By Carrie Poppy via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI
The latest health fad making the rounds is something called “oil pulling,” an ancient Indian practice in which people cleanse their mouths (and bodies) of toxins by swishing a vegetable oil (such as olive, coconut, or sunflower) in the mouth for 20 minutes and then spitting it out.
It’s ridiculously simple, and, it is claimed, amazingly effective. According to science writer Mike Rothschild’s blog for the Skeptoid podcast, “Oil pulling is said to treat chronic pain, insomnia, cavities, allergies, thrombosis, diabetes, asthma, bad breath, gingivitis, digestive issues, meningitis, low energy, heart disease, kidney disease, ‘toxic bodily waste,’ PMS, leukemia and even AIDS. Oil pulling, it would seem, is truly a life-changing medical miracle.”
Okay, so maybe swishing a few teaspoons of olive oil isn’t a “life-changing medical miracle.” Other claims are more down-to-earth; according to one proponent, “Oil pulling is an age-old remedy that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it is beneficial in improving gums and removing harmful bacteria. The basic idea is that oil is swished in the mouth for a short time each day and that this action helps improve oral health… The practice of oil pulling started in India thousands of years ago.”
The fact that oil pulling has been used for thousand of years (if indeed it has) is asserted as proof of its efficacy but in fact means nothing. This is an example of a logical fallacy called the “appeal to tradition.” Just because a practice has endured for hundreds or thousands of years does not mean it is valid. For nearly 2,000 years, for example, physicians practiced bloodletting, believing that balancing non-existent bodily humors would restore health to sick patients.
The fact that the premise was completely false and absurd made no difference: the patients who died were assumed to have been too sick (and not killed by the bogus medical treatment), and the ones who recovered (despite, not because of, the bloodletting) were convinced the treatment was a miracle cure. It’s the same reason that people believe superstitions . . .
Back in December, I was excited. The reason I was excited was because everybody’s favorite über-Libertarian, New World Order conspiracy theorist quack, Mike Adams, a.k.a. The Health Ranger, had made an announcement. That announcement was that on January 6, 2014 Adams would announce astonishing “scientific findings” about food that would “revolutionize” nutrition and health. Given Adams’ past history of doing hilariously off-base things with scientific instruments, such as putting Chicken McNuggets under a microscope and being amazed that things look a lot different when highly magnified, resulting in his misinterpreting dust and probably flecks of spice to be bizarre and alien fibers responsible for Morgellon’s disease, I was hoping for, as I put it, comedy gold and blog fodder galore.
I was disappointed.
January 6 came and went, and all I saw over at Adams’ repository of all things that quack, NaturalNews.com, were reports from the hilariously named Forensic Food Lab at NaturalNews.com finding heavy metals and all sorts of “toxins” in not just grocery store food, but organic foods and “superfoods.” Holy hell, even vegan foods and seaweed and sea vegetable products were not immune from Adams’ incompetent use of expensive scientific equipment to generate terrifying numbers for concentrations of lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals. However, it soon became apparent to me that Adams was clearly using his newfound ability to misuse actual scientific instruments to “find” horrifying levels of metals and various scary chemicals in a lot of the supplements and “superfoods” that you’d normally expect him to support. It was then that I started to realize that Adams’ lunacy wasn’t really about belief. Not really. Not this time. Rather, it was about eliminating his competition by testing their products and finding them to be “loaded” with various scary sounding chemicals. He even went so far as to publish an unstintingly funny (unintentionally, of course) article entitled Heavy metals discussions reveal striking state of denial in the minds of some natural products consumers, in which he had the chutzpah to state, “You can’t pick and choose which laws of chemistry you want to be true,” and then follow the section of his article following that title with a claim like, “There is also convincing evidence that at least some people are able to truly live off nothing more than sunlight and air.”
Uh, the laws of chemistry and physics say that living off of nothing more than sunlight and air is impossible for a mammal like humans. Mikey really needs to take his own advice. But I digress…
Yesterday, the old Mikey was back. Gone was the Mikey ruthlessly trying to eliminate his natural foods competitors by “revealing” horrible chemicals and heavy metals in their products, and back was the utterly nutty conspiracy true believer that we’ve all come to know and love. The old Mikey was back in the form of an article entitled Battle for humanity nearly lost: global food supply deliberately engineered to end life, not nourish it. To drive the point home, right next to the title is a picture of a man wearing a hazmat suit and a gas mask. As if that weren’t enough, the second paragraph . . .