Naturally Nicole’s Elderberry Flu Treatment Debunked (part 1)

naturally nicole elderberry syrup

What the heck is “evidence based” proof? Is there another kind?

So many snake oil peddlers, so little time.

In “Evidence Based Proof Elderberry Syrup Is Better Than The Flu Shot”,1 Facebook saleswoman “Naturally Nicole” offers up more misinformation on the flu shot than can possibly be debunked in one sitting.  In the interest of time, I’ll take on two of the three “scientific studies” she cites to support her flu cure, then come back for more in future articles.

Fasten your seat belts; make sure your tray tables are in a locked and upright position. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Claim #1
An extract of black elderberries has natural antiviral properties in vitro, and reduced flu symptoms in 3-4 days2

We have an epic failure right off the bat.  In layman’s terms, in vitro means the study was performed in a glass test tube or petri dish, not a live human.  So how did the elderberry extract reduce flu symptoms in humans?

Answer: it didn’t.  This study wasn’t performed on humans, and Nicole & the abstract essentially tell a bald-faced lie.  Here’s what happened:

Nicole starts you off with this abstract2 which describes a study performed courtesy of twelve volunteers who donated blood that was treated with elderberry extract in vitro.  The humans didn’t have the flu.  They didn’t have symptoms.  The test was simply to determine if the elderberry triggered an immune response in the extracted cells.  If you don’t read the paper behind the abstract, you never learn this vital fact.

It’s only when you read the full text of the study3 that you see the abstract’s reference to a reduction in symptoms isn’t for the study actually being done.   This mysterious second paper and the reduction in symptoms in humans is never even mentioned anywhere but the abstract.  I have to repeat myself, because it’s so important: the study cited by Nicole never tested a single flu patient, yet she and the abstract claim it reduced symptoms in humans in 3-4 days.  Pretty amazing since it was an in vitro test only! (wink wink, nudge nudge.)

I’ve laid it out graphically for you below, and you can follow the results yourself via the hyperlinks in the article to see for yourself how you’re being misled:

bait and switch study

Figures lie and liars figure.  The study cited by Nicole didn’t actually test patients who had the flu, even though it seems to claim a reduction in symptoms. It slyly refers to ANOTHER study in the abstract.  You have to actually read the paper to figure this out.  Nicole makes a false claim because of this.   (click/enlarge)

 

As for in vitro testing… that’s a necessary first step, but pushing it as a “cure” as Nicole does is dishonest.  My wife and I have a great in vitro germ killer under the kitchen sink:

an in vitro germ killer another in vitro germ killer

 

Claim #2
A “complete cure” was achieved in 2-3 days in 90% of patients receiving elderberry syrup.4

At least we’ve switched to live humans (an in vivo study).

I think the most damning indictment of Nicole comes on the second page of the study that this vehement anti-vaxxer once again apparently didn’t take the time to read:

“Vaccinating those at high risk of influenza-related complications before the influenza season each year is the most effective and most commonly used ways [sic] of reducing the impact of influenza.” 4

That’s right. The very paper Nicole cites recommends the flu vaccine as the most effective way of combating influenza.  (This is going to come back to haunt her, because the lead author of this study is also the lead author of the third paper she uses to prop up her product.  You’ll never guess what he does for a living!)

So how was this study conducted?  Did doctors do something objective, like, I don’t know… record the patients’ temperatures every day?  Maybe some bloodwork?

No.  Test subjects were asked to record in a diary how they felt.  How well did they sleep?  Were they coughing more or less?

I’m not making this up.4

from the study

(From the paper) That’s it?  Couldn’t you go even to the trouble of taking their temperature?

Look, I get it: you can’t measure a body ache.  But checking for a fever?  And Nicole glosses over some facts.  Twelve of the patients receiving the elderberry syrup (almost half!) needed a rescue medication during the study, because the syrup wasn’t working for them.  It’s true that those in the control group (receiving a placebo) needed the rescue meds at a higher frequency, and recovered somewhat more slowly.  But some recovered completely with no elderberry syrup at all, just as fast as those receiving the syrup.  So what can you conclude?  Well, the authors thought maybe they had something, maybe not, and said:

“These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study” 4

Nicole seems to have missed all of this.

