High fructose corn syrup – myths and claims debunked by real science

People demonize food additives all the time. Just see monosodium glutamate, as just one example. And there’s high fructose corn syrup, a sugar that is blamed for everything from cancer to diabetes to climate change. OK, maybe not climate change.

High fructose corn syrup is just sugar, but because it has a complicated name, it must be bad. It’s part of the “chemophobia,” the fear of anything that sounds like a chemical.

The so-called Food Babe has made a lot of money endorsing a belief that all chemicals are evil. Of course, such claims ignore the simple fact that all life, the air, and water are made of chemicals.

They want us to believe that man-made chemicals are more dangerous than “natural” chemicals, but that betrays several things about science:

  1. Many “natural” chemicals are dangerous.
  2. Those “natural” chemicals didn’t evolve for the benefit of humans, so they are not inherently better for humans.
  3. Nature isn’t always better.

And high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is considered one of the evil “chemicals” that are destroying humanity. But is it? Let’s answer that question.

Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup – myths and claims debunked by real science”

Colon detoxification – more pseudoscientific health nonsense

colon detoxification

The old Skeptical Raptor is taking a bit of a break over the next few days to recharge his batteries for all of the pseudoscience that will be coming out in 2020. In lieu of new content, I will be republishing the top 10 most read articles on this blog during 2019. Here’s number 6 – the colon detoxification myth. 

In addition to the commercials hawking insurance with talking geckos, promoting treatments for erectile dysfunction, and, exhibiting the coolest, fastest, most fuel-efficient car, you will eventually hear or see the reason for all that ails you – your failure to use colon detoxification to fix your problems.

Colon detoxification or, sometimes, colon cleansing is one of those strange alternative medicine ideas that hang around without one single bit of evidence supporting it. We’re going to take a look at it with the avian dinosaur’s skeptical eye. Continue reading “Colon detoxification – more pseudoscientific health nonsense”

MSG myth debunking – science shows that it’s just an amino acid

msg myth

The old Skeptical Raptor is taking a bit of a break over the next few days to recharge his batteries for all of the pseudoscience that will be coming out in 2020. In lieu of new content, I will be republishing the top 10 most read articles on this blog during 2019. Here’s number 10 – the MSG myth. 

Food additives are one of the most passionate issues amongst people who eat (which would be everyone). AspartameHigh fructose corn syrup. GMO‘s. Salt. Sugar. Trans fats. Polysorbate 80. But the MSG myth is one of the most pervasive in the food pseudoscience world (yes, I’m going to make that a thing).

Of course, these additives cause angst in people because of their scary chemical names. Or nonsense on the internet. Or random neurons firing.

Obviously, there is stuff, created by the beauty of natural sunlight and goddess blessed sweet waters from the Alps, that is better than these man-made evil chemicals. Well, no. Everything in nature is made up of “chemistry” –  25-hydroxyergocalciferol is a scary chemical name, right? Except it’s the metabolic product of the conversion of vitamin D in the human liver. It’s natural!

But let’s get back to MSG – how many times have you seen “No MSG” in a sign Chinese restaurant? Is it because China, who has been using MSG in their cuisine for centuries, has been conspiring against Americans since the first Chinese restaurant starting serving up kung pao chicken to unaware Americans?

It’s time to look at the MSG myth – is it real, or does it need a good debunking?

Continue reading “MSG myth debunking – science shows that it’s just an amino acid”

Chili peppers may be the key to long life and healthy cardiovascular system

chili peppers

A recently published paper describes how regular consumption of hot chili peppers may decrease overall mortality risk plus decrease risks for cardiovascular events. So pour your favorite hot sauce (I have several that I love) on your pancakes and through extra habañero peppers into your favorite meals.

Before you decide that taking the ghost pepper challenge with 1 million Scoville units every day of the week, let’s take a step back and allow your favorite feathered dinosaur to take a look at this study. As a warning, I think all nutritional studies should be taken with a grain a salt (pun intended). And this one is the same. Continue reading “Chili peppers may be the key to long life and healthy cardiovascular system”

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.  And you just know that Uncle George denies climate change and thinks vaccines are dangerous. But let’s get back to that 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 maybe your British Uncle George will tell the same turkey tryptophan myth during dinner. Or supper, I suppose. 

Anyway, 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. Apparently, American whaling ships would stop there and celebrate the holiday

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 several tonnes of food (per person) which 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!

Just because this is my blog, let me state one simple fact – pumpkin pie is garbage. I hate that thing.

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.

Well enough cultural history. This is a science blog, let’s talk about the science that debunks the turkey tryptophan myth. And because I think Uncle George is a blowhard. 

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

Reduce cancer risk in 12 easy-ish steps – number 3 is “get your vaccines”

reduce cancer risk

I have railed against pseudoscientific charlatans who claim that they have the easy way to reduce cancer risk (or even cure it). Generally, these snake oil salesmen try to convince you that they have some miraculous food, supplement, spiritual energy, and on and on, that can either kill cancer in its tracks or keep them from even growing in your body.

