Category: Chemistry

Why add lemon juice when canning tomato sauce?

Why add lemon juice when canning tomato sauce?

When I published my article on making tomato sauce with the assistance of the Instant Pot, a number of people commented that I had left out the lemon juice. They referred me to this slightly misinformed warning article.  More to the point, the USDA recommends adding 1 Tb of lemon juice per pint of sauce.

In fact, the USDA, on a site hosted by the University of Georgia, explains that the pH of canned tomato sauce must be at or below 4.6 to prevent the growth of botulism. This sounds like really good advice, but we have been canning tomato sauce for over 30 years without adding lemon juice, and no one has had any ill effects.

The pH value is a measure of the acidity of a solution, here of tomato juice, and the lower the pH the higher the acidity. Thus foods having a pH of 4 are more acidic than those with a pH of 5. This Is a logarithmic scale, so foods with a pH of 4 are ten times as acidic as those with a pH of 5.

So we decided to look into this a little further. It turns out that we aren’t the first. The University of North Dakota Ag Extension in 2007 looked into the pH of a number of popular tomato varieties that you might use in making salsa. They measured the pH of the tomatoes, of the salsa and of the salsa with lemon juice, and found that only the salsas with added lemon juice had a pH below 4.6.  These were grown in Williston, ND and probably in a greenhouse, so the pH values might differ from the garden and in warmer states.

More recently, in 2010 Heflebower and Washburn at Utah State measured the acidity of juice from a number of popular varieties, including Celebrity and Rutgers, finding that the pH varied from 3.92 to 4.32. Clearly sauce from these varieties need not be further acidified. They also found that pH didn’t vary much based on maturity of the fruit, nor on whether a new or an heirloom variety was tested. However, since tomato sauce may vary with the mixture of fruits you use as well as the weather conditions, they suggest that it would not be unwise to continue to add lemon juice.

However, since 2010, there have been a number of tomato varieties bred especially for flavor, and we decided to test the pH of the 8 varieties growing in our garden. We used a THZY portable pH meter, calibrated with the supplied buffer solution. We squeezed juice out of part of each tomato and filtered it through a coffee filter into a freshly washed glass, rinsed with distilled water.

Here are our pH readings

Opalka * 4.62
Lemon Boy 4.45
Garden Gem ** 4.30
Amish Paste * 4.14
Fourth of July 4.14
Better Boy 4.11
Cloudy Day 4.11
Garden Treasure ** 3.91

* Heirloom
** Recently developed

The Opalka variety has been a reliable paste tomato for years, but obviously if you use it, you must add lemon juice to your sauce. If it is only one of many, you may not need to. Note that Lemon Boy, a mild yellow tomato is the only other one even close to a pH of 4.6.

Professor Klee at the University of Florida developed the Garden Gem and Garden Treasure varieties (**) with significantly a improved taste, and we recommend them highly.

What about the sauce?

The pH of the final sauce will be influenced by the ingredients you add: in our case onions and spices. We tested the pH of sauce from 2015 and from last week. They were 4.18 and 4.33 respectively, and thus perfectly safe. Interestingly, it was the 2015 sauce that used Opalkas. This year they haven’t done well and none was in last week’s batch.

canned

Conclusions

You would probably be safe without adding lemon juice, but a tablespoon of lemon juice will make a substantial change in the pH and in your safety. We found that adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to a pint of distilled water reduced its pH from 5.86 to 2.96. Thr scientists at the University of North Dakota found that the lemon juice reduced the pH of salsa by only 0.3 pH units. And don’t worry about the possible sourness: one or two teaspoons of sugar will easily cancel it out. In the batch we made yesterday, we added 1 Tb of lemon juice and 1 tsp of sugar to the bottom of each pint jat.


What is pH? [a sidebar]

The concentration of acid, or specifically of hydrogen ions (H+) in a water solution can vary from 100 (or 1.0) to 10-14. Since this is hard to write down, we usually refer to the concentration by the exponent of 10 or 0 to -14. And, in order to make this more convenient we remove the minus sign, so pH values run from 0 to 14. Neutral pH (neither acidic nor basic) is pH 7, where the concentration of hydrogen ions and hydroxyl ions (OH) are equal.

So if we want to write down the acid concentration equivalent to a ph of 4.6, that means 10-4.6 and that is the same as.00002512.

And what are the units of this concentration? It is moles per liter, where a mole is the molecular weight of an element in grams. A gram of hydrogen ions (or of hydrogen itself for that matter) is one mole. It turns out that a mole of any element or compound has the same number of particles (ion, atoms or molecules) and that number is called Avogadro’s number. While Avogadro proposed it, it was first calculated by Loschmidt to be 6.02 x 1023 particles.

 

‘Genetic Roulette the movie’: a review

JeffreySmith genetic roulete
Jeffrey Smith in “Genetic Roulette”

Genetic Roulette” is activist Jeffrey Smith’s film version of the arguments he puts forward in his eponymous self-published book. Smith has no scientific training and he relies on a number of “experts” to make his case that GM foods are somehow bad for you.

“Americas are getting sicker, and one reason may be GMOs.”

This is as close to causality as the film ever reaches:  his evidence is anecdotal and not the result of rigorous scientific investigations. His experts for the most part are not scientists at all, but drawn from parents, activists, pseudo-scientists and members of the alternative medicine community.

