Food Babe Flashes Her Beaver

If the title of this blog is offensive, then you, like me, live in a place where “beaver” is crude, unacceptable slang for a female body part.  I’m sorry to resort to language like this, but I hope that you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt and continue reading.

Vani Hari (the “Food Babe”) makes a living posting sensationalized articles and videos on health, well-being, and alternative medicine. One thing that’s obvious about the alternative health movement is that sensationalism sells.  I deliberately chose my title to illustrate this point.

In her infamous YouTube post, “Do You Eat Beaver Butt?,”1 Hari uses a stuffed beaver as a prop to cast doubt on natural food additives by deriding castoreum, a vanilla-flavored chemical taken from scent glands of male and female beavers.  These glands happen to be located between the tail and pelvis.

It’s unpleasant and impractical to milk a beaver–both for the beaver and the human.  But let’s forget for a moment that the Babe misleads her fans about castoreum, which in reality is rarely used as a flavoring.2   The real problem is that, typical of her posts, Food Babe uses the source of the chemical to go quickly down a slippery slope and cast doubt on all natural ingredients–indeed, even on the definition of “natural ingredient” itself.

The fact is, humans use products derived from “disgusting” natural places in countless beneficial ways.  Please note: vegetarians will likely take issue with me and argue we shouldn’t use animal sources at all.  That’s a debate for another time and place.  Vani Hari is not a vegetarian.3,7  She’s not arguing against using animal products.

Here’s a quick list of useful animal products coming from “disgusting” places.  If I can use Food Babe’s gross-out tactics to increase readership and possibly educate along the way, I’m not above doing it.

My List

Aortic Valve Replacements
Undoubtedly the most fascinating part of my experience as a pre-med student was an eight hour stint as an observer in the operating room during two open heart surgeries.  In one of the operations, the surgeon replaced the patient’s aortic valve.  This valve resides in the heart, controlling the flow of blood in the main artery of the body.

The replacement valve was taken from a pig.  During lunch (Chinese food–it’s amazing how much you can eat immediately after watching a human chest cracked open!) the surgeon explained the advantages of using an animal product, which is already biologically similar to a human, then stripped down to cartilage to minimize rejection by the immune system.

For example, patients on artificial valves can be restricted to a lifetime on medications.  I am not a doctor, but am providing a link to an easy-to-understand transcript on the procedure–written by a real doctor–if you’d like to know more.4

I do feel bad for the pig.  But watching the patient open her eyes in recovery and smile at her grandchildren, I felt the sacrifice was worth it.

 

Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil comes from [drum roll please]… oily fish!13  Fans of both alternative and real medicine love fish oil because it’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.  Possible benefits include reducing the risk of serious heart conditions, lowering blood pressure, and preventing cardiovascular disease.5,6

Fish don’t produce omega-3 themselves.  They accumulate it by eating microalgae (and other fish that have accumulated omega-3).  Oily fish and algae.  It’s what’s for dinner!

Hypocritically, Food Babe loves omega-3, still eats fish, but now disclaims the fatty acid as an omega-3 source.  Instead she pushes a seed blend–and receives a commission from the vendor of the seeds.7   Can you say “conflict of interest?”

 

Orange Juice
Speaking of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, did you know that they’re considered so beneficial that orange juice manufacturers are adding them to their juice?8

Before I beat the omega-3 horse to death, I’ll mention a 2007 USA Today article that mentions the healthy fatty acid was being added to an estimated 250 products (including juice, cereal, and cheese) being rolled out that year.9

Food Babe is hilariously confused when it comes to juices, fretting that “chemicals” such as water (I’m not making this shit up!) and Vitamin C are added during processing.14  This stupidity is not surprising coming from a woman who once ranted about airlines adding nitrogen to the air in airplane cabins (earth’s atmosphere is 72% nitrogen–it’s what we naturally breathe!)

