Anti-GMO Thrive Market Sells GMOs

thrive pinocchio gmo

This very important public service announcement just in from Thrive Market, guardian of all that is good and holy in the world of organic goods:

“Thrive Market is passionately committed to creating a world that is free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. We believe everyone has a right to know what they are eating and what chemicals are used in the foods they consume every day. That’s why we have carefully screened our products to ensure we do not carry any GMO foods.”1

Amen!  Preach it, brother!  Testify!

Actually, you might want to hold off on that.  Thrive, how about getting down off your high horse and looking at the ingredients in your own products?  Here, let me help you: Take a look at this nice bottle of Quantum zinc throat spray featured in your online store:2

quantum thera zinc spray from thrive market

Quantum Thera zinc throat spray from Thrive Market. (click/enlarge)

Vanna, show us the ingredients please (click to enlarge):

thrive market zinc spray ingredients contain gmo soy

I’d like to buy several vowels. Enough to form the words “soy lecithin”. (click/enlarge)

Take note of the soy lecithin (highlighted).  Derived from soybeans, soy lecithin is a natural, safe emulsifier–an additive that lends stability to foods.  The problem for Thrive Market is that almost all soy produced in the United States is genetically modified.3  A quick phone call to Quantum’s customer service department confirmed that the soy in many of their products, including the throat spray sold by Thrive is, in fact, GMO.

So Thrive Market’s promise of a GMO-free store falls as flat as an Olympic pole vaulter who didn’t realize his shoestrings were tied together before setting off on his run.

Thrive Market is selling products with ingredients derived from GMOs.

We could quibble over the fact that the product in question is a throat spray–not a food–but it’s still clearly intended to be ingested:

“A great alternative to yucky-tasting zinc lozenges! In fact, just two spritzes every couple of hours of Thera Zinc Oral Spray is the most effective, tastiest way to deliver ionizable zinc to your throat. Thera Zinc is sprayed in the back of the mouth, sending powerful nutrients to the areas requiring the most protection.”–Quantum throat spray marketing statement 2

More importantly, Thrive and their misinformed organic backers are intent on ridding the world of GMOs in their entirety, no matter what product they’re found in.  The anti-GMO zealots are horribly wrong about the effect that genetically modified crops have on the environment, wanting them to be removed entirely.  Actually, there are ways in which GMOs are beneficial.  For example, farmers who grow Bt corn are able to use less pesticides.  Regardless,  it’s rather dishonest of Thrive to demonize a perfectly safe crop production method, then sell products derived using that same method to their customers.

And, having said this, we must pause and state in the strongest possible terms that there is nothing harmful in Quantum’s zinc throat spray.  This is just another small business trying to eke out a living that, unfortunately, got caught up in the tangled web of a $39 billion organic food industry using fear to market their products as “better”.  There’s nothing superior, in any way imaginable, about organic products compared to their GMO counterparts.  However, Quantum did tell me that they hope to eventually switch over to non-GMO soy.  This saddens me.  Yet another company bows to the irrational demands of a public that doesn’t realize how easily they’re being manipulated.

Hold On, It Gets Worse
Alert label readers may have noticed the company’s misspelled “Proplylene Glycol” [sic] next to the soy lecithin on the product label.  They’re actually talking about propylene glycol, a harmless additive with a wide range of uses, including as surfactants and preservatives.

Woe unto Thrive Market, however, as they label propylene glycol as a dangerous endocrine disruptor in another of their hilariously bad scare pieces.  In “Five Simple Pro Tips for Perfect Skin”,4 author Lauren Whitehouse warns readers to not allow “toxic” propylene glycol to touch their skin via cosmetics.  Yet we now find Thrive Market literally trying to shove this so-called poison down our throats.  Well, OK, spray it down our throats.  Don’t worry though:  just like GMO soy, propylene glycol is harmless.  As intimated by Pinocchio in the opening graphic, Thrive and their backers aren’t exactly behind honest with us.

From whence comes so much of Thrive Market’s bad science and resulting hypocrisy?  One culprit seems to be the pseudoscientific Environmental Working Group, a special interest group that does no real research but is oft-cited by Thrive as a scientific authority.  It turns out that EWG may have more of a financial stake in Thrive and other organic markets than meets the eye.  Check back tomorrow, and I’ll start laying it out for you.

