On Testimonials and Diet Books

On Testimonials and Diet Books

Recently, a woman (let’s call her “Jane”) commented to me after reading some of my Whole30 critiques that,

“How can you fact check the testimonies people have from this diet!? Are you really disregarding a whole food diet??”

Her implication seemed to be that the anecdotes of hundreds of people who had found “success” on this diet plan were all that mattered. Science and reason be damned! I replied back that, 

“Every diet book has testimonials from people describing how said diet changed their lives and improved their health. This does not mean that those diet books are based on [or promote] good science. The problem with the Whole30 is that [in my opinion] they do not seem to care if the information they provide their fans is accurate or not.”

Nutrition Sources You Should Avoid

Nutrition Sources You Should Avoid

The internet is a cesspool of god awful nutrition advice. Some of this terrible information is delivered in such a way that makes it seem legitimate and can fool even the most intelligent among us. I created this guide as a resource to help cut through the hype you see in media headlines and on your Facebook feed. If you see an article/book/talk/product from one of the sources below please proceed with caution as it may be a load of nonsensical, pseudoscientific rubbish (especially if it's from The Food Babe). 

To land a spot on this list, a significant portion of the dietary information provided by the source must be scientifically erroneous or misleading.

Nutrition Sources You Can Trust

Nutrition Sources You Can Trust

One of the questions I get asked the most is where to turn for reliable sources of nutrition information. Well, from now on I will have this handy guide to direct them to. I’ve broken it down into categories so you can browse depending on what you are looking for. To make this list, the vast majority of the dietary information published must be based on quality scientific evidence. No one can be 100% accurate 100% of the time, but you must be handing out valid information on nutrition for at least ~90-95% of your content to remain on the list. The people listed here regularly discuss topics within the full context of available data, do not cherry-pick their sources and include those that may challenge their beliefs, interpret relevant clinical trials accurately and take into account their limitations, and frequently cite valid and credible sources.

Myth: Artificial Sweeteners are “Hundreds of Times” Sweeter than Sugar

Myth: Artificial Sweeteners are “Hundreds of Times” Sweeter than Sugar

While reviewing the Whole30’s It Starts With Food, I came across an interesting tidbit I thought deserved its own post. If you have ever read anything about artificial/low-calorie/nonnutritive sweeteners, it’s likely you’ve come across the following statements [1]:

  • Aspartame (Equal) is 200 times sweeter than table sugar

  • Stevia (Truvia) is 200-400 times sweeter than table sugar

  • Sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times sweeter than table sugar

  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) is 200-700 times sweeter than table sugar

These statements may lead you to believe that high potency nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) like the ones listed above are many times sweeter than sugar, causing the reward and pleasure signals in your brain to go haywire. Would you be surprised to hear that in reality sugar actually ranks higher in sweetness than common NNS sweeteners? 

Evil Sugar Radio Interview

Evil Sugar Radio Interview

I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Antonio Valladares and Scott Kustes on the Evil Sugar Radio podcast. We touched on a bunch of topics, including my critique of the lackluster science behind the Whole30's It Starts With Food, low carb diets and gestational diabetes, and looking at if sugar kills your sex drive

Head on over to their site to listen to the podcast in full. 

Evil Sugar Radio #84: Mike Hull – Abuse of Science & Supplement Scams

Pamela Ronald: The Case For Engineering Our Food

Pamela Ronald: The Case For Engineering Our Food

Pamela Ronald studies the genes that make plants more resistant to disease and stress. In an eye-opening talk, she describes her decade-long quest to help create a variety of rice that can survive prolonged flooding. She shows how the genetic improvement of seeds saved the Hawaiian papaya crop in the 1950s and makes the case that it may simply be the most effective way to enhance food security for our planet’s growing population.

O Gluten! My Gluten!

O Gluten! My Gluten!

Media outlets are notoriously awful at interpreting scientific publications. A study done in the UK found that among the top 10 papers there, up to 72% of the dietary advice given was unsubstantiated or false [1]. So it should not be a surprise that a while back the media bungled yet another publication. 

I wanted to comment on the scope and clinical applicability of the following article, No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity After Dietary Reduction of Fermentable, Poorly Absorbed, Short-Chain Carbohydrates, since it has made the rounds on the internet and people continue to misinterpret it. 

