Sugar and cancer – examining the science behind the claims

sugar and cancer

As you probably would guess, when I read articles in science, I tend to emphasize research on vaccines, cancer, and a few other related issues. There’s so much information out there, one has to focus or there will  not be enough time to watch college football games on Saturday. For years, one of the more popular questions I have seen is about sugar and cancer – does eating sugar cause or promote cancer?

A recent paper in Nature Communications seemed to encourage the people who are pushing an association between sugar and cancer. Of course, our usual suspects of pseudoscience and false healthcare jumped on board with their clickbait headlines trying to scare everyone about sugar and cancer.

But what are the facts about sugar and cancer. Should you avoid eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates? Well, probably, but not because of cancer.

That’s why we are here. To separate the science from the pseudoscience, we need to look at this more carefully. What we’re going to see is that you’re not going to get cancer from putting a couple of teaspoons of it in your coffee. And you’re not going to cure cancer by avoid sugar. Sugar and cancer is much more complicated than that. Continue reading “Sugar and cancer – examining the science behind the claims”

Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food

bananas prevent cancer

I wrote an article about how to critically analyze pseudoscience and misinformation so that you might skeptically analyze evidence supporting a claim, even if it appeared to be accurate. On Facebook, Twitter and many internet sites (including Wikipedia), there is an amazing tendency of individuals to accept what is written as “the truth” without spending the effort to determine if what is written is based on accurate science.

But if you’re going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, you’re going to have to provide extraordinary evidence. And if you’re going to push a pseudoscientific claim, please read what you claim as evidence. Because we have a case here, where the evidence isn’t even in the same universe as the claims.

Continue reading “Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food”

Coffee health effects – what does the best science say

coffee health effects

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, with tea being number one. And as I have mentioned previously, I am an unrepentant coffee lover. Over the years, there have been a number of claims about coffee health effects, both positive and negative, many without any solid scientific evidence in support.

Claims about coffee health effects goes back centuries. These claims were often confusing and contradictory. How many “studies” have we read about that said drinking it was good for your heart. Or bad for your heart. Or it prevented cancer. Or it increased your risk of cancer.

Part of the confusion is that the popular press, with its strange dependence on false equivalence, often presents two contradictory scientific studies as equivalent, even if they aren’t. Well, we’re going to look at a powerful new study that examined health outcomes that can be related to coffee. Let’s see what they say. Continue reading “Coffee health effects – what does the best science say”

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”

Genetically modified gluten – delicious and tasty irony

Genetically modified gluten

Gluten free diets, for about 99% of the population, are a pseudoscientific food fad that has captured the guts of those who consume any food quackery that makes the rounds. However, for those who have a medically diagnosed gluten sensitivity, there is good news – some new strains of wheat will produce a genetically modified gluten that may not trigger a gluten sensitivity.

Let’s wrap our mind around that – genetically modified gluten. I’m sure that won’t be problematic for those who have medically diagnosed issues with gluten. They’re going to be thrilled that they can eat real bread, pizza or pasta. I’m sure they’re not going to be concerned with any label that says “GMO foods here.”

Of course, the real scientific consensus about GMOs is that they are safe for humans, animals and the environment. And provide humans with more and healthier food. Like genetically modified gluten in wheat.

On the other hand, I’m certain (but I have no scientific evidence) that the Venn diagrams of those who buy into the nonsense about GMOs also buy into the pseudoscience of gluten. Those people might fall over from confusion.

Let’s take a look at gluten, the real medical issues of gluten sensitivity, and then what is this new genetically modified gluten in wheat.  Continue reading “Genetically modified gluten – delicious and tasty irony”

High fructose corn syrup causes diabetes – what is the evidence?

high fructose corn syrup causes diabetes

The internet claims that high fructose corn syrup causes diabetes and a bunch of other maladies. Usually based on some weak evidence, the usual suspects have tried to link high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to Type 2 diabetes.

