Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Slow News Week

As the U.S. seethes with racial tension, protestors swarm the streets of Hong Kong, and missiles gut Syria, a few intrepid journos have somehow managed to ferret out the real stories…

  • Say, does anyone remember the absurdly disappointing mystery of those invisible flying creatures known as “rods“? No? Well, let Oklahoma City’s News 9 take you back to ’97 with their hard-hitting report on bad photography.
rods

Fascinating.

Fry Screaming

IKR?

The Health Ranger Might Want to Kill You

 

zyklon        potato

 

Mike “Health Ranger” Adams is on the warpath. The frequent guest host of The Alex Jones Show has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of mainstream attention this year, even appearing on Dr. Oz’s TV show in May to discuss his shiny new “food lab” (where he diligently searches for trace amounts of heavy metals in processed foods and beverages). But Adams has a deeply paranoid side, and that side came out roaring last week. On Monday, July 21, he published a glorious example of Godwin’s Law on his Natural News website: “Biotech genocide, Monsanto collaborators and the Nazi legacy of ‘science’ as justification for murder.”
In the tradition of Ben Stein’s “science leads to killing people“, this piece argues that biotech in the food industry is analogous to the (pseudo)science used to justify the Holocaust. Publications that support GMOs, then, are every bit as bad as the German institutions that funded Nazi medical experiments – they are “Monsanto collaborators”, in Adams’ words. Journalists who criticize the Food Babe, Dr. Mercola, or Adams himself are members of a “radical cult”, enablers of “GMO genocide.”

As always, Adams’ evidence that GMOs are deadly is absurdly thin. He cites the Seralini rat study as proof that GMOs cause cancer, and that’s basically it. This article isn’t any different from all his other anti-GMO rants, until he gets to the part about a recent speech by German President Joachim Gauck, in which Gauck commended the key players in Operation Valkyrie (the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944). Adams interprets Gauck’s central message thusly:

it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.” (emphasis in original)

He goes on to list some Monsanto collaborators (wiki editors, leftist publications, food companies, etc.) before issuing a call to arms, encouraging someone to

“create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).”

Someone heeded that call almost instantly. Just as Tea Party websites popped up within 24 hours of Rick Santelli’s CNBC rant back in 2009, a Monsanto Collaborators site manifested just days after the Health Ranger’s creepy Nazi article was posted. It features an image of Auschwitz, superimposed with the names of several journalists and science writers who have criticized anti-GMO activism, defended GMOs, or questioned the Seralini study. There are links to stories about the “GMO” suicides among Indian farmers (a myth that has been debunked here, here, and here), and an ominous declaration that “responsibility for these deaths falls upon those individuals and organizations shown on this site.”

This is precisely what Adams wanted to see. In his July 21st article, he expressed the hope that the anti-GMO community will spawn a few Simon Wiesenthals, willing to track down Monsanto collaborators so they can be brought to justice. It should be noted that he attempted to soften his Valkyrie analogy by stating that he does not condone vigilante action, and would simply like to see Nuremberg-style trials for cereal manufacturers and science reporters.
Adams warned that anyone who becomes a Monsanto hunter should hide behind total anonymity, for his very life will be in danger. And that’s exactly what the creator of the Monsanto Collaborators site tried to do.

Here’s where things get a little weird. Adams, in an update to his article, stridently denies that he played any part in the website’s creation, and even urges his fellow activists to avoid it. Being a seasoned conspiracy theorist, he reasons that Monsanto Collaborators was put up by the “biotech mafia” to discredit anti-GMO activists (he also believes the biotech industry ensnares journalists and activists in elaborate sexual blackmail schemes, in order to turn them into shills). However, the Genetic Literary Project claims it has confirmed that Adams is the financial backer of the new website. Sadly, they haven’t provided any evidence of that to date.
UPDATE: As I was writing this post yesterday, This Week in Pseudoscience posted the results of their examination of MonsantoCollaborators.org, and there are strong indications that the site was put up by someone in the Health Ranger’s inner circle. The most compelling indicator is that Adams’ article didn’t appear anywhere online until after 11:00 PM (GMT) on July 21. It was posted to Facebook at 11:05 (GMT), and the first comment on the Natural News article was made 10 minutes later. However, MonsantoCollaborators.org was registered earlier in the day, at 4:21 (GMT) in the afternoon.
(thanks to David)

