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?”

Cancer mortality rates – mostly great news in war on cancer

cancer-mortality-rates

Despite the cancer tropes that seem to afflict Facebook and Twitter these days, which includes the laughable “Big Pharma is hiding a secret cancer cure” myth, recently published evidence shows that cancer mortality rates in the USA are dropping. This is great news if you’re wondering if cancer is an end-of-life diagnosis – science-based medicine is attacking and beating cancer with numerous strategies for each cancer. And yes, instead of hiding cancer cures, Big Pharma is providing a lot of the successful medications in treating the disease.

The report, published in the journal Cancer by researchers at the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, provides us with the mostly good news. Cancer mortality rates, which describes the number of cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year, have dropped significantly in the USA. This drop includes most of the common cancers, such as lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate.

Unfortunately, the news isn’t all good – some cancer mortality rates have increased, and I will try to explain why. Let’s take a look at cancer and this new paper. Continue reading “Cancer mortality rates – mostly great news in war on cancer”

High fructose corn syrup – don’t be afraid, it’s just sugar

high fructose corn syrup

One of the most frustrating things I’ve observed in nearly six years of writing (here and in other locations), is that those who want to create a negative myth about a new technology (especially in food or medicine), one of the best ways to do it is mention “chemicals.” And if the chemical sounds unnatural, the assumption is that it is unsafe. The so-called Food Babe has made a lot of money endorsing a belief that all chemicals are evil, ignoring the fact that all life, the air, and water are made of chemicals. And so it is with high fructose corn syrup.

People have demonized monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food additive that makes people run away in terror if a Chinese restaurant doesn’t have a huge flashing sign in neon that says “NO MSG.” Of course, in just about every randomized study about MSG, researchers find no difference in the effects of MSG and non-MSG foods on a random population.

Another current satanic chemical is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has evolved into one of the the most “chemicals” of the food industry. Even the name sounds a bit chemical, unnatural, dangerous. But is it?

That’s where we need to look at the science, because the answers to the questions are quite complicated and quite simple.

Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup – don’t be afraid, it’s just sugar”

Breast cancer risk – lifestyle choices

breast cancer risk

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.

Continue reading “Breast cancer risk – lifestyle choices”

Green coffee beans and weight loss–another dumb myth

dr-oz-green-coffee-beansIf you’re a fan of the Dr. Oz show, you might have heard about his passionate support of green coffee beans, which are just unroasted coffee beans instead of the roasted ones we enjoy in a big mug, for losing weight. In America, weight loss pseudoscience, especially those who claim it’s “easy”, is an obsession, especially since since the country is experiencing an obesity epidemic.

Sadly, Americans are always seeking easy, simple, but effective ways to lose weight that don’t require them to change any behavior at all. In other words, let us eat our Big Macs and never exercise while taking a miracle pill, which makes us maintain a perfect Body Mass Index. If that existed, someone would make more money than the next iPhone.

But let’s focus on those green coffee beans.

Continue reading “Green coffee beans and weight loss–another dumb myth”

Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity–poor evidence

artificial-sweetenersThis article was written by Linda Tock, an American living in Denmark, who has an extensive research background in the biomedical sciences. She has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Chemistry and Health, and will be pursuing a Ph.D. Ms. Tock has a fascination for Daphnia, an interesting planktonic crustacean, that is an important organism in studying pollution and environmental stresses. She’s also a passionate Boston Red Sox fan, so she had to endure a difficult year.

So I received a message from a friend of mine, wanting my opinion on this news article, which loudly proclaims that artificial sweeteners are linked to obesity. Because it was a genuine question regarding the science behind the study, and not a ‘concern troll’ about my preference for diet cola, I went and looked at the study itself to see what the fuss was about.

According to the abstract in the article published in the journal Nature,

Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) are among the most widely used food additives worldwide, regularly consumed by lean and obese individuals alike. NAS consumption is considered safe and beneficial owing to their low caloric content, yet supporting scientific data remain sparse and controversial. Here we demonstrate that consumption of commonly used NAS formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional alterations to the intestinal microbiota. These NAS-mediated deleterious metabolic effects are abrogated by antibiotic treatment, and are fully transferrable to germ-free mice upon faecal transplantation of microbiota configurations from NAS-consuming mice, or of microbiota anaerobically incubated in the presence of NAS. We identify NAS-altered microbial metabolic pathways that are linked to host susceptibility to metabolic disease, and demonstrate similar NAS-induced dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in healthy human subjects. Collectively, our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities, thereby calling for a reassessment of massive NAS usage.

