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Food Babe vs. the Glucose Tolerance Test: Another Science Fail

by Mike Rothschild

October 14, 2014

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Donate When it comes to unscientific nonsense wrapped in a toxic shell of concern trolling and naturalistic fallacies, you can’t do better than the Food Babe. The food crusader and blogger, whose real name is Vani Hari and whose background is in computer science, has become the darling of the anti-GMO, pro-alternative medicine set. She’s achieved her status by marshaling an army of social-media followers into crusades pressuring major companies to remove “harmful chemicals” from their products.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Who wants to eat harmful chemicals, right? But in reality, Hari is almost always either taking information out of context, displaying a shockingly poor understand of science, or just simply wrong.

I’ve written blog posts covering her mistaken beliefs that brewers are injecting all sorts of toxic glop into beer and that the microwave oven is bad because the Nazis invented it. And now I’m taking a look at one of her most popular recent claims: that doctors are purposefully poisoning pregnant women through the administration of the oral glucose gestational diabetes test.

Hari’s harangue against the oral glucose tolerance beverage (also known as Glucola) was posted in May of this year, but recently started pinging around social media again. So I wanted to address some of her claims about it, while also keeping in mind that the first half of the post has absolutely nothing to do with Glucola. Instead, it’s a long ramble about the dangers of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in soda pop.

There’s never been any compelling evidence of BVO causing harm in humans, and the only way to get too much bromine in your system is to drink way, way, way too much soda. But no pesky fact can compete with BVO being a hard-to-pronounce chemical.

What does any of that have to do with Glucola and doctors pumping pregnant women full of toxins? Read on:
"Shocking: Why Are Doctors Recommending This Toxic Drink?"
A classic Vani Hari clickbait title. Who doesn't want to know something "shocking" about doctors recommending a "toxic drink"? I can practically hear the panicked, breathless clicking by folks terrified about what those Big Pharma bastards are doing to us now. She continues:
There is one place where BVO is lurking that is reprehensible " and I knew that I needed to bring light to it. A drink containing BVO is being prescribed by doctors to pregnant women everywhere when they get tested for gestational diabetes " a routine test given to nearly all pregnant women in the U.S. [sic]
The purpose of Glucola is just that: to test for gestational diabetes. And to be sure, this is a condition you don't want. According to Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an OBGYN and pain medicine specialist (and please keep in mind here that Vani Hari has absolutely zero medical training), gestational diabetes can be dangerous to both mother and baby. She writes:
Screening for diabetes in pregnancy is recommended as high blood sugar is associated with a number of bad outcomes for both baby and mother. An affected baby can have dangerously low blood sugar at birth, has a greater risk of needing care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and babies with gestational diabetes can be too large to deliver vaginally. [...] There is also concern that exposure to elevated glucose levels during pregnancy could lead to a higher risk of obesity and diabetes for the baby later in life. Mothers with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially very serious and even life threatening condition involving high-blood pressure in pregnancy. Furthermore (if all that were not enough) women with GDM have a 60% risk of developing type 2 DM later in life.
Women are screened for gestational diabetes not because doctors make a mint off glucose beverages, but because doctors care about their patents. But in the alt-med world, doctors are never anything other than pharma-shilling hucksters who don't care if you live or die, as long as you pay.
Check out the ingredients for the “Oral Glucose Tolerance Beverage” by AeroMed:
I won't run down the ins and outs of every ingredient here, but I want to call attention to a few things. First, Hari has basically highlighted everything here except water, citric acid and glycerol ester of wood rosin. Of course, you don't have to look far to find other alt-med bloggers railing against both of these other ingredients and I'm honestly surprised Hari didn't take the water to task for not being magical enough.

Also, all of these ingredients have been studied and deemed safe by the FDA. Needless to say, Hari doesn't cite a single legitimate study that says otherwise. Small comfort for pro-organic types, but it's the truth.
These drinks (also known as “Glucola”) are essentially sugar water with hazardous artificial colors and preservatives with a VERY LONG shelf life. They are no better than most sodas on the market " and truly not something you’d want to consume while pregnant.
Yes, they have a long shelf life - they're meant to. This way, they don't have to be refrigerated. And yes, they are better than most sodas because they aren't meant to be consumed for anything other than this one test. If Dr. Pepper was the best thing for measuring blood glucose in pregnant women, then that's what would be used for the test.