To my knowledge, this is the first time that one of Alex Jones’ most popular guests has made implied threats of violent retribution against a perceived enemy. His bizarre outburst comes at a time when he is struggling to put his conspiracy-mongering behind him and rebrand himself as a saner, calmer health activist. It also comes at a time when the anti-Monsanto, anti-GMO movement is at peak strength, gaining thousands of new supporters by the second. Boycotts, petitions, and protest rallies are sprouting all over the planet and garnering serious attention from mainstream media outlets. And now, at this pivotal moment, Adams decides to unleash subtle threats of violence and false accusations of genocide? It seems that if anyone is inflicting severe damage to the anti-GMO cause, it’s Adams himself. If he keeps this up, he’ll become a very different kind of ranger…

Lone_ranger_silver_1965

The Top 5 Silliest Chicken Franchise Myths

chicken too

Now that the heartbreaking/enraging viral story about a disfigured 3-year-old being turfed from a KFC for “scaring the other customers” has turned out to be a likely sham, let’s review some of the other kooky hoaxes and urban myths involving fast food chicken joints…

5. Clones and Chickenblobs/KFC name change

Beginning in the late ’90s, scare emails claimed that Kentucky Fried Chicken was forced to change its name to KFC, because it was no longer selling actual chicken. It was farming genetically modified chickens with more than two legs, or chicken clones, or beakless, legless chickenblobs that had liquid nutrients transfused directly into their veins. The story was sometimes accompanied by this picture:

chickenblob

Needless to say, there wasn’t much truth to any of this.

  • KFC doesn’t even raise its own chickens; the chain buys from numerous suppliers that sell chicken to many other restaurants, supermarkets, and fast food chains.
  • No one forced Kentucky Fried Chicken to change its name. The common wisdom is that the name change was part of an early ’90s rebranding effort designed to downplay the word “fried” (and possibly the word “Kentucky”).
  • The word “chicken” still appeared on the KFC menu, so obviously they were still using chicken.
  • Genetically modified chickens are still chickens.
  • No one has yet figured out how to produce legless/beakless poultry.
  • Meat from clones is reportedly on the market. However, cloning animals is prohibitively expensive and risky, so it’s not going to appeal to fast food suppliers that need a steady, reliable flow of cheap animals.

Silly as the chickenblob legends are, factory farmed chickens can live in some pretty dismal conditions. A less-silly rumour, included in Super Size Me, is that chickens are being bred to have enormous breasts that make them so top-heavy they are barely able to walk. The ASPCA website even asserts that most chickens have to lie flat on the ground throughout their lives.

There is some truth to this one. In general, chickens bred for meat have disproportionately large chests and low bone density. Many of them have trouble supporting their own weight on those skinny legs.  I don’t know that the average broiler chicken has this problem, but it is a concern. In overcrowded poultry operations, birds can’t walk around, anyway, because they’re squished together like foam packing peanuts.

foghorn leghorn

 

4. The Kentucky Fried Rat

This is a golden oldie of an urban legend that I’ve been hearing my entire life. It seems to date from the mid-’70s. There are variations of it, but the most popular one is that a woman was nibbling a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken when she suddenly realized it was actually a fried rat. In some versions of the tale, she died from a heart attack and her family sued the franchise. According to snopes, this story has never been traced to a single source, and it’s rarely connected to a specific location. It is incredibly unlikely that it really happened.

However, people now frequently share Guess What I Found in My Chicken photos and stories. In 2000, Katherine Ortega of Newport News, Virginia, produced a deep-fried rooster head that she claimed to have discovered in a box of McDonald’s chicken wings (which were being test-marketed in the area at the time). She threatened to sue, but apparently never did. It was not confirmed that the head came from McDonald’s.
In 2003, Baltimore pastor Tony Hill claimed he was served a mouse at a Popeye’s chicken outlet. He, too, never pursued the matter.
Last year, a Colchester man complained of finding a “brain” in his KFC meal. He chucked it in the trash, but KFC tentatively identified the object in his photo as a kidney. Two identical discoveries also received press attention.
Just this week, a woman in New Castle, England, released a photo of a piece of KFC chicken that was actually a battered and deepfried paper towel.