 

References
(1) Thrive Market’s GMO-free Promise
https://thrivemarket.com/gmo-free

(2) Quantum Zinc Throat Spray
https://thrivemarket.com/quantum-thera-zinc-throat-spray

(3) USDA: Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States
http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us/recent-trends-in-ge-adoption.aspx

(4) Five Simple Pro Tips for Perfect Skin
https://thrivemarket.com/blog/skin-dos-donts

 

Image Credits
Thrive and  Quantum product/screen snapshots are used in strict 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.

Pinocchio and Wheel of Fortune meme characters are used under parody provisions of 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.

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PABAble Cause: A “Carcinogen” From Dr. Axe

axefeature copy

When we last visited our good friend Josh Axe, he was hard at work selling antimatter-laden miracle dirt to unsuspecting customers, with the claim it would sweep toxins out of their bodies while simultaneously delivering vital nutrients. (Yes, I was confused too.)

Today I’d like to take a look at another product being peddled by “Dr.” Axe. If you read to the end, I can guarantee you’ll be outraged.  The hypocrisy could not be more blatant.

The topic of the day–and don’t be scared by the long words–is para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).  Let’s start off with Josh Axe giving us a quick backgrounder on PABA:1

“A recent study published in Environmental Science Technology has also shown the common sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone, methoxycinnamate, and PABA are estrogenic chemicals linked to cancer. That’s right, I read the labels on not only my food products, but on anything I’m putting on or near my body, and you should too.” 1

(Emphasis mine.)  So PABA is an “estrogenic chemical linked to cancer”, Josh?  Hold that thought, and let’s go shopping at draxe.com.  You might want to put on some older clothing. This is going to get messy.

Here’s a nice vitamin B supplement:2

dr axe vitamin b

Dr. Axe Vitamin B supplement. (click/enlarge)

If you’ve read my blog before, having seen me highlight Josh’s disdain for PABA followed by a screen snapshot of a product he’s selling, you’ve probably guessed where this article is heading.  You won’t be disappointed.  Time to have a look-see at what’s actually in the supplement Axe is hawking:2

paba in dr axe vitamin b complex

Dr. Axe’s supplement contains PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), the very same compound he just linked to cancer. (click/enlarge)

Oh, good grief…  this supplement contains PABA!  Para-aminobenzoic acid.  The cancer-causing boogeyman of Josh Axe’s nightmares: on sale now for only $39.99 on the Dr. Axe web site (you save $11.25!).

This would almost be comical if not for the fact that in the same sentence in which Axe attacked PABA, he said:

“That’s right, I read the labels on not only my food products, but on anything I’m putting on or near my body, and you should too.”1

So there you have it.  Here’s a chiropractor/”natural medicine doctor” who warns his followers to avoid putting a chemical on their bodies due to cancer concerns, sells them that very same compound in a supplement they’re supposed to ingest, and in the same breath tells them he reads product labels to avoid putting dangerous product on or in his body.

The mind boggles.

 

Image Credits
Josh Axe product and website 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.

Axe “look at that” parody by the author.  Created and used under parody/education/public health knowledge provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”).

References
(1) 75% of Sunscreens Are Toxic: What To Do Instead
http://draxe.com/75-of-sunscreens-are-toxic-what-to-do-instead/

(2) Dr. Axe Vitamin B Complex
https://store.draxe.com/collections/supplements/products/vitamin-b-complex

Anti-GMO “Natural Society” Links Formaldehyde To Cancer–But Sells Formaldehyde

Recently I wrote about the so-called Natural Society’s hypocrisy in criticizing cellulose as indigestible food filler while at the same time using it in the dietary supplements they sell.  This offense is minor compared to the gaffe they’ve committed in their virulent anti-GMO campaign.

The Natural Society doesn’t like formaldehyde. I mean, they really don’t like formaldehyde.2,3  Ranting about the supposed natural production of this compound by GMO soy, author Christina Sarich terrifies readers with tales of an IARC Group 1 carcinogen skulking in their food, while compatriot Patrick Gallagher warns that even the vapor content is so dangerous it should be avoided.

So:  why is the Natural Society selling formaldehyde to their followers?

