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starving cancer

Starving cancer – more pseudoscientific nonsense

I’ve written a boatload of articles about cancer on this website. Admittedly, my interest is mainly based on the incredible harm done to people by fake cancer treatments, but others, like Science Based Medicine and the estimable Orac are experts in cancer, so I’ve just limited myself to sniping from the sidelines, like debunking the nonsense about weed cures cancer. But then I saw someone post a link to some pseudoscience about starving cancer. I just had to take a look.

I have a rule about cancer science. Anyone who oversimplifies prevention, development or treatment of cancer shall be treated with disdain unless it meets the standard of “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” If you’re going to tell me that blueberry-kale shakes™ prevent cancer, I want overwhelming evidence in the form of meta-reviews.

Why am I such an aggressive skeptic about cancer? Because, if someone says “starving cancer is better than chemotherapy,” well that means some gullible person will take that advice and forgo more aggressive, and frankly more evidence based, treatments. And that patient could die, relying upon junk medicine.

Furthermore, I need to keep reminding my readers – and various people who push this nonsense – that there are approximately 100 to over 200 different cancers– the variation in numbers is a result of different definitions. Each of those cancers have a different etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment strategy. Starving cancer may actually be a brilliant idea – some research is involved in cutting off the blood flow to cancers. But that’s at a very localized level, and changing your diet will have approximately zero effect

On the other hand, I guess you could starve a cancer by starving one’s self. But I don’t think there would be a good prognosis and outcome for the patient.

Let’s take a look at the pseudoscience of starving cancer.

Read More »Starving cancer – more pseudoscientific nonsense

sugar causes cancer

Sugar causes cancer – another trope from little evidence

I am generally skeptical of any claim that anything causes cancer. That doesn’t mean I reject every claim that something or another causes cancer – smoking, sunlight, obesity, viruses, genes have all been linked to certain cancers. Now, there’s a claim that sugar causes cancer – is there anything there?

Sugar is considered a demon food, based on the irrational claims for it. But most of it has been scientifically debunked, so I really don’t pay attention to much of it. Yes, sugar is bad for diabetics. And yes, it may be one of the causes of the so-called “obesity epidemic.

One of the ongoing myths is that somehow sugar causes hyperactivity in children. But reviews have shown that it’s probably not correlated.

Can sugar cause cancer – is it even plausible? Time to find out.

Read More »Sugar causes cancer – another trope from little evidence

turkey and tryptophan

Turkey and tryptophan – let’s science the shit out of this

A tiny handful of countries, most notably the US and Canada, celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. In the USA, the holiday is held on the fourth Thursday in November and more or less starts the so called holiday season which ends with New Year. In most of Canada (excluding the Atlantic provinces), the holiday is held on the second Monday in October. Invariably, there are stories about turkey and tryptophan, making you just want to take a nap hearing about it.

For trivia purposes only, the other places that celebrate a similar Thanksgiving 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 Australia. Australia? I have no clue if they all talk about turkey and tryptophan over dinner.

Generally, 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 tons 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!

There’s a legend that eating this meal, specifically the turkey, fills your body with tryptophan, and you fall asleep.

Nice story, but the science of eating, sleeping, turkey and tryptophan doesn’t support this myth. Not even close.Read More »Turkey and tryptophan – let’s science the shit out of this

almond milk

Almond milk – examining the science behind this food fad

Food fads are plain annoying, but I just tend to ignore them, unless I’m feeling in a mood. Yesterday, I had purchased my favorite drink at  the Big Coffee drive through, which is just a large bold coffee, black. Well, something got mixed up and I ended up with a latte, which I generally don’t mind. Except this latte was made of a foul tasting substance, almond milk. Really?

Food fad believers often intersect with anti-science activists in other areas, like vaccines, GMOs and quack cancer cures. Sure, there may be a subset of individuals who think that almond milk tastes great – which would lead me to question the quality of their taste buds – but they aren’t the majority. Most people just believe that almond milk is healthier.

Well, does almond milk have any health benefits beyond regular every day milk? And is there some unintended consequences to buying almond milk?

Let’s look at almond milk. No taste tests are required.

Read More »Almond milk – examining the science behind this food fad

breast cancer risk

Breast cancer risk – lifestyle choices

The myths about cancer risk are both sad and dangerous. Too many times, I read about supplements or diets that stop “cancer” as if it’s one disease (it is not) that a handful of blueberries will destroy. Like almost every cancer, reducing breast cancer risk really boils down to a handful of lifestyle choices.

In 2015, there will be 232,000 new breast cancer cases in the USA (pdf). Worldwide in 2012, it was estimated that there were over 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer. There is evidence that the rate of breast cancer is increasing, but that may be a result of better diagnostic tools that give earlier diagnoses (and this is a discussion left for another day).

Breast cancer has become a part of our culture, partially because the disease moved from a disease that was only mentioned in whispers to one that has some of the highest awareness for cancers.

Using a review article, by Max Dieterich et al.  about breast cancer risk and lifestyle influence as a template, I thought it would be prudent to list out some of the major influencers on breast cancer risk. And no, smoking weed has no known influence on the risk of breast cancer.