3. Church’s Chicken KKK Sterilization

In 1986, folklorist Patricia Turner was teaching an Introduction to Black Literature course at the University of Massachusetts. For some reason, she told her students the Kentucky Fried Rat story, and was intrigued when one of the students informed her that the Church’s Chicken chain was owned by the KKK, and was putting something in its food to chemically sterilize men – mostly black men, since Church’s Chicken franchises existed in predominantly black neighbourhoods.
A nearly identical KKK “stealth sterilization” rumour was attached to a new brand of cheap soda, Tropical Fantasy, in 1991, leading to a steep plunge in sales and a frantic PR campaign. Anonymous fliers posted in Harlem implicated the Tropical Fantasy, Top Pop, and Treat brand sodas as part of a genocide-by-beverage campaign. There were reports of attacks on delivery drivers by outraged youths.
Turner thoroughly investigated both stories and wrote about them in her 1993 book I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Though racist chicken joints were definitely a thing, she couldn’t find any KKK connection to either Church’s Chicken or the Brooklyn Bottling Corp. (which, ironically, employed a large percentage of minorities). Though there are chemicals believed to decrease fertility in men, there is no substance capable of permanently rendering a man sterile that could be introduced into food or liquid.

2. Silicone in chicken nuggets

I covered this one several years ago at Leaving Alex Jonestown, when Natural News was twigging out over it. Yes, dimethylpolysiloxane, a type of silicone, is an ingredient in the coating of some chicken nuggets. It is added to many foods and drink mixes to prevent sticking, clumping, and foaming. It’s simply a synthetic version of silica, which occurs naturally in most grains, water, and meats because it’s one of the most common minerals on the planet. Like silica, dimethylpolysiloxane is perfectly safe to ingest.

nugget mcbuddies

Forget the silicone…why does this McNugget Buddy have hair?!

1. Mechanically Separated Meat Is Bad for You

There is widespread suspicion that we are still living in Upton Sinclair’s Jungle, where hooves and a**holes end up in our processed meats on a regular basis.

In Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock takes umbrage at the very idea of chicken nuggets. “What part of the chicken does a nugget come from?” he asks, wrinkling up his Mario ‘stache in a convincing simulacrum of disgust. In an article on nuggets published by NBC last year, a medical doctor is quoted as saying that chicken parts aren’t really chicken.
The notion behind chicken nuggets is exactly the same as meatloaf, liver pâté, or fishsticks, but for some reason, finely chopped chicken has become the new hot dog of the fast food world – always suspect, always derided, forever ghetto. It has to be the worst parts of the chicken that end up in Nuggetville, right?
Not really. The quality of the chicken is the same as you’ll find in other chicken products, since it comes from the same chickens. There is some skin in, say, McDonald’s nuggets – but most people eat the skin from roasted and fried chickens without a second thought.
Western consumers have developed a horror of mechanically separated meat (MSM), particularly after Jamie Oliver’s demonstration of how finely textured beef is processed went viral. In the aftermath of the “pink slime” revelations, certain facts were neglected:

  • Oliver drenched a tub of meat in liquid ammonia to show how it is sanitized, but “pink slime” does not contain ammonia. Ammonia fumes are used.
  • Using less-than-perfect parts of an animal means less waste. The less-than-perfect parts aren’t going to hurt you. In Eastern countries, all parts of an animal are used or consumed. Think of Filipino blood pudding, or Vietnamese fatty flank steak. Jamie Oliver is a wealthy white man, schooled in the European culinary tradition, who does not understand how most of the world eats. MSM is an efficient, cost-effective use of animal products that would otherwise be discarded.
  • It is a filler product only. You won’t find any meat products in the fast food market that contain just pink slime or MSM.

Bonus Urban Legend: The Colonel’s Curse

This one really doesn’t have anything to do with chicken, but it’s too fun to ignore. In 1985, the Hanshin Tigers won the Japanese baseball championship with a 4-2 defeat against the Seibu Lions. Triumphant fans got carried away that night, stealing a Colonel Sanders statue and hurling it into the Dōtonbori River.
The Tigers didn’t win another championship. In the great tradition of sports curses, the vengeful spirit of the Colonel was blamed…though he didn’t actually die until 1990, and the Tigers had always sucked. Every so often, TV personalities would make a big show of trying to find the statue. but it wasn’t recovered until 2009.
The Tigers continue to suck.
The curse-KFC link has become so entrenched in Japanese culture that it pops up in the very first episode of the anime horror series When They Cry, which is set in 1984.

