Medical Woo and the Hidden Toxins that Are (Not) Killing You
Today, the Fighty Squirrel was flipping around Facebook while in the lunch line, when a post from a friend about ‘HIDDEN TOXINS LURKING YOUR FOOD’ came across my screen.
We squirrels consider themselves to be conservators of the earth as well as painfully overeducated in science, so this caught my attention. The post featured a very physically fit looking guy with a puppy in a kitchen. I work with scientists, and this guys’ full-time job is working out and befriending adorable animals, not pipetting. And somehow he had uncovered terrible toxins? Hmmm.
His first rant was against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in protein powders and our food supply and that they are TOXIC AND KILLING YOU. Two points on this: 1) GMOs are not toxic and are not going to killing you 2) We have been genetically modifying foods for hundreds of years by how we breed corn. Yes. Corn is bred. Corn has sex to make baby corn. That will be a different blog. To wit, see non-GMO (ie ‘wild’) corn on the far left vs GMO corn on the far right. I want to eat GMO corn, please. 3) There is a crap ton of benefit to GMOs especially in poor countries. 4) Whoever was on the science panel that let ‘food’ fall into an ‘organism’ category and thus be labeled GMOs has the PR savvy of a hamster. And yes, I said two points, and gave you four, but I’ve had food now and am thinking more clearly. You may hate the way companies make money off GMOs, but that’s different from fearing the technology of GMOs. Separate the two and go forth.
Physically-fit-puppy-video-guy actually got some things in right. One of his points was that artificial sweeteners are seriously uncool. As my bestie, boot badass and awesome scientist Susie Swithers will tell you, artificial sweeteners are the devil’s work. Diet sodas are not a healthy option. This is heartbreaking (The Fighty Squirrel has an abiding love for Coke Zero) but the bad, bad things that happen to your metabolism as a result of eating that stuff is backed by real science. Heck, I was even at a talk where the NIH Director closed by talking about nanotechnology, CRISPR and organ transplants then hastily went back to the mic and said, “oh, and don’t drink diet soda…that shit will kill you’. So, there’s that.
Here’s my larger question….Why is some bro with a masters degree and a puppy out there scaring people about science? And why aren’t all scientists piling on and asking him WTFrontdoor is he saying? When I took to twitter to ask the hive mind if I should say something I got a lot of ‘ugh….save yourself!’.
But isn’t my job to be an educator? I’m arguably an awesome-to-not-terrible educator of scientists. I should do this. YOU should do this.
I think we can all agree that horrific things happen to science and education budgets when people don’t understand that science is trying to improve the quality of life on earth, not make corn that will murder you. Sadly, there is no goddess of science who is about crawl out from under their pile of grants, committees, and protocols to grab up puppies AND kittens (we will one up you, puppy man!!) and counter the woo that passes as science. Someone who shoots down every one of their ‘chemical free’ snake oil while scaring folks into eating what they are selling. And yet, I’m numb from the times I’ve been that this isn’t my job, that taking on these posts is time-consuming and futile. Which seems very cynical, even for Twitter (the most cynical place in the universe).
Puppy-guy has thousands of hits on his video. I’m going in, folks. I’m calling out everyone one of the folks shilling stuff. I just need to coax my graduate students into puppy and kitten costumes.
Who’s with me?
What science woo is making you nutters?