Food Babe flops on BRCA mutations: Understand genetics or go home

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Newspaper article CANCER

Part of the reason so many writers vilify charlatans like Food Babe, Dr. Oz, Joseph Mercola, and Vandana Shiva is that they represent everything disgraceful about unscientific propaganda.

Cancer misinformation is among the most tragic unscientific rhetoric. First, it deigns to blame the cancer victim for bringing the disease onto him or herself, when in fact many cases of cancer are not preventable. Second, promoting naturopathy as an alternative to evidence-based treatment or preventative measures is misleading. When an unsuspecting cancer patient forgoes evidence-based medicine, the result is often death.

Case in point:  This is an old post that a reader brought to my attention. This woman has a BRCA mutation, so it hits close to home for her, and so many others with BRCA mutations that are bombarded with non evidence-based advice.

Facebook screenshot - Food Babe speculates about BRCA mutations

I was stunned. Talking about an entire scientific field of study that you clearly know zilch about is astounding. I responded as follows on my public Facebook page:

“This is why ignorance from people like Food Babe makes me so angry. Spouting so called “puzzlement” and “concern” about cancer while you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about is deplorable. First of all, one doesn’t test “positive for the BRCA gene.” *Everyone* has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Both of these genes code for tumor suppressor proteins. When there is a defective mutant allele in certain region of these genes, the tumor suppressor proteins aren’t produced, or don’t function correctly. Still, everyone has a copy of these genes inherited from each parent, so the un-mutated copy produces the proper proteins, thus compensating for the deleterious mutation on the other copy.

The problem is it’s much more likely, almost certain that a mutation will occur in one cell on the “good” version, so now both copies are messed up eventually leading to cancer. For someone without one of these inherited mutations, a somatic mutation would have to occur on *both* copies of the gene in the same cell. Statistically, it’s very unlikely that this will happen, so this specific, nasty form of breast cancer will not occur in a person without a mutation inherited from mom or dad. So statistically, a person that has inherited one of these problem alleles is pretty much screwed. (This is a very simplified explanation.) Sorry Food Babe, all the organic kale and healthy smoothies in the world don’t change that. Shame on you. Stick with what you know. And no, you don’t “know” anything about agriculture, chemistry, or biology worth the sugar in my toxic morning coffee.”

To put it simply, there are two main types of genes associated with cancer: Proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Proto-oncogenes code for proteins that regulate cell growth. When these proteins are synthesized properly, some tell cells when they should grow (e.g. during fetal development.) Other proto-oncogenes help synthesize proteins that tell cells when to take one for the team and die. Certain mutations in these genes can lead to cells growing out of control, AKA cancer.

BRCA genes are tumor suppressor genes. The relevant deleterious mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 demonstrate the “two-hit” tumor suppressor carcinogenesis model, also known as the Knudson Hypothesis. We each get two copies of all twenty-two somatic chromosomes, one from each parent, plus one sex chromosome from each parent, an X from mom, and an X or Y from dad. We inherit two copies of every gene, including BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes produce proteins that help repair a specific type of DNA damage. The likelihood of both copies sustaining deleterious mutations in the same cell (two somatic hits) is relatively low.

Let’s say one of the copies someone inherits from either parent is mutated in a way that makes this protein either not work, or not get synthesized at all. (A mutation from a parent is called a “germline” mutation; germ cells make sperm and egg cells. Mutations that happen in the body after conception are called “somatic.”) In this case, the baby is born with one hit in every single cell already. All it takes is for the second copy to get mutated anywhere (along with other complex events I won’t describe today,) and the unfortunate individual is on the road to cancer. Thus, when someone is born with one of these BRCA mutations, s/he is far more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer – up to a 65% or more lifetime chance of breast cancer. In addition, a parent with an inherited mutation has a 50% chance of passing it to each offspring.

Pair of dice

Cancer is often like this

Imagine a situation in which most people get to roll two dice, and rolling two 3s means a likely cancer sentence. People born with these mutations have two dice, but one die has 3s on all sides.

You see Food Babe, there is much that scientists have to learn about cancer. Cancer is not one disease with one cure, but a plethora of diseases with a high level of heterogeneity, even within a single patient. Nevertheless, there is much that science already knows. While my explanation is extremely abridged, it is embarrassingly obvious that you DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. It’s painfully clear that you are “puzzled.” Not for the snarky reason you imply, but because you have no idea how these type of cancers happen. If you did, you would realize that eating the “best foods” or avoiding toxins won’t “prevent cancer naturally.”