 

OPUS2

 

Coming Up Next Time
In part 2 of this series, we’ll look at Nicole’s third study, a “switcheroo” piece that would have made Harry Houdini proud.  Our Doctor of Syrup quotes from the abstract of a $51 per-view paper hidden behind a paywall–a paper that has some hidden surprises in it.

A paper Nicole very clearly didn’t read.  It looks like this:

image

Coming up in part two of this series: why it’s always a good idea to read the papers you cite.

 

Image Credits
Naturally Nicole screen snapshots and product image captures are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (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.

Bloom County/Opus image is used within parody constraints of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (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.

Obfuscated image in closing sequence of “Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama.  J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter;1(4):361-9. Zakay-Rones Z1, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, Manor O, Regev L, Schlesinger M, Mumcuoglu M.” used to provide commentary, review, and increase public health knowledge as provided under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”).

 

References
(1) Evidence Based Proof, Elderberry Syrup Is Better Than The Flu Shot
http://naturallynicolexo.com/evidence-based-proof-elderberry-syrup-is-better-than-the-flu-shot/

(2) The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. (ABSTRACT)
Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.
Barak V1, Halperin T, Kalickman I.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518

(3) The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.  (FULL TEXT)
Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6.
Barak V1, Halperin T, Kalickman I.
http://www.jle.com/fr/revues/ecn/e-docs/the_effect_of_sambucol_a_black_elderberry_based_natural_product_on_the_production_of_human_cytokines_i._inflammatory_cytokines_90261/article.phtml?tab=texte

(4) Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections
The Journal of International Medical Research
2004; 32: 132 – 140
Z ZAKAY-RONES , E THOM , T WOLLAN AND J WADSTEIN
http://imr.sagepub.com/content/32/2/132.long

 

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Food Babe’s Tricky Treats

food babe debunked

You get what you pay for
(inspired by a Jerry James meme)

Food Babe is back in time to ruin another holiday for everyone. This time it’s Halloween, and her target: children and their candy.  It wouldn’t be a Vani Hari affair if she wasn’t promoting her own overpriced products that, as always, contain ingredients that violate the very safety standards she pulled out of her anal region from her previous writings.

I’d like to walk you through Hari’s list of recommended alternative sweets and, wearing my ever-faithful Food Babe Investigator Hat,TM apply Vani’s own bloody knife of reason to each and every candy she’s selling.1   If I sound nit-picky on any point, let me remind you we are playing by Vani Hari’s rules here.  So grab some popcorn and let’s get started.  The Food Babe Candy Massacre stars:

 

good vs evil

Good vs. evil. Every product sold by Hari has at least one ingredient she says to avoid. (click/enlarge)



Surf Sweets Sour Berry Bears
If Vani Hari was directing a horror movie, the Surf Sweets Sour Berry Bears would be the innocent little creatures walking, oblivious, backward into a room full of masked men who are wielding roaring chainsaws. The bears would be smiling, fingers stuck in their ears, as they nervously chant “we’re made with natural flavors!”.2

Oh no. Not natural flavors!

Educate us on natural flavors, Vani:

“‘Natural Flavor’ is one of the most deceptive ingredients on a label of any product.” 3

Food Babe swings the natural flavoring slur like a murder weapon in a slasher flick, once going so far as to imply that Campbell’s V8 Juice might include dead animal parts just because it was made with natural flavors.

The poor Sour Berry Bears also get a controversial rating from Vani because they contain malic acid, which she labeled a “questionable ingredient” on Panera’s “Hidden Menu” in a June, 2013 Facebook post.4 (Malic acid is actually a safe organic ingredient that gives a tart taste to foods.)