Like many of these medical myths, there is, at its core, some tiny bit of evidence that is generally misinterpreted or misused. But let’s take a close look at Type 2 diabetes, HFCS and the evidence that either supports or refutes the hypothesis that drinking HFCS is any more responsible for the disease than other sugars. Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup causes diabetes – what is the evidence?”

Low gluten diet – evidence of link to type 2 diabetes

Low gluten diet

The low gluten diet craze has got to be one of the most frustrating fads that have hit the developed world in the last few decades. Without real evidence that gluten affects anyone but the tiny percentage with a genuine, diagnosed gluten sensitivity, pseudoscience supporters are pushing a low gluten diet to treat any number of issues.

The only benefit of the low gluten diet is that today a lot of products are labeled “gluten free.” Thus, the few individuals who have real gluten sensitivity have an easier time shopping for safe foods.

So a low gluten diet may have few benefits for the 99% or more of the population. But does it have risks? Well, a new study seems to indicate that it does, and we’ll let the feathery dinosaur have a go at it. Continue reading “Low gluten diet – evidence of link to type 2 diabetes”

You probably don’t have gluten sensitivity – few actually do

gluten sensitivity

Although it may seem like I write only about the lies and ignorance of the antivaccination cult, I truly despise all kinds of pseudoscience. It’s just that refusing vaccines that prevent real diseases, based on antivaccine misinformation (OK, lies), relates directly to the health of real children everywhere. Most (but certainly not all) other pseudosciences are not that dangerous, just terribly annoying. The sudden onset of gluten sensitivity across the world is one of those annoying trends.

With respect to ridiculous health beliefs and fads, I declare 2014 to be the Year of Gluten. I swear that there is more popular discussion of gluten than organic food, though I suppose that organic, GMO-free, gluten-free food would be the next billion dollar idea.

Like avoiding carbohydrates, fats, GMOs, and whatever else, gluten free diets have some relationship to real science and medicine, but it has exploded into a fad that has far exceeded the real medical issues surrounding gluten sensitivity.

Continue reading “You probably don’t have gluten sensitivity – few actually do”

Eating meat causes cancer – let’s get this right

eating meat causes cancer

Oh here we go again. Everything causes cancer. Time to move into a a giant bubble and eat nothing but GMO, 100% gluten wheat bread. Now, eating meat causes cancer.

Unless you don’t have a Facebook and Twitter account (and who doesn’t these days), your timelines were flooded, literally, with memes, articles, and uptight vegans laughing at everyone because the World Health Organization stated that eating meat causes cancer – that’s either processed meat, like a good French sausage, or unprocessed red meat.

Back to my giant bubble.

For all of you with good scientifically skeptical minds, this story has already been parsed and dissected, and you’ve moved on. That’s what I did, as I sliced some excellent French sausage and ate it with my GMO crackers.

But then I thought, well if this is a thing, should I be worried? Should my non-vegan carnivore readers be worried?

Let’s look at this every way I can. Maybe there’s enough evidence to convince some or all of us to modify our behavior. Or not.

I’m charging ahead, brave readers – read on. Continue reading “Eating meat causes cancer – let’s get this right”

Vitamin C and cancer – scientific evidence says not much there

vitamin c and cancer

One of the frequently made claims from the alternative medicine world is that vitamin C prevents cancer. Or cures cancer. Or does something with cancer. But what is the science behind vitamin C and cancer?

Of course, there are over 200-250 different cancers, each with a different etiology, pathophysiology and prognosis, so it’s rather incredible to believe that vitamin C has that much effect on any of those cancers. But the claims, and its adherents, persist despite the lack of robust evidence supporting these claims.

Frankly, there are just a handful of ways to prevent cancer. One of those ways, eat a balanced diet, implies consuming appropriate amounts of nutrients, like vitamin C I suppose. But does it mean that taking a handful of vitamin C tablets has some beneficial effect on cancer prevention or treatment? Well, let’s take a look. Continue reading “Vitamin C and cancer – scientific evidence says not much there”