Modern Alternative Mama: How Did This Get “Past Your Eyes”?

Regular readers of crunchy mommy blogger Modern Alternative Mama (Kate Tietje) know that she’s an ardent opponent of pasteurization.1,2,3,4  According to Kate’s twisted view of science, pasteurization kills all the “good” bacteria in food products (milk, honey, etc.), leaving room for the “bad” bacteria to grow. She also falsely believes pasteurization destroys all the beneficial enzymes in food, leaving what we eat devoid of nutrition.

For reasons I’m about to reveal, I was a little shocked then to find this fantabulous recipe idea–a “monkey smoothie”–on Tietje’s Facebook page:5

pasteurized milk


Modern Alternative Mama likes this milk. Only one problem…

“Monkey Smoothies” made from Silk brand cashew and almond milk are pushed as a healthy kids’ breakfast by Kate.  There’s only one problem here…

These products are pasteurized!  Here’s the quote from Silk’s product information page (click image to enlarge):6

silk milks pasteurized kate tietje

From the Silk FAQ.  Silk almond & cashew milks are pasteurized. MAM says this is dangerous. (click/enlarge)

Oops!

Now, to be sure, these products are safe, and pasteurization helps make them so.  Kate Tietje makes a plethora of scientifically ignorant statements on pasteurization in her blog posts (such as unpasteurized products having never killed anyone–they certainly have).

But I’m not here to argue the merits of pasteurization (I’ve done that already).  The purpose of today’s blog post is to point out Kate’s hypocrisy.  She says pasteurization makes food products more dangerous by killing off “good” bacteria, leaving room for dangerous pathogens and destroying essential nutrients–so why then is she feeding this “dangerous” brew to her children every morning?

Kate?

References
(1) Kate Tietje: Monday Health, Raw Milk
http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2011/08/01/monday-health-raw-milk/

(2) Where Does Your Dairy Come From?
http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2015/01/20/dairy-come/

(3) Raw Milk: Finding It, Using It, And More
http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2011/02/25/raw-milk-finding-it-using-it-and-more/

(4) Ten Benefits And Uses For Raw Honey
http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2012/07/03/10-benefits-uses-for-raw-honey/(1)

(5) Modern Alternative Mama Monkey Smoothie (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/ModernAlternativeMama/posts/10153103399762913

(6) Silk FAQs
https://silk.com/faqs

 

Image Credits
Facebook, Modern Alternative Mama, and Silk screen snapshots are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

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Modern Alternative Mama’s Skin Cancer Extravaganza

Kate Tietje (“Modern Alternative Mama”) is a scientifically illiterate mommy blogger who routinely hands out some of the most dangerous advice on the internet. I’ve previously covered her shameful “vaccine injury awareness month” (meant to counter Breast Cancer Awareness Month–yeah, figure that one out) and the endangerment of her children through neglect. Today I’d like to go back to basics and concentrate on points that even her 57,000+ pseudoscience-loving followers will be able to grasp: hypocrisy and lies.

There will be no squirming out of this one, Kate.

In a recent article, “Have You Gotten Your Sunscreen Yet This Summer?”,1,2 Tietje has this to say about sunscreen ingredients:

“I’m not really comfortable with the physical blockers, like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. I know they are common in “natural” sunscreens and probably fine, but I just do not want to rub that on my children’s skin. I don’t know, I worry. Maybe that’s crazy.” (emphasis mine)

Whoa! Crazy, indeed! Sherman, set the wayback machine7 to a month earlier and let’s peek at another Modern Alternative Mama (MAM) post:3

“It’s been awhile since I’ve done a giveaway here. But, I know that you will truly love this company [BanjOrganics] and I wanted to share it with you.”

Yes, it’s MAMs huge “BanjOrganics Giveaway” contest! The lucky winner takes home a gift basket chock full of natural products, including a jar of sunscreen. Let’s have a look at the ingredients in that sunscreen, shall we?4

banjorganics modern alternative mama sunscreen

BanjOrganics sunscreen ingredients. Note the zinc oxide

Oh dear.  See the highlighted ingredient?  Zinc oxide? What was it that Kate said about zinc oxide? Oh yes… she’s not comfortable with it and just doesn’t want to rub it on her children’s skin.