Don’t believe me? Let’s visit the Natural Society online store. Here’s a nice 8-ounce jar of Sombra Pain Relieving Gel:

Sombra Pain Relieving Gel from the Natural Society

Sombra Pain Relieving Gel from the Natural Society. (click/enlarge)

 

The list of ingredients seems innocent at first, but I’ve highlighted something interesting:

Sombra ingredients

Sombra contains sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, aka a “formaldehyde releaser.” (click/enlarge)

As Winnie the Pooh is famous for saying: “Oh, bother!”.  Sodium ‘hydromethylglycinate’, the preservative in Natural Society’s Sombra gel, is either accidentally or intentionally misspelled.  We can go to the Sombra web site and confirm it’s actually sodium hydroxymethylglycinate:  a compound known as a “formaldehyde releaser.”

As you might guess from the name, a formaldehyde releaser slowly releases formaldehyde into a product over time.  The purpose is to act as a preservative, deterring the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other undesired “guests.”  Here’s the correctly-spelled ingredient list, courtesy the Sombra web site:11

Sombra's ingrdient list

Natural Society either accidentally or intentionally misspelled one of the ingredients.  Here’s the correct ingredient list, straight from the manufacturer. (click/enlarge)

For a small fee, the Natural Society could have gone through PubMed or PubChem and purchased access to one of the many papers confirming their favored preservative’s role in releasing formaldehyde into the product they’re selling.5,6,7 It cost me just $6.00 and 15 minutes of reading time to learn about sodium hydroxymethylglycinate in “Formaldehyde-releasers in cosmetics: relationship to formaldehyde contact allergy”: 5

sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, excerpt from “Formaldehyde-releasers in cosmetics: relationship to formaldehyde contact allergy.”5

 

But it gets worse.  Like so many other snake oil peddlers on the internet, Natural Society quotes the non-science-based Environmental Work Group (EWG) at every drop of the hat.8,9  And even EWG pegged the formaldehyde releasing capabilities of sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.10

So where did Natural Society go wrong?  Was it a lack of research?

“After working to find all of the best brands in the industry, we settled on Sombra’s Cool Therapy gel after over an entire year of testing and research.” 4

Whoa.  An entire year of testing and research, and they missed the formaldehyde?

Or did they?

Remember Christina Sarich, the Society writer/formaldehyde-hater we discussed at the beginning of this article?  Here she is again, writing for the Natural Society on  the subject of toxic formaldehyde releasers in skin care products:

“Furthermore, many face and body soaps contain ‘antibiotic cleansers’ like Triclosan. What else? Benzethonium chloride, artificial colorants, BHA, BHT, silicone derived emollients, parabens, and Formaldehyde releasers [DMDM hydantoin diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, N-(Hydroxymethyl) glycine, monosodium salt, and quaternium-15]. YUCK!”12

Holy GMO-free sh*t!  The same author who writes about the dangers of carcinogenic formaldehyde in GMO food also warns about it avoiding in skin care products–then turns around and sells it to you.

And all of this after an entire year of testing and research.  Cojones the size of Texas!  But I weep for the masses who hand their hard-earned money to businesses like this.

I weep.

 

Revision history:  corrected spelling of cojones (10 Dec 2015);

corrected title of reference (6) (12 Dec 2015)

 

 

 

Image Credits
Natural Society, Sombra screen and product 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.

Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, from “Formaldehyde-releasers in cosmetics: relationship to formaldehyde contact allergy. Part 1. Characterization, frequency and relevance of sensitization, and frequency of use in cosmetics” 5, used under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”) with the intent of providing education.

References
(1) Study: GMO Soy Accumulates Cancer-causing Formaldehyde
http://naturalsociety.com/study-gmo-soy-accumulates-cancer-causing-formaldehyde/

(2) New Study: GMO Soy Accumuluates Cancerous Formaldehyde
http://naturalsociety.com/new-study-gmo-soy-accumulates-cancerous-formaldehyde/

(3) Styrene and Formaldehyde Use Causing Health Complications
http://naturalsociety.com/styrene-formaldehyde-use-causing-health-complications/

(4) Sombra Pain Relief Cream on Natural Society Shopping Page
https://shop.naturalsociety.com/product/sombra-cool-therapy-pain-relieving-gel-8-oz

(5) Formaldehyde-releasers in cosmetics: relationship to formaldehyde contact allergy. Part 1. Characterization, frequency and relevance of sensitization, and frequency of use in cosmetics.
Contact Dermatitis. 2010 Jan;62(1):2-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2009.01615.x.
de Groot AC1, White IR, Flyvholm MA, Lensen G, Coenraads PJ.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20136875
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0536.2009.01615.x/abstract  (full text, last accessed 08 Dec 2015)

(6) Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
Dermatitis. 2010 Mar-Apr;21(2):109-10.
Russell K1, Jacob SE.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20233550