We hear from the owner of Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps, osteopath Arden Anderson, lawyer and Maharishi University faculty member Steven Druker, Lawrence Plumlee, MD, an alternative medicine specialist, Garry Gordon, an osteopath, Robyn O’Brien, the author of a nonscientific alarmist book we have already reviewed, Bob Street, MS, an agronomy consultant, Dan Skow, DVM who represents the discredited Albrecht and Reams school of agricultural theory, Michael W Fox, DVM who dabbles in homeopathy and acupuncture, Shiv Chopra who was fired from Health Canada for his unsupported views on bovine growth hormone, Analiese Behling ND, Michelle Perro, MD a specialist in complimentary and integrative medicine, Doris Rapp, a homeopath, Michael Visconti, ND, William Cowden, MD, a homeopath who was reprimanded twice in Texas and Russell Maur, ND.

Smith claims that “chronic illnesses are now epidemic,” and would like to connect this assertion with consumption of GMO foods. However, it is well known that the causes are the aging of the population, poor access to affordable care, and increases in diabetes associated with excess caloric intake. For example, recent surveys suggest that fewer than half of U.S. patients with hypertension, depression, diabetes, and asthma are receiving appropriate treatment.

Smith also claims that transgenic plant breeding amounts to genes being randomly forced into DNA. In fact insertion of transgenes is less disruptive than conventional plant breeding, as shown in papers by Di Carli, and by Catchpole.

He also claims a significant increase in digestive disorders but is unable to make any actual connection to consumption of GM foods. In fact, digestive disorders are mostly associated primarily with poor dietary practices.

His claim that there is an increase in “leaky gut syndrome” is particularly specious, since this is not a recognized diagnosis. And his attempts to tie this diagnosis to autism spectrum disorder are ridiculous, since this entire theory was put forth by the discredited Andrew Wakefield and has been retracted.

And a statement suggesting that autism spectrum disorder “may be” increasing because of GMOs, but “we can’t say for sure,” is simply irresponsible. Further, the Center for Disease Control has noted that while there has been an increase in the reporting of autism spectrum disorders, it is not entirely clear whether there has been an actual increase in the disorder itself.

Anecdotal evidence versus peer-reviewed research

Nearly all of the “evidence” put forward in this alarmist film is in the form of anecdotal evidence: one farmer or parent telling a story about how GM crops hurt their farm animals or children. But there is simply no peer-reviewed research to support any of these findings. There are no carefully measured feedings or double blind studies to support their anecdotes.

Alleged dangers of Bt crops

Much of the focus of this film has to do with corn and other crops that contain a gene that causes generation of Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) insecticide. The thesis of these segments it that this bacterium, toxic only to lepidoptera, is dangerous to humans and to livestock.

However, Bt has been sprayed on crops for over 50 years, and is preferentially used by organic farmers. If there were human reactions or effects on livestock, nearly every farmer would be reporting them In fact, there are just about no research papers at all reporting any such problems.

In fact, Siegel reviewed a large number of papers on Bt products in 2001, finding that they have an excellent safety record in labs and in the field.

Exceptions are the papers of French bio-activist Giles-Eric Seralini, who claimed to find tumors in rats fed with Bt treated feed. One of these is briefly flashed on the screen The only trouble was that he used Sprague Dawley rats that develop tumors in later about 71% of the time. And guess what: Seralini’s rats developed tumors about 72% of the time. His work was debunked by Campbell and by Chassy and Miller. It’s also worth noting that Seralini is hardly unbiased, as he is the principal scientist  of the Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering, which exists to oppose the use of GM crops. And his work is funded by Greenpeace, which also takes an anti-GMO stance.

The film also briefly flashes a paper by Aris and LeBlanc alleging maternal and fetal exposure to Bt from GMO corn, but the paper actually reports possible detection of the Cry1Ab protein. But the Food Standards Institute points out that the detection method has not been validated for this protein, and the Cry1Ab protein could also come from spraying of crops with Bt pesticides. And the paper does not in fact imply that there is any human safety issue here. Tribe has similar observations.

On the other hand, an extensive review of animal feeding studies by the European food Safety Authority found that the GM crops were comparable to traditional crops.

In another segment, the film asserts that Indian farms develop allergies after working in Bt fields, that thousands of animals got sick and that buffalo died after grazing on Bt cotton plants. There are no published claims or research confirming these stories, nor is there any medical evidence confirming these claims. Again, if there were such serious effects, they would be reported world-wide rather than in one or two farms in India. It is more likely that the feed was contaminated.

Numerous safety studies have confirmed the safety of Bt cotton, (see Brookes and Barfoot)  and it now comprises more than half of all cotton grown world wide.  Academicsreview.org notes that many of these claims

come from a self-proclaimed anti-GM activist organization, however, they do label their report as preliminary and note that it is only based on interviews with a very small number of people. Smith is more bold in his claims than self-admitted opponents of the technology.

Genetically modified soy is safe for animals

 The movie suggests that feeding animal GM soy products causes rat testicular changes, causes a fertility decline and is nutrient deficient. However, dozens of published peer-reviewed studies such as Flachowsky (2005) and Flachowsky, Aulrich, Bohme and Hall (2007) have concluded that there are “no significant differences in safety or nutritional value between Gm feeds and conventional feeds.”  And findings reported in the press but never published by Ermakova have been studied and found to “defy logic.”