Continue reading “Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity–poor evidence”

The Food Babe, high fructose corn syrup, and your beer

I know that 90% of my articles are about vaccines. I know that I’ve shown over and over again that vaccines are effective and about as safe as anything in medicine. And I know that vaccines don’t cause autism. Obviously, I never have to write another article about vaccines. Hah.

OK, it’s never going to happen.

So let’s talk about beer. Everyone loves beer. Maybe not everyone, but good beer can be really good.

The arrogantly named food blogger, Food Babe (real name–Vani Hari), who passes along anecdotes like they were real data, and who invents pseudoscience faster than a homeopath, has recently been on a warpath about beer ingredients. She’s gone after the breweries for adding GMO grains (who cares, they are safe), coloring, and that evil chemical, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). She never quite explains what she has against HFCS, but based on her amateurish and unscientific review of food ingredients, it’s obvious that she thinks that HFCS is an “evil chemical” and must not be consumed. If someone named it “extra sweet corn syrup,” it’s quite possible she would have ignored it.

I’m also offended by her referring to herself as the “Food Babe.” When “babe” is used as a self-descriptor by a woman, it negates any other characteristic that woman has. It implies that the important reason to listen to her drivel (and it would still be drivel) is because she’s attractive. “Babe” promulgates a sexist attitude, a perspective that needs to be changed. The “Food Babe” may have something important to say, but arrogantly referring to one’s self as “babe.” That’s offensive on so many levels.

beer-hfcs-chemical
GMO Dextrose? Seriously Food Lady? Dextrose is D-glucose, just the natural form of glucose everywhere on the planet. Wow, you really need to get into a real chemistry class sometime.

Give anything a chemical name, and panic ensues. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is nothing more than the precipitated salt of a simple amino acid, glutamic acid, which is one of the basic building blocks of every single protein in the body. Being sensitive or allergic to MSG is so ridiculous–you’d be allergic or sensitive to every single protein in your body then. It’s one of the dumbest food fads on the planet, and there are plenty from which to choose!

Let’s talk about HFCS and beer. Doesn’t really matter if it’s beer or soda or your favorite chocolate candy, but she went after beer. And like anything written by any pseudoscience pushing blowhard, I’m going to take down her junk science.

Continue reading “The Food Babe, high fructose corn syrup, and your beer”

High fructose corn syrup–another overhyped study

Here we go again with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), one of the food substances that, along with GMO and MSG, forms the evil tripartite of food substances in the minds of some. And like the overhyped, and subsequently thoroughly debunked, article that tried to link GMO crops to cancers in rats, there is a new a paper

But first, what is high fructose corn syrup? I wrote about HFCS a few weeks ago, debunking some of the myths about HFCS with real science.

Basically, HFCS consists of 24% water, and the rest fructose and glucose. There are two main types of HFCS, HFCS 55 (used mostly in soft drinks) which is approximately 55% fructose and 42% glucose; and HFCS 42 (used in other types of beverages and processed foods), which is approximately 42% fructose, and 53% glucose. There is another type, HFCS-90, approximately 90% fructose and 10% glucose, which is used in small quantities for specialty applications (interestingly, low calorie drinks, because, for the same sweetness about 33% less calories are added), but it is primarily blended with HFCS 42 to make HFCS 55.

Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup–another overhyped study”

High fructose corn syrup–myth versus science

Like monosodium glutamate (MSG), the additive that everyone avoids, except there is absolutely no evidence that it does anything to anyone, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has evolved to become the current pariah of the food industry. Even the name sounds a bit chemical, with that “high fructose” leading you to believe it has to be bad. But is it? 

That’s where we need to look at the science, because the answers to the questions are quite complicated and quite simple.

Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup–myth versus science”

Study about causes of autism–no vaccines involved

[pullquote]That’s the difference between real research and the whining anti-vaccine lunatics who base their claims on nonsense and logical fallacies, which does nothing for understanding the causal factors of autism.[/pullquote]

The Los Angeles Times reports in “Study finds link between autism and obesity during pregnancy” that data from University of California-Davis MIND Institute’s CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) research study shows a link between risk of autism and Metabolic Conditions, such as maternal obesity and diabetes.  The study found that women who had diabetes or hypertension, or were obese had 1.61 times greater risk to have children with autism spectrum disorders than healthy women. These women with metabolic conditions (MC) also had a 2.35 greater risk to having children with developmental delays. Continue reading “Study about causes of autism–no vaccines involved”