Tag Archives: Myths

GMO Sugar?

Is MSG Bad for You?

By Reactions via YouTube

Few ingredients come with as much baggage as MSG. Otherwise known as monosodium glutamate, the compound has had a bad reputation for nearly 50 years, so we at Reactions felt it was time to clear its name. In this video, we debunk MSG myths and explain why the scientific consensus is that this flavor enhancer, known for its savory umami flavor, is perfectly safe for the vast majority of people.

From Compound Interest:

Don’t believe the hype – 10 persistent cancer myths debunked

Via Cancer Research UK – Science blog

cancer-myths_300pxGoogle ‘cancer’ and you’ll be faced with millions of web pages. And the number of YouTube videos you find if you look up ‘cancer cure’ is similarly vast.

The problem is that much of the information out there is at best inaccurate, or at worst dangerously misleading. There are plenty of evidence-based, easy to understand pages about cancer, but there are just as many, if not more, pages spreading myths.

And it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction, as much of the inaccurate information looks and sounds perfectly plausible. But if you scratch the surface and look at the evidence, many continually perpetuated ‘truths’ become unstuck.

In this post, we want to set the record straight on 10 cancer myths we regularly encounter. Driven by the evidence, not by rhetoric or anecdote, we describe what the reality of research actually shows to be true.

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Myth 1: Cancer is a man-made, modern disease

Pyramids_250pxIt might be more prominent in the public consciousness now than in times gone by, but cancer isn’t just a ‘modern’, man-made disease of Western society. Cancer has existed as long as humans have. It was described thousands of years ago by Egyptian and Greek physicians, and researchers have discovered tell-tale signs of cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton.

While it’s certainly true that global lifestyle-related diseases like cancer are on the rise, the biggest risk factor for cancer is age.

The simple fact is that more people are living long enough to develop cancer because of our success in tackling infectious diseases and other historical causes of death such as malnutrition. It’s perfectly normal for DNA damage in our cells to build up as we age, and such damage can lead to cancer developing.

We’re also now able to diagnose cancers more accurately, thanks to advances in screening, imaging and pathology.

Yes, lifestyle, diet and other things like air pollution collectively have a huge impact on our risk of cancer – smoking for instance is behind a quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK – but that’s not the same as saying it’s a modern, man-made disease. There are plenty of natural causes of cancer – for example, one in six worldwide cancers is caused by viruses and bacteria.

Myth 2: Superfoods prevent cancer

Blueberries_250pxBlueberries, beetroot, broccoli, garlic, green tea… the list goes on. Despite thousands of websites claiming otherwise, there’s no such thing as a ‘superfood’. It’s a marketing term used to sell products and has no scientific basis.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t think about what you eat. Some foods are clearly healthier than others. The odd blueberry or mug of green tea certainly could be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Stocking up on fruits and veg is a great idea, and eating a range of different veg is helpful too, but the specific vegetables you choose doesn’t really matter.

Our bodies are complex and cancer is too, so it’s gross oversimplification to say that any one food, on its own, could have a major influence over your chance of developing cancer.

The steady accumulation of evidence over several decades points to a simple, but not very newsworthy fact that the best way to reduce your risk of cancer is by a series of long-term healthy behaviours such as not smoking, keeping active, keeping a healthy body weight and cutting back on alcohol.

Myth 3: ‘Acidic’ diets cause cancer

Lemon_250pxSome myths about cancer are surprisingly persistent, despite flying in the face of basic biology. One such idea is that overly ‘acidic’ diets cause your blood to become ‘too acidic’, which can increase your risk of cancer. The proposed answer: increase your intake of healthier ‘alkaline’ foods like green vegetables and fruits (including, paradoxically, lemons).

This is biological nonsense. True, cancer cells can’t live in an overly alkaline environment, but neither can any of the other cells in your body.

Blood is usually slightly alkaline. This is tightly regulated by the kidneys within a very narrow and perfectly healthy range. It can’t be changed for any meaningful amount of time by what you eat. And while eating green veg is certainly healthy, that’s not because of any effect on how acid or alkaline your body is.

