Red No. 3 food coloring — does it really increase risk of cancer?

Red No. 3

Red No. 3 is a food coloring used in some foods, many of which will be familiar to you. As the name implies, it’s a red dye that makes candies and foods look better. It’s really not been in the news for decades, but then someone sent me an article about it, which piqued my interest.

Predictably, the chemophobia crowd, like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who thinks any chemical is a lousy chemical while ignoring the fact that every living thing on this planet is made up of billions of chemicals, is pushing the narrative that Red No. 3 causes cancer. You know what happens next, I go looking for any published evidence of whether the food coloring is linked to anything, including cancer.

Anyway, let’s take a look at Red No. 3 and find out what it does or does not do to humans.

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Cell phones and brain cancer — is this still a thing?

cell phones brain cancer

I thought that this disappeared long ago, but I guess the belief that cell phones cause brain cancer is still a thing. It doesn’t, and we have science on our side. But still, the myth endures.

This article is going to review a few studies that debunk the claim that cell phones are linked to brain cancer. I know, most of you already know this, but it’s always good to have a science-based article that helps you when your crazy uncle makes that claim.

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Glyphosate (Roundup) causes convulsions in nematodes! What?

glyphosate roundup convulsions

And here we go again, another paper that attempts to link something terrible, in this case, convulsions, to the weedkiller glyphosate, also known as Roundup. Except this is about nematodes or roundworms.

I seem to be writing about roundworms a lot lately, I wonder why. Oh wait, I remember. Quacks were pushing a drug, that treats roundworm infections, to be used against COVID-19. Of course, you all remember ivermectin.

Let’s look at glyphosate and this new paper, which made me laugh. Then I got annoyed.

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Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity – poor evidence

artificial sweeteners obesity

This article about artificial sweeteners and obesity 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. 

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.

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Aspartame (Nutrasweet) claims – most are not supported by science

aspartame dangers

Aspartame, the artificial sweetener known as Nutrasweet or Equal, is another target for those who love to push false narratives about substances in our foods. It’s the same for MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and so much else. As I wrote in a recent article about diet soda, the claims are not backed up by real science.

This article will look at aspartame as a “chemical,” and we know that any chemical scares people despite the fact that everything on the planet is made up of chemicals, and then we will look at the most current safety data from actual scientific research.

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Science is not a belief, not a religion — please get this straight

science belief

I get so tired of people who science is nothing more than a belief, rather than a method to understand facts about the natural universe. I don’t believe in vaccines. I don’t believe in evolution. I don’t believe in climate change.

In each of those cases, and much more, I review and accept the scientific evidence that supports a scientific claim, whether it is that evolution is real, that climate change is caused by humans, or that vaccines don’t cause autism. No, I am not an evolutionary biologist (though it’s kind of hard to be a biologist without accepting evolution), a meteorologist, or a vaccine scientist. But I do know how to follow the science in an unbiased manner and I know who are the experts in fields which means science is not a belief to me, but facts supported by evidence.

I like to say that I don’t believe in anything. Not one thing. My statement is always “the evidence supports” any claim that I make. Now, I don’t apply this many other areas of my life. I don’t like Brussels sprouts, and the only evidence I have is that they taste like little pieces of poison. It’s an opinion, one that will not be changed, especially once I found out that Brussels sprouts are frequently cut in half to determine if there is a brood of disgusting worms in the middle. But I have zero scientific evidence supporting my claim that Brussels sprouts were created to destroy human civilization.

Let me get a bit into science and belief so that you understand what I’m trying to say. Because if one more anti-vaxxer claims that “vaccines are a religion based on belief,” I’m going to scream. Or when a creationist tries to claim I am an “evolutionist” trying to make it seem like evolution is merely another set of beliefs.

I am mostly writing this article because I get tired of replying to people that I “believe” in something in science. I keep repeating myself, so I can just drop a link to refute their nonsense. Of course, I’m assuming that they can read what’s in the link.