 

Heparin
Heparin, listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines,10 is an important medicine used to prevent the clotting of blood.  It’s used as a blood-thinner by people with medical conditions where clotting is a problem, as well as before surgery to prevent life-threatening clots.

Heparin is made from animal tissues, including pig intestines.11

 

Chicken Eggs
Most people don’t like to think about this one.   Eggs don’t come out of the chicken’s butt, but, “geographically”, it’s close.  Fortunately, the end result is a sterile egg: (1) The hen has one hole exposed to the outside world, known as the vent. (2) Both poop and the egg must exit this hole.  (3) But when the hen lays an egg, the oviduct extends outside of the hole–like a glove–shielding the egg from poop.12

But the rooster still has to stick his penis in there.  Ooh, yuck!  After I published this post, an insightful reader pointed out that the rooster penis isn’t actually inserted into the hen.  Instead, the exchange of sperm takes place via a mechanism known as a “cloacal kiss.”23,24  Fascinating bit of science there–with, I think, the potential for an equally high gross-out factor.

Where chicken eggs come from

Where chicken eggs come from (click to enlarge). See footnotes for image credits.

Chicken eggs are nutritious.15  They’re also a valuable host for growing certain vaccines, which, unless you have an egg allergy, are safe and critical in preventing diseases.

 

Milk
I remember talking to an old farmer in Kentucky who told me he used to drink directly from the cow on hot summer days.  I was fascinated, but a little grossed out at the same time.  Maybe it’s the proximity of the udder to the cow’s anus?

Fortunately, we have pasteurization.  Predictably, Hari is absolutely clueless when it comes to this process.16  Pasteurization is the most effective way to handle disease-causing organisms (and cow poop) while preserving the nutritional value of the product.  In fact, unpasteurized products can be dangerous and have caused serious disease outbreaks.

 

Cheese
If you’re freaked out by putting something in your mouth that comes from the questionably located glands of an animal, add cheese to your banned food list: cows, goats, sheep, and even buffalo are the sources.

Like the other food products in my list, cheese is nutritious and it tastes good.  Just check out Food Babe’s goat cheese recipe!17

 

Silk
We don’t eat it, but a lot of people like to wear it and sleep on it.  A lot of these same people might be grossed out at the thought of being covered in worm spit.  Silk is a protein secreted from the salivary glands of certain insects, including the silkworm.18   Yes, your salivary glands produce… spit.

In her beauty archives, Food Babe recommends sleeping on 100% silk pillowcases.19 Fortunately, worm spit is 100% natural and organic–just like chemicals extracted from beaver butts.

 

Gelatin
Gelatin is a flavorless additive that adds texture to foods like yogurt, cream cheese, marshmallows, candy, fruit snacks, and margarine.  It’s used as a fining agent in beer and wines (fining agents give such drinks their clarity).  The use of gelatin is so widespread in food production that it’s usually overlooked.  It’s also important in the pharmaceutical industry–for example, in dissolvable gel capsules for pills. Gelatin is made from the bones, skins, and connective tissues of animals.20,21,22

Like the other animal products in this list, gelatin may come from a “gross” place, but it’s hard to imagine food without it.  While it has no effect on the nutritional value of the food, few of us would like to drink our marshmallows and yogurt.  They’d be liquid without the gelatin.

 

Conclusion
Everything in the universe is made up of chemicals.  Food Babe frequently uses either the source and/or names of chemicals to cast doubt on their safety.  Some people might naturally recoil before eating sodium chloride before being told it’s just common table salt.

One common joke about Food Babe is that if she can’t pronounce it, she won’t eat it.  In that same vein, she wants her fans to believe that if something comes from a “bad” place, it isn’t good for you.  This is utter nonsense.

Vani Hari is apparently making a small fortune by casting doubt on safe, established products and earning commissions on the alternative products she hawks on her web site.  It’s sad that more people do not examine her claims critically.  They’re being misled, and she’s laughing all the way to the bank.