Of course, none of their claims are actually supported by robust science. On the other hand, real science has 12 evidence-based methods to actually prevent cancer.

But what about those memes that say that supplements prevent cancer? Nope, they don’t. And that’s been shown in study after study after study after study (yeah, I could go on for a while).

What about avoiding GMO foods because they cause cancer? Again, studies show that GMO foods have no effect on cancers.

Oh, one more thing – bananas don’t have tumor necrosis factor, and the yellow fruit can’t prevent or cure cancer (but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t delicious).

Despite the absolute lack of evidence that supplements, kale, bananas, or drinking the pure waters of a glacial fed stream (which may not be an option with climate change), there are only a few things that can be done to manage your overall risk of cancer.

The “how to reduce cancer risk list” has been codified by the World Health Organization’s  (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) into 12 steps (no, not that debunked one) that are called the European Code Against Cancer.

Let’s look at cancer and the methods to reduce cancer risk.

Continue reading “Reduce cancer risk in 12 easy-ish steps – number 3 is “get your vaccines””

Vegan cat food – come on people, this is no way to treat your pets

vegan cat food

While writing an article about dog food myths, I ran across something that flabbergasted me – vegan cat food. I was literally going to scream at my computer screen, then I decided I’d redirect my thoughts to a post about it. 

The ridiculous thoughts about pet care has caused some pet owners are avoiding vaccines for their pets because they believe it may cause them to become autistic. Let me remind the world that there is no scientific evidence of any link between any vaccine and the autism spectrum disorder. 

I’m troubled by well-meaning, but scientifically illiterate, individuals trying to anthropomorphize their pets by pushing their beliefs about their own health (almost always wrong) onto their pets. This vegan cat food trend is just plain wrong for the health of their cats. Continue reading “Vegan cat food – come on people, this is no way to treat your pets”

Vitamin D supplements – evidence for clinical effectiveness and safety

Vitamin D supplements

The claims about the usefulness of vitamin D supplements are all over the internet. And they seem trendy, as most pseudoscientific claims are these days.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the old and new information about vitamin D supplements. It’s about scientific articles that either support or refute a claim, that’s it. It’s not about what we believe or we do not believe, it’s about evidence.

I don’t think vitamin D is worthless. It is an important micronutrient for human health, and if there’s a chronic deficiency, supplementation may be medically necessary.

On the other hand, proponents of megadoses of vitamins, called megavitamin therapy or orthomolecular medicine (pseudoscientific terms to sound like they are based on real science), seems to work on the unscientific belief that if a little helps, a whole boatload will help a lot more. Most of these ideas have been debunked and are considered quackery and fads.

I wanted to take a look at the science of vitamin D supplements while examining its actual benefits to health compared to the possible dangers of excess supplementation.

Continue reading “Vitamin D supplements – evidence for clinical effectiveness and safety”

Grain free dog food – more pseudoscience that harms our pets

Now, for something completely different – the grain-free dog food fad that is based on pseudoscience and harms our pet dogs. I wish humans would keep their nutrition nonsense away from their pets, as the new fad of giving cats only vegan food. So, this article is here to give you some science about dog food.

I have no idea where this grain-free dog food fad began, but we can assume it started like all other human food crazes with about 1% science and 99% myth, misinformation, pseudoscience, and outright lies from those who want to profit from it. Wait, that sounds like cancer cure and anti-vaccine scam artists

Anyway, we’re here to talk about grain-free dog food, and whether it’s healthy for dogs. Well, I hate giving away the plot, but no, it’s not. We’ll try to explain why.

Continue reading “Grain free dog food – more pseudoscience that harms our pets”

Canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease? Dubious evidence

Canola oil causes Alzheimer's disease

Food fads make me want to scream, cry, and hide in a cabin in the mountains. MSG is safe. And high fructose corn syrup is just an awful name for sugar. And only a small number of people have a real gluten sensitivity. And now a published article has caused the internet to explode with the trope that canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease.

This new internet meme is based on a peer-reviewed article published in a real journal. But as I have written time and again, just because an article seems like it has sterling credentials, it doesn’t mean the article is above criticism. We’ll get to this article below.

As expected, all of the usual suspects in the pseudoscience world have jumped on board with clickbait headlines like, “Scientists finally issue warning against canola oil: Study reveals it is detrimental to brain health, contributes to dementia, causes weight gain.” I always find it ironic when a pseudoscience-pushing website believes in scientists when it supports their belief.

Of course, we need to take a look at this whole issue. Here’s my spoiler alert (but please read the whole article) – there is little evidence that canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or dementia. You can use it safely. Continue reading “Canola oil causes Alzheimer’s disease? Dubious evidence”