I suppose one way to avoid exposing your children to “toxic” ingredients is to pawn them off on unsuspecting readers.

So, what does Tietje use on her children? Well, sadly, she freely confesses she’d rather let them run around in the sun unprotected and burn. But when she does apply a sunscreen to her endangered kiddos, she makes her own.

Unfortunately, by her own admission (she doesn’t know it yet–hint hint), she’s using an ingredient that she claims will give the kids skin cancer.

Let’s walk through this. First, here’s her homemade sunscreen recipe.  Take note of the highlighted ingredient.  It will be important later.

Mama's sunscreen ingredients.  Note the raspberries.

Mama’s sunscreen ingredients.  Note the raspberries.

 

Next, we have to remind ourselves of a sunscreen additive that Modern Alternative Mama told us that we must avoid.  She lays this out clearly in her article “What to Look For in Non-Toxic Sunscreen”:5

vita

Hmmm… avoid vitamin A in sunscreens because, according to intrepid scientist Kate Tietje, it can speed development of tumors when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight.  Really?

I think you can see where this is heading.  Remember those raspberries in Mama’s homemade sunscreen?

According to the USDA, raspberries are a rich source of vitamin A:6

usda raspberry

USDA raspberry nutritional information. (click/enlarge)

 

So… vitamin A in sunscreen leads to the possibility of tumors, and Modern Alternative Mama is pushing a sunscreen recipe rich in vitamin A.  Or were we supposed to go back to the zinc oxide solution she’s giving away to readers, but is afraid to use on her own children?

Needless to say, none of the products or ingredients mentioned in this article are actually dangerous.  I’d be happy to debate the issues with Tietje, but like everyone else who questioned her bad science, I was banned from her Facebook page.

 

Image Credits
Modern Alternative Mama, Facebook, and BanjOrganics screen snapshots are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

References
(1) Have you gotten your Sunscreen yet this summer? (Facebook Intro)
https://www.facebook.com/ModernAlternativeMama/posts/10152975556317913

(2) Have you gotten your Sunscreen yet this summer? (Facebook-Linked Blog Post)
http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2015/05/11/natural-gentle-sunscreen-salve/

(3) Modern Alternative Mama BanjOrganics Giveaway
http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2015/04/28/banjorganics-giveaway/

(4) BanjOrganics Sunscreen Ingredients
http://www.banjorganics.com/#!product/prd1/1903932945/sunscreen

(5) What to Look For in Non-Toxic Sunscreen
http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2014/07/03/look-non-toxic-sunscreen/

(6) USDA Raspberry Nutrient Profile
http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2419

(7) The WayBack Machine
http://www.moonmoth.net/paelks/history/wayback.htm

Flu Vaccine: The Aluminum Lining

flu vaccineAs Modern Alternative Mama (MAMA) launches new articles as part of her shameful “Vaccine Injury Awareness Monthcampaign, I’ll continue laying out the facts that show she’s wrong and dangerous.  Today I’m debunking her recent article “No Flu Shot For Me! Fighting the Flu With Essential Oils.”1

I’m glad she published this article, because it touches on two major topics that come up in nearly every anti-vaccine argument: aluminum in vaccines and flu vaccinations for pregnant women.

So, in this debunking, we’ll be looking at:

  • “Toxic” aluminum in vaccines
  • Safety of flu vaccines in pregnant women
  • Use of “essential oils” (EOs) to combat viruses, and the toxicity of EOs

An important disclaimer here: I’m not a doctor.  Even though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night,9, 10 your ultimate source for medical information should always be a qualified doctor, not something you read on the internet.  I’m here to point out what real doctors and scientists are saying about the nonsense anti-vaccine proponents are spouting.  You’re a smart person.  Please do the research.  The outcomes are important.

Aluminum

Right away, the original article sways from truth and science like Justin Bieber’s car during one of his drunk driving sprees15.  Not only does MAMA lie about which vaccines include aluminum, she doesn’t understand that it’s safe.

In fact, in other articles, MAMA recommends eating foods rich in aluminum (such as spinach, tea, and potatoes).17, 20, 24  But, for the flu vaccine, not only do we get a reversal of opinion, we get an outright lie:

“We do know, however, that aluminum is added to the flu shot to increase the body’s response to the vaccine. Aluminum is a neurotoxin.”