Read More »Breast cancer risk – lifestyle choices

paleolithic diet myth

Paleolithic diet myth – what our ancestors ate

The paleolithic diet myth is the most recent in a long list of food and diet fads that have been debunked by skeptics for years. I’m sure there were paleolithic cavemen skeptics 20,000 years ago who grunted, “this diet sucks.” If they actually ate that diet.

Food fads are so enticing. Eat this to make your immune system strong. Don’t eat that because it causes cancer. But do eat this because it reduces your risk of cancer. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Drink this. Eat more of that.

My thoughts have always been that the human physiology is amazingly resilient, and as long as you have no chronic diseases nor chronic malnutrition, there is nothing one can do that will make the situation much better or much worse.

Yes, maintaining levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, iron, and others, are critical, but in the modern world, it’s almost impossible to miss out on those micronutrients. Yes, we should limit fats and “sugars”. But the thing is human physiology is complex, so marathoners eat lots of carbohydrates, and they are mostly healthy. It all depends.

And then there’s cancer – it stokes our fears about foods. You’re not going to prevent or cure cancer with supplements (or presumably foods that are rich with those nutrients). Antioxidants don’t really help prevent cancerSoy won’t stop certain types of cancerNor will certain foods make you lose weight. There really are only a few ways to prevent cancer,

Most of these beliefs about foods, health and weight loss are based on either a boatload of anecdotal evidence, or use very preliminary laboratory research, make a leap of faith, and assume that laboratory evidence is equivalent to clinical evidence. Then, when the gold standard of research, a randomized clinical trial is done, the results generally show nothing. And in some cases, the negative effect is with the supplement or food.

And if you’re looking to try the newest diet craze, be aware that most fad diets just have no long-term successes, and may actually do harm. The newest one is based on the paleolithic diet myth.

Read More »Paleolithic diet myth – what our ancestors ate

Honey and high fructose corn syrup – no health differences

One of the enduring myths of the “natural food” crowd is that somehow nature does things better. That’s actually considered a logical fallacy.

I am convinced that part of the anti-GMO beliefs center on some ridiculous “natural genetic selection is inherently better than man-made genetic selection.” Well, the evidence doesn’t support that nonsense, but that rarely matters to those who rely upon their misinformed opinion rather than scientific evidence.

One of the tropes that have been passed around is about honey and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – honey is good, HFCS is bad. Scientifically, this is ridiculous, but the honey industry, disregarding the potential that science may actually refute that trope, funded a real scientific study about honey and high fructose corn syrup – well, let’s just say that the results confirm that honey is not the “nectar of the gods.”

Read More »Honey and high fructose corn syrup – no health differences

Science of organic food – are they healthier?

Organic foods have been increasingly popular these days moving from local co-ops and farmer’s markets to large retail chains that specialize in organic foods (such as Whole Foods) to general large retail chains who dedicate portions of their produce sections to organic produce. Even dairy and meat sections of most supermarket chains have sections that contain organic products.

But what is the underlying science of organic food whatever the source? Is it healthier? Is it worth the additional cost? Is there some indication that farm productivity is higher in organic farms?

It’s time for a skeptical look at the cost and benefits of organic foods.

Read More »Science of organic food – are they healthier?

Water fluoridation myths – just another blog article

When I was a kid (probably 6 or 7), there was a big controversy in our community whether the water would be fluoridated or not. Now, I was just becoming fascinated by science, medicine, health, and sports at that time, so I tried to figure out what was happening.

To my ears and adolescent brain, the argument boiled down to no fluoridation (which meant cavities and visits to the dentist) vs. fluoridation (which was a communist conspiracy). Scary choices. Though Nazi dentists were also plenty scary.

But I grew up, and fluoridation became more common, as communities accepted the evidence that fluoridate water was safe, and improved the health of the community’s teeth. Water systems are mostly fluoridated (unless you drink bottled water).

And fluoride is in toothpaste and various mouthwashes. I thought the fluoridation controversy had passed into history with rotary phones, the Soviet Union, and the slide rule. My younger readers probably have never seen any of those three in their native states.

Now it’s time to look at those water fluoridation myths that can be found in many corners of the internet.Read More »Water fluoridation myths – just another blog article

Pepsi and aspartame – an unscientific decision

Unless you’re a follower of the junk science presented by the pseudoscience shill, Joe Mercola and other crackpots, you probably didn’t think much of the artificial sweetener called aspartame (or by its more common trade name, Nutrasweet). You might have wondered if it was safe, but your skeptical mind probably rejected any safety issue not because most of the negative information came from bad sources–like Mercola.

Now that you’re here, reading this story, probably because you just read something about Pepsi and aspartame – because the giant soft drink bottler decided to remove it from their diet sodas. They did replace aspartame with–oh wait for it–two other artificial sweeteners. Obviously, Pepsi did it for marketing/public relations reasons, but the decision itself is based on bad information (on the internet, of course), rather than real science.

Read More »Pepsi and aspartame – an unscientific decision