All things old are new again across the wooniverse. Somehow when it comes to alternative health, an eleven year old can debunk TTP only to see it reborn as reiki, dentists from the 1920s are qualified as modern dieticians, and every so often, you’ll be told to vomit your food like a cow for better health. At least they’re giving us borderline literal bullshit for once.
(Look, I’m in this rabbit hole too.)
And this brought me to a field full of wheatgrass woo and an article by the lovely Ms. Vani Hari. My friends at Chow Babe pointed me towards it via this:
That’s not a real quote, right? I mean, nobody thinks that chlorophyll is an element after tenth grade bio. Surely she was misquoted, there’s no way that she-
In this blog entry from 2011 talking about all the wheatgrass juice she drank on her trip to Bali, the Food Babe took all of her information directly from another source (which she cited). She listed off forty statements about the benefits about wheatgrass (the above being one of them) which had varying levels of veracity.
Ready for the plot twist?
I’m going to defend Vani.
*#sciencebabeshills breathe into paper bag*
Breathe, my brethren of the woo fighting, I have not succumbed to the dark forces of tyranny and woo while ye all cried into the night ‘LET MY SCIENCE BABE GO!’
I’m not defending the woo, we’ll get to the bullshit busting in a minute. Here’s the way I look at this. You know that friend of yours who, well intentioned as they are, is always posting that cinnamon and honey cure everything or that onions fight the flu and, as soon as you correct them with an article from snopes, they take it down?
Vani has taken down two blog entries from this era of Food-Babery. She was new to blogging and wrote a few articles that she has, on some level, admitted were not her best. Looking through her old Facebook posts when I was writing my last blog entry on her, she was mainly posting pictures and recipes of her less processed, more plant-based diet with ingredients that didn’t come from a package. I applaud that. Eating more produce and a more plant-based diet? That’s actually very similar to how I lost and kept off 90 lbs. It’s rather sensible. Yeah, there were some ideas that I would have taken her to task for in this blog, but would she have garnered all her positive (and subsequent negative) media attention? Not a snowflake’s chance in Alex Jones’ straitjacket. She was Food Babe minus a lot of the scare tactics and neuroticism about toxins and GMOs, and this was long before she barraged her way onto companies’ payrolls through pseudoscience.
Truly, this was Vani at her best.
I don’t know if Vani tried to fact check this because, as you’ll see later, there’s a lot of wheatgrass woo. One of the things I try to reinforce is to look for reputable sources of information, and sometimes you may have the right intention but not the right training to spot it. The source website, Wheatgrass Kits, may have seemed reputable to someone who’s not used to looking for scientific papers. They sell it, so they should be a source of correct information on it, right? They’re verified organic and claim to be number one in wheatgrass sales, wouldn’t they be obligated to provide her with accurate information?
There’s an old adage, “Trust, but verify.” Vani appears to have forgotten half of the phrase. In this case, let’s treat Vani like our hapless friend who got some bad information. Wheatgrass Kits, though? To paraphrase my friend Penn, they’re assholes who sell bullshit.
Let’s give a few of these the Snopes treatment for her and separate the truth from the bullshit about wheatgrass.
“Science has proven that chlorophyll arrests growth and development of unfriendly bacteria.”
I had a high school chemistry teacher who always said “If all else fails, remember the given.” The given here is that these people are trying to sell wheatgrass, and they’re claiming a component of wheatgrass will kill bacteria. First, there are a lot of different types of harmful (or “unfriendly”) bacteria. Second, chlorophyll is a component of various types of plant life, including pretty much everything that you put into a salad. If this had veracity and could be extrapolated, you could combat strep with a salad.
(Um, please, go to your doctor and get antibiotics instead).
Wheatgrass is high in oxygen like all green plants that contain chlorophyll. The brain and all body tissues function at an optimal level in a highly-oxygenated environment.
Know what else is oxygenated? Air. I recommend breathing. (There’s an airplane joke here, right? Let’s pretend we made it and move on.)
Chlorophyll can be extracted from many plants, but wheatgrass is superior because it has been found to have over 100 elements needed by man.
These people aren’t familiar with the periodic table, are they? There are only 118 elements, fifteen of which are radioactive. At room temperature eleven are gaseous. Mercury isn’t radioactive but I don’t think we want to consume it. Trust me, I’m a chemist. I science hard, brah.
Liquid chlorophyll gets into the tissues, refines them and makes them over.
I don’t even know what this means. Does it use lipstick and bronzer? Does it help lose twenty pounds and kick loser boyfriend to the curb? I got nothing. This is not even wrong.
Wheatgrass juice acts as a detergent in the body and is used as a body deodorant.
This goes back to the belief that chlorophyll is a deodorizer, right? That worked very well for Steve Jobs.
Wheat grass juice is high in enzymes.
Know what denatures enzymes? Heat and acid, the two things that it’s exposed to in your stomach. This does nothing for you.
Wheat grass Juice can remove heavy metals from the body.
This list of derp isn’t even the most ridiculous thing on the internet about wheat grass. This site claims that wheatgrass juice will change your hair back to its original color (I’ve found links that it’s endorsed by Dr. Oz and Natural News, but I’m not giving them the traffic). This site claims that wheat grass can reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s via heavy metal detoxification, even though current research shows that your biggest risk factors can’t be changed. The list of sites claiming heavy metal detoxes and health benefits are endless. Glowing skin! Healthy liver! I am wheatgrass, and so can you!
So what is true about wheatgrass? It’s a source of vitamins A, C, and E, iron, calcium, and amino acids. However, it’s not a dense source or complete source of protein, and you can find all of these in other sources that don’t make you look like this when you taste them:
So how did this whole thing start that ended up with Shermer making such a delighted face? The entire wheatgrass fad started in the 1940s when Ann Wigmore, a woman with no formal medical training, thought that eating grass and throwing it up like our house cats, was healthy. Thus, a fad was born. When she was sued by the Massachusetts State Attorney General for claiming that it could treat diabetes and AIDS, she retracted her claims, but you can’t stop woo once it starts.
Just ask Dr. Kiki. That face is forever.
I did find a few other infographics on wheat grass. I took the time to fix this one before reposting it here, though:
So Vani broke my site’s rule of ‘Citation or GTFO,’ but that’s Vani. We’re going to take this as a teachable moment on how to look for reputable proof, and I’ll remember to thank Dr. Shermer at the next TAM for taking a shot of wheatgrass so that I never will.
Do I think wheatgrass woo is going away? No. This round of detox fads will fade eventually, but give it time. They’ll repackage it and rename it- just like they changed bluegreen algae to spirulina– but these trends resurface. Even something that started as a recommendation to chew grass like a cow is here again in an era when we can argue about it over our iPhones. Whatever set of woo comes back up next, I’m sure they’ll find a way to regurgitate this bullshit eventually.