“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:
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
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
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:
- aluminum compounds in products Nicole sells are stable and safe
- aluminum compounds in products not sold by Nicole are toxic and cancerous
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!
(1) Do You Smell Funny?
(2) Naturally Nicole’s Remineralizing Tooth Powder
(3) U.S. National Library of Medicine PubChem Compound Summary #7294614 (Sodium Bentonite)
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.
Wrong. For all the “non-science friendly viewers”: Works like a magnet then leaves the body.
At a molecular level, the formation of bentonite resembles tiny business card shapes with the wide surfaces having a negative charge and the thin edges having a positive charge. Nature hates a lonely ionic bond, so each negatively charged ion seeks to satisfy its bond by pairing with a substance carrying a positive ionic charge. As luck would have it, many toxins, heavy metals, and free radicals carry a positive charge. The negative ions in Clay are eager to attach to these toxins, swapping negative ions for positive, and creating a bond that keeps the toxin and clay together in suspension until the body eliminates the pair together.
It’s a reasonably accurate metaphor to imagine Clay as a magnet, and toxins as little bits of metal. Once the two become paired, it’s simple for your body to dispose of the magnet, and the metal bits along with it. Aluminum is part of the structural make up of all clays. The aluminum in Calcium Bentonite Clay is in a safe oxide form, not the dangerous man-made processed aluminum. The many trace minerals in Calcium Bentonite Clay are fused together into a super compound structure known as a clay particle, which cannot break down and cannot be absorbed by your body.
Your logical fallacy is “appeal to nature”. Your entire argument is based on the concept that something found in nature is good for you, while something “processed” is bad. Crude oil is 100% natural and organic. It’ll also poison you if you drink it. Now take that concept and apply it to your aluminum compounds. You don’t get to claim something is safe just because you found it in nature or unsafe because it was “processed”.
Nicole’s argument is that aluminum compounds are toxic. Except for the one she happens to be selling.
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