Don Huber’s strange organism

One of the few actual scientists represented in this film is Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology (Purdue) Don Huber. Huber had an extensive career in 1980s and 1990s, but has published nothing since 2005. In fact, we find a total of only 4 papers of his in all of PubMed. Huber’s expertise is/was in the manganese uptake in plants and its relation to glyphosate (Roundup).

However, within this film he is more concerned with his “discovery” of an “electron microscopic pathogen… new to science.” This pathogen is apparently found in plants treated with Roundup, or perhaps in the Roundup resistance gene. Other than his letter to the USDA expressing his concern, there is no research, no paper and, it would seem, no science whatever. While, this certainly could be possible, the proof remains with Dr Huber, who has provided no evidence for this extraordinary claim. His claims have been seriously questioned by Anastasia on Biofortified.org.

Huber also claims that Roundup weakens plants by preventing their uptake of manganese and other minerals. He has published a number of articles as part of fertilizer advertisements suggesting addition of the missing minerals may be beneficial. However, a team of Iowa state agronomists studied all the available literature in this area and concluded that it was possible that some Roundup Ready (RR) varieties are somewhat less effective in taking up manganese compared to non RR varieties, but that it was just as likely that some other difference between the plant varieties give rise to this observation.

In other words, there is little or no evidence that RR crops take up minerals less efficiently than non-RR varieties. And there is no evidence of a mysterious new organism!

rBST Milk is just the same as any other milk

The treatment of cows with rBST bovine growth hormone to increase milk production has been the subject of more misinformation than any other issue. The propaganda against rBST in the press as well as in Smith’s movie and books is so intense, that a group of scientists got together to debunk all of these bizarre claims.

To summarize:

  • Milk from rBST treated cows contains no more IGF-1 than conventional milk.
  • All milk contains hormones, and rBST treated milk contains no more than conventional milk.
  • rBST milk is just as nutritious as conventional milk.
  • rBST milk does not contain antibiotics
  • Regulators were not bribed to approve rBST milk
  • rBST allows for more efficient production and is thus better for the environment.

 

Roundup is one of the safest herbicides ever developed

Roundup is the trade name for the chemical glyphosate, brought to market in the 1970s. Its patent expired in 2000 and it is available from a number of suppliers. A review by Duke in Powles in 2008 summarized the research on glyphosate, noting that it has become the dominant herbicide worldwide, and was in wide use long before glyphosate-resistant (Roundup Ready) crops were developed.

It is one of the least toxic pesticides to animals, being less toxic than salt or aspirin. It is environmentally benign since it binds tightly to the soil and does not move in soil groundwater. It also has a short environmental half-life since it breaks down by microbial degradation in the soil. It does not cause mutations. This is confirmed in the latest EPA registration materials.

Like all herbicides, there is always danger of weeds developing glyphosate resistance, and the above review describes strategies for avoiding this.

 

Smith does not understand basic chemistry

The preponderance of sugar beets grown in the US are genetically modified and Roundup Ready. However, there is no evidence whatever that such sugar beets are harmful. Moreover, the final product is pure sugar (sucrose) much as it is from sugar cane. Since sugar is a pure compound, the source of that sugar is irrelevant, and making health claims about one source of pure sugar over another is simply ridiculous.

Along the same lines, the artificial sweetener aspartame is not a genetically modified food in any way. However, aspartame is created from aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and the phenylalanine may be made using genetically modified E-coli bacteria. Regardless of how it is made, aspartame is still a pure compound and its ancestry is irrelevant!

This is not a grass roots movement

Jeffrey Smith is the sole employee of the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), located at his home in Fairfield, Iowa. This institute provides funding for much of the anti-biotechnology movement, such as, for example, GMO Free Connecticut and other similar state groups. The IRT, in turn, is pretty much entirely supported by the organic food industry, acknowledging support from Eden, Organic Valley, Frey Vineyards, Nutiva, Nature’s Path, Sun Ridge Farms, Mercola.com, Beanitos, Earth Balance, Whole Soy Co., Earth’s Best, New Chapter Organics, Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Natural News, and Kamut-Khorasan. It is thus an Astro-turf organization.

The idea that GM foods are in any way dangerous is what Paul Krugman calls a “zombie idea,” an idea that has been thoroughly disproven but still won’t die. Not only have over three trillion meals been served over 15 years without any reported effects, but prominent former GM opponent Mark Lynas has reversed himself, calling GM opposition an “anti-science movement.” He noted that

 You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food.

Final review

About one hour of the film presents various alleged problems with GM crops and about half an hour is devoted to anti-transgenic evangelism. In fact, it attempts to scare you with these terrible examples. You can rent or buy the film from Smith and the anti-GMO campaigns are scheduling showings of the film in every state where their campaign is attempting to force GMO labeling laws.

Overall, the film is misleading and untruthful and best watched with a very skeptical eye or simply avoided. Sadly, the Greenwich Audubon Society ihosted a showing of this movie. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Acknowledgements

Many of the references in this article are taken from the helpful site academicsreview.org, where working professional biologists have used peer-reviewed science to debunk every single claim in Smith’s book Genetic Roulette. We also want to acknowledge helpful discussions with Professor Bruce Chassey.

