Consumer Watch – Part 009: Oil Pulling

Rinsing your mouth regularly promotes good mouth health in general. However, risking lipoid pneumonia from swishing an oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes sounds like added risk with no additional benefit over standard rinsing or brushing methods.

Dr. Steven Novella has a great article discussing the present data on oil pulling.

Oil Pulling – Science Based Medicine

“There is no reason, either theoretically or based upon any evidence, to recommend oil pulling instead of standard modern health care with flossing, tooth-brushing, and mouth rinse. However, it does appear to be better than nothing, and might have a role in developing countries without access to modern oral care. The one caveat is that extended periods of swishing that are commonly recommended (10-20 minutes) are likely not necessary and further present a risk of lipoid pneumonia from accidentally breathing in small amounts of oil.”


Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning also has a great breakdown of this issue with some great references that you can find here.

Oil Pulling – Skeptoid


Consumer Watch – Part 008: Protein Supplementation

I dug around the internet trying to figure out whether protein supplementation was needed for muscle build, or general health.  I put together some of my preliminary results in the file linked below.

Protein supplementation is typically not needed if consuming a balanced diet that already contains high amounts of protein.
If you need to supplement protein, Pea plant protein is probably the best bet to avoid allergy issues, vegetarian issues, and digestion blockage and offer a well rounded blend of amino acids.
After a workout, make sure you are consuming carbohydrates in addition to around 20-25 g of protein. The muscles need the instant boost from the carbs.
0.5 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is good per day for muscle building. No more than 20-50g at a time for maximal absorption

My Protein Analysis (Open Office Calc document)

My Protein Analysis (Microsoft Excel document)

Consumer Watch – Part 007: ‘Boost Your Immune System’

Many products, like Airborne, claim to ‘boost your immune system’.  These claims are based off of fundamentally inaccurate understandings of the immune system.  Your immune system is not like a muscle that you can boost in strength, but is more analogous to a teeter-totter that you want to keep in balance to prevent detrimental affects on either side.  If you weaken your immune system, you become susceptible to infection, if your immune system is too strong it will attack your own healthy tissues.  So if you see anything that claims to ‘boost your immune system’ I would steer clear, unless it is the better product for other more tangible reasons.

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning has a great breakdown of this issue with some great references that you can find here.

Boost Your Immune System (or Not)

Consumer Watch – Part 006: The Placebo Effect

Placebo Effect


Instead of covering a ba-jillion topics like acupuncture, aromatherapy, homeopathy, naturopathy, healing touch, and the like, I decided to cover the only working effect that they all share in common: The Placebo Effect.  To put it simply, it is ‘mind over matter’.

Studies have shown that it doesn’t matter where you stick the needles, or whether you even use toothpicks, or what part of the foot you touch/massage, or what joint is popped, the fact that a ‘professional’ is taking care of you and doing something for you has a definite effect.  This blog post was inspired by Justin Lelbach, who was interested in the new research posted on the studied effects of placebo treatments.  This article and the actual journal source can be found here.  For a nice overall coverage of the topic, this link will take care of your needs.

Placebo Effect

Consumer Watch – Part 005: Magnets!



The knowledge of magnets has been around for a long time. The magic properties of these rocks gave way to the use in medical therapies very early on. Magnets are real, are used in good modern medicine, and can be very useful in many ways. However, there are a lot of products, like copper bracelets, pendants, etc. that are being sold in today’s market. The short end of the story is, static magnet fields like those you would find in jewelry are not going to help any issues you may have, it requires powerful dynamic magnets like they use in expensive medical equipment to actually have effects. The placebo effect is a powerful thing…(see Part 006)

This topic was suggested by the reader Michael Ward.  I have always loved magnets, so this was a fun one to research.  I have two great links for this one, a 5 minute podcast that goes over the history, claims, and products, and a link with published journal article resources and detailed descriptions.

Magnet Podcast

Magnet Therapy

Consumer Watch – Part 004: Energy Bracelets

Energy Bands

Power Balance - a beautiful con

If you are out shopping at malls this holiday season you may run into one of the many vendors who are selling “energy bracelets”.  These wristbands are claimed to improve your balance, performance, and health.  Turns out these unverified claims are all false-advertising, and the originators of these aesthetic shams are being hit with some fines and restrictions.

Here is a great article detailing the actions being taken against the Power Balance company for making false claims, as well as a video from Richard Saunders at the bottom showing the tricks they are employing to sell these products.

Power Balance False Claims

If you would like to support the movement against these products and charities, go and check out the SkepticBros and get one of their Placebo Bands for only $2  instead of $60 for the Power Balance wristbands.  Wear a couple on your wrist and people will definitely ask you about them, then you can show them the tricks and make them more aware of these scams.

Consumer Watch – Part 003: Dietary Supplements

Pill Supplements

Pill Supplements can come in capsules, gels, or pressed forms

It doesn’t seem like a week goes by without somebody talking about a supplement they take, or something you should take to fix some ailment. It seems like these dietary supplements are almost magical in nature. People from all walks of life seem to be on this bandwagon nowadays. Are these things popular because they work, or popular because people are being taken advantage of? The answer is a bit of both.

This infographic shows both the popularity of a supplement (by circle size), as well as scientific evidence of efficacy (stronger evidence towards the top). There is a link at the bottom, or here, that shows all of the articles and data that the graphic is based on.

Dietary Supplements