The Snake Oil Bulletin: Butt-Chugging Gluten With The Food Babe

Land o' Goshen! Welcome back to the Snake Oil Bulletin, your weekly round-up of the best in pseudoscientific woo-wooey nonsense to catch the attention of your most handsome salesman, Dr. Fare la Volpe, Naturopathic Chi Master DDS. We've got a whole bushel-full of nonsense and horse puck to sift through, so we might as well get started with the biggest horse apple of them all, the Food Babe.

Food Babe sells the very chemical she claims is toxic

First up on the menu, we have Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe! You may remember Ms. Babe from previous editions of this bulletin, in which she warned us of the dangers of the air pumped into flying autogyros. We'll bring this up again and again until Ragnarok comes because it never fails to make us laugh.

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What has Vani Hari been up to lately, you ask? She has a book coming out! As part of the marketing strategy for the book's release, Hari has followed a tried and true method: picking a fight over bullshit.

Hari first hit the big time when she picked a fight with Subway restaurants, claiming that their breads contained a chemical also used in yoga mats. We'd note that water and oxygen are also found in yoga mats, but those are good "chemikillz" we guess. At the time, Subway reacted by claiming that they'd pulled the chemical from their breads, and Hari called victory. It was plenty of free publicity, and no need to use any actual science. An appeal to yuckiness was all she needed.

She thought she'd try the same bull this time, but as you'll see, it's royally backfired. Hari went after cereal conglomerates Kellogg's and General Mills for using a preservative in their products called Butylated Hydroxytoluene, or BHT, claiming that the chemical is a carcinogen and harmful to animals. The FDA has found no adverse side effects from consuming BHT and in fact has actually found evidence that it can lead to a decreased risk of certain types of cancer, but that doesn't matter to Hari, whose health advice in her own book is quite literally: "There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever."

Stop for a minute and digest that sentence. Or don't, because your saliva has chemicals.

General Mills responded to Hari's bunk by noting that they were already in the process of phasing out BHT before Hari even started her campaign, but when you plug your ears with green smoothies, that sounds an awful lot like victory for the Food Babe! Woo!

Only problem with Hari's campaign against BHT is the awkward fact that she is selling BHT-filled products on her website. Oopsie poopsie!

Bad Science Debunked writer Mark Alsip noticed that Hari was selling a product through her store called "Brown Sugar Body Polish" (for when your body gets rusty, we guess) and found that according to the product page on Amazon, BHT is one of the ingredients. Hari personally endorsed this product for daily use, which is kind of odd considering she claims it will literally kill you. The affiliate making the product, (take a second to gag at the name and then come back), admits that several of their products contain BHT as an anti-oxidant, and that their toxicologists certify that BHT is an acceptable product to use, which is completely true. The only person who thinks BHT is harmful is Vani, yet apparently the harmful effects are negated when she gets paid to hock it. What a chemical!

Naturally, none of this mattered to Hari, who when presented with Mark's discoveries on her Facebook page promptly deleted Mark's comment and banned him from posting again, the way an adult does.

We for one would like to congratulate the Food Babe on running a damn great scam here. It's not easy to run a crusade against one thing while still making money off of it, but you've managed to pull it off with not a single one of your Food Babe Army being any the wiser. That is some masterful levels of chicanery, and we could have used a con artist like that on our team back when we were selling colloidal silver to Orange County parents as a vaccine alternative. That scam did not go as planned.

You are not sensitive to gluten, stop it

Speaking of boogeyman chemicals, Emily Oster over at Five Thirty Eight has taken aim at everyone's favorite new allergy: gluten. You've probably seen GLUTEN-FREE advertised on everything from green beans to butter to fucking salt and wondered what this gluten disease is and why it has infected half the food in the supermarket.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products that holds breads together, hence why labeling a non-bread product "gluten-free" is kind of like labeling a hubcap "non-GMO." Gluten became the du jour food allergy a few years back among the crunchier hipsters when word spread that it can cause problems for people with wheat allergies or celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can cause severe gastrointestinal distress and a weakening of intestinal walls if exposed to gluten. With side effects like that it can make sense why some 30 percent of Americans say they're trying to stop eating gluten. The problem is that only about 1.1 percent of people have either of those conditions, meaning that the remaining 98.9 percent have exactly zero reason to try and stop eating gluten. Their bodies can digest it just fine without any side effects.