 

Image Credits
“The Hen’s Perspective on Laying Eggs (Wieckmann, 1896; Grzimek, 1964)”, as referenced by a wonderful blog post by Wiebe H. van der Molen (http://www.afn.org/~poultry/egghen.htm).  None of those authors necessarily agree with or endorse my work here.  Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Screen snapshot “Do You Eat Beaver Butt?” copyright (c) Vani Hari, “The Food Babe”.  Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

 

References
Please note: to avoid increasing search engine exposure for questionable web sites, I use the DoNotLink URL obfuscator on their links.  I promise, you will not be redirected to porn.

(1) Original Food Babe article
http://www.donotlink.com/bumv

(2) Fernelli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients
http://books.google.com/books?id=A8OyTzGGJhYC&pg=PA277&lpg=PA277&dq=castoreum+food+ingredients&source=bl&ots=YeByZKDtcL&sig=hSfcnSCnX9LkQ7PBprj7zFg0004&hl=en&ei=Ca7HTNu5I42-sQOfkqnSDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false

(3) Food Babe: Chicken Salad
http://www.donotlink.com/cll0

(4) Bruce Lytle, MD: Transcript for Aortic Valve Replacement
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/patient-education/videos/faqsurgery/video_avr/transcript_avr

(5) Mayo Clinic: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid
http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/evidence/hrb-20059372

(6) Fish Oil Cools the Inflammasome
http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/5/193/193ec113.full?sid=2140f821-3aa3-4130-ad2a-3224eb6f4c19

(7) Food Babe: “I stopped taking fish oil a long time ago”
http://www.donotlink.com/clkz

(8) Tropicana
http://www.tropicana.com/#/trop_products/productsLanding.swf?TropicanaPurePremium/55

(9) USA Today: Omega-3 Pours into cereal, orange juice, eggs, pet food
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/health/2007-01-01-omega-3-usat_x.htm

(10) WHO List of Essential Medicines
http://www.who.int/medicines/publications/essentialmedicines/18th_EML.pdf

(11) Production and Chemical Processing of Low Molecular Weight Heparins
http://www-heparin.rpi.edu/main/files/papers/217.pdf

(12) Avian Reproductive System–Female
http://www.extension.org/pages/65372/avian-reproductive-systemfemale#.VHOgrsnYJDg

(13) Oily Fish
http://tna.europarchive.org/20110116113217/http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2004/jun/oilyfishdefinition

(14) Food Babe Juice Labels
http://www.donotlink.com/clol

(15) Nutrient Content of One Large Egg
http://www.aeb.org/images/PDFs/Retail/nutrient-content-large-egg.pdf

(16) Food Babe doesn’t understand pasteurization
http://www.donotlink.com/clol

(17) Food Babe Goat Cheese Recipe
http://www.donotlink.com/coal

(18) Silk Making & Silk Production
https://texeresilk.com/article/silk_making_how_to_make_silk

(19) Food Babe Beauty Tips: Silk Pillowcase
http://www.donotlink.com/cll8

(20) USDA: Gelatin Processing
http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5091334

(21) Gelatin Manufacturers of America: Gelatin Handbook
http://www.gelatin-gmia.com/images/GMIA_Gelatin_Manual_2012.pdf

(22) Gelatin: Fining Agents
https://winemakermag.com/26-a-clearer-understanding-of-fining-agents

(23) Cloacal Kiss (Encylopaedia Britannica)
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/121929/cloaca

(24) Cloacal Kiss (Urban Dictionary)
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cloacal%20kiss

 

Got Milk?

I was recently introduced to the work of Dr. Joseph Mercola through a dangerous article he penned.  In “Fight for Raw Milk Heats Up in Wisconsin and Illinois“,1 Mercola sings the praises of raw, unpasteurized milk.  Before somebody ends up seriously ill, I’d like to draw attention to some facts about consuming unpasteurized dairy products.  I’ll be using selected quotes from Mercola’s article to drive the narrative, but encourage readers to check out his full write-up in case there are any suspicions of quote-mining.