Yes, cancers are immeasurably more complex than I’ve described them here. Yes, healthy diet and lifestyle are important. But what you deem “healthy” and what experts deem healthy are vastly different. Environmental factors that cause cancer include smoking, obesity, certain viral infections, and radon gas. Factors that don’t cause cancer include GMO foods, vaccines, sugar, and caramel coloring in lattes. Things that don’t prevent or treat cancer include organic foods, herbal remedies, or green juice. What you’re doing boils down to victim-blaming and fear-mongering.

In case you haven’t noticed, the pro-science community has had enough. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Put up or shut up.

This piece was adapted from:  “Food Babe, Stop Giving Cancer Advice. It Makes You Seem Reckless.

Kavin Senapathy is a contributor at Genetic Literacy Project and other sites. She works for a genomics/bioinformatics R&D in Madison, WI. She loves all things genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics. Her interests span the human and agricultural realms. Opinions expressed are her own and do not reflect her employer. Follow Kavin on Facebook, Twitter @ksenapathy and Google +

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  • gopnik60

    I am in agreement with you generally, however it should be noted that “vaccine-associated sarcomas” are well-documented in cats. That does not translate into “vaccinations cause cancer” but it does muddy the waters a little.

    • Prism

      WHAT>>>>>> Vaccine associated sarcomas.. wow! and that too in cats. Can you provide me with a link to that paper (please not another “health” junkie website.. I mean a peer reviewed paper) ?? ha..ha..

      • ThePositronicGirl

        I used to be a vet tech, gonik isn’t spewing BS there. It had to do with a type of adjuvant used in a 3 year rabies vaccine that specifically cats had a reaction to. The tumor was always found at the injection site and the vaccine is no longer recommended for cats, but is fine for dogs and many other mammals. This is old news and a result of them not studying the adjuvant in cats specifically before recommending it for furry pets in general. Remember that animal medicine is often treated different than human medicine and even a few decades ago the standards were much more lax.

        • REVELLINGINTRUTH

          A++++

      • ThePositronicGirl

        Also here’s the published information you requested. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299519/

    • REVELLINGINTRUTH

      A++++ and more….LOL…some light shining in through the TREES…

  • Prism

    Being a cancer biologist myself, I completely agree with this neat layman explanation of the carcinogenesis process. Way to Go Kavin. But you are not going to change the consipiracy theorists and the plain morons who populate these so called health info sites like food babe and kill people with their absurd advice.

    • Kavin Senapathy

      Thank you for the kind words. The best we can do is prevent someone on the fence from falling into the wrong side.

    • NoToGMOs

      As a cancer biologist, would you be kind enough to explain to the readers here about epigenetic modifications and how it relates to the carcinogenesis process? Thanks!

      • Adam Kennedy

        If you think you know something, why not express your opinion yourself and allow us to evaluate your input

  • rick

    I actually welcome the idea of a Food Babe, a popular figure with the stature and instincts to ask appropriate questions, to bring the hay down to the cows so to speak in helping the average layman to access an understanding of food components and practices, and to create a degree of accountability for food manufacturers. This article is a great illustration of how important it is for any person attempting to take on that role to be sound in basic chemistry, biology, and other relevant areas in order to be responsible to her readers and influential on their behalf in corporate and regulatory decisionmaking. Food Babe appears to have difficulty distinquishing between what is responsible and what is popular and facts from mere intuition. Scientific truth is often counterintuitive, but the lay public typically assumes that scientific investigation must ultimately only confirm what they perceive intuitively, otherwise it is flawed or incomplete.
    Its striking sometimes that it is not a matter of what she knows, but her ignorance of what she doesn’t know that trips her up. Her admirers will say that it is not important that she be accurate all the time, what is important is that she challenges and probes and pokes corporate America in the eye. So even if she is shown to be totally wrong on a particular matter, her followers can reconcile the inconsistency as her providing a socially valuable service regardless.
    It is difficult to separate the message from the messenger, but it is important that you don’t dispute her in a way that appears to question her role as a champion of lay concerns and as a counterweight to the perceived power and indifference of corporate interests, otherwise people will just rise to her defense. But I think you were very sensible and compelling in explaining the particular issue.

  • Kohoutek

    “Tested positive for a gene,” oh my! She obviously thinks that the mere presence of the BRCA gene “is responsible for cancer.” *Sigh* That’s about as bad as “our food is full of chemicals!” Erm – yes.

    • hyperzombie

      I know it is crazy, “OMG my water is full of chemicals” 99.9% H20 a dangerous chemical that kills thousands per year.

      • Kohoutek

        Food Babe also went on a tizzy about nasty nitrogen being “added to our oxygen on planes.” She eventually deleted that post.