If you disregard the specific Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, flu vaccines do not contain aluminum.2, 11, 12 You also won’t find aluminum in other vaccines commonly claimed to be “toxic” by anti-vaxxers, such as those for polio, MMR, or shingles.  Oops.

But, is aluminum a danger in the vaccines (such as hepatitis A & B) that contain it?  No.

Aluminum is added to some vaccines to help boost the response of the body’s immune system.  The most common metal in the Earth’s crust,3 aluminum is an unavoidable part of our diet.  In the USA, the average adult consumes 7-9mg of aluminum per day by eating but eliminates most of it as feces (poop).  People with kidney disease are an exception: the disease effects the body’s ability to eliminate aluminum.33

Our average adult will accumulate between 50 and 100mg of aluminum in their bodies over an entire lifetime.3  Nearly 100% of that total comes from the food they’ll eat, the water they’ll drink2, and the air they’ll breathe.  In addition to water, foods naturally containing aluminum include potatoes, spinach, and tea.4 Babies ingest aluminum regardless of whether they’re breast-fed or given milk from a bottle.2

Aluminum enters the environment via natural processes.  A healthy human body is excellent at removing aluminum, regardless of whether it comes from a vaccine or the all-natural health food you ate for dinner.  Studies in humans show it’s poorly absorbed in the first place, and for animals in general, the absorption rate is less than 1%.4   It’s ironic that Modern Alternative Mama publishes “healthy living” spinach recipes17 when spinach naturally contains five times the amount of aluminum of other foods.16

So, you can’t avoid aluminum unless you give up eating, drinking, and breathing.  But there’s no need to worry: your body can (and does) handle the aluminum safely.  There is no aluminum in the common flu shot.2, 11, 12  For other shots that contain aluminum (for example, hepatitis A & B), the amount of aluminum is insignificant compared to what we obtain from eating, drinking, and breathing.  But your body doesn’t care where the aluminum comes from: it removes it the anti-vaxxer’s favorite way — naturally.

Pregnancy

No good anti-vaccine terror campaign is complete without a cherry-picked legalese quote from a medication insert, and MAMA does not disappoint, chastising a Walgreens’ campaign to get pregnant women vaccinated:

“Walgreen’s conveniently left out the fact that the vaccine inserts themselves recommend women avoid receiving the flu shot.”

This isn’t really true.  Her two inserts say the shots should be given if clearly needed.  And medical experts agree the vaccine is clearly needed.  Pregnant women who get the flu are at a greater risk of complications — including hospitalization and death — than non-pregnant women.  The risk to unborn babies is also higher, including premature birth.7, 18  

Recent research suggests the risk to unvaccinated pregnant women may be higher because their immune systems react in an unusually strong manner when they contract the flu, and urges pregnant women to get the vaccination to prevent the inflammatory effects of the full disease.25, 26 (The flu shot is a “dead” virus and cannot give you the flu.)

The vaccine has benefits beyond helping the mother stay alive and healthy.  Antibodies generated in her body as a result of the vaccination can be passed to the unborn baby, giving it protection until it’s old enough to receive its first vaccination at age 6 months.7, 19  Millions of pregnant women have been vaccinated against the flu with no harm to either the mother or baby.7

There’s one important warning:  According to the CDC, pregnant women should not receive the live version of the vaccine (the nasal spray), but the inactivated version (the shot) is harmless.7, 18, 19 Although we’re specifically talking about pregnant women here, this warning about the live version of the vaccine also applies to certain other groups such as immunosuppressed persons.32 When in doubt, always talk to your doctor.

To contradict all this medical evidence, we get a trio of lies from the anti-vaccination article:

“but manufacturers admit that the impact on a developing human just isn’t known”

“Considering the ‘regular’ flu shots cannot verify safety for pregnant women”

“Besides the lack of safety testing for pregnant women”

Ahem. From the CDC:

“Studies of several thousand pregnant women in scientific literature have assessed the safety of using the flu vaccine during pregnancy. These studies have shown no evidence of harm to pregnant women, to the unborn child (or fetus) or to newborns of vaccinated women.”8

And if you do the research, studies back this up.8, 13, 14

It’s interesting to pause here and consider the hypocrisy of MAMA.  Later in her article, she’ll tout the amazing benefits of essential oils in combating viruses, even though their safety for use during pregnancy has never been studied.