For those who’ve forgotten, pasteurization is simply the rapid heating — then cooling — of milk. This eliminates most of the bacteria that would make you sick, and it allows the milk to stay fresh longer.  Pasteurization isn’t the same as boiling/sterilization: it doesn’t wipe out all the pathogens, but it also doesn’t destroy the flavor or essential nutrients.2, 3, 6, 12

Pinnochio

Pinocchio, patron saint of liars. See footnotes for image credit.

Mercola claims:

“Raw milk dairy products from organically raised pasture-fed cows rank among some of the healthiest foods you can consume. It’s far superior in terms of health benefits compared to pasteurized milk, and if statistics are any indication, it’s safer, too”

This is an outright lie.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, unpasteurized dairy products are 13 times more likely to cause hospitalization and 150 times more likely to result in foodborne illness.2  Unpasteurized milk is a common source for the bacteria that causes diseases such as diphtheria, tuberculosis, and, typhoid fever.3  It’s irresponsible for anyone labeling themselves as “doctor” to spread deceit like this.  Some of the dangers include:

Salmonellosis, usually transmitted to humans by consuming animal products contaminated by animal feces:4  Put bluntly, those organic cows you see standing in the organic fields munching organic grass growing in piles of organic shit… yeah, that’s what “feces” means. Salmonella is at best an uncomfortable disease, featuring diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.  In extreme cases it can lead to hospitalization.  Untreated, in can result in death.

Brucellosis, most commonly acquired by consuming unpasteurized dairy products:5 Common symptoms include fever, anorexia, muscle/joint pain, swelling of the heart/liver/spleen, and swelling of the testicles/scrotum in men.  (If you’re a female reporting swelling in the testicles, you’re most likely an anti-vaccine proponent reporting a fake adverse reaction.)

The cautionary list is a long one.  For more, please see the CDC page “Food Safety and Raw Milk.”6

Caveman

Living in the good ol’ days. See footnotes for image credit.

“it’s worth remembering that raw milk was consumed for eons before the invention of pasteurization.” — Mercola

It’s also worth remembering that in the 1900s the average adult didn’t live beyond age 50,7 and the earliest humans were lucky to make it out of their 20s.8  Scientific advances in fields such as medicine and agriculture have led to significant increases in the average adult life span.  “Eons ago” is a piss-poor argument.  Speaking of piss… eons ago, humans allowed their sewage to mix freely with drinking water.  Then we learned better.

Back to dairy…  by the 1900s, mothers knew the dangers of raw milk, but the pasteurized product wasn’t widely available.  They began boiling it to reduce the risk to their infants.3   Has Mercola learned nothing from history?

It’s sad how champions of alternative living long for the good ol’ days — without remembering how bad those days really were.11  

 

“Organically raised cows that are allowed to roam free on pasture where they can graze for their natural food source produce very different milk.”  — Mercola

Mercola doesn’t tell us what’s in his “different milk”.  Milk is milk.  It’s hard to debunk ghost claims.  And they’re frustratingly, frequently, common in quack articles such as the good doctor’s.  What we do know is the chemical composition of milk.9  Milk, by any other name… is milk. The next time you see a woomeister talking about “different” milk, ask them what’s in their milk, and compare.

The implication here is that “organic is better”, and that’s just not true.  Crude oil is 100% natural and organic.  Is it good for you?  That’s not a joke.  It’s not sarcasm.  Look it up.  (But don’t drink it.)