There is something called acidosis. This is a physiological condition that happens when your kidneys and lungs can’t keep your body’s pH (a measure of acidity) in balance. It is often the result of serious illness or poisoning. It can be life-threatening and needs urgent medical attention, but it’s not down to overly acidic diets.

We know that the immediate environment around cancer cells (the microenvironment) can become acidic. This is due to differences in the way that tumours create energy and use oxygen compared with healthy tissue. Researchers are working hard to understand how this happens, in order to develop more effective cancer treatments.

But there’s no good evidence to prove that diet can manipulate whole body pH, or that it has an impact on cancer.

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GMO foods transfer DNA to humans – another myth

via skepticalraptor

franken-corn-DNA_250pxHere we go again. A pseudoscience pushing website (which occasionally tosses in stories about real science) is trumpeting a primary research study (published 6 months ago) that may, or may not, indicate that plant DNA may survive intact in the digestive tract and show up in the bloodstream. You just know what they’re going to say next.

This will now be all about genetically modified foods.

In case you’ve ignored this area of pseudoscience, genetically modified crops are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs); of course, all types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes. Based on some of  the worst science available, anti-GMO cultists have condemned GMO foods as being dangerous. Of course, there is actually no science supporting the anti-GMO claim, and the vast scientific consensus says that GMO foods are safe to humans, animals and the environment.

A paper published in the online journal, PLoS One, seems to indicate that possible DNA fragments pass from the digestive tract into the blood. The authors, Spisak et al., concluded:

…based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system.

Based on our knowledge of the digestive process, fats, DNA, carbohydrates, and proteins are broken down into their simplest components, and specialized transport systems move these simple components across the barrier between the digestive tract and blood. They have evolved to not transport full size molecules, partially because the blood is incapable of carrying large foreign molecules (and could induce an immune response). Moreover, small constituent molecules, like amino acids instead of the whole protein, or glucose instead of a long-chain carbohydrate, are more easily transported to locations in the body to be then used as fuel or building blocks for new proteins and DNA. We just have not seen a mechanism in the digestive tract that can move large molecules, like gene-length DNA fragments, into the bloodstream.

In fact, the authors admit that the mechanism is unknown . . .

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Do werewolves exist?

Via Relatively Interesting

werewolf-closeup-face_250pxThroughout history, werewolves have played an integral part in the cult literature as creatures that were not of men or wolf – but both. Most common legends attest to how these creatures can shape-shift from a man to a wolf or wolf-like creature by the light of the full moon. Silver is the only weapon that can stop them, and the disease of lycanthropy can be spread by a mere scratch or bite.

Although Hollywood has romanticized the thought of werewolves and how not all of them are vicious killing machines, is there anything to worry about for the common man walking home one night during the light of the full moon? It is doubtful since no real evidence has ever been brought to public knowledge aside from folktales and lore. Why should the belief of werewolves be met with suspicion and skepticism?   Can we answer the question… do werewolves exist?

A Misunderstanding?

werewolf 928_250px_250pxTranslations from ancient times often lead to the creation of rumors and myths.

For example, Procopius of Caesarea recorded a battle between the Roman Empire and the Isaurians. These South Asian people were merely farmers when they were called to battle in the fifth century. In the recording, Procopius recalled how the Isuarians were slain due to their inability to wage war against Rome. He referred to most of these people as Lycaones. Many believe this to be related to the latin word, Lycaon – an animal of the wolf kind. In reality, Lycaones refers to the Lycaonians – a people of Asia Minor positioned relatively close to the Isuarian lands that were incapable of battle due to inexperience.

This isn’t the only incident in where misunderstanding of texts has created myths and legends.

Perpetuated by Literal Understanding

Vlad Tepes

Vlad Tepes

In the late 16th century, rumors of the werewolf stretched far and wide across Europe. When Peter Stubbe committed heinous crimes against the people of Bedburg, his ferocious nature was akin to that of a wolf. In much the same way that Vlad Tepes was depicted as a vampire, Stubbe’s actions earned him a reputation as he killed in much the same fashion a wolf would while taking down prey.

The story of the Werewolf of Bedburg was literature developed in order to help a people understand the cruel and inhumane nature that psychopaths can embrace. Peter Stubbe could no more change shape into a wolf as Vlad the Impaler could turn into a bat.

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