Now, get a little closer to your screen, because I’m going to reveal a few of the real dirty little secrets of fast food chicken franchises…

Harlan Sanders only served three months in the U.S. Army. He used the name “Colonel” just to sell chicken.
In the ’60s, the “Colonel” made cameo appearances in cheesy exploitation flicks like Hell’s Bloody Devils and Hershel Gordon Lewis’s Blast Off Girls, hawking his chicken.
In the ’70s, long after he had sold his franchise, the Colonel described Kentucky Fried Chicken gravy as “sludge”.
After a 2010 survey of  Americans ages 18-25 found that 52% of them believed Colonel Sanders was a fictional part of KFC’s branding, KFC launched an intensive PR campaign to prove Sanders had been a real person.
Chick-fil-A has sent cease-and-desist letters to at least 30 businesses to demand they stop using slogans that begin with the phrase “Eat more…”

 

Flim-Flam Friday: Chlorella

flimflam1

Chlorella

Last week I glimpsed a Facebook ad for “nature’s perfect superfood”, Chlorella, a freshwater green algae that grows naturally in certain parts of Asia.
Every single time I hear the term “superfood”, this happens:

redalert.gif

There are two reasons for that.
1. Sure, certain foods are nutrient-dense, but foods slapped with the prefix “super” usually turn out to be plain old food, neither  more nor less healthful than other foods in the same category. For instance, acai berries were hailed as a superfood and an anti-aging aid due to their high levels of antioxidants, but researchers have pointed out the berries contain about the same amount of antioxidants as other (far less expensive) fruits like blueberries and grapes. (1) Thanks to the trendiness of acai products, rural Brazilians who rely upon the berries as a staple food find their stomachs grumbling. (2)
2. You probably don’t need dietary supplements if you are healthy and have a varied, nutrient-rich diet. Certain foods or supplements might be beneficial when you have a deficiency, but if you don’t have a deficiency, you will get little to no benefit from them. (3)

Superfood

Looks even sillier than it sounds.


What does Chlorella supposedly do?

An incredibly broad range of claims has been made about the health benefits of Chlorella. In addition to being hailed as a nutrient-dense superfood (example), a detoxifying agent, and an energy booster, one Japanese study suggests it can:

– reduce body-fat percentage
– alleviate Type 2 diabetes by reducing blood-glucose levels
– help reduce cholesterol (4)

Many, many scientifically unsupported claims are being made about Chlorella. It can supposedly aid digestion by stimulating the growth of probiotic bacteria, treat ulcers, alleviate depression, increase “liver energy”, prevent or even cure cancer, and “boost immunity” (which would be a bad thing, if your immunity is normal).

Does it work?

As a food source? Yes (see “The Bottom Line” at the end of this post). As a cure-all pill, diet aid, or detoxifying agent? Probably not.
The problem with the bulk of the recent research involving Chlorella is that the results have not yet been replicated. When the Telegraph breathlessly tells you Chlorella can “reduce body-fat percentage”, they’re not telling you that this was found in just one study. (4)

At one time, Dr. Joseph Mercola claimed Chlorella could “fight cancer”. As absolutely zero evidence supports this, and federal law prohibits supplement suppliers from making health-related claims for their products, the FDA ordered Mercola to stop making that claim (and several others) on his website. So then he switched to saying Chlorella could eliminate your risk of getting cancer. The FDA ordered him to stop saying that, as well. Has this prevented Mercola from making extravagant claims about the curative properties of Chlorella? Nope. These days, he declares it can “prevent or ease” everything from stress to liver cancer. (5)

A lot of woo has attached itself to Chlorella over the years. Erich Von Däniken of “ancient astronauts” fame proposed in his 1980 book Signs of the Gods that maybe the Ark of the Covenant was a miniature nuclear reactor and manna machine. According to this theory, the “ark machine” absorbed and stored dew, to which green algae (Chlorella) was added, and poof! Delicious manna came out of the machine. It would have been radioactive as hell, but meh. Logic is for the unimaginative.
Not that Von Däniken was being particularly imaginative; he borrowed the entire “alien manna machine” concept from an April Fool’s article in New Scientist, which later became a book.

moses_speaks

“We have reached the Promised Land!
Sadly, you all have cancer.”

