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Cannabis as Medicine: Not a Panacea but still Valuable
Posted in Other skepticisms on July 7, 2015
There are some very passionate supporters of weed out there. It can cure cancer and relieve pain while freeing your mind. You could be lead to believe that it is a cure all for nearly everything. Its understandable that people are passionate about the topic when they do have very good and valid points in the face of a government that just doesn’t seem to get it. The voice of support has to become louder and more impactful as the frustration mounts. Believe me, the government gets it, but lobby groups have more power over rational discussion in American politics. And cannabis certainly has a place in medicine, it just may not quite live up to the hyperbole…but it might. We should have had a better idea of its medicinal value years ago, had those efforts not been hampered by the legal status of cannabis over the last century. In this article, I’ll explore what the peer reviewed science currently has to say about the plant. Read the rest of this entry »
Artificial Sweeteners – Aspartame (Equal, Sweet ‘N Low)
Posted in Nutrition and Health on December 9, 2014
In a continuation of my coverage on artificial sweeteners, this post will be dedicated to one of the most controversial of them all: aspartame. That’s because aspartame has been blamed for causing cancer and attributed to many other afflictions, which is evident in this chain email that circulated in 1998 during the early days of the internet. In particular I remember the stories growing up, before I could even pronounce the word, that claimed aspartame causes cancer, and like many people, I automatically believed it was true. I’ve dug through the scientific literature, there was a ton of it to look through…part of the reason it took so long for me to write this article. Not surprisingly I’ve found that most of the claims are unsubstantiated by evidence, despite the fact that many of these studies are 20-30 years old – something that I do take issue with. I did find some more recent compelling research, backed by a plausible mechanism on the potential neurotoxic effects of long-term aspartame consumption. Those studies used large doses of aspartame, but were within the FDA acceptable daily intake limit, and I would urge you to read on for more context. Aspartame may also have an affect on metabolic parameters related to diabetes and obesity, as well as composition of gut bacteria. The evidence is conflicting, however, and many of these same issues are brought up surrounding other artificial sweeteners as well. Read the rest of this entry »
Artificial Sweeteners – Sucralose (Splenda)
Posted in Nutrition and Health on August 11, 2014
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes that provide no nutritional value and are made by chemical processes, rather than naturally occurring in the environment. As such, there’s always a lot of negative attention directed toward artificial sweeteners and indeed, anything labeled as “artificial.” I’ve decided to do a series of articles on artificial sweeteners to find out what claims are true and what isn’t, instead of doing one article with a bullet point list. There’s just too much information to condense everything into one article and I like to include as much context as possible because most things are not black and white issues, and this topic is no exception. So the first article in this series will concentrate on what science currently has to say about the most widely used artificial sweetener on the market: sucralose.
Surcalose, best known as the key ingredient in Splenda, is a non-nutritive sweetener 600 times sweeter than sugar by weight. The molecule itself is produced by a series of chemical reactions, starting with sugar as a base, then, stripping away 3 hydroxyl groups from the original sugar molecule and replacing them with chlorine atoms. The added chlorine atoms make sucralose sweeter than sugar while also preventing it from being metabolized by the body. This means that sucralose is not used as an energy source by the body and is simply eliminated as a waste product. Read the rest of this entry »
The Importance of Funding Basic Science Research
Posted in Commentary on July 25, 2014
Hype and Potential Behind the Therapeutic Promises of Curcumin: From Alzheimer’s to Cystic Fibrosis
Posted in Nutrition and Health on July 3, 2014
Turmeric is a root belonging to the ginger family, and like ginger, is used prominently in oriental cuisines. Owing its yellow color to a compound called curcumin, the root is probably best known as the spice used in curries. Like its ginger cousin, turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. I’m not entirely sure how we know the timeline or how much truth is in that statement. Nonetheless, I will parrot that as truth since we as humans often have this immutable faith in the supposed medicinal value of things we pull out of the ground. As it turns out, there does appear to be some real potential medical applications, not with turmeric itself, but with curcumin. Some of the claims are hype, some of them show a lot of promise with a little more research, and there may actually be some benefit in taking curcumin now.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is Not Special in the Sugar Debate
Posted in Food myths on May 7, 2014
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has become the latest target in the war against the obesity epidemic. The very fact that it exists because it is a highly processed corn product makes it ripe for sensationalized headlines like “5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You.” The name of the product itself makes it sound ominous. So what is the truth? Will HFCS kill you and, perhaps, more importantly, is it really anymore dangerous than the thing that it commonly replaces, table sugar? The short answer is, no. It is almost exactly the same as regular sugar and is no more harmful than sugar when consumed in amounts that are within or below the recommended dietary guidelines.