(7) Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate: a potential formaldehyde-releasing preservative in child products.
Dermatitis. 2009 Nov-Dec;20(6):347-9.
Jacob SE1, Hsu JW.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19958742

(8) Natural Society Quotes EWG: Toxic Flame Retardants in Baby Products
http://naturalsociety.com/toxic-flame-retardants-found-in-80-of-baby-products/

(9) Natural Society Quotes EWG: Glyphosate Doubles Cancer Risk
http://naturalsociety.com/ewg-monsantos-herbicide-chemical-glyphosate-doubles-cancer-risk/

(10) EWG: Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706077/SODIUM_HYDROXYMETHYLGLYCINATE_(FORMALDEHYDE_RELEASER)/#

(11) Sombra Gel Ingredients (manufacturer website)
http://www.sombrausa.com/cool-therapy

(12) Five Healthier Swaps for Expensive Toxic Skin Care Products
http://naturalsociety.com/5-cheaper-healthier-swaps-expensive-toxic-skin-care-products/

Axe-idental Poisoning (Josh Axe Debunked)

magical periodic table

How are iron and copper released by bentonite clay while chromium and manganese are targeted and swept away?  Dr. Axe doesn’t sufficiently explain this, but accidentally delves into antimatter and magic in his attempt (see text).

 

So you’ve had another gut-wrenching GMO-free meal at Chi-coli (aka Chipotle) and you’re in need of a quick detox?  Is that what’s bothering you Bunky?  Well set your mind at ease. According to chiropractor and “natural medicine doctor” Josh Axe, all you need to do is eat some dirt.  But not just any dirt.  No, what’s needed here is bentonite clay, a miracle soil that will cleanse and heal the body (get your credit cards ready).1

“Bentonite clay benefits your body by helping to expel many of these toxins [mercury, cadmium, lead, and benzene] and therefore increases immunity and reduces inflammation” 1 — Josh Axe

Golly gee!  I want to know more!

“On top of being able to draw-out toxins from the body, the clay itself has a range of nutrients” 1 — Josh Axe

 

Wait.  Hold on.  Does the clay draw elements out of the body, or put them in?

“When ingested into the body, either in a drink form or by eating the clay, its vitamins and minerals are absorbed similarly to how a supplement would be. Therefore some people use it as a supplement since the clay is a natural source of important dietary nutrients.” 1 –Axe, again

Clay is a source of “important dietary nutrients”, so it puts them into the body?  OK, I’ll bite (no pun intended).  For the sake of argument, let’s take this claim and run with it.  What are the nutritional benefits of bentonite clay, Dr. Axe?1

dr axe bentonite clay

Dr. Axe’s claimed nutritional benefits for bentonite clay include many elements he claims are toxic. (click/enlarge)

 

¡Madre de Dios!  Let’s look at some of the “nutritional elements” I’ve highlighted in the above graphic from draxe.com, and see what the man himself has to say about them:

Mercury exposure, both in one large dose and through low level exposure over time, is linked through scientific data to kidney, brain, urological, fertility, neurological, and renal problems” 2  (emphasis mine)

Low level exposure to mercury over time is linked to some very nasty problems by Axe.  But you’ll find it in the clay he wants you to eat.  The story is even worse with lead:

No level of lead exposure appears to be ‘safe’ and even the current ‘low’ levels of exposure in children are associated with neurodevelopmental deficits.” 3 (emphasis mine)

Axe’s lead quote comes from an article he penned on “toxic” chemicals found in lipstick.  According to him, there’s no safe level of this poisonous element, but you’ll find 1.17mg of lead in each heaping helping tablespoon of his recommended clay.1

Not content with both feet in his mouth, Axe figuratively inserts other remaining body parts as well: in his bentonite clay, you’ll find each and every element I emphasize in his following quote:

The European Union has banned the presence of cadmium, chromium and lead altogether in cosmetics. The Canadian government has set limits for the content of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and lead in cosmetics. They’re still trying to determine what levels are avoidable in the manufacturing process.” 3

Why limit the levels of these elements, Dr. Axe?