Apple cider vinegar: another huge scam!

bottleLast fall I had a pretty obnoxious cold, and since I was part of a singing group, I soon got advice from a lot of other singers on how to treat it or at least diminish the symptoms. One thing that seemed to come up a lot was various uses of apple cider vinegar.  While this was new to me, there seems to be a large population of vinegar-o-philes who use this folk remedy for treating all kinds of things. Of course, this means it was something to look into and write about.

Vinegar is made in two stages: first you ferment fruit juice (apple or several other fruits) to make alcohol. Various yeasts speed up the fermentation process. Under the right careful conditions you can make wines or apple jack this way. Essentially, the sugars are broken down to make ethanol (ethyl alcohol, CH3CH2OH). However, if you expose that solution to oxidation or let the fermentation proceed further, the ethyl alcohol is oxidized to acetic acid: CH3COOH. It is this acetic acid that gives vinegars their acrid smell and taste.

If you don’t filter the vinegar, it remains somewhat cloudy, and this may add slightly to the flavor. If you do filter it, you are left with a clear, but colored, liquid.  If you distill that vinegar, you are purifying the acetic acid, and this ends up giving the pure white vinegar used in some recipes. You usually use that in sweet-and-sour dishes and the like, but with little subtlety of taste.

Right now our pantry contains white vinegar, cider vinegar, malt vinegar, raspberry vinegar, balsamic and rice wine vinegar, each with different flavors for various kinds of cooking. You could use any of them to make a sour drink, but it really isn’t all that good for you.

Folk remedy claims

You will find a plethora of claims for the health benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in articles like this wildly inaccurate  one in Healthy and Natural World. Here the authors claim you can use it for sore throats (mixed with honey, I think) , joint pain, acid reflux, weight loss, reduced cholesterol and several other completely unsupported claims.

Now, here is why we know they are nuts: they correctly note that ACV (which is mostly acetic acid) is acidic (low pH), so using for heartburn and the like seems silly. But they then claim that when vinegar is consumed, it turns alkaline (high pH). Holy smoke! Is this some sort of magical transmutation? No, it is just plain wrong.  This article also claims that honey is acidic (no it isn’t) but becomes alkaline in the body (no it doesn’t).

In fact ACV can be dangerous, since taking something so acidic, even diluted, it could harm your esophagus and damage your tooth enamel.  WebMD says there is insufficient evidence for any of the claimed uses being effective.

Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar

One of the largest promoters of health effects of ACV is Bragg, a small company founded by two naturopaths, which makes unsupported and downright crazy claims on their cluttered web site, reminiscent of tabloids and the Wretched Mess News. Those claiming to be naturopaths are simply quacks, and are not practicing anything like science-based medicine.  You can read a critical description of naturopathy here, in an article by a former naturopath.

Bragg ACV is organic, which is just a marketing term, gluten free (which apples contain gluten?), un- pasteurized  (why?), and Non GMO (no GMO apples have yet reached the market anyway). They call the cloudy pulp that remains in the vinegar “the Mother,” but it has no particular nutritional value. This is in reference to Kombucha which has a similar culture of bacteria and yeast also called “the Mother.” It doesn’t have any real health benefits either.

As a company, Bragg promotes every kind of pseudo-science you can think of. The web site has links to why cell phones cause cancer (they don’t: microwaves are not energetic enough to break any chemical bonds), dangers of water fluoridation, GMOs, Monsanto’s Terminator seed (which does not exist) and, most disturbingly, a diet for preventing suicide. They also claim MSG is dangerous, while recognizing the glutamates are naturally occurring in our body.

Finally, if you wonder if there is any nutritional advantage to ACV, here is the USDA analysis of apple cider vinegar: there isn’t much to it.

It seems that much of the apple cider vinegar myths are being pushed by two crackpot naturopaths, who have made a successful business out of making up new folk remedy treatments. There is not a shred of evidence they work, and you would do better with conventional and much safer nostrums.

Does MSG cause brain lesions or just improve taste?

foods with msg
Tomatoes, broccoli, soy sauce, bleu cheese and Marmite all contain MSG

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a flavor enhancer that has been used in Japanese and Chinese cooking since about 1908. Dr Kikunae Ikeda recognized that seaweed broth had been used as a flavor enhancer and set about to isolate the substance that caused this brothy flavor that he called umami. He published this work in the Journal of the Chemical Society of Tokyo in 1909 and it was translated and republished in English in 2002 in the journal Chemical Senses. The paper is a fascinating little piece of detective work in which he eventually concluded that the umami flavor was caused by glutamate, the sodium salt of glutamic acid. He later developed and patented a process for extracting MSG from seaweed. Today, MSG is produced by fermenting starch, sugar cane, sugar beets and molasses. It is also an integral part of soy sauce(1090 mg.ml), also made from fermented vegetable protein.

Once isolated, MSG became a popular additive in Japanese and Chinese cooking and more recently has come under scrutiny as being the cause of all sorts of disorders from “Chinese restaurant syndrome” to brain lesions and various behavioral and physical disabilities. People have called it an “evil chemical” that is added to poison us and our children and other similar epithets. Always ready to spout nonsense, the redoubtable Joseph Mercola has called it a “silent killer lurking in your kitchen cabinets.”