        • hyperzombie

          “OMG nitrogen in the air on planes that has to be dangerous” the ignition system for nuclear bombs is made from nitrogen containing products, we must ban this from our atmosphere…….Think of the children…..

  • NoToGMOs

    “Factors that don’t cause cancer include GMO foods, vaccines, sugar, and caramel coloring in lattes.”

    Wow, said with so much certainty! Why haven’t you received the Nobel Prize yet?

    “If you did, you would realize that eating the “best foods” or avoiding toxins won’t “prevent cancer naturally.”

    Mocking Food babe for a simple mistake in how she phrased something. While at the same time displaying your ignorance of Epigenetics. Hilarious!

    • kellymbray

      Then tell us all about your understanding of epigenetics and how it relates to this article.

      • NoToGMOs

        I don’t see why I should do your work for you. Go find out for yourself.

        • kfunk937

          Could this possibly be because you don’t understand and have no evidence? Yet like to throw around the word “epigenetics” because it sounds all sciency. Meh.

          • kellymbray

            Bingo.

          • NoToGMOs

            Assume all you like. If you had any understanding of what epigenetics is, you would have been able to see the connection between environmental toxins and changes in the DNA and how this can possibly lead to cancer. There is a lot of info out there….if you are truly interested, you would find out for yourself. Not wait for someone to hand it to you on a platter.

          • cataphyll

            If you’re the one making the claim, it’s your responsibility to provide information to back it up. Nobody publishes a scientific paper that says, without actually providing any of the data, “Here is our conclusion. It’s obviously true, and if you can’t see that, then you can just go do the study yourself.” Well, not any reputable scientist at least…

          • NoToGMOs

            I’m not making any ‘claim’. It is a well-known (by reputable scientists at least…) fact that epigenetic modifications of the genome by things like environmental toxins can lead to cancer. Cancer epigenetics is a new and emerging branch of genetics and there is a lot to learn about it that is very technical and cannot be fully explained on a message board.

            If you are really interested in the topic, these are good places to start:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_epigenetics

            http://epigenie.com/epigenie-learning-center/epigenetics/cancer-epigenetics/

          • cataphyll

            If you want to have an argument about semantics–you didn’t technically make the claim, but you brought it to the discussion, then told everyone else to find the evidence for it.

            Yes, there is the potential for certain environmental toxins to increase an individual’s risk of cancer. However, the review of 2000 GMO safety studies pretty strongly suggests that eating GMO crops is no more likely to cause cancer than eating non-GMO crops. So in this case, it seems like epigenetics is kind of a moot point.

          • NoToGMOs

            “Yes, there is the potential for certain environmental toxins to increase an individual’s risk of cancer”

            Thank you…that’s exactly the point I was trying to make. I was simply trying to refute Kavin’s statement:

            “If you did, you would realize that eating the “best foods” or avoiding toxins won’t “prevent cancer naturally.”

            It was you and others who brought in GMOs into the discussion, not me.

          • NoToGMOs

            It is clear that you are easily impressed with numbers (wow, 2000 studies! gmos must be safe!) and haven’t bothered to read them individually. If you had read them, you would have noticed that:

            -Many of them do in fact show negative effects/harm
            -Many are production studies that look at things like weight and production of eggs, meat, milk etc that are not really relevant to human health/safety.
            -All of the feeding studies are short term, for 90 days or less. There are no proper long-term studies that look for chronic effects
            -Many are conducted by the same company/industry that created and sells them or by researchers affiliated directly or indirectly with the industry: conflict of interest
            -Many use animals like fish, quails, broiler chickens etc. that are very different physiologically from humans.
            -Many do not follow internationally accepted standards for good carcinogenic and/or toxicological safety studies.
            -None are blinded to prevent bias

            If you weed out all the studies from the 2000 list of studies you mentioned that have one or more of the qualities I listed above, you are left with………next to nothing.

          • Actual Nutrition Scientist
          • NoToGMOs

            Yes, the length of the study is good. And that is the only thing good about it, lol! To really provide reasonable assurances of safety, a study would have to satisfy most of the criteria I mentioned in my post above.

            Also, it lumps all GMOs together. So if a negative effect were to be found, how would you know which particular GMO caused it? So scientifically speaking, that study is hogwash, to put it mildly.

          • NManning

            Yet not a single actual example – it sure looks like SOMEBODY is impressed with numbers…. “Many…”

          • kfunk937

            Here’s the thing. When you refuse to clarify for us what your understanding of epigenetics is and how it relates to this article, no one will be able to do more than guess what you’re thinking. There’s no evidence of intersection in the venn diagram of What You Think it means and What Anyone Else (including geneticists) Thinks, based on the body of scientific evidence.