 855“It’s also important to realize that pasteurization is only really required for certain kinds of milk” — Mercola

And condoms are only necessary for safe sex with certain kinds of strangers.  Sorry, but no.  Look: cows aren’t the most sanitary of creatures.  They don’t exactly wash their hooves (or udders, or any other body part) after going to the bathroom.  They wade through fields full of cow dung all day munching on… well… dung-laden grass.  You don’t know what’s growing there, other than the very real possibility it won’t be good for you.   For example, consider this photo:

Agrocybe pediades spores

Spores from poisonous Agrocybe pediades, a mushroom found growing on a cow patty

Dairy cattle are subject to other disease vectors such as insects and wild animals.  Drinking unpasteurized milk is rather like playing the lottery.  Instead of picking numbers, you’re picking bacteria, spores, and other contaminants, and hoping against hope that you don’t swallow something dangerous.

 

Tinfoil hats“While the US government, public health, and dairy industry officials say they want to restrict the sale and distribution of raw milk because of safety concerns, it’s quite clear that safety isn’t the motivating factor.” — Mercola

Except that:

In industrialized countries, milk-borne and milk product-borne outbreaks represent 2–6% of the bacterial foodborne outbreaks.2

I snuck one in on you.  That’s not a Mercola quote above.  That’s from real scientists, something you won’t find in a Mercola article.  Since being introduced to Dr. Mercola, all I’ve found in his work is pseudoscience and conspiracy theories.  Safety is the motivating factor here, and has been since pasteurization was introduced.

So why is milk pasteurized, according to Mercola?  Hang on to your seats…

“The fact of the matter is that Big Dairy depends on pasteurization”

(Sigh).  And Big Pharma depends on cancer: they’re causing it on purpose to increase drug sales.

And aliens are controlling us via hidden signals in our television sets.  And… and…

 

References

(1)  Fight for Raw Milk Heats Up in Wisconsin and Illinois
http://www.donotlink.com/c81v

(2) Raw or heated cow milk consumption: Review of risks and benefits
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095671351200535X

(3) The Dangers of Raw Milk (USDA)
http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm079516.htm

(4) Salmonellosis
http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/salmonellosis/#catch

(5) Transmission | Brucellosis (CDC)
http://www.cdc.gov/brucellosis/transmission/index.html

(6) Food Safety and Raw Milk
http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-index.html

(7)  National Institute on Aging:  Living Longer
http://www.nia.nih.gov/research/publication/global-health-and-aging/living-longer

(8) Late Pleistocene adult mortality patterns and modern human establishment
http://www.pnas.org/content/108/4/1267.abstract

(9)  Basic Report:  01077, Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat, with added vitamin D
http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/70?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=milk+whole

(10) Agrocybe pediades
http://www.rogersmushrooms.com/gallery/DisplayBlock~bid~5509.asp

(11) Gastroenteritis Conveyed by Raw Milk
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v142/n3594/abs/142507d0.html

(12)  Raw Milk Questions and Answers (CDC)
http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html

 

Image Credits

Unpasteurized milk (skull and crossbones) photo illustration by the author, using two public domain works from WikiCommons: “P0772931750(37561)(NRCS Photo Gallery).jpg” from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services — milk in a bottle, extensively photoshopped by author for effect.  Image in public domain as a work of the U.S. Government.  Skull and crossbones in image by “ScottForesman”, released into public domain with no restrictions.  Use of these images does not imply that the original owners share the opinions expressed by the author.

Gladys the Swiss Dairy Cow from Wiki Commons, released into the public domain by James Lebinski.  Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.

“Jager út de Stientiid” (caveman boy) is from Wiki Commons and is in the public domain of the United States, having been published prior to 1923.

Trojan brand condoms from copyrighted image, Church & Dwight Co., inc.  Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge

Agrocybe pediades spores:  image from Wiki Commons, uploaded by user Ron Pastorino, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.  Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.

“Jim Dines Pinocchio-skulptur Walking to Borås” by Wiki Commons author “Mrkgrd”, used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.  Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.

Tinfoil hats still from the movie “Signs”, copyright 2002 Touchstone Pictures.  Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge