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”

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”

Flu treatments and supplements – do they work? No, get the vaccine

flu treatment

As we enter the 2019-20 flu season, some choose to receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Of course, some choose to rely upon unproven flu treatments, because they buy into the easily-debunked myths of the anti-vaccine world

Many of the good people who read this blog understand that the flu is a very dangerous disease. In the USA, the CDC estimates that the flu season every year results in 12 to 56 thousand deaths and 140 to 710 thousand hospitalizations. It is not a trivial disease that can be easily ignored. Let me be frank – your best, and really, the only choice to prevent the flu is getting the seasonal flu vaccine. And, it is the only method to boost your or your children’s immune system against the flu.

I’ve written previously about various supplements and treatments for the common cold, and they mostly don’t work. Or the evidence is so weak that it’s literally a waste of money to use them. Or they’re just useless.

These ineffective treatments exist for one reason – money. Cold and flu treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and nutraceutical industry. And the industry is largely unregulated, so they can make unsupported claims about things like flu treatments, and people buy them based on the pseudoscience and false claims.

Although there’s some overlap between the common cold and flu treatments, there are a large number of flu treatments that get sold over the counter, although one class of drugs are sold by prescription. Are any of them effective? Let’s find out. Continue reading “Flu treatments and supplements – do they work? No, get the vaccine”

Pseudoscience vs science – former is fake, the latter is fact for vaccines

pseudoscience vs science

Pseudoscience vs science – the former is a belief system that uses the trappings of science without the rigorous methodologies that value evidence. The latter is an actual rational methodology to discover facts about the natural universe.

Pseudoscience is bullshit. Science is rational knowledge.

Pseudoscience is seductive to many people partially because it’s not only easy to comprehend, but also it oversimplifies the understanding of the natural universe. Pseudoscience is the basis of alternative medicine, creationism, the anti-vaccine religion, and many other “fields” that true believers try to say is science.

Pseudoscience tries to make an argument with the statement of “it’s been proven to work,” “the link is proven”, or, alternatively, they state some negative about scientifically-supported ideas. It really is appealing because it oversimplifies complex systems and ideas.

For example, alternative medicine relies on this pseudoscience by creating the illusion that medicine can be really easy if you drink this blueberry kale shake, you will have a 100% chance of avoiding all cancer. Real science-based medicine provides real clinical information about every cancer, how it can be treated, and what the real prognosis is.

Acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, and many other “alternative medicine” beliefs are pseudoscience. They simply lack robust evidence to support their efficacy. In fact, science has failed to establish the clinical usefulness of most alternative medicine (CAM) therapies.

Because I can’t help writing about vaccines, the pseudoscience vs science discourse applies perfectly to it. Pseudoscience uses logical fallacies, anecdotes, and misinformation to make it appear there is evidence supporting the anti-vaccine beliefs. Real science has debunked the claim that “there is a proven link between vaccines and autism,” a common and rather dangerous belief of the anti-vaccine world. 

This article will explore the pseudoscience vs science debate (not really a debate) by examining what exactly makes an idea scientific (and spoiler alert, it isn’t magic), and contrary the logic of science, what makes an idea “pseudoscientific.” So sit down, grab your favorite reading beverage, because this isn’t going to be a quick internet meme. Continue reading “Pseudoscience vs science – former is fake, the latter is fact for vaccines”

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”

Weight loss scams – raspberry ketones and green coffee beans

Next up, weight-loss scams (see Note 1) – you know all about them. Take one supplement and suddenly you lose kilograms of weight while eating burgers and fries while watching TV. They often appear in email spam, the Dr. Oz show, or a random Google search.

These weight loss scams, especially those who claim it’s “easy”, are an obsession with Americans (though it’s not unique to this country), especially since the USA is experiencing an obesity epidemic. 

Americans (maybe everyone else) 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 and maintain a perfect Body Mass Index. If that existed, whoever sold it would be richer than Bill Gates

Two pseudoscientific weight-loss scams have been hitting the public consciousness – raspberry ketones and green coffee beans. Dr. Oz, who despite a solid education in science-based medicine has been promoting everything from homeopathy to Joe Mercola‘s various lunatic cures, has been pushing both of these weight loss scams to his audience in the past. 

But it’s not just him, you can find ads all over the internet for them. I won’t link to them, because why should I send those quacks any clicks?

