Post-Holiday Cleansing Diets

Every year the holidays put stress on our health sensibilities. We indulge ourselves, we overeat, drink alcohol and generally take liberty with our bodies. Invariably we can develop a sense of guilt over our excesses. Then there are the traditional New Year’s resolutions and the attempt to negate the past month’s indiscretions. I have noted personally and professionally an increase in health-conscious people using cleansing diets. Friends, students, and even colleagues are using them as a recovery method for this extended period of less-than-healthful behaviors. I decided to take a skeptical look at the so-called cleansing diets. What are cleansing diets and are they a good method to get yourself back into shape? Does a cleanse actually do anything and could it be a health panacea or is it another in a long line of marginal health claims?

Simplifast detox diet beverages. Via Wikimedia.

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Food Woo 2014: Year in Review


I enjoy cooking and I enjoy eating, and so it’s not too surprising that I have also begun to enjoy writing about “food woo” here on Skeptoid. Here at the end of the year, I thought it would be fun to give a look back at the significant happenings of the last year connected to the food topic. These are some of the more notable moments in food woo that I noticed in 2014.

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Give, But Give Thoughtfully

Charity is a virtue, but choosing a charity to give to is important. Photo by fhwrdh, via flickr.

Charity is a virtue, but choosing a charity to give to is important. Photo by fhwrdh, via flickr.

We, the contributors to the Skeptoid Blog, recently received a reader-listener request to talk about tapping, an acupressure routine touted to have amazing therapeutic benefits. The request came with a link to the website, which is used for promoting The Tapping Solution Foundation. The foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, and a sibling to the for-profit Tapping Solution, which sells self-help materials about “tapping.” The practice of tapping is simply a kind of acupressure woo, wherein the practitioner taps certain points on the body repeatedly with a soft gesture. It uses the typical nonsense jargon about energy and negativity, includes ancient Chinese wisdom, and exciting new research conducted by a guy with advanced degrees from New Age diploma mills. It’s essentially the same kind of quackery that has been covered in a lot of places on Skeptoid, including entries on acupuncture, chiropractic, guides to rhetorical fallacies, and so on. It’s filled with pretty boilerplate fallacies and empty claims—no big whoop.

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What Science Says About Pickle Juice

picklejuice2Previously on the Skeptoid blog, I took a look at the pickle juice hypothesis — the idea that pickle juice (really pickle brine) somehow carries with it a number of healthful benefits — through the lens of basic skeptical questioning. To wit: does this idea even make a whit of sense? It didn’t seem to; or, at least, it seemed to be woefully under-defined in terms of what the benefits actually were and why pickle juice might confer such benefits.

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On How I was Fooled on the Internet

People sometimes ask me how I find the stories that I discuss in my blog posts. Sometimes my wife or friends send me stuff that I should discuss, but most of my ideas come from news aggregators. I have, for instance, several “Google Alerts” on various topics around archeology and history, including specific ones on topics that I’ve previously written about (for potential follow ups). Brian has also developed a daily extract of various sources for Skeptoid bloggers to use.

There is, of course, a disadvantage, in that the collected stories are not vetted. You can have stories from reputable sources followed by a completely bogus website in the same automated email. As always, as Brian recommends us bloggers (and indeed all skeptics), we need to verify and research. A linked story is just a trigger for ideas. / read more…


Flu Vaccine Failure?

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Victoria A. Cruz administers the H1N1 flu vaccine to Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Ronald Dizon at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Via Wikimedia.

Recently the Centers For Disease Control released an advisory about cases of influenza that appear to have genetically drifted—enough to reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. If true, why is the CDC still recommending unvaccinated people get a flu shot? What good is the vaccine this year and why does this happen? The obvious self-serving question is “Why should I get an annual flu vaccine if it is not going to protect me?”

What does this development mean for public health both this year and long term? What does this complication really say about the benefit of the annual influenza vaccine? / read more…


UFO Spotted Over Lady Liberty

Liberty UFONot long ago, a UFO was filmed by tourist visiting the Statue of Liberty. This UFO video has been posted to YouTube and is featured in a few articles, like this one on The Huffington Post by Thomas Tamblyn. / read more…


James Oberg: Astronaut UFO Incidents

Jim ObergSometimes when looking for a topic, I end up going on wild tangents, chasing one thought or another and satisfying my own curiosity. I try to keep my ear to the ground for interesting or unusual UFO reports that might be worth blogging about. In reading an article about an ISS crew member getting questions about UFOs, I found a reference to James Oberg/ read more…


Should We All Be Drinking Pickle Juice?

001Let’s talk pickle juice. Places like Livestrong, Medical News Daily, and many other sites across the Internet tout drinking pickle juice — yes, that brackish water left over in the jar after you eat all the pickles — as a healthy home remedy for a variety of minor ailments. Even Dr. Oz is on board with it, which tells you two things: (1) a lot of people have probably tried it, and (2) we should probably put the pickle juice question to some scrutiny.

Depending on the website you visit, there are many claims made about the benefits of drinking pickle juice. Supposedly, pickle juice can do any or all of the following:

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On the Relativity of Being Remembered as a US President

We humans are a strange bunch. Probably because of a good evolutionary reason and certainly caused by our inherently faulty memory, we tend to pay a lot more attention to current and recently passed events. Events further back tend to get forgotten, or at least the details become blurry.

An interesting study in Science Magazine proved that point once more (found via Futurity). Henry Roediger III and Andrew DeSoto have combined tests of the knowledge of US citizens about their presidents. Interestingly, they published tests done over different years (1972, 1991 and 2009) and across different age groups. I’m quite certain the same results could be reproduced in other countries, using respective presidents, prime ministers, or monarchs. / read more…