YumEarth Organic Lollipops
These organic lollipops are made with evaporated cane juice.5

What does Food Babe think of evaporated cane juice?  Not much.6,7  She calls it a refined sugar and disdains its use, saying “it has no nutritional value”.6

Claiming that refined sugars are addictive, make you fat, tired, depressed, age faster, give you dull skin, and are responsible for a long laundry list of evils,6 Vani channels the true spirit of Halloween by asking:

“Did you know that refined sugar is the devil?” 6

Bless her heart.  Somebody needs a hobby!


TruJoy Sweets Organic Fruit Chews
This product is a train wreck of Food Babe forbidden ingredients.8  We start with powdered sugar.  This “processed” sugar is such a Vani Hari no-no I don’t even need to give a citation for it.  Strike two for the maltodextrin in the fruit chews, even if it comes from tapioca, because it’s a “refined” product in Vani’s eyes.9  And, as discussed in the YumEarth Lollipops entry, the dried cane syrup is on the Food Babe ban list because it has “no nutritional value” and there’s a long list of imagined ills it can cause.6

Perhaps the biggest nightmare lurking in this Vani Hari affiliated product though is the brown rice syrup.10  In a September 22, 2015 blog post, Hari jumps the shark and uses the “C word”, ominously warning that brown rice syrup is

“notoriously contaminated with with arsenic, which is a “potent human carcinogen” according to scientists at Consumer Reports and classified as a group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer” 10

Norman Bates didn’t need a knife in the famous shower scene of Psycho. According to Vani’s own rules, these lollipops sound so deadly he could have used one of them instead.


YumEarth Gummy Bears
These cute little bears would horrify Vani because they contain natural flavors.11  There’s also the gross-out factor that they’re made with gelatin (crushed up animal bones–now that’s a Halloween treat!), though Hari sees some light at the end of the tunnel here:

“To be honest, when I found out what gelatin was made from (animals bones) I was a bit disgusted – however – after really looking into it I’ve found that gelatin has some redeeming health benefits.  […] Since it is an animal product, it’s crucial that you carefully choose your gelatin and that it doesn’t come from factory-farmed animals that were subjected to antibiotics, artificial hormones and GMO feed.” 12

No word on where YumEarth gets its gelatin, but before Food Babe investigates that, she might want to take a look at the IARC group 2B carcinogen that could be lurking in this candy: caffeic acid16 from carrots11 used as a coloring.13, 14, 15

4-mel and caffeic acid

4-Mel (from caramel coloring) and caffeic acid (found in carrots) are both group IARC group 2B carcinogens. (click/enlarge)

Food Babe Army, you’re familiar with group 2B carcinogens, right?  Vani talked you into petitioning Starbucks over the possibility of one (“4-Mel”) in their Pumpkin Spice Latte.17  She’s also had you spamming countless corporate Facebook pages over another group 2B member, carrageenan.  Well, caffeic acid is on the very same list.16 It’s found in carrots,13, 14, 15 and Food Babe’s strict criteria is that we don’t buy such “dangerous” foods.

sadgummySorry Mr. Gummy Bear.  Off to the dumpster you go.

 


Alter Eco Organic Salted Truffles
altero eco organic salted truffles

I’m sorry.  $55.80 for a box of 60 chocolates?18  Are you ****ing kidding me?   Imagine an average American, living on minimum wage, doling out nearly $60 for Halloween candy.  I know families trying to buy a week’s worth of groceries for that amount of money. Suggesting this alternative Halloween treat–and earning a sales commission from it–only goes to further Food Babe’s image as an entitled, out-of-touch misanthrope.

But since I promised to debunk every item on Food Babe’s shopping list using her own criteria, here you go:  this product lists the cryptic “natural flavors”19 that drives Hari over the edge.  I’m reminded of that famous warning on natural flavors:

Castoreum (or beaver butt) is just one of the ingredients that could be called a “natural flavor.” 20 –Vani Hari

I wonder how many beaver butts you can fit into a 720 gram truffle jar?