One health blogger says she’s taking Chlorella to “detox heavy metals” that supposedly remain in her body from chemotherapy she received some time ago. This is not a sound decision. First of all, heavy metals can be eliminated from the body only if treatment is administered immediately after exposure. Secondly, nothing in Chlorella has been shown to remove metals from the body. Thirdly, there is only one heavy metal involved with chemo (platinum, found in the chemo drugs Carboplatin and cisplatin). The platinum from both drugs generally remains in cells for up to 180 days. (6) Even if Chlorella could bind heavy metals, it would be incapable of removing them from the tissues and bloodstream without  the aid of chelation. (5)

The Bottom Line

So, Chlorella manna and Chlorella “metal detox” are bunk. But is Chlorella a superfood? In the ’50s and ’60s, scientists thought it could be. After WWII, the Baby Boom led governments around the world to study Chlorella in the hope it could be used to feed the masses cheaply and efficiently in the event of food shortages. NASA studied it with a view to feeding it to astronauts, and perhaps growing it on space stations. But processing Chlorella for consumption turned out to be too costly and time-consuming for either purpose, and it was relegated to the dietary supplement shelves of health food stores. It is an excellent food source. In its dried form, Chlorella is 45% protein, 20% carbohydrate, 20% fat, 5% fibre, and 10% vitamins and minerals. It contains nine essential amino acids. (7)
But according to an article on Chlorella at WebMD, the quality of the Chlorella found in supplements can vary wildly. The Chlorella in some products may contain only 7% protein, for instance.
To become a supplement, Chlorella is dried , crushed to a powder, and converted to small emerald tablets, which are vaguely reminiscent of Soylent Green. If the cell walls remain intact – and there are indications that this is the case with some Chlorella supplements – the Chlorella will be of no benefit to humans.
The recommended daily dosage for one of the most popular brands of Chlorella tablet is 15 tablets per day, at about $34US per 300 tablets. Perhaps this makes sense if you don’t have access to fresh, inexpensive greens like kale, but for the average consumer this is a pretty penny to spend on what are essentially veggie pills. A diet with sufficient carbs, protein, and vitamins will not require Chlorella.


Sources:

1. – Kuskoski EM, Asuero AG, Morales MT, Fett R, et al. “Wild fruits and pulps of frozen fruits: antioxidant activity, polyphenols and anthocyanins”. Cienc Rural 36 (July/August 2006)
– Seeram NP, Aviram M, Zhang Y, et al. “Comparison of antioxidant potency of commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages in the United States”. Journal of Agriculutral Food Chemicals 56 (February 2008). (abstract)
2.‘Superfood’ Promoted on Oprah’s Site Robs Amazon Poor of Staple” by Adriana Brasileiro, Bloomberg, May 14/09
3. Brown University’s page on nutrition supplements
4. T Mizoguchi, I Takehara, T Masuzawa. “Nutrigenomic studies of effects of Chlorella on subjects with high-risk factors for lifestyle-related disease“. Journal of Medicinal Food 11:3 (Sept. 2008)
5.Dr. Oz Revisited” by David Gorski, Science Based Medicine blog, Feb. 7/12.
6. Elke EM Brouwers, Alwin DR Huitema, Jos H Beijnen, Jan HM Schellens. “Long-term platinum retention after treatment with cisplatin and oxaliplatin“. Clinical Pharmacology 2008, 8:7.
7. Belasco, Warren. “Algae Burgers for a Hungry World? The Rise and Fall of Chlorella Cuisine”. Technology and Culture 38:3 (July 1997). Available from Jstor.

Flim-Flam Friday: A** Coffee

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sad_face_coffee_mug

I first heard about coffee enemas from “Gus“, a raging conspiranoid who wanted to screen The Beautiful Truth, a documentary about the German quack physician Max Gerson, in my city. You wouldn’t think a film with both “truth” and “beautiful” in the title would involve squirting coffee up your butt, but Gus was adamant that Gerson had found the cure for cancer; the Gerson-Sauerbrach-Hermannsdorfer diet combined with regular coffee enemas.  (1)

Gerson first used ass coffee back in the ’30s, so it’s nothing new. However, today’s health faddists have rediscovered and resurrected hundreds of worthless therapies from yesteryear, and caffeine enemas fall into that group. An episode of the TLC show My Strange Addiction featured a Florida couple who administer ass coffee to themselves with the zeal of religious converts, up to four times a day.