“While the FDA does limit lead in certain color additives used in cosmetics, it doesn’t set limits on lead in final products.  This is troubling because heavy metals accumulate in the body over time. Low amounts can add up to big effects.3

 

But… but… all of these “heavy metals”, according to you, Dr. Axe, are found in the clay you’re pushing.  But do go on…  what kind of “big effects” can consumers of your super soil expect to experience as the toxins accumulate in their bodies over time?

dr josh axe warns about these metals accumulating over time

Axe issues dire warnings for specific metals accumulating in the body over time.  But each and every metal on this list is found in the bentonite clay he recommends you eat. (click/enlarge)

 

Pot.  Kettle.  Black.

Of course, you could still buy into Axe’s contradictory argument that bentonite clay hunts down and removes these metals from the body.  The problem is, he can’t explain how the good metals are dropped off at the physiological bus stop while the bad ones are picked up by the heavy metal police and carted off to jail without ever passing go.  He makes a hilarious attempt, referencing “positively charged electrons” (that’s antimatter!), but in the end it boils down to magic.  So that I’m not accused of quote mining, I invite you to read his entire article.

Speaking of buying:  Bien sûr, after Axe sings the praises of bentonite clay, he just so happens to have a particular brand he recommends…

dr axe's hidden affiliate link

“Dr.” Axe has a favorite clay–and an undisclosed Amazon.com affiliate link. (click/enlarge)

 

Not only does Axe recommend bentonite, he earns money when you buy it.   In the above image, I’ve highlighted the hidden, encoded Amazon.com affiliate link.  When you’re redirected to Amazon to snag this product, not only does Josh Axe get a cut of the purchase price, he’s also set up to earn commissions on anything else you happen to buy during your shopping session.4,5  Amazon pays out because they’re grateful to Axe for directing you to their web site.  The problem is, legally, the good doctor is supposed to clearly disclose his affiliation when he sends you off to buy–but he never does.

axe hidden link expanded

You can clearly see Axe’s affiliation in the decoded URL (uniform resource locator) after being directed to Amazon.  Axe earns money not only from this purchase, but others you make as well. (click/enlarge)

 

I’ve covered a lot of ground (another dirt pun; sorry) in this piece, and for good reason: there are few things worse, in my humble opinion, than a person hiding behind the title of “doctor” using bad science and fear mongering to sell you products that contain the very same ingredients they’re telling you will harm you.  Here’s a brief recap and, as always, thanks for reading:

  • Axe simultaneously claims bentonite clay both sweeps elements out of your system and puts them in.  Which is it?
  • No scientific explanation is given for the above contradiction.  Axe ascribes near-magical abilities to bentonite, allowing it to hunt down toxins with “positively charged electrons” (antimatter?  WTF?) after coming into contact with water.  Harry Potter would be proud.
  • The so-called doctor’s mastery of chemistry is so poor he can’t differentiate between elements and minerals.
  • The “no safe level of chemical to ingest” mantra could not be more clear in Axe’s writing, yet he proudly lists the levels of each proclaimed toxic chemical in bentonite clay.  Does he ever read his own words and labels?

 

axe unadvertised affiliate link

Help Dr. Axe go on vacation by giving him a cut of all qualifying purchased you make after visiting Amazon.com via his hidden affiliate link.  (click/enlarge)

 

Image Credits
Josh Axe, Redmond Clay, and Amazon.com website 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.

Snippet of the periodic table of the elements taken from ptable.com and also used under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of United States copyright law (commonly known as “fair use law”) with the intent of providing education.  Happy faces poorly drawn by the author.

 

References
(1) 10 Proven Bentonite Clay Benefits And Uses
http://draxe.com/10-bentonite-clay-benefits-uses/

(2) Dangers of Amalgam Fillings
http://draxe.com/dangers-of-amalgam-fillings/

(3) Is Your Lipstick Toxic?
http://draxe.com/is-your-lipstick-toxic/

(4) Amazon.com Affiliate Program Description
https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/

(5) Amazon.com Affiliate Compensation Schedule
https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/join/compensation.html

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

 

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.

Vaccination Op-Ed (Lexington Herald Leader 05 Feb 2015)

I’m grateful to the Lexington Herald Leader for publication of an op-ed piece I wrote on Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s uninformed comments on vaccinations.  Both Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have made potentially damaging comments on the topic this week.

In the face of a burgeoning measles outbreak, there are countless Americans who would love to take advantage of vaccines but cannot because of their age or existing medical conditions. They are relying on the rest of us to make unselfish decisions in the interest of public health.  We in turn need to be able to rely on representatives like Senator Paul and Governor Christie, who are in unique positions to shape health policies.  Given the statements they’ve made recently, I’m not so sure that we can.

You can read the op-ed here.

herald