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.

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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”

Meat causes cancer? The answer is complicated and nuanced

eating meat causes cancer

Over the past few years, there have been numerous stories about whether meat causes cancer. Well, the answer is extremely complicated and nuanced, something doesn’t play well with clickbait headlines. People want to know The Truth™ about meat. Oh, and this article isn’t about vaccines, shocking, right?

A couple of years ago we were flooded by 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.

Then recently, we were flooded by new memes, articles, and uptight vegans when an article was published to tell us that meat was safe. Of course, that was followed up by even newer memes, articles, and uptight vegans that that new article was junk, and meat causes cancer. 

Even those of you with good scientifically skeptical minds (which includes a lot of vegans) are wondering if anyone knows anything about meat and cancer. So I sliced some excellent French sausage and ate it with my GMO crackers – then this old avian dinosaur did what he is supposed to do, he read the articles.

So, should you worry whether meat causes cancer? I agree that there are a lot of issues about people eating beef, pork, and chicken for our individual health and for the health of the planet. But that’s outside of my bailiwick, and it will garner an incredible amount of yelling and screaming.

But I’m going to be brave (or not) and just try to answer the simple question of whether meat causes cancer. And here we go.

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Colon detoxification – more pseudoscientific health nonsense

colon detoxification

Listen to the radio for a few minutes. Or watch late-night television for a bit. Through the commercials hawking insurance with talking geckos, promoting treatments for erectile dysfunction, and, exhibiting the coolest, fastest, most fuel-efficient car, you will run across 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”

Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food

bananas prevent cancer

I wrote this article over five years, debunking the claim that bananas prevent cancer, and it remains the most popular article I’ve ever written. It probably gets so much traffic because of the ongoing memes about how bananas will cure every cancer known to man. 

Too many individuals see these memes on Twitter and Facebook, then they accept them as scientific facts. They rarely are. That’s why critical thinking is necessary. 

But if a meme is going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, then that claim ought to be backed by extraordinary evidence. But this wild belief about bananas is not even supported by ordinary evidence. It is supported by zero evidence.

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

Ketogenic diet – what does the scientific evidence say about it?

Diet fads seem to test the limits of science since forever. I’m an ancient feathered dinosaur, and I’ve seen it all from the popcorn diet to the South Beach diet to the paleo diet to the ketogenic diet.

I’m sure that the ancient Romans had some diet fad diet that the aristocracy followed to keep themselves healthy – oh wait, the Roman upper class followed the Mediterranean diet, which may be one diet fad that stood the test of time and science.

Outside of the aforementioned Mediterranean diet, which includes whole grains, olive oil, seafood, legumes, and nuts, most of these diets lack robust scientific evidence supporting their usefulness in weight loss or maintaining some unbiased standard of health. But they certainly make a lot of money for those promoting them. It was a US$66 billion market in the USA alone in 2017.  Wait, maybe I should invent the Raptor Diet?

One of the current fads is the ketogenic diet, which is all the rage among those looking to lose weight, improve their health, and, I’m sure, prevent cancer. Before someone thinks it really prevents cancer, it does not. In fact, it may increase the risk of cancer. But that’s another story for another day.

Let’s get into this ketogenic diet fad. Is it supported by any robust, repeated, published evidence? Or, like most diet fads, is it mostly supported by testimony and anecdotes?  Continue reading “Ketogenic diet – what does the scientific evidence say about it?”