            Epigenetics. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

            I refer you to http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/epigenetics-it-doesnt-mean-what-quacks-think-it-means/

          • NoToGMOs

            I provided enough hints, brought in the concept of epigenetics in reply to Kavin’s statement that ‘avoiding toxins would not prevent cancer’, mentioned how epigenetic changes in the genome caused by environmental toxins can lead to cancer and gave some links to the vast information available regarding Cancer epigenetics. Even asked a supposed Cancer biologist on this forum to provide his/her expert insight into how epigenetic modifications relate to carcinogenesis (with no reply so far).

            Now it’s up to you to put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4. Looks like you are more interested in baiting me than admitting that this is a valid and relevant point that I have raised.

          • marcdraco

            Seems to me the only person who thinks you’ve raised a valid point is you – and your handle speaks volumes of personal bias.

            If you want to talk science, try learning a little of how it’s done – and you might start with psychological biases.

          • factsmatter

            He is epigenetically confused. And it’s not curable. Sad.

          • NManning

            ” If you had any understanding of what epigenetics is, you would have been able to see the connection between environmental toxins and changes in the DNA”

            Epigenetics is NOT changes in DNA. Epigenetics is things like methylation of structures associated with DNA that alters its expression. So it looks like the assumptions were warranted. Don’t think that some naturopath with a diploma mill degree is an expert because he uses terms like ‘epigenetics.’

          • Damo

            In other words, the facts don’t exist and you are hoping no one actually does go looking for them.

    • Warren Lauzon

      Food Babe is pretty easy to mock – she is the one that thinks that airplane air is “up to 50% Nitrogen”. So don’t claim that she has any science. But aside from that, I have been waiting months for just ONE single scientific study that shows any harm ever from any GMO products.

      • hyperzombie

        up to 50% Nitrogen”

        OMG, imagine the horror that would happen if the amount got to 70%+ , we would all die…..Ban nitrogen now save the children.

        • Warren Lauzon

          She is batshit ignorant, and writes some really crazy stuff. Yet she has thousands of followers. But so does Mercola and Alex Jones.

      • NoToGMOs

        She is a layperson. Who never claimed to be an expert in genetics. So her saying ‘tested positive for a gene’ instead of ‘tested positive for a specific gene mutation’ is understandable. As long as she got her message across – that the person was found to have a genetic/hereditary problem that predisposes her to breast cancer – that is more than enough for the majority of the population that doesn’t have an advanced degree in genetics.

        As for your one single study….why don’t you start by actually reading the individual studies in the Snell review that y’all love to throw around as proof of GMO safety? If you did, you will see that the authors have stated very specific negative effects of GMOs in many of the individual conclusions/results.

        • Warren Lauzon

          There are over 2,000 peer reviewed scientific studies that show that not one single instance of any harmful effects to animals or humans have ever occurred from a GMO. You have what – 3 failed and debunked studies at best?

          • NoToGMOs

            Did you read the studies in the Snell review?

          • Ammyth

            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511006399

            “No sign of toxicity in analyzed parameters has been found in long-term studies.”

            I realize you specified “within the individual studies.” Do you have any links to justify that claim?

          • NoToGMOs

            That is the problem with scientist wannabes…..they depend on just reading a study abstract to justify their position. That is not how a real scientist works or should work. All the pro-GMO people keep throwing the Snell review out as proof of GMO safety and their supporters believe them blindly based on one sentence in an abstract.

            Why don’t you pose that question to Jon Entine or Kavin? I would love to see them post links to the individual studies in the Snell review. You know they won’t because then people will come to realize it doesn’t do what they say, i.e prove GMO safety.

          • Ammyth

            I was asking you if you had any details backing up what you claimed about the individual studies saying something different. I guess you don’t?

            That’s the problem with anti-GMO people. They keep expecting scientists to prove a negative. Nobody will ever likely be able to prove that GMOs *don’t* cause harm. Can you prove that water doesn’t cause cancer? The point which you so fervently ignore is that despite trying so hard, for so long, nobody’s been able to prove that they *do* cause harm. And until they do, all of your arguments are just faith-based and most likely ideological in nature.

          • NoToGMOs

            I have seen the individual studies of the Snell review. And they say some very different things than y’all claim. However, you’ll have to work as hard as I did to find them. After asking many of the same people throwing out this review as proof of GMO safety and having them respond with basically ‘go find them yourself’, I’m not about to just hand them over to you.

