomljenovic.  Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – Shaw and Tomljenovic debunked tropes”

Michigan vaccine regulations – Court decides on religious exemptions

Michigan vaccine regulations

On 7 November 2017, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals mostly upheld a Federal District’s Court decision (pdf) to grant a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Michigan vaccine regulations that require parents seeking an exemption from school immunization requirements have an interview with health department personnel first. The decision reinforced the strong support our courts have provided states’ efforts to increase vaccines rates.

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Glyphosate causes cancer? – large scientific study says no

Glyphosate causes cancer

One of the tropes of the pseudoscience world is that glyphosate causes cancer – but what does real science say? Well, numerous large epidemiological studies have yet to provide evidence of a link that would convince us that the herbicide has any link to any cancer.

Recently, another article in a prestigious cancer journal looked at thousands of  individuals exposed to glyphosate, and once again, have found no convincing evidence that glyphosate causes cancer. The totality of evidence, unless you are into glyphosate- and GMO-free cherry picking, continues to lead us to a simple conclusion – there is no link between the chemical and any of the 200 or more types of cancer.

One of the major issues with the tropes and myths about glyphosate is that many anti-science liberals tend to conflate glyphosate with genetically modified crops. This leads to a lot of unsupported hatred of GMO plants, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that says that GMO agriculture is safe for humans, animals, and the environment – a consensus as broad and powerful as the one that states that climate change is caused by humans.

So let’s look at this new article, and how it fits into the narrative about glyphosate and cancer.

Continue reading “Glyphosate causes cancer? – large scientific study says no”

Flu vaccine research and development – eggs cause low effectiveness

Flu vaccine research

From year to year, there are variations in the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, although getting the flu vaccine is infinitely better than contracting the flu and risking some of the major complications of the disease. A peer-reviewed paper has just been published that examines flu vaccine research and development impact on flu vaccine effectiveness. Interestingly, the study authors may have identified the most important reason for the variable effectiveness – because the virus is grown in chicken eggs.

I think it’s important that vaccine manufacturers start to examine methods on how to improve effectiveness, since the flu, despite the claims of the antivaccine world, is a serious and dangerous diseases. And some strains of flu, like the H1N1 can be harmful to young healthy adults.

There are a lot of reasons why the flu vaccine research and development gives us a final product that varies in effectiveness from year to year, and we are going to look into some of them. Continue reading “Flu vaccine research and development – eggs cause low effectiveness”

Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is the greatest medical scandal – nope

Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine

I am absolutely convinced that of all the vaccines on the market, the anti-vaccine radicals hate the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine more than any other. Nearly every day, I see article after article in pseudoscientific websites that make unfounded claims and outright misinformation about Gardasil, including one that crossed my path today.

The article, in a junk medicine website called RealFarmacy, blares this click-bait headline – “Merck’s Former Doctor Predicts Gardasil to Become the Greatest Medical Scandal of All Time.” Oh no, I’m frightened, are you? The article relies upon the Four Horsemen of the Gardasil Apocalypse™ for their fake facts.

In fact, there is robust scientific evidence, gathered from huge case control studies, that the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is incredibly safe, and may be one of the safest vaccines on the market. But we all know what the anti-vaccine folks think of scientific facts – they ignore them unless it supports their preordained conclusions.

This article will tackle the key points of the RealFarmacy (what’s with the spelling error?) article.  Continue reading “Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine is the greatest medical scandal – nope”