"Gluten sensitivity" became the standard response to sciencey people pointing out that most people are not harmed by gluten, but as Oster points out in her piece, there isn't a whole lot of evidence that gluten sensitivity is actually a thing.

A few studies conducted have shown there is very little or absolutely no difference in reports of gastrointestinal distress among people on high-gluten, low-gluten, or no-gluten diets. Even if we were to solely focus on the studies that showed some difference in gastrointestinal symptoms when gluten was eliminated, at most only about 1 percent of people can be said to have gluten sensitivity of any kind, and that is being generous seeing as there really isn't much of a way to test for gluten sensitivity other than not eating gluten and seeing how you feel. Such a test is very prone to the placebo effect, namely that changing any part of your diet can convince you that you're improving whether or not it's actually done anything.

So are you sensitive to gluten? Probably not. You're most definitely not sensitive to gluten if you stop eating bread, but still have no problem drinking all that home-brewed artisan beer you like so much, Mr. Hipster. We imagine self-diagnoses of "gluten sensitivity" dry up pretty fast when you tell the Whole Foods crowd it means they can't drink their barley-filled hops monstrosities.

And on that note, please stop forcing your friends to drink your basement homebrews. They taste like ripe anus but everyone is too polite to say it. Sorry, not sorry.

Coffee enemas are a thing. Shudder.

There isn't much of an intro to this segment other than to note that the latest fad among the science-averse is to boil coffee and then inject it into your anus. We lack the words.

Coffee enemas are the disgusting product of Gerson Therapy and specifically a fad diet known as Bulletproof, a thoroughly nonsensical "detox" program meant to remove toxins from the colon. We only got a 4 out of 5 on our AP Biology exam, but we're pretty sure the colon's job is to remove toxins all by itself, and it doesn't need your help. Of course, we're not a white person who feels the need to tell even our bodily organs that they're doing their jobs wrong, so what would we know?

As reported by completely sane human Ben Greenfield, coffee enemas have a variety of uses, not one of which is backed up by any links to scientific journals demonstrating these effects. Apparently Ben's hyperlinks only work for websites that can make him affiliate dollars.

If Ben is to be believed, coffee enemas are capable of increasing the pH of the intestine and making it more alkaline, which is a pretty strange claim to make considering coffee is one of the most acidic things a standard person drinks on a day-to-day basis short of swallowing a whole grapefruit. He also notes that shooting coffee up your butt bypasses lots of the nasty toxins that are in coffee that you normally ingest by drinking. He explains:

[W]hen taken by rectum, these toxins are not absorbed nearly as much as when the coffee is taken orally. This occurs because the colon is designed to absorb nutrients, while filtering out and leaving behind toxic substances inside the colon.

It seems strange that the same toxin-blocking effects don't really work when it comes to butt-chugging vodka, but according to Ben's analysis, it seems that alcohol is actually a nutrient, hence why the colon absorbs it so quickly. We always knew our colon was a lush.

Naturally, coffee enemas are also touted as a cure for cancer, because of course they are. It's not a full-blown scam until you steal dollars from the terminally ill. We can't find any efficacy that coffee up your keister will do anything for your cancer, but at the very least it'll give your rectum that fresh-brewed mountain scent.

Flotsum, Jetsum, and Hokum

Last on our round-up, let's have a look at all the marvelous tales of pseudoscientific numptiness that have graced your glorious Motherblog, Wonkette:

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That's all for this week, madames e monsieurs. Tune in next week when we'll be giving out free samples of Dr. la Volpe's Framdingulous Self-Trepanning Kits, endorsed by Sarah Palin herself! Do you have another explanation for why she loves to drill, baby, drill?

[Neurologica Blog / Science Blogs / FDA / General Mills / Bad Science Debunked / Five Thirty Eight / Dairy Carrie / Ben Greenfield Fitness / Web MD / HuffPo]


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