Unreal Candy Coated Milk Chocolates
This company is proud to use organic carrots to provide coloring for their candies.21 A fact that no doubt makes hippy vegan rabbits happy, but it’s bad news for the Food Babe Army. As we just said in the YumEarth Gummy Bear blurb, carrots contain caffeic acid,13, 14, 15 an IARC group 2B carcinogen.16 Food Babe treats group 2B carcinogens such as 4-Mel and carrageenan like vampires and wields petitions like holy water against them, but somehow manages to ignore all the IARC group 2B members she’s hawking.

Before anyone gets too worried about the carrots in their fridge jumping out to attack them, also on the list of group 2B carcinogens are coffee, pickled vegetables, and the profession of carpentry. When you take the time to do a little reading, Food Babe’s scary ingredients aren’t so scary after all.


Endangered Species Organic Chocolate Bug Bites
The Endangered Species brand uses soy lecithin as an emulsifier in all its chocolates,22 which is ironic, as perhaps no ingredient is more vilified by Hari in her “chocolates to avoid list”.1

Food Babe Army inductees will quickly recite the mantra “but it’s because soy is usually a GMO product!”. And they’d do so only because they really haven’t read Food Babe’s articles.

In a “100 Days of Real Food” piece,23 Vani Hari lambastes soy lecithin as one of the cheap “junk fillers” found in chocolates we shouldn’t be buying. As always, it’s “junk” in everyone else’s products but “good food” if Vani is selling it.


Ocho Minis
Ocho Minis are made with organic dried cane syrup.24,25

In her article “How Frozen Yogurt Went Bad”,26 Vani Hari clearly refers to evaporated cane syrup as a refined sweetener.  And as we know by now, refined sweeteners are the Grim Reaper of the bakery aisle in Vani Hari’s eyes. The only difference I see on Vani’s label is “dried” vs. “evaporated”.

I’d like to hear Food Babe explain how “evaporating” is a different refining process than “drying”, but given that she is opposed to pasteurizing milk and juice32,33 but favors boiling it, I don’t think she’s going to do a very good job convincing anyone with a basic chemistry background that she’s got her brain firmly wrapped around the core concepts.

food babe boil milk

Boil but don’t pasteurize… could we trust Vani to explain evaporate vs. dried? Let’s not risk it. (screen capture courtesy Kavin Senapathy)

For the record, all Ocho Minis products are also made with soy lecithin, which Vani classified as a junk filler in a 100 Days of Real Food article.22

 


Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups
Vani sells both the mini cups and the full size cups.  Both have the same ingredients.27,28  One of those ingredients is her “junk” filler, soy lecithin.22

 


Nutiva O’Coconuts
One of the two available flavors is made from hemp and chia seeds.29  Chia seeds contain the essential amino acid phenylalanine,30 a molecule that both confused and greatly frightened Food Babe when she wrote about chewing gum in December, 2011.31   Imagining that phenylalanine is somehow “added” to the artificial sweetener aspartame during the manufacturing process, the Babe warns that it can induce harm in susceptible individuals:

“[…] mental retardation, brain seizures, sleep disorders and anxiety. All this from chewing a piece of gum. SCARY.”

Well, yeah. When you put it that way, it does sound scary.  So where’s the warning label on your O’Coconuts candy, Vani?  Oh, there isn’t one?

Oops.

I delve more deeply into the Food Babe phenylalanine scare here if you’re interested.

 


Conclusion
Of course, none of the candy sold by Food Babe is actually dangerous. None of the candy she says to avoid is dangerous either.  All I’ve done here is use Food Babe’s own tactics–and words–against her.

The only significant differences between the sweets Food Babe wants you to avoid and those she wants you to buy is that she earns a sales commission on the latter.  And… her brands are typically far more expensive.

If you can afford to shell out $55 for 60 organic chocolate truffles and don’t mind Vani Hari getting a cut of the action, I wish you joy in it.  Otherwise, ignore the Food Babe hyperbole, act like a nice rational human being, and hand out some of the candy she hates.  The kids will love you, your pocketbook will remain a little fatter, and you won’t have fallen for one of the most obvious Vani Hari Halloween tricks to have ever hit the Internet.