            If you are really a pro-science person and want to get at the truth, you would have looked for the individual studies and read them before forming an opinion for or against GMOs and their safety.

            Regarding proving a negative, all people, anti or pro, have the right to expect scientists to provide reasonable assurances (backed up with evidence, of course) of safety for these GMOs. Which they have not done so far.

            Here is a sample of some of the author interpretations of the findings in the individual studies in the Snell review:

            A diet containing significant amounts of GM food seems to influence the pancreatic metabolisms

            Higher metabolic rate and molecular trafficking influence GM soybean intake on hepatocyte nuclear features in young and adult mice (mechanism unknown)

            A diet containing significant amounts of GM food seems to influence the zymogen synthesis and processing in pancreatic acinar cells.

            GM soybean can influence some liver features during ageing.

            Mid-intestine smaller in GM-fed group.

            Triacylglycerol increased in GM-fed group.

            And there’s plenty more where that came from. Good luck in your search!

          • Ammyth

            You are listing quotes from studies that were either criticized for being very poorly conducted, or the results you mention were deemed to be so negligible as to not be indicative of harm at all.

            It’s November. Cherry-picking season is over.

          • NoToGMOs

            All those quotes (and there are more) are from the individual studies in the Snell review. Several of the authors also suggested further long-term testing be conducted which definitely means they didn’t ‘deem’ the ill effects negligible.

          • Damo

            For the sake of mankind, I hope you never reproduce. Idiocy is genetic, after all.

          • factsmatter

            NotoGMOs, I prevent breast cancer by eating mutagenec organic food with mycotoxins and e.coli. They’re “Natcheral.”

          • NManning

            Tell us more about this epigenetics. Would a real scientist just use the word over and over without bothering to explain what they mean?

          • NManning

            Did YOU?

        • Kavin Senapathy

          NoToGMOs – Thanks for your thoughts. I’m the author of this piece, and I am part of the population you mention without an advanced degree in genetics. The sentiment you express is problematic. It shouldn’t be good enough for absolutely inaccurate information to be accepted by the majority of the population. This disinformation should not be rallied behind simply because a public figure like Food Babe throws out a question based in ignorance. I have a higher expectation of the public. GLP’s readers and the readers of my writing are not all scientists. In fact, *most* of my readers are not scientists (I can’t speak to GLP’s readers.) They are just a group of skeptical public with critical-thinking skills. Getting a message across is one thing. Getting an uninformed message across is another.

          • NoToGMOs

            She did get the correct message across: that it is a genetic/hereditary problem that predisposes one to a certain kind of breast cancer and the presence of this problem can be detected with a test.

            She just didn’t get the technical details/nuances of it right. Which is okay, because she is a layperson and not expected to know all the finer points of how it occurs. There was no need to write an entire article bashing her for getting that one detail wrong.

            You can cast the first stone if and when you know every technical detail of every branch of science. Until then, this kind of article makes you and this site look like petty, vindictive know-it-alls.

          • NManning

            ‘Lemon water is alkaline.’ ‘Nuff said.

          • factsmatter

            You’re correct, Kavin – many of us are not scientists. Many of us really appreciate your science writing because we have curiosity, basic scientific literacy, and rational thinking. Thank you for all the info you bring here, and for pointing out the dangerous rants of these quacks like Food Babe who actually get paid for their pathetic garbage.

    • NManning
  • Ruslan Dorfman

    Thanks Kavin for busting irresponsible and misleading advertising!

  • Valeria

    Kavin, since we are dissecting every natural health advocate’s sentence word by word, lets do the same with some of your “brilliant” statements: “Environmental factors that cause cancer include smoking, obesity, certain viral infections, and radon gas.” –> Since when is obesity an environmental factor? Last time I checked it was a biomedical factor (i.e. combination of genetic, lifestyle and other broad factors)….”Factors that don’t cause cancer include GMO foods, vaccines, sugar, and caramel coloring in lattes. ” —> I don’t know where exactly you got that statement from, but any REPUTABLE natural health advocate will also laugh at it because it’s a widespread knowledge that any of those items ALONE don’t CAUSE cancer per se but rather contribute to its development, and no amount of daily green tea will ever cure cancer, either. But it’s via a suppressed immune system following years on a poor toxic diet (with sugar, GMO foods and toxic lattes as part of it), chemical drugs (cholesterol lowering or antipsychotic drugs, anyone???they only sell in BILLIONS of $) or no exercise and poor lifestyle choices that these factors become important. Because they lead to digestive and other health problems, which, in turn, INCREASE the risk of cancer and other illnesses. A fun fact for you to consider the next time you completely dismiss the importance of healthy foods and focus solely on genetics: as per my neurologist, I was supposed to suffer with migraines my entire life, like my mother and grandmother – genetic link. Yet, by removing the toxins, chemical drugs (for headaches and common colds), taking vitamins and eating healthy (gluten-free), I’ve been headache-free for 5 years now. I very much agree with the importance of genetics as a vital factor in disease predisposition (I got a genetic test done from a highly recommended Geneyouin company), but I’m a live example that proves that genetically-driven one-sided explanations are simply NOT ENOUGH. So please, spare me the “I know best while they don’t understand anything” talk. But hey…..ENJOY THAT sugar-filled CAN OF COKE of yours ;). Wishing you the best of health.