Also, I must have missed when Vani Hari became the arbiter of Things You Want to Consume While Pregnant. I always thought that was up to pregnant women. Or has it become necessary to so infantalize the women carrying future infants that food bloggers must decide for them what they can put in their bodies?

She continues:
Yet, doctors routinely prescribe this non-carbonated soda to their pregnant patients, without taking into consideration the dangerous ingredients they contain. While it’s certainly important to monitor your blood glucose during pregnancy, there are alternatives to drinking this toxic sugar water.
There is no such thing as "non-carbonated soda." And again, the ingredients in Glucola have never compellingly demonstrated any significant danger to humans. They aren't toxic and they aren't dangerous - or at least Hari hasn't bothered to prove they are.

Hari concludes with this call for her readers:
Realize you have a choice " Simply ask your doctor what other options you have and if they don’t know, educate them!
Another wonderfully warped piece of Food Babe logic. If you don't like what the doctor says, just tell them how to do their job. Why bother with the doctor in the first place? Here's her inaccurate explanation:
The purpose of the drink is to ingest 50 to 100 grams of glucose, after which your doctor can test how your body handles influx of sugar [sic].
Yes, 50 to 100 grams of glucose sounds like a lot. But is it really? Let's take a look at a "super food juice" called Suja, which Hari relentlessly markets on her website. This is a juice you're supposed to live off of while you cleanse your body of toxins. How much sugar is in one bottle of Suja? That would be 30 grams.

Less than Glucola, sure. But what's the recommended amount of Suja you drink while cleansing your body of toxins? Six bottles"for a total of 180 grams of sugar. To achieve optimal toxin cleaning out, according to the marketing materials, you're supposed to drink nothing but Suja for three days. This means ingesting 540 grams of sugar while eating no actual food.

Once again: one bottle of Glucola, prescribed by your doctor, to be drunk by a pregnant woman one time to determine a key measurement of health in her baby: 50-100 grams of sugar.

18 bottles of Suja, sold by Food Babe for a lot of money, to be drunk to cleanse your body of toxins that don't exist: 540 grams of "toxic" sugar.

But none of that matters, because Vani Hari has testimonial evidence!
This woman was given the alternative of eating real food, such as bananas. This study showed that eating 28 jelly beans had the same effect on blood sugar in a [sic] 50 gram glucose test. Of course, you’d want to choose a non-gmo variety, free of artificial colors and other nasties!
"This woman" appears to be a blogger who was given a handout by a midwife. "This study" is 15 years old and has never been repeated, not to mention it uses a small sample size. And of course, one wants to choose the most natural jelly beans, with jelly beans themselves being completely natural. It's typical Food Babe cognitive dissonance: even something that's completely man-made (jelly beans) has to also be natural and organic. Hari goes on:
An even better option that you can discuss with your doctor would be to avoid the test altogether and monitor your blood sugar with a glucometer throughout your pregnancy, as recommended here, here and here. This is the best alternative because you won’t create an extreme blood sugar spike, and can stick to your regular healthy diet. You will also avoid feeling like you are going to vomit and the dreaded “crash and burn” that women report after drinking glucola " including several Food Babe readers who have reached out to me personally.
This is reprehensible advice, and possibly veers into the realm of negligence. Do not avoid this test if you are pregnant. Yes, your blood sugar spikes a little after Glucola. It's meant to, because it's testing blood sugar. Remember, you're doing it for a reason, not because your doctor is getting kickbacks from Big Glucose. Also, the three sites she recommends to look at are all alt-med blogs and present no compelling evidence. But this is no deterrent:
As you can see, there is absolutely no reason that you need to consume these toxic glucola drinks. Now that you are informed, you can make a better choice for yourself and your baby.
The reason to consume them is that scientific research and testing tell us they are the best possible way to detect the signs of gestational diabetes. The reason not to is because Vani Hari doesn't understand how they work.
Remember, I am not a doctor (take my advice at your own risk), however, in my opinion there is no way in hell any doctor could convince me to drink something with flame retardant, artificial dyes made from petroleum, controversial preservatives and GMOs, pregnant or not!
No, you're not a doctor. No doctor would give their patient this awful, negligent, unscientific advice meant to do nothing but scare pregnant women into not taking a test of critical importance to them and their baby.
If you know someone who is pregnant or is still drinking BVO, please share this critical information with them and let them know they have a choice!

Wishing you the greatest health imaginable.
Do you, Vani? Do yo?

by Mike Rothschild

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