Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Remeber, big words are scary.

Science literacy is important to all of us.  I start this post by way of anecdote, as observed by myself.  I was at work, and a coworker of mine happened to notice a container someone else had packed a lunch in. On the front of the package was the basic nutritional information, in those handy bubbles everyone now seems to be using.  This information happened to indicate that there was, let's say, 460mg of sodium per serving (or however it's presented).  Coworker says that this seems like a lot of sodium.  I point out that it's only about half a gram, and the coworker doesn't know what that means, because he doesn't understand metric.  I point out that it's roughly one percent of an ounce, something along those lines.  He still thinks it's a lot of salt for a lunch meat product to contain. I ask him if he realizes that's only about a gram of salt, give or take, but by this point I've already lost him.  I ask him further if he knows what's in table salt, or what salt is, and he has no clue.

Now, to be fair, he's starting his fifth year of college, majoring in business administration.  Salt is probably not something he needs to think about most of the time, and the metric system is probably not affecting his prospects too greatly.  This aside, this is a roughly 24 year old person who doesn't know that table salt is sodium and chlorine, how much the recommended daily values for each are (let alone a good or bad amount to take in a day), or why it's important to understand metric.  A person who also likes to talk about how he eats his body weight (in lbs) in grams of protein per day (the powdered stuff - apparently he also eats like a dozen eggs per day, too).  In his defense, he does a lot of lifting exercise, etc, so the protein makes sense.

The entire reason I bring this up is to illustrate a thing I've noticed that's even more disturbing.

It's all the salt you love, without any breeding.

First, let's look at this label.  It's a bit hard to see, so let me explain it to you.  This is salt.  It's pink for some reason, and that reason isn't important here.  This fine pink salt (sounds like a euphemism to me, but we'll let it slide) is Non-GMO certified.  That's right, nothing's been done to its genes.

Pictured: DNA structure.  A thing that doesn't exist in salt.
I'm not sure if it's more interesting that a company producing salt sought out a non-GMO certificate (where does your salt come from that you need to worry about genes being in it?), or that the non-GMO organization actually granted them one (although it's literally correct - inorganic things that have no genes can not, by definition, be genetically modified).  It's kinda like if someone advertised gluten-free water.


I thought I could trust you all to know what water is, but now I'm not so sure.
It's in those clouds.  It's in that lake.  It's in your water bottle. 

That's right. If you follow the link up there, and click on the company's explanation as to why you should buy their water, it's pretty flimsy.
Research indicates that while water is often naturally free of Gluten, certain bottling practices and additives in some brands can cause contamination.  Clara’s bottling practices and additive-free guarantee ensure that every bottle of our water is certified gluten and worry-free.
 Research, they say?  Do they link to it?  Of course they don't, because it doesn't exist.  Water is not 'often' naturally free of gluten, it is BY DEFINITION FREE OF GLUTEN.

But let's get on to the meat of this claim.  They make two positive claims here.  The first is that contaminants can somehow cause gluten to be in your water, through (supposedly very unsanitary) bottling practices.  Think about that for a moment.  They are implying that, somehow, flour or grains (or grain detritus) is somehow getting into your bottle without your knowledge.  Go ahead and try this experiment.  Drop a bit of flour in a bottle of water, leave it sit for a while.  Then come back and see if it looks like the water you get on your grocer's shelves, or the convenience store.  Let me know if it tastes like it.  Any amount of gluten that could possibly be enough to trigger a sensitivity is going to be enough for you to know it's contaminated, on sight.  What I want to know is where this research is so clearly pointing to this position, that there's a water bottling facility in the same factory as a flour mill, and that the contamination is getting through to consumers.  Color me skeptical, but I don't think that's a thing.

So, barring this 'contamination by practices' hypothesis, let's think about the other alternative.  Somewhere, in some water bottling facility, there's some additive that contains gluten.  The only things that are ever added to water in this capacity are minerals.  Minerals do not contain gluten.  Wheat, Rye, Barley, and possibly a few other related grains, contain gluten.  Think about the things you know that contain those things.  Beer, perhaps.  You may have noticed that beer is not water.  Moving on.  Flour, one might say.  Again, the test above.  Put some flour in your water, even a few grams, and see if it seems like the water you buy in the store.  Bread, you say?  Noodles.  Maybe they're adding noodles without your knowledge.  If that's the case, maybe you have trouble noticing things.  If there's noodles in my water, I heat it up and call it soup.

Nonetheless, we have absolutely no evidence (though I would love to see this research they mentioned) of such a thing.  This is a baseless assertion, founded in the idea that your dollar is more important than their ethical obligations.

But hey, at least they're not trying to sell me organic salts for my food.  Acetate salt would probably not taste very good anyway.  But at least it's all natural!  Maybe we can convince people Arsenic is good for them because it's completely natural, too?  No, maybe Cyanide?  Mercury? Come on, won't someone eat some uranium salts for me?  I swear they're all natural!