The Standing Desk Trend and Why Sitting Probably Won’t Kill You
Posted in Other skepticisms on April 25, 2014
Over the last few years I’ve seen a great amount of fuss being made over the use of standing desks based on reports claiming that too much time spent sitting will kill you. The idea, at least from a health standpoint, that if you have a desk job, you’re better off standing at your desk all day rather than sitting. Doesn’t this new evidence contradict what we’ve always heard about the supposed health hazards present in jobs where standing all day is a requirement? If we were to look at the average lifespan of an assembly line worker, do they live longer lives than the average population, provided they have not been exposed to other obvious work-place hazards such as asbestos? I’m not even sure I can name someone I’ve met, myself included, who has had to stand all day at their job and didn’t wish they had a job where they could be sitting more often – because standing all day is painful. Who knew… Read the rest of this entry »
Does Local Honey Help Relieve Seasonal Allergies?
Posted in Nutrition and Health on April 21, 2014
I know that its that time of year again when I walk outside and immediately start sneezing. Spring is here in full force and so are my allergies. Like most seasonal allergy sufferers, I take nasal spray corticosteroids and antihistamine tablets in order to remain in a somewhat functional state. Honey is a popular natural and alternative remedy for allergies. Its supposed to provide immunity against allergy causing pollens because the honey itself contains pollen. Its thought that locally collected honey that is untreated and not pasteurized works best because it contains local pollen as well as enzymes from the bees that aren’t destroyed or lost by heating and filtering. I’ve experimented with honey myself in an attempt to relieve my symptoms, from raw honey to royal jelly with no luck. I’m still curious to see what the science has to say about the use of honey to treat allergies even though it doesn’t seem to work for me.
Raw vs Cooked Vegetables
Posted in Food myths, Nutrition and Health on April 8, 2014
Many new diets make claims that raw food, particularly vegetables, is better for you based on the assumption that our ancestors evolved to eat food that way and cooking destroys some of the nutrients. As I write this sentence I am neutral on the claims made of consuming raw vegetables. The claims do make sense to me because I know that heat tends to destabilize the structure of proteins, essentially rendering them inactive, and alters the structure of chemical compounds (please note I use the word chemical here in a general sense to describe naturally occurring chemicals, such as those made by plants, as well as synthetic chemicals). But I also know that the process of digestion is designed to do exactly that. With that said, does it even matter if you eat your vegetables raw if everything going down your gullet will be broken down to basic molecular units? Read the rest of this entry »
Misguided Concerns Over Food Labeling
Posted in Commentary, Nutrition and Health on March 11, 2015
Photo credit: CT Senate Democrats
Earlier this year Oklahoma State University released a summary of the results of an online survey polled from 1000 people in the US that tracks consumer concerns over food safety and regulation. From the polled sample, 82% supported mandatory labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. A real discredit to those fighting for GMO labeling was the finding that 85% also supported mandatory labeling of food containing DNA. Strikingly, only 39% of respondents were in favor of a tax on sugared sodas, which is an issue that legitimately poses health risks to the US population as I covered in a previous article, and 55% support a ban on transfat, which also poses real health risks. Read the rest of this entry »
food, genetically modified food, health, science, Skepticism, sugar
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