What do coffee enemas supposedly do?

Gerson declared that caffeine enemas purged toxins from the liver by stimulating bile production, alleviating cancer and a host of other diseases.
There is no evidence that coffee increases bile production, and no one has ever explained just what these toxins are. Therefore, it is impossible to verify that ass coffee can remove those theoretical toxins. One might as well say that ass coffee flushes gremlins out of the lower intestine. (1)
Other uses of ass coffee are: treatment for constipation, pain relief, energy boosts, and weight loss.

The obvious question is, why not drink your coffee? Gerson’s reasoning was that one cannot possibly consume his prescribed amount of coffee – one liter – in a single day (amateur), but the most frequently-cited reason for ass coffee is that the body absorbs more caffeine from coffee via the tissues of the colon than through oral ingestion. Also, ass coffee is speedier than drinking and bypasses the unpleasant side effects of indigestion, heartburn and continuous peeing. This is the same logic behind rectal shelving of DMT, the legendary vodka tampons, and other stuff you really shouldn’t try.

What’s the active ingredient?

Caffeine and/or cafestol palmitate. Coffee enema enthusiasts have imbued caffeine with mysterious detoxifying properties that it doesn’t actually have, and today’s proponents of the Gerson method claim that cafestol palmitate promotes the production of glutathione S-transferase. No research supports that claim, mostly because cafestol palmitate is active only in green, unroasted coffee beans.  (2,4)

Does it work?

It depends on how you define “work”. Do coffee enemas deliver caffeine to the bloodstream? Yes, in that sense they are effective (if inefficient, disgusting, and potentially dangerous). So increased energy is one short-term effect of ass coffee.
Does it cure cancer? Hell no. Any treatment for cancer, by necessity, has to kill cells and inhibit cell growth. Coffee does neither.
While ass coffee unquestionably does provide short-term relief of constipation, long-term enema application can actually make your colon lazier, ultimately making constipation worse.  (3)
Caffeine consumption does not promote weight loss. In fact, it can complicate dieting by making you hungrier than usual.
The bowel is actually quite efficient when it comes to cleansing. The intestinal lining sheds old epithelial cells naturally every few days, so hurrying that procedure along with colon cleanses of any sort is completely unnecessary. Colonic irrigation and enemas can even flush out beneficial bacteria that helps detoxify waste.

So what’s the problem?

As harmlessly weird as ass coffee may sound, it actually poses serious health risks. There have even been ass coffee fatalities. Here are a few of the potential hazards:

  • As with any bogus cancer treatment, there is the risk that cancer patients will choose the Gerson method over proven medical treatments.
  • There is such a thing as too much caffeine. A liter of filtered coffee (roughly 6 cups) can contain anywhere from 570 to 1200 mg of caffeine. Health Canada indicates the safest known upper limit for adult caffeine consumption is 400 mg of caffeine per day. The Florida couple who give themselves four coffee enemas a day? They’re ingesting up to 4800 mg of caffeine in a 16-hour period.
  • Any colon cleanse runs the risk of overexpanding the colon, causing it to perforate. This can lead to sepsis and any number of other infections.
  • Rectal burns and scarring (duh)
  • Removal of beneficial flora
  • Tissue inflammation (proctocolitis)  (2)
  • Dehydration, potentially fatal electrolyte imbalance and potassium imbalance (hypokalemia)  (4)

The Bottom Line:

Don’t squirt coffee, or any other beverage for that matter, up your butt.

please_knock_it_off

Sources:

1. National Cancer Institute, Gerson Therapy: General Information
2. Keum, B.; Jeen, Y. T.; Park, S. C.; Seo, Y. S.; Kim, Y. S.; Chun, H. J.; Um, S. H.; Kim, C. D. et al. (2010). “Proctocolitis Caused by Coffee Enemas“. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 105 (1): 229–230
3. American Cancer Society pages on colon therapy and Gerson therapy
4. Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center page on metabolic therapies

Flim-Flam Friday: Cherry Supplements

flimflam1

cherries

For the past few years, one of the trendiest trends in the alternative-health universe has been dietary supplements made from sour (tart) cherries. They’re particularly popular with athletes and arthritis sufferers.