Around 1968, reports of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) began to appear, where a cluster of symptoms were described including flushing, headache and dry mouth. However numerous double blind studies have failed to confirm any relation between MSG and these symptoms.  In one such study volunteers were given either MSG or a placebo. Symptoms attributed to CRS did not appear more frequently in the MSG group than in the placebo group, and most subjects had no responses at all.

Another recent review article noted that while there have been reports of an MSG sensitive subset of the population, this has not been confirmed in placebo-controlled trials.

It is very important to note that this is not an evil chemical additive, but a naturally occurring substance, easily extracted from plants. Just as important, MSG can be found in large quantities in foods such as the bleu cheese in the picture (1280 mg/ml), obtained from Stop and Shop. You will also find it naturally in Parmesan cheese(1200 mg/ml), the British Marmite spread (1960 mg/ml), soy sauce, and in broccoli, peas and tomatoes.

It is also worth noting that the Japanese consume the largest amounts of MSG and they are considered one of the healthiest populations in the world.

Some have tried to argue that MSG as an additive is somehow different than that found naturally in foods. However, since MSG is a single compound and easily purified, it is clear that its source does not matter. This argument is rather like suggesting that the pure MSG from the red bottle is worse than the pure MSG in the green bottle.

In 2005, the journal Nature published a consensus following a meeting on the current state of MSG research, concluding that “the general use of glutamate salts (monosodium-l-glutamate and others) as food additive can, thus, be regarded as harmless for the whole population. Even in unphysiologically high doses GLU will not trespass into fetal circulation.”

In conclusion, the scientific consensus after years of study is that MSG is harmless and that no cluster of allergic symptoms has been observed. MSG is extracted from fermented plant products and occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods: it is not a synthetic additive.

Nonetheless, there are a variety of hoax sites that call into question the safety of MSG, such as truthinlabeling.org, msgtruth.org and probably any of a number of others. They can and should be ignored.

The safety of MSG is firmly established and need not trouble us further.

Related articles

  1. Science is so inconvenient to food scares – Sandy Swarc, JunkfoodScience
  2. New Seasonings – K. Ikeda
  3. Reconsidering the effects of monosodium glutamate – M Freeman, J Am Acad Nurse Proc.
  4. Monosodium L-glutamate: a double blind study and review – L Tarasoff and MF Kelley, Food Chem Toxicol
  5. What’s the story on MSG? – Marion Nestle Foodpolitics
  6. Consensus meeting – monosodium glutamate: an update – P Stehle, Nature
  7. If MSG is bad for you why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache? Alex Renton, The Guardian

 

ConnFACT lies about fluoridation

ConnFACT lies about fluoridation

We hadn’t heard of anyone actually opposed to water fluoridation since Colonel Jack D Ripper (Sterling Hayden) complained to Colonel Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) in his famous “precious bodily fluids” rant in Dr. Strangelove.

But we heard a great deal in a talk given last spring by members of ConnFACT about the dangers of mandatory water fluoridation. We had already interviewed the speakers, Carol Peringer and Christine O’Day, noting that ConnFACT stands for Connecticut Families Against Chemical Trespass, a group that seems to specialize in taking positions contrary to all accepted science. In fact, you have to wonder what rational group would talk about “chemical trespass.” What chemicals? How about water or salt? You can also experiment different chemicals by buying 3-mmc.

The sparsely attended meeting featured a half-hour film “Professional Perspectives on Water Fluoridation,” full of quotes from marginal and fringe scientists decrying the use of fluoridation. A few were actually qualified, but many, like the Earl Baldwin of Bewley were just spouting nonsense. Also in attendance were representatives of Professional Water Systems, who subsidized the printing of the slick handouts.

Fluoridation works by having fluoride ions replace some of the hydroxyl ions in the mineral making up our teeth: hydroxyapatite becomes fluoroapatite, which is harder and resistant to tooth decay. Fluoride, furthermore is naturally occurring in our soil and in most drinking water: it is only the concentration that is adjusted to a level determined to do the most good. Moreover, water fluoridation is considered the single greatest public health advance of the 20th century.

Erroneous Assertions

However, the overriding problem with their presentation was nearly every statement they made was easily determined to be untrue.

Fluoride causes bone cancer:  Not according to the American Cancer Society

Fluoride increases risk of bone fracture: Not according to the paper in Nature by Thomas.

Fluoride decreases brain function: There is one study of naturally occurring high levels of fluoride in China where there may be some effect, but their control groups had the same level of fluoride as are recommended in the US. Thus standard fluoridation levels are perfectly safe.  And, as Steve Novella pointed out in Science Based Medicine, these were not experiments, but retrospective studies.

Fluoride causes diabetes: The American Diabetes Association recommends brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and the CDC finds no problem for diabetics drinking fluoridated water.

Fluoride causes kidney disease: According to reviews by the American Kidney Foundation, there is no evidence that drinking fluoridated water is harmful to or causes kidney disease.

Fluoride is an endocrine disruptor: The WHO’s extensive report on fluoride’s effects on humans specifically says that no endocrine effects are observed in rats at any concentration (pp 95-96).