    • Bruce Velocity

      late to the game…but yea Valeria…you are the person who Kevin was thinking off when he wrote this article. (I.e., a person who thinks with their preconceptions and emotions and knows basically nothing.)

      Ok, you got one…”obesity” is, generally speaking considered an medical condition brought on PRIMARILY by environment. We consider Behaviors environmental.

      However, none of these cause cancer:
      GMO foods, vaccines, sugar, and caramel coloring in lattes

      He didn’t say that ALL OF THEM COMBINED don’t cause cancer…and even if he did, THAT has never be established as a fact.

      He never dismissed the importance of healthy food, merely the fact that healthy foods don’t cure diddly squat.

      as for your migraines…its a well know fact that some migraine sufferers have food/drug triggers…so you prove nothing beyond you are one of those. (Pssst, dead givaway that you are ‘one of those food babe types’ is the comment about ‘chemical’ drugs. EVERYTHING ORGANIC IS F-in CHEMICALS….sheesh.

      • Alicia

        There’s oh so many ways I could tell you how stupid you sound but I think you already did enough damage by typing your response.

      • Sher De Lune

        “She.”

      • factsmatter

        Bruce, I wonder if she knows that food contains … GASP! ….. DNA!
        hahahahahahaha

    • Judy Nonarchi

      Good lord, Valeria, cover your boobs and open a book.

    • REVELLINGINTRUTH

      This is in response to all the Trolls attacking the “lay people”. It amazes me how most “scientists” are so blinded by the shade in the forest ….that they can’t see the trees. And yet …they always forget the foundational rule..EVERYTHING is static…nothing is linear. This is why the so called “lay people” don’t trust researchers anymore. A theory has to be proven…and there are NO absolutes…Since when do the “scientists” place absolutes on everything? Time and time again, they’ve been proven WRONG. And time and time again..were told to TRUST their research…and then we find out they are trolls..for corporations to perpetuate the “big green”. Why is it that they believe in their evolutionary principals.and do not stand on these principals…live and let live, live and let die….in peace. Gene therapy…REALLY???Vaccines.. REALLY?…GMO’s with a dose of CA…REALLY? No thanks.

      • Farmer Sue

        “……all the trolls”……. “attacking” ……

        Please define “trolls.” Do you think I get paid??? Or is that something you spit out when you have nothing, nothing, nothing more to say about people who work hard on biotech issues, including scientists, farmers, and others?

        Actually, I PAY for genetically engineered seeds. I CHOOSE to plant them. Quite the reverse from being paid BY a seed company.
        Your wittle mind can’t quite grasp the fact that people choose genetic engineered crops all on their own, without being paid to do so. I know; it’s a hard concept. But geet used to it.

        Oh, and you’re anti-vaccine too? Keep your kid out of my child’s day care.

        And anti-gene therapy? Talk to someone who has a child getting gene therapy for a serious health condition.

        You’re pretty arrogant for someone who knows so little.

        • REVELLINGINTRUTH

          LOL…go EAST…go there and stay..and BTW…please keep your sickly “kind” away from our STRONG breed. And one more thing…get some light..you might look around and see that WE (a whole lot of people) don’t want your “crocked up” slop. Go EAST…and live in your polluted country..good riddance. You can have all the GMO’s and vaccines you want…LOL…dumber and dumber…LOL

          • Farmer Sue

            Revelling in Hype: (east??)
            Gee, where have I heard that concept before, “keep your sickly kind away from our strong breed” …. oh yeah; Hitler’s Germany. Wow. Some attitude.

            I have lots of markets for the food I grow. You don’t have to eat it. Please don’t. You can eat woo-woo food and think it’s better for you.

            (did you know that 90% of cheese is genetically modified? Didn’t think so.)

            But I ain’t gonna put my kid in day care with your poor, neglected unvaccinated kid. It’s like not vaccinating organic livestock; cruel, selfish, uneducated, and downright stupid.