What does the product supposedly do?

Cherry supplements supposedly work as anti-inflammatories, helping to relieve joint pain and muscle soreness without the side effects of ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other over-the-counter remedies. Some are marketed as effective treatments for gout. A few companies take it a step farther by claiming their cherry supplements are diet aids or can lower cholesterol. Both claims lack strong evidence. A single rat study ties cherry juice to weight loss (1), and one study found a 26% cholesterol decrease in mice fed cherry powder (2)
One company’s advertisement touts two studies by Winona State University’s Dr. Farnsworth Gary Kastello, which found that two cherry products reduced muscle soreness after exercise…if taken for sixteen days prior to exercising. The problem with these results is that the studies were not double-blind, controlled studies; the participants took only the cherry supplements and were aware that these products were the focus of the study. Furthermore, the results have not appeared in any peer-reviewed publication. Buh-bye, scientific validity.

taking-pills

“Gonna be a rough workout tonight…better hop in the ol’ Tardis and pop a shitload of cherry pills for half a month.”

There are a few studies indicating that runners who drink cherry juice exhibit reduced isometric stress, oxidative stress, inflammation, pain and strength loss, but the number of participants in each study is so incredibly small (14-54) that the results are really not helpful. (3)
The only other evidence of cherry-supplement efficacy is anecdotal. Company websites and Facebook pages overflow with glowing testimonials from customers, like this one: “Since taking your cherry supplements, … I cured myself. I believe prayer, diet, and your cherry supplements have put my body back on a healthy track.”

What’s the active ingredient?

In sour cherries, the anti-inflammatory component is cyanidin, a kind of anthocyanidin.
Many companies also tout the antioxidants in their cherry-based products, though that isn’t necessarily as awesome as we might think it is.

Does it work as advertised?

While it’s true that sour cherries have anti-inflammatory properties (as shown by numerous legit studies conducted in the past 10 years), the big question is: Do cherry supplements offer the same benefits as the fruit? The answer is

animated-shrug-house

To date, no comparison studies have been conducted. Generally speaking, though, actual food is usually a more efficient source of nutrients than supplements derived from that food (in some cases, the processing of food to create supplements can even compromise or destroy the active ingredient). (4)

Pac-Man

FACTOID: Cherries enable you to see and devour ghosts

The FDA has sent warning letters to numerous producers of cherry products (drinks, tablets, etc.). There’s nothing wrong with any of these products. The problem is in the labeling. Once you begin to claim curative powers for your food products, you’re automatically selling a drug – and the FDA has yet to approve any cherry-based product as a drug. It’s one thing to sell cherry juice, and quite another to say your cherry juice is an effective treatment for arthritis.

cherry cuddler with gooseberry

FACTOID: Snorting a Cherry Cuddler doll cures herpes.

So what’s the problem?

There is simply no reason to accept, at this point, that any of the bottled cherry products are superior to the real thing. There is no scientific evidence that cherry supplements offer the same potential benefits as plain old sour cherries, and the price of a bottle of cherry juice or cherry pills is considerably higher than a bag of fresh sour cherries, even if they’re out of season. Example: One company offers 60 dried tart cherry capsules for $18.95. Fresh tart cherries rarely exceed $1/lb (US), and 20 of these cherries can have the same effect as a tablet of ibuprofen or aspirin. (4)
So if you’re buying into the supplement hype based on testimonials and a handful of dodgy studies, you might just be a

red-lollipop-on-white

(cherry-flavoured, of course)

Thanks to Renee @ The Skeptic Project for directing me to most of the info in this post!

Sources:

1. Seymour EM, Lewis, SK, Urcuyo-Llanes, DE, Kirakosyan A, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. (2009) Regular Tart Cherry Intake Alters Abdominal Adiposity, Adipose Gene Transcription and Inflammation in Obesity-Prone Rats Fed a High Fat Diet. J Med Food 12(5):935-42.
2. Seymour EM, Kondoleon MG, Huang MG, Kirakosyan A, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. FASEB Journal. 2011.
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4.Basics on Sour Cherries” by Karen Ravn (Los Angeles Times. July 14, 2012)