Fluoride accumulates in the body; the benefit is topical, not systemic. Contradictory and both wrong. The European Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks says that fluoride builds up in the plasma and is eventually excreted. Some ends up in the saliva where it can react to protect the teeth. Some will end up in the bones, but does not stay there.

Dental Fluorosis

By far the biggest objection that anti-fluoridation crowd makes is that fluoride can cause a sort of tooth enamel mottling called fluorosis.  Fluorosis is caused by excess fluoride consumption before the teeth erupt, and is divided into Questionable, Very Mild, Mild, Moderate and Severe. The first three categories are only apparent to a specialist, and while Moderate may involve brown staining, the teeth are still healthy and resistant to decay.  Only about 1-2% of all patients show Moderate and Severe fluorosis, and that is cause by very high dosages of naturally occurring fluoride in the water supply, far higher than would ever occur in water fluoridated for dental health.

According to the CDC: among persons aged 6-49, 16.5% had questionable fluorosis, 16.0% had very mild fluorosis, 4.8% had mild fluorosis, 2.0% had moderate fluorosis, and less than 1% had severe fluorosis. Adding these up gives you the relatively meaningless number of about 39%. And in the teenager sub-category, that number is 41%. However, claiming that 41% of teenagers have dental fluorosis is seriously misleading, because the lower categories aren’t even visible, let aloneharmful. Using this scary number in their literature as ConnFACT has done is intentionally misleading at the very least.

Fertilizer byproduct

One of the most mendacious assertions of the anti-fluoridation crowd is in their description of how water is fluoridated. Fluoride is obtained as a byproduct of fertilizer manufacture mostly in the form of fluorosilicic acid. They claim without any evidence that these byproducts are contaminated with heavy metals and are just “dumped” into the drinking water supply. This is simply false. Any additive to our drinking water must pass safety standards of the American Waterworks Association, the EPA, and NSF International (page 42). Opponents have made up this lie to make fluoridation seem dangerous or contaminated. This is simply untrue.

Misrepresentation of Fluoridation Facts in Europe

Their handout suggests that “most other countries banned fluoridation,” which is demonstrably false. In fact, most European water supplies are not fluoridated because of their size and age, and because of multiple water sources. Instead fluoride is provided in their table salt.

They suggest that Cuba discontinued fluoridation and caries did not increase, but in fact Cuban children receive fluoride mouth rinses regularly  and fluoride varnish treatments several times a year.

They suggest that water fluoridation in Kuopio, Finland was ceased in 1992, but that caries has decreased or remained the same. In fact, virtually all children took advantage of government dental care which included topical fluoride and dental sealant programs.

They suggest that two towns in East Germany, Chemniz and Plauen, saw a significant fall in caries after fluoridation was stopped, but again neglect to mention fluoridated salt, rinses and sealants.

Each of these cases is also summarized (in that same order) in the ADA report Fluoridation Facts, where they may well have drawn their summary from, conveniently leaving out the facts that fluoride treatments of other types replaced fluoridation. In other words, they are lying.

They also mention Landrigan and Grandjean’s discredited Lancet Neurology paper which calls fluoride a neurotoxin. Critics have called the authors “long time toxic terrorists,” who completely ignore dose-response information in order to write papers calculated to scare people. They also confuse correlation and causation.

Finally, the ConnFACT handout asserts that there are studies showing that there is no link between fluoride and cavity reduction. They cite this study by Warrren et. al.  to prove that assertion, but Warren’s study was on the optimum fluoride level to minimize dental fluorosis among caries-free children. But they did note that children with caries had slightly lower fluoride intakes (as you might expect). The ConnFACT handout also claims that Cheng’s study in the British Medical Journal concludes there is a lack of strong evidence for fluoride’s benefits. That isn’t true either. Cheng asserts that the optimum fluoride level is difficult to establish exactly.

They also state that there have never been any randomized clinical trials demonstrating fluoridation effectiveness.  Another fib. Just read the summary of studies on this early CDC page.

Conclusions

No matter how well intended the speakers were, the materials they were working from can best be described as a tissue of lies. And when we discovered that their assertions were cribbed from an ADA Report with critical facts removed, it is clear that this lying was intentional.

  • None of the health assertions they make are true.
  • None of the papers they quote say what they say they do.
  • None of the assertions about dangers of fluoridation are true.

Like Joe Isuzu, knowingly or not, they are lying about every aspect of fluoridation.

 

 

Medical science says cleanses are bogus

Medical science says cleanses are bogus

This time of year we try to recover from our vacation excesses by eating more sensibly.  Fine. Good idea. But Bon Appetit has gone a little over the deep end by recommending a “juice cleanse” and a two week long “cleansing diet.”

Juice cleanses are a scam, calculated to part you from your money by selling you weird vegetable juices at high prices. The Mayo Clinic notes that such “detox diets” have no real effect.

However, there’s little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Indeed, the kidneys and liver effectively filter and eliminate most ingested toxins

And the Cleveland Clinic notes that while there may be some useful vitamins and minerals in juices, much of the benefits of these vegetables and fruits is in the skin, which is normally discarded. If you make your own juices, you could include these, but a well-balanced diet will give you the same effect.

You will find the same advice on WebMD:

As for detoxification, your liver already does that. There is no medical evidence that medical alert systems actually rid the body of any toxins not otherwise discarded in bodily waste.