However, we’re here to answer the most important question – are these weight loss scams really scams? Is there anything there? 

Continue reading “Weight loss scams – raspberry ketones and green coffee beans”

Anti-vaccine racist threats against Richard Pan because racism

anti-vaccine racist

I’m republishing this article to show the vile hatred of the anti-vaccine racist threats against anyone who supports vaccines. This story is about past anti-vaccine racist violent death threats against California Senator Richard Pan, who pushed through SB277, the bill that eliminated the personal belief exemptions for mandatory school vaccines.

The bill still allows for legitimate medical exemptions (like immunocompromised children who need to be protected through the herd effect). Of course, Senator Pan is now pushing through legislation in the form of SB276 to reduce the abuse of the medical exemptions by many physicians with dubious excuses. 

Although Sen. Pan is the leader of the California legislators, who are championing mandatory vaccines for children, others have withstood intense and hate-filled criticism from the anti-vaccine racist crowd.

Continue reading “Anti-vaccine racist threats against Richard Pan because racism”

Vaxxed review – Del Bigtree fraudumentary dropped from Vimeo

I was given the opportunity recently to watch  MrAndy Wakefield’s fraudulent and self-serving anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy, produced by the non-vaccine scientist, Del Bigtree. After getting physically ill and angry, I thought it was my duty to do my own Vaxxed review, something more in-depth than the general criticisms I’ve done with this piece of junk in the past.

I don’t have it in me to write about everything wrong with this “documentary” – to be honest, I heard not one single bit of science-based fact presented with respect to the MMR vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. The fraudumentary mostly presented lies, misinformation, anecdotes, and, notably, no real science. Worse yet, it tried to make Wakefield into a hero – maybe even a deity of some sort.

So, let’s be clear – this movie is about Wakefield. Not children. Not identifying real causes for autism. Not anything important.

There are a lot of excellent reviews of this “documentary,” including a recent one by David Gorski (you know, my doppelgänger according to certain crackpots on the internet) in Science-Based Medicine, “Continue reading “Vaxxed review – Del Bigtree fraudumentary dropped from Vimeo”

Natural immunity – more vaccine denier pseudoscience with no merit

natural immunity

“Natural immunity” is the trope du jour of the anti-vaccine world – they want us to believe that contracting a dangerous pathogen is somehow better than preventing that disease with a vaccine. Their pseudoscientific beliefs rely upon logical fallacies, a complete misunderstanding of how the immune system works, and a healthy dose of bad math.

In other words, the same old same old from our anti-vaxxer “friends.”

The purpose of this article is to discuss why natural immunity is a bogus concept when it comes to vaccines. I need to make one warning upfront – immunology is complicated and cannot be described in 1000 words or less. So, I’m going to do a lot of linking to good articles that describe various things about the immune system.

But here we go – hang on for some science. Continue reading “Natural immunity – more vaccine denier pseudoscience with no merit”

YouTube terminated Natural News – anti-vaccine Mike Adams whines

YouTube terminated Natural News

On 3 March 2018, Google’s YouTube provided us with some good news, because we all need some these days. YouTube terminated Natural News including their whole library of videos. If you search for Natural News on YouTube, you cannot find it. If someone republished one of Natural News videos, it has disappeared. If you have some blog post with an embedded YouTube video with one of Mike Adams’ rants, it will not be there.

In 2017, Google quit indexing Natural News in its searches because of some violation of Google policy by Adams, aka the Health Ranger. We, the science supporters, cheered, as we consider Natural News (and ilk like it) to be at the very bottom of scientific evidence. We all had good fun with it, including the ecstatic Orac, who wrote,

I am, however, very much enjoying my schadenfreude, and will continue to do so as long as Adams’ site is delisted and he continues his tirades against Google and his victimhood conspiracies.

Of course, Adams whined and whined about it with some creative conspiracy theories, although everything we were able to gather about the situation, Natural News violated one of Google’s policies that aim to prevent gaming of search engine optimization. Eventually, Adams corrected the issue, and you could search Natural News again. If that’s your thing.

At least I enjoyed myself for a couple of days. Maybe I can enjoy a year after YouTube terminated Natural News. Maybe a couple of years? Maybe forever? Continue reading “YouTube terminated Natural News – anti-vaccine Mike Adams whines”