A Tale of Low Carb Diets and Gestational Diabetes

A Tale of Low Carb Diets and Gestational Diabetes

With the rising popularity of low carb/paleo type diets has come a curious unintended consequence: expecting mothers receiving a false positive on their Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) test

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)

GDM is diabetes (“Type 4 Diabetes”) diagnosed in the second or third trimester of pregnancy that is not obviously type 1 or 2 [1]. Women with diabetes in the first trimester would be classified as having type 2 diabetes [1]. The essential contributing factor to GDM is pancreatic insufficiency [2]. Basically, your pancreas is not making enough insulin for your body to overcome the increased insulin resistance due to the placental hormones of pregnancy and increased maternal adipose tissue, which could potentially cause your blood glucose levels to remain high. 

GDM = weak pancreas. Not making enough insulin for you and the baby. 

GMO’s Cause Cancer, Part II: Much Ado About Monsanto

GMO’s Cause Cancer, Part II: Much Ado About Monsanto

In my last post we took a look at the infamous Séralini study, Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize [1]. The study was poorly conducted and ultimately added little to the scientific understanding of the safety of Monsanto’s Roundup-tolerant NK603 genetically modified (GM) maize.

You can read my full analysis of the paper here.

This article will examine the original Monsanto paper that spawned this GMO melodramatic episode [18]. I'll also be using this post to deliver some broader educational points about the safety, science, and regulations behind genetically modified organisms.

GMO’s Cause Cancer, Part I: The Curious Case of Séralini’s Rats

GMO’s Cause Cancer, Part I: The Curious Case of Séralini’s Rats

Gilles-Éric Séralini had some rats. He fed them some GMO corn and some Roundup herbicide and they got cancer and died. Therefore, GMO’s cause cancer.

I think you'll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

What follows is an attempt to thoroughly dissect the Séralini paper and subsequent republication. This will be a gloriously meticulous exercise in demonstrating how bad science can muddy the public’s scientific understanding.

Is Alcohol Healthy? The Saga Continues

Is Alcohol Healthy? The Saga Continues

There have been a fair number of epidemiological trials that show light (up to 2/day) to moderate (up to 4/day) drinking is associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and increased longevity [1,2,3]. Anything above 4 drinks a day and you are increasing your risk of cancer, liver disease, stroke, etc [1]. This is what we call a J-shaped curve. At a lower dose we see benefits but as the dose gets higher we see relative risk increase.

Science Checkup: Does Sugar Kill Your Sex Drive?

Science Checkup: Does Sugar Kill Your Sex Drive?

Do you remember your English classes back in high school? The teacher would assign you some droll book to read and warn you of an impending test on said book. The night before the exam, you would sit down and Google as hard as you could to try and find the Cliffs Notes. Upon finding one, you would read through the summaries and hope it was enough to pass the test. This strategy would usually yield mediocre results. A passing grade but nothing too fancy. Sometimes, this strategy would earn you a big old F. 

Some science writers never grew out of the Cliffs Notes phase and employ this strategy when reporting on journal articles. They will read through the abstract, the summary of a paper, and base their article on that single paragraph. Just like your high school English tests, these articles end up misinterpreting and misrepresenting the full context of the study. 

The ‘Natural’ Label: What In The Fresh Hell Does That Even Mean?!

The ‘Natural’ Label: What In The Fresh Hell Does That Even Mean?!

So you're walking down the aisle of your local grocery store and you pass by the eggs. Other than there being approximately 30 different brands, you notice some of them carry this fancy 'natural' label (and probably cost $2 more per dozen). So what does this ambiguous label mean anyway?

The Difference Between Natural and Artificial Flavors

The Difference Between Natural and Artificial Flavors

Natural vs. artificial flavorings, what’s the deal?

Both of these are terms regulated by the FDA (the term "all-natural" is a different story). The definition of a natural flavoring is anything derived or extracted from a "spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional" [1]. An artificial flavor is anything that is not derived from the items listed above, but rather

That Time I Got Involved In An Anti-Vaccination Comment Flame War

That Time I Got Involved In An Anti-Vaccination Comment Flame War

Normally I never get sucked into the comment flame wars on FaceBook. I usually read them for amusement and never write anything myself. The trolls got me this time.

I happened to be looking through the comments on an anti-vaccination thread. In these threads, people never link to any legitimate scientific sources to back up their arguments. It just so happened that one woman attempted to back up her anti-vaccination beliefs by providing a link to an FDA document that she says provides "pretty incriminating evidence AGAINST vaccine safety". Stunned by seeing a link to a credible source, I decided to read this document to see if her claims were justified. Below is the exchange that took place.