          • REVELLINGINTRUTH

            Your market..amazing how other countries have BANNED your GMO’s (your market)…good for you…hopefully it will sustain you in the EAST…LOL..I am quite aware of what is tainted and what is NOT. Lived there, taught about it…so much cancer in YOUR GMO areas that the oncologists move there to train, LOL. Pure selfishness..to exterminate all insects, other plants all in the name of the BIG GREEN. Thank you for giving us choice in preservation…It is you that pollute and KILL with your narrow bulldozing mindset. Thank GOD we live in America with choice to refuse!!!and lookout…labeling is coming our way!!! :)….YES AMERICANS WANT A LABEL SO WE make sure that YOU eat the cesspool carcinogens…And do refrain from placing your children in daycare..we don’t send ours to daycare…and ours have higher testscores…LOL…most of NON-VAX don’t mix with the VAXERs..NO thanks. Hey, peace to you in the EAST. I’ll pray you get a good Hospice nurse when you and your loved ones get the BIG CA…

          • Farmer Sue

            Your ignorance leads you to be insulting. You revel not in truth, but in hype and garbage. Goodbye.

          • REVELLINGINTRUTH

            LOL…peace to you and see you at the polls for a wonderful future of LABELING>>>LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

          • REVELLINGINTRUTH

            BAWABAWAhahahahaha …see you when I’m your hospice nurse….

        • Damo

          With Monsanto paying all these internet commenters, paying farmers to plant their seeds, paying scientists to lie, paying government officials to pass laws, not to mention the costs of developing chemicals that kill their customers and GMOs that poison everyone (even according to some, people that don’t eat GMO derived food) how do they make a profit?

          I am only asking you, because you are obviously on their payroll.

  • Fabio9000

    Shaming people into shutting up is hardly helpful. Try to think like a teacher talking to an undergrad. Would you talk like this to a student in an intro class who expressed such a sentiment and puzzlement?

    I don’t disagree with your assessment or the science. I just recommend a more understanding attitude toward ignorance. Professionals need to uphold rigor in their respective sciences, but they should also teach with a measure of compassion.

    • crush davis

      Nice try. The “Food Babe” is not an 18 year-old coed making a stupid comment between tweets. She is an adult who puts herself into the public space as someone credible on human health. Unfortunately, there are others who think she is. She deserves nothing less than this well-deserved beat-down. It’s one that all of these purveyors of bad information should get.

  • reesern

    As someone with the BRCA2 mutation which led to ovarian cancer, I appreciated your explanation. I think some people say they’re “BRCA1 or BRCA2 positive” as a sort of shorthand method of explaining their diagnosis.

  • Judy Nonarchi

    Thank you, Kavin, for bringing rationality to this discussion! These charlatans do so much harm to the public. Anyone can call themselves ‘food babe” or whatever and do a blog. The sad part is that people read them and, worse yet, believe them.

  • I agree with Prism, this is a great AP-Biology-Level explanation of the two hit model. The problem is that for most people it’s still rocket science, and Hari takes advantage of that in what is essentially a con game.
    We science geeks have no idea how bad science education is out there – it’s even worse now than it was in the ’80s when I was in school. And it’s less a matter of bad teaching than it is that this material isn’t taught at all, other than to a single 20-student class of seniors in most high schools.

    • Kavin Senapathy

      Ron, interesting take. So you think an AP Biology level explanation is too advanced for most Americans?

      • Not ‘too advanced’ in the sense that it’s too complex, but simply in that their biology background only briefly covers chromosomes & genes. In most high schools, college prep bio has two chapters (in a whole year course) dealing with genetics and molecular biology.
        Most students will remember that they get genetic information from both parents, but won’t make the mental connection to two sets of chromosomes and the two-hit model. Even if their course covered Punnett Squares, they forgot it right after the mid-term.
        What infuriates me about science journalism is the laziness of the writers and the condescension shown to the readers. Most people reading a science article in the first place will google something if an explanation is too difficult – the truly stupid won’t even start the article.
        But analysis of conflicting views by fully explaining the science is “advocacy journalism” and doesn’t sell ads (or is TL;DR), I guess, so the pieces are about personalities and “balance”.

  • MIss Jelly

    You forgot alcohol Kavin. Alcohol is also a known factor in the cause of many cancers. Thought the Food Boob might need reminding of that one given the number of hypocritical selfies taken with a very large glass of wine while she lectures the rest of us to eat kale.