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We are humans and apes — other apes are unhappy to be lumped with us

humans apes

I originally wrote this article about how humans are apes over 10 years ago (back in the ancient days of this website), based on a claim from Richard Dawkins he was an African Ape (which I reviewed here). Whether or not you like Richard Dawkins, and there is a lot to like and not like about him, he is entirely accurate about this one thing — we are humans and we are apes.

At the same time that I wrote about Dawkins’ quote, I ran across an article in io9 by Annalee Newitz, “The last time we redefined what it means to be human.” Newitz clarifies the current cladogram, a diagram that shows relationships among organisms, for humans and their closest primate neighbors (from an evolutionary standpoint).

Now, you may be wondering why I’m writing (or writing in the past) about the evolution of humans, but my original interest in starting this blog was to write about evolution and creationism. Seriously, that’s where I got my start. I would help write evolution articles on Wikipedia, I’d follow anti-evolution legislation in state legislatures, and I got into a public feud with the arch-creationist himself, Ken Ham.

But let’s write about something more interesting. Why and how are we both humans and apes.

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The facts about vaccine chemicals – debunking more pseudoscience

scientist in laboratory

If you spend any amount of time on the internet researching science and pseudoscience, you’ll find alarming claims about toxic vaccine chemicals – you know, aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, and whatever unpronounceable molecule are all the rage for the anti-vaccine crowd. Of course, we obsess over substances not only in our vaccines, but also in our foods, air, water, and coffee. Many of us try to present scientific evidence about those toxic vaccine chemicals. It can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Generally, the pseudoscience argument proceeds along the lines of “these unpronounceable chemicals are going to cause cancer.” Followed by a new trope or meme that something in vaccines does something, often without a picogram of evidence. 

But what the vaccine deniers are pushing about vaccines is based on a lack of knowledge about how toxicology – the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms, determines what is or isn’t toxic.

Paracelsus, a 16th-century Swiss-German physician, alchemist, and astrologer, is traditionally thought to have founded the discipline of toxicology, an important branch of medicine, physiology, and pharmacology. Paracelsus wrote one of the most important principles of toxicology:

All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.

In other words, if you’re speaking about substances in foods or vaccines or anything, the most important principle is that the dose makes the poison (or toxin). Everything that we consume or breathe is potentially toxic but most important, the overriding principle must be the dose.

So, I’m going to do a disservice to the whole field of toxicology, which takes a lifetime of research and study, and I will attempt to digest it down to a few paragraphs, especially as it relates to those vaccine chemicals.

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Science mistakes — the favorite trope of the anti-vaccine world

science mistakes

Those people who disagree with science love to remind us that science makes mistakes. I keep observing this same ridiculous, illogical argument being used by all of the science deniers, repeating various “science mistakes” tropes as if it is all the evidence they need to refute scientific claims. Honestly, I think the pseudoscience pushers meet annually in Sedona, Arizona, ground zero of woo, to discuss which trope they’re pushing each year.

The anti-vaccine zealots, creationists, anthropogenic global warming deniers, and whomever else pretends to use science to actually deny science frequently focus on this theme of “science mistakes.”  And then they produce a list of cherry-picked examples that “prove” that science is wrong (see Note 1). Of course, this indicates more of a misunderstanding of what is science and the history of science than it is a condemnation of science. But your typical science denier is probably not going to let facts get in the way of maintaining faith in their beliefs. So let’s deconstruct and discredit this “science mistakes” trope.

By the way, in my story, I admit that there are many “science mistakes,” so read on. Hopefully, it’s somewhat enlightening.

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Who is to blame for high insulin prices in the USA? Big Pharma?

insulin prices

Insulin prices are a big issue in the USA because they seem to be skyrocketing upwards much faster than inflation or anything else. Of course, people are blaming Big Pharma, because they seem to be the major culprits behind the gouging of diabetics.

However, like everything else, the facts behind insulin prices are much more complicated than what you might be reading in the most recent Facebook meme or post about the subject. Because a 4-line meme is so much easier than writing a complicated article about the world of insulin prices.

And I’m going to try to guide you through the travesty of how pharmaceuticals are priced and how it’s a total mess. And remember, this is only about America’s pharmaceutical pricing mess — hopefully, the rest of the world does this better.

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