 

 

Image Credits
All Food Babe, Amazon.com screen snapshots and product image captures are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (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.

Food Babe “Lucy Psychiatry Booth” parody by Mark Alsip, inspired by a Jerry James “Banned by Food Babe” Group meme.

Food Babe pasteurization post screen capture courtesy Kavin Senapathy.

References

(1) How To Stop Poisoining The Neighborhood Children On Halloween
http://foodbabe.com/2015/10/15/stop-poisoning-neighborhood-children-halloween/#more-22998

(2) Surf Sweets Sour Berry Bears Ingredients
http://www.surfsweets.com/faqs/

(3) Vani Hari Natural Flavoring Archives
http://foodbabe.com/tag/natural-flavoring/

(4) Food Babe Panera Hidden Menu
https://www.facebook.com/thefoodbabe/posts/596955567005825

(5) YumEarth Organic Lollipops Ingredients
http://yummyearth.com/files/ITEM_1626_-_4.2oz_YumEarth_Organics_Lollipops_-_UPC_810165016262_-_back.pdf

(6) Food Babe Refined Sugar Archives (Cane Juice)
http://foodbabe.com/tag/refined-sugar/

(7) Food Babe Evaporated Cane Juice (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/thefoodbabe/posts/587826921252023

(8) TruJoy Fruit Chews Ingredients
http://www.trujoysweets.com/products/fruit-chews/

(9) Food Babe on Maltodextrin
http://foodbabe.com/tag/sugar/

(10) Avoiding Common Gluten Mistakes (Brown Rice Syrup Reference)
http://foodbabe.com/2015/09/22/trying-avoid-gluten-dont-make-common-mistakes/#more-22012

(11) YumEarth Gummy Bears Ingredients
http://yummyearth.com/files/ITEM_1624_-_3.5oz_YumEarth_Organics_Gummy_Bears_-_UPC_810165016248_-_back.pdf

(12)  This Childhood Favorite Has a Warning Label In Europe Why Not Here?
http://foodbabe.com/2014/05/21/this-childhood-favorite-has-a-warning-label-in-europe-why-not-here/#more-16802

(13) Phenolic acids in potatoes, vegetables, and some of their products.
Journal of Food Composition and Analysis
Volume 20, Issues 3–4, May 2007, Pages 152–160
Pirjo Mattila, Jarkko Hellstrom
http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jarkko_Hellstroem/publication/222004840_Phenolic_acids_in_potatoes_vegetables_and_some_of_their_products/links/0fcfd5063dac6b10bd000000.pdf

(14) Chlorogenic acid biosynthesis: Characterization of a light-induced microsomal 5-O-(4-coumaroyl)-d-quinate/shikimate 3′-hydroxylase from carrot (Daucus carota L.) cell suspension cultures
Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Volume 258, Issue 1, October 1987, Pages 226-232
Thomas Kühnl, Ulrich Koch, Werner Heller, Eckard Wellmann
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0003986187903390

(15) Food Colorants: Chemical and Functional Properties
Carmen Socaciu
CRC Press, Oct 24, 2007
ISBN 9781420009286
https://books.google.com/books?id=x8zJBQuc8h4C&pg=PA259&lpg=PA259&dq=caffeic+acid+black+carrots&source=bl&ots=9xxZzVNZUg&sig=MFKAxf4UldEiRNZmWtgM0XOdMes&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAmoVChMIvoeGuPHOyAIVBORjCh059gtM#v=onepage&q=caffeic%20acid%20black%20carrots&f=false

(16) Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–111
http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/ClassificationsAlphaOrder.pdf

(17) Food Babe 4-Mel Archives
http://foodbabe.com/tag/4-mel/

(18) Alter Eco Organic Caramel Salted Truffles (Pricing)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00U9SLC7S?keywords=alter%20eco%20truffle%20caramel&qid=1445271118&ref_=sr_1_2&sr=8-2