  • disqus_m5XdyuLgDF

    @Kavin Thank you, I appreciate your response very much. But I am just wondering two things actually…? Why do some people never get cancer with a brca1 or brca2 positive test result? Couldn’t it come down to environmental stressor differences in the two cases?? And if so, wouldn’t it be understandable in a sense for people like @FoodBabe to question possible dietary changes to avoid or alter a potential genetic mutation? Especially when we live at a time when so many people and doctors are able to get research based true accounts out to the public about cancer patients that have been cured via alternative/holistic/integrative medical practices. I’m sorry but we can’t just ignore factual evidence and call everyone crazy for questions about these things or intentions they may have in their providing theories regarding preventative medicine.

    • marcdraco

      FoodBabe doesn’t use evidence from peer-reviewed studies unless she finds an abstract that seems to be sufficient to prove her point (and that’s rare).

      I’ve researched her “work” at length and I’ve found more errors in her thinking and research than I can count. 50+ of them are on the Facebook group dedicated to it and many more are in the book Kavin, Mark Alsip and I have produced.

      It’s out soon – you might find it edifying but be aware that it does use a lot of long words that FoodBabe probably can’t pronounce.

      One of the worst environmental toxins we have is alcohol and another is from diesel fumes. You can avoid booze (FoodBabe doesn’t) but good luck trying not to breath air.

      Food? That’s the last thing you need to worry about.

  • Bain

    This is an excellent, brief, accessible introduction that almost anyone should be able to digest. Well done.

    • disqus_m5XdyuLgDF

      Easily yes to digest the unbiased info regarding how you can inherit a brca mutation… Not so much in some of the other areas such as regarding the more biased (highly opinionated) sounding/not well researched links between cancer and a healthy dietary lifestyle.

  • Watson

    Yes GMO food can cause cancer! GMO labels should be put on all food/plants eaten or congested! Surgeons General warning will come one day soon. Food that is synthetic and not organic can and will alter gene’s ability to function or be deactivated. Imagine eating a raw steak full of blood of a synthetic animal. Just like getting a shot of a vaccine but in this case your are eating it.
    Wish I had more time to explain but it’s too complicated for me to convey on
    A message board. Do your research!!!!

    • JohnDoe

      Your foil hat is showing.

    • Sher De Lune

      My food is not congested. I am pretty sure food cannot be congested.

      • agscienceliterate

        Um, digested, I think you mean … good grief. Ignorance on top of illiteracy. What a combo. But we don’t need warning labels about your ignorance and illiteracy; it’s patently obvious.
        My dear Watson, as Holmes would say, Are you ok with mutagenesis of organic food? Do you know what mutagenesis is? Is it “natural” in your way of thinking?
        Did you sleep through ALL of your high school science classes?

    • Cairenn Day

      I don’t think you understand what you are posting. GMO food is not synthetic. It is REAL and carbon based.

      Too complicated? REALLY, it seems that you CAN’T explain the nonsense you just posted.

      I have DONE my research and I continue, but it is not Google U and You Tube U.

      I go and read the STUDIES.

    • NManning

      Non-GMO foods can cause cancer, too. So can sunlight. So complicated that you need a money-grubbing guru with a website and a book deal to “explain” it to you.

      • Chris

        Well I doubt any of you will read this now but I’m kind of shocked. I read most of these and I really can’t believe the author of this article is so completely uniformed! Even a year ago! I wouldn’t be surprised to read that there are more universities with research programs on Epigenetics than any other field. Yale, Harvard, John Hopkins, Upenn, UCLA, USC and MANY more in the states and worldwide. To make it simple for you, Deepak Chopra and Dr Rudi Tanzi wrote a book on the subject “Super Genes”. Basically he explains it as the switching mechanism that resides in every strand of DNA can be turned on and off by our epigenome that encloses the DNA like a sleeve. He also states that our genes our fluid and responsive to everything we think and do, and environmental toxins specific good food that we ingest (like brocolli sprouts) and less stress directly effect our epigenome, which in turns switches our genes on and off. It is facinating because they are finding that although complex, it is very hopeful for cancer and more.

        And on another note, GMO corn or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a registered pesticide with the EPA. .
        and the insecticide is actually produced inside the plant, so it is impossible to wash it ….You honestly think it’s safe for us to EAT PESTICIDES??? Did you know that the EPA recommends that children eat organic? That was after they backed Monsanto to begin with, then found out that Monsanto wasn’t exactly truthful when they told the EPA, that the toxin would not cross the blood brain barrier.. Well it does. And that’s not even adding the toxins from overspraying the GMO crops with glysophates (from roundup and Monsanto).
        Why do you think 38 countries have banned cultivation of GMO’s? And 64 countries at least require labeling so we can have some sort of choice. Which we really don’t anymore. Cause its everywhere now.