And Robert Lamberts, MD wrote in MedHelp that Body Detoxification is a Hoax

  1. Your body is not “full of toxins.”  When it is, your liver and kidneys are designed to handle those “toxins” and will do so far better than anything someone tries to sell you.
  2. Diets only work when they restrict calories.
  3. Your colon is fine and does not deserve to be regularly “cleansed.”  Colonics have been around since the early 1900’s (maybe earlier) and the fact that they are still being used is only evidence of the gullibility of humans.

Of course, eating nutritious foods is a good idea any time, although some of their recipes border on somewhat disgusting, like Pistachio Quinoa with Spinach and  Egg and Orange Breakfast Bulgur with Pumpkin Seeds.

But bear in mind: there is nothing to cleanse.  Your body does not ever need cleansing. That is what the liver and kidneys do.

And if you have been overindulging during the holidays, just stop and eat a normal, healthy diet. You don’t have to go for anyone’s fad diet, just cut down on fats and sugars.

And enjoy the summer! Read Bon Appetit for their recipes, not their pseudo medical advice.

Are antioxidants any good?

Are antioxidants any good?

We know that people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables are generally more healthy than those who don’t and people have hypothesized that the antioxidants in those fruits are the reason. What is a functional doctor? According to this hypothesis, free radicals in the body can do damage to cells and genes and even cause cancer. And antioxidants can vacuum up free radicals by combining with them.

This time of year, we get our antioxidants from eating fresh New Jersey blueberries from Stop and Shop.

The trouble is, we really don’t have any idea what those free radicals are there for and whether they really should be Hoovered up. This discussion comes from one I found in Ben Goldacre’s delightful book “Bad Science.”

You can buy all kinds of antioxidants in pharmacies and health food stores, pretty much unregulated, and to hear the pill peddler talk, they might do some good and can’t do any harm, but we don’t know for sure.

Actually we do know. There have been a number of very good studies on these issues and the results are not encouraging.

In a 1996 Finnish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a group of 29,133 male smokers were randomly assigned to receive the antioxidants alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, both or a placebo for 5-8 years. The study followed incidence of lung cancer in the subjects, and it was found that

No overall effect was observed for lung cancer from α-tocopherol supplementation, and

β-carotene supplementation was associated with increased lung cancer risk.In another trial called CARET for Carotene and Retinol Efficiency Trial, the results were worse. They followed 18,314 smokers, former smokers and workers exposed to asbestos, giving them a combination of beta-carotene and retinol (Vitamin A) daily, or a placebo. They found that the risk of death from lung cancer was 1.46 times greater in the active treatment group than in the placebo group, and the trial was stopped 21 months early.

The Cochrane Database is a collection of reviews of papers on hundreds of medical topics, and is a major destination for scientists seeking to review the work in any medical area. The review Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases was published this March and finds similar conclusions:

The current evidence does not support the use of antioxidant supplements in the general population or in patients with various diseases.

So, it would seem that eating your fruits and veggies is still a great idea, but antioxidant supplements are useless or even worse.

 

Food coloring alarmism

Food coloring alarmism

The ever alarmist Center for Science and the Public Interest (CSPI) published a pointless article on the actual food colors used in various colorful foods. Referring to a piece of interesting but ultimately useless research in Clinical Pediatrics by Laura Stevens and other researchers at Purdue’s Nutrition Science department, the CSPI article breathlessly notes that

Clinical trials have shown that modest percentages of children are affected by doses up to 35 mg of mixtures of synthetic coloring, with larger percentages generally being affected by doses of 100 mg or more. The amount of dye that is needed to trigger reactions in the most sensitive children is not known.

They also claim that “Until now, how much of these neurotoxic chemicals are used in specific foods was a well-kept secret…”

However, there is little evidence that the CSPI’s extravagantly scare claims are true. The most commonly cited papers on hyperactivity and food colorings were two papers by Jim Stevenson at the University of Southhampton. But when the FDA convened a 2011 conference to consider warning labels on food coloring ingredients, they commissioned Oak Ridge National Laboratory to review that work and concluded:

However, due to the absence of confirmation of treatment effects between parental ratings and other behavior measures together with the concerns about the data analyses described above and various procedural weaknesses … it is the opinion of this reviewer that there is questionable confidence in the reliability and biological relevance of the primary findings from this study.

Ultimately, the FDA committee voted that current data supported that FDAs conclusion that a relationship between certified color additives and adverse effects on behavior in children had not been established.

Since then, Nigg has published a 2012 meta-analysis of papers on food colors effects on children, concluding that there may be a small effect, but this was affected by publication bias:

A restriction diet benefits some children with ADHD. Effects of food colors were notable were but susceptible to publication bias or were derived from small, nongeneralizable samples. Renewed investigation of diet and ADHD is warranted.

A similar review of prior studies was also published about the same time by Arnold, et. el.

With these studies in hand, it is difficult to understand why Laura Stevens’ Purdue group undertook these complex colorimetric studies. Her papers feature extensive tables showing the exact amount of colors their group measured in sodas, cereals, candies and dairy foods. While these tables are interesting and represent a lot of work, Stevens cites these same papers, clearly aware of their less than persuasive conclusions.

The best they can conclude is should you wish to try to try an Artificial Food Coloring (AFC)-free diet (which she knows has little effect) these tables will help you do so.