(19) Alter Eco Organic Caramel Salted Truffles (Ingredients)
http://www.alterecofoods.com/product/dark-salted-caramel-truffle/

(20) Do You Eat Beaver Butt?
http://foodbabe.com/2013/09/09/food-babe-tv-do-you-eat-beaver-butt/#more-14529

(21) Unreal Candies Ingredients
http://getunreal.com/collections/unreal/products/candy-coated-milk-chocolates

(22) Endangered Species Organic Chocolate Bug Bites Ingredients
http://www.chocolatebar.com/?portfolio=dark-chocolate-bug-bites

(23) Food Babe 100 Days Of Real Food (Soy Lecithin)
http://foodbabe.com/tag/100-days-of-real-food/

(24) Ocho Minis Peanut Butter Bar
http://www.ochocandy.com/shop/bars/ocho-peanut-butter-bar/

(25) Ocho Minis Ingredients
http://www.ochocandy.com/wp-content/uploads/OCHO_Mini_SellSheet_r6-1.pdf

(26) How Frozen Yogurt Went Bad
http://foodbabe.com/tag/red-mango/

(27) Justin’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups Ingredients
http://justins.com/products/mini-dark-chocolate-peanut-butter-cups

(28) Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups (regular size) Ingredients
http://justins.com/products/milk-chocolate-peanut-butter-cup-double-cup

(29) Nutiva Ococonuts Ingredients
https://store.nutiva.com/ococonut/

(30) USDA Statistics Report: #12006, Seeds, chia seeds, dried
http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3643?fg=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=&sort=&qlookup=&offset=&format=Stats&new=&measureby=

(31) Why Chewing Gum Destroys Your Health
http://foodbabe.com/2011/12/09/wanna-a-piece-of-gum/

(32) Food Babe Organic Milk (Pasteurization)
http://foodbabe.com/2014/10/29/organic-milk/

(33) Food Babe Juice Labels (Pasteurization)
http://foodbabe.com/2013/11/10/juice-labels/

Naturally Nicole Steals Copyrighted Image, Complains About Her Images Being Stolen

Sometimes irony bites you so hard in the ass you can’t sit down for a week. Here’s a post from snake oil peddler “Naturally Nicole”, claiming another web site has stolen copyrighted material from her:

Nicole claims about copyright violations.

Nicole complains about copyright violations.  Bless her heart!

My arguments with Nicole are over her poor science and terribly dangerous health advice regarding vaccines, cancer cures, and medications.  But if copyrighted material was taken from her page, I fully support her in her battle.

However, we’ve got a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black here. Let’s look at a recent Nicole post where she misled readers on fish farming:

Naturally Nicole fish farming

Nicole used this image in her article on fish farming, with no credit or attribution.  Wonder where the photo came from?

See that fish farm photo in Nicole’s post?  The one without any credit/attribution?  What’s the source of this image?

Nicole, let me introduce you to Google reverse image search:

Google's reverse image search

Google’s reverse image search.  I simply input “Nicole’s” fish farm image and… voila!  (click/enlarge)

It’s pretty easy.  You feed “Nicole’s” uncredited fish farm image into the Google  search and seconds later… we find out she used a copyrighted image, without permission or attribution, from Shutterstock.com.

Nicole swiped her image

Nicole used a copyrighted image without permission.

 

Nicole, if people are using your content without permission, then you have a legitimate complaint  As dangerous as you are with your horrific misinformation on vaccines, I thought I found one small thing I could support you on.

But now?  Remember that old saying… when you’re pointing one finger at someone, you’ve got three pointing right back at you.

 

 

Image Credits
Naturally Nicole screen snapshots are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (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.

Kids’ Encyclopedia Britannica screen snapshot (with Shutterstock section) are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (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
(1) Naturally Nicole Facebook Post
https://www.facebook.com/naturallynicolexo/posts/822171444547313

(2) Kids’ Encyclopedia Britannica
http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-124486/Fish-are-farmed-at-a-seaside-village-on-Hainan-Island

Naturally Nicole’s Tooth Powder Debunked

naturally nicole tooth powder open sky

Naturally Nicole’s tooth powder contains a “toxic” compound–according to her!

“Naturally Nicole” is a rather belligerent snake oil saleswoman operating a “natural” online store from GodKnowsWhere, USA.  After a flood of emails from readers asking me to have a look into her product line, I couldn’t resist starting a series on her wares.  She’s not very well known, but it was this response from Nicole to one of her critics that tipped the scales:

naturally nicole tooth powder cavities

Naturally Nicole doesn’t take kindly to criticism.  (click/enlarge)

I despise censorship and ad hom attacks combined with bad science.  So, Nicole, welcome to my blog.  Let’s have a look at some of the products you’re selling!

This week it’ll be Nicole’s “all natural tooth powder”.  Before we look at the ingredients, it’s time for the ominous foreshadowing that regular readers of Bad Science Debunked have come to expect.  We’ll  pick a “toxic” ingredient Nicole hates and hope against hope we don’t find it in any of her products (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Writing on deodorants, Nicole tells us:1

“[…] some research has suggested that these aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells. Because estrogen can promote the growth of both cancer and non-cancer breast cells, some scientists have suggested that using the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer.  This is NOT okay with me.“–NaturallyNicole  (emphasis mine)

 

So, watch out for aluminum compounds.  Got it?  Good!

Alright then, time to peek at the ingredients in Nicole’s tooth powder:2

naturally nicole bentonite open sky tooth powder

Bentonite Clay?   Cue horror story music.   (click/enlarge)

Bentonite clay?  I’m having flashbacks to high school geology and chemistry classes, where we learned that aluminum was the most common metal in the crust of the earth and a ubiquitous component of clay/bentonite.

Suddenly, I have a bad, bad feeling about what we’re going to find in Nicole’s tooth powder.  Take a look at the molecular structure of sodium bentonite, for example: 3

Sodium bentonite. Note the aluminum. (click/enlarge)

Sodium bentonite. Note the aluminum.   Courtesy USNLM PubChem.  (click/enlarge)

 

Oh dear.  In case it doesn’t jump right out at you, I highlighted the compounded aluminum.

“Ack!  Phhht!”-Bill the Cat, Bloom County

Geologists point out there are several forms of bentonite, but aluminum is a common element in each–and even Nicole agrees:   You can read her entire chemical “thesis” here.2  If you want to save yourself from a lot of hand waving, her argument is that:

  1. aluminum compounds in products Nicole sells are stable and safe
  2. aluminum compounds in products not sold by Nicole are toxic and cancerous

Yeah, right.

In all honesty, you’re in no danger from any of these products.  If you remember your high school chemistry, aluminum is highly reactive, “loves” to bind to other elements, and is readily processed by the bodies of healthy individuals (e.g. those without kidney disease).  The chemical properties of this element are precisely why it’s so “stable” as Nicole argues in her hand-waving, and it’s just as stable in the products she’s trying to scare you away from.  The difference in Nicole’s aluminum and everyone else’s?  She’s earning money from the former.  End of story.

Next week I’ll be looking at what Nicole calls “evidence based proof” (WTF?)  that her Elderberry Flu Syrup is more effective than the flu vaccine.  Stay tuned!

 

References
(1) Do You Smell Funny?
http://naturallynicolexo.com/do-i-smell-funny-my-body-utopia-natural-deodorant-review-coupon-code/

(2) Naturally Nicole’s Remineralizing Tooth Powder
https://www.opensky.com/madewithscrub/product/naturally-nicole-s-re-mineralizing-tooth-powder

(3) U.S. National Library of Medicine PubChem Compound Summary #7294614 (Sodium Bentonite)
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/72941614

Image Credits
Naturally Nicole product screen captures are used in strict compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (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.

USNLM PubChem Sodium Bentonite molecular structure image used in compliance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”). This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, and increase public health knowledge.