This brings us to Ravella’s article in Slate today, which reviews the same work and some alarmist proclamations by the CSPI. It adds nothing new to the existing science.

So to conclude, there is little evidence supporting the assertion the AFCs are harmful to children or anyone else and you need not concern yourself with the CSPI’s alarmist pronouncements.

This is an update of our May 2014 article, published on Examiner.com

The WHO and the UN: Roundup is not carcinogenic

edamame
Soybeans

Everyone with an axe to grind about “evil chemicals” has been repeating the questionable finding of the IARC that glyphosate (Roundup’s main ingredient) is “probably carcinogenic.” The IARC is a subcommittee of the WHO, so the opponents of science were saying that the WHO said that glyphosate causes cancer.  They didn’t.

The IARC made no estimates of risk or dosage, however, so the finding was of little value. As we reported earlier, this finding was extremely questionable, based on only 8 cherry-picked studies rather than the vast body of existing literature, Further, it turned out that the result was politically motivated, being pushed by activist Christopher Portier, formerly of the Environmental Defense Fund, who is not a toxicologist.

The WHO says glyphosate is not carcinogenic

Now all this is overshadowed by the joint announcement yesterday by the WHO and the UN itself that they have determined that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”  and that “glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures.” You can read the Reuters summary here  and the complete WHO report here.

So that’s it. Glyphosate has not been found to cause cancer or cause mutations.  People can take down their signs in California. The IARC was clearly wrong, as the EFSA had already pointed out. And those marching against science will have to find new signs. Roundup is as safe as aspirin. Oh, and they found that diazinon and malathion aren’t carcinogenic either.

Originally published on Examiner.com on May 17, 2016

No, Roundup does not cause cancer

RoundupThe scientific world was astonished (to put it mildly) when the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), a sub-unit of the WHO declared that Roundup (glyphosate) probably causes cancer, putting an herbicide that has been in use for over 40 years into their Group 2A. Their report was published initially as a summary in The Lancet, and then as a complete IARC monograph.

Glyphosate has been available for over 40 years, and is the world’s most widely-used herbicide. Its toxicity has been compared to aspirin. Hundreds, if not thousands of studies have found it to be relatively harmless, and none have suggested it was carcinogenic. It works on plants by disrupting the Shikimate pathway plants use to synthesize several essential amino acids (tyrsosine, phenylalanine and tryptophan). Humans and animals in general do not have such a pathway and must get these amino acid from their food.

As Reuters has explained, the IARC was formerly a stand-alone French agency and ended up with a much reduced budget as a “semi-autonomous part of WHO.” The problem is, their finding that glyphosate is carcinogenic is simply wrong. As David Zaruk notes, they ignored decades of government studies, choosing to focus only on eight cherry-picked papers, and spent only a week on the entire issue.

And, in one case, the author of one of those eight papers, Keith Soloman, a respected toxicologist, pointed out that the IARC had gotten his paper “totally wrong.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)  disputed these findings. There are dozens of studies and reviews showing no finding of genotoxicity or carcinogenicity.  And as James Gurney reported, the papers they cherry-picked were full of scientific weasel words like “induced a positive trend,” and the statistical test “often gives incorrect results.”

And, responding to the IARC report, the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) reviewed studies including those from the BfR and concluded:

“…glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential according to Regulation.”

And EFSA Executive Director Bernhard Url accused the IARC of “Facebook Science,” saying that they had “left the domain of science…entering into the domain of lobbying and campaigning.”

Finally, if you actually read the IARC report, as opposed to their brief opinion piece in The Lancet, you will find that among the papers it references is the disgraced and withdrawn lumpy rat paper by Giles-Eric Seralini. (In order to preserve a record of this travesty of a paper, it was reprinted in a new third-rate journal, but without being refereed further.) This is a direct violation of the “Seralini rule,” first proposed in Skeptico, that

If you favorably cite the 2012 Séralini rats fed on Roundup ready maize study, you just lost the argument.

In fact, the IARC report cites seven separate papers by the anti-GMO activist Seralini. Seralini’s papers suffer from being not only incomprehensible and inconsistent as Henry Miller has noted, (also in this article) but none of them has ever been replicated.

So what’s going on here? How could the IARC have come to such incredible wrong conclusions? Well, as you might expect, someone there seems to have had an agenda. In this case, it was Christopher Portier, an American anti-pesticide activist formerly employed by the Environmental Defense Fund, whose views on pesticides are well known and not science based. This is explained in detail in David Zaruk’s Risk-Monger blog According to the IARC, Portier was an “invited specialist,” and “receives a part –time salary from the Environmental Defense Fund.” Portier has a Ph.D. in biostatistics and is not a toxicologist. Even though he was working for the anti-pesticide EDF, he was the only external representative on the IARC glyphosate team.

To continue the story of EFSA’s accusation of “lobbying,” Portier went to the German Bundestag, the EFSA, and NGO’s like the Soil Association expressing his view that glyphosate causes cancer (learn how was mesothelioma explained and legally managed), stronger statement than even the IARC’s flawed report made. Clearly science has not been well served by the IARC report, which so far has not actually been accepted by the WHO itself. If the IARC is no longer producing credible scientific reports, one can raise the question as to whether they have any legitimate purpose.