Essential Oils

MAMA begins by misquoting a real scientific study6, which looked at the effects of essential oils (EO) on bacteria.

The problem is that the flu isn’t caused by bacteria.  It’s caused by a virus.  There’s a huge difference.  Bacteria are single-celled living organisms; viruses are small packages of DNA or RNA that cannot “live” without being injected into a living cell.

So we’re off to a bad start already, with an article using research performed on bacteria to support a conclusion about viruses.

Interestingly, it turns out that chemicals found in essential oils are being studied for anti-viral properties, and are showing promise — in test tubes.22, 23  MAMA doesn’t cite any of these studies, for obvious reasons.  No doubt, if the research results in a promising medicine that works when ingested, anti-vaxxers will dismiss it as a Big Pharma conspiracy.

Or perhaps essential oil fans are embarrassed by the track record of EOs with the FDA.  For example, in September 2014, Living Young, the manufacturer of “Thieves Blend”, an essential oil often pushed on alternative medicine web sites as a cure for nearly everything, was warned by the FDA for making unsubstantiated medical claims about their oil including, incredibly, as a cure for Ebola.22

Regardless, an article that is supposed to be focused on the flu virus keeps wandering away like a lost puppy to talk about essential oils and bacteria.  After many paragraphs on this red herring, MAMA pulls this magical conclusion out of her [expletive deleted]:

There are many essential oils known for being antiviral. Tea tree (melaleuca), basil, lemon, peppermint, and more. All these oils will enter your body, enter your cells, and fight off viruses that have already taken over your cells. It’s pretty amazing.

What would be even more amazing would be even a single reference to back up this claim!

What we do know from science about essential oils is that some of them can be toxic when ingested:

“However, the ingestion of a few milliliters of essential oils may cause severe symptoms of intoxication like vomiting, respiration failure, and unconsciousness and may lead to death, especially when infants are concerned.”28, 29

A University of Minnesota (UoM) article30 warns that while many essential oils are safe when used on the skin, some can cause serious harm — including liver and other organ damage — when ingested.  The same article warns that some EOs are not safe to apply to the skin, or should not be applied to the skin without dilution, else photo-toxicity can result.  UoM reminds the reader that peppermint oil is heavily laced with methanol-one, which has caused young children to stop breathing.

For children who actually drink an essential oil containing methanol or other toxic ingredients, the results can be tragic.31

Conclusion

The flu is dangerous.  In 2010, influenza and pneumonia (which go hand-in-hand) killed over 53,000 people in the United States.27 Except for the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, flu vaccines do not contain aluminum, but aluminum is unavoidable in our diets, and our bodies process it naturally.  Other vaccines that contain aluminum contain far lower amounts than the water we drink or the food we eat, and are safe.

The live (nasal) form of the flu vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women, but the dead (injected) form has been given to millions of pregnant women and medical studies conclude that it is safe.  Finally, although scientific research is being done on the possible benefits of chemicals extracted from essential oils, the article being debunked presents no evidence of any trials in humans — because, as of this writing, there aren’t any.  In fact, some essential oils are known to be toxic when ingested by animals.

References

Note: to avoid increasing search engine exposure for quack web sites, I use the DoNotLink URL obfuscator on their links.  I promise I’m not redirecting you to porn 🙂

(1) No Flu Shot For Me! Fighting the Flu With Essential Oils (original MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxtb

(2)  Aluminum in Vaccines: What you should know
http://www.chop.edu/export/download/pdfs/articles/vaccine-education-center/aluminum.pdf

(3) extract, CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 77th Edition
http://education.jlab.org/glossary/abund_ele.html

(4) Aluminum in Drinking Water (World Health Organization)
http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/en/aluminium.pdf

(5)  The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 2nd edition
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9928/

(6)  Effect of Essential Oils on Pathogenic Bacteria
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3873673/

(7)  CDC: Pregnant Women Need a Flu Shot
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/pregnant/flushot_pregnant_factsheet.pdf

(8) Seasonal Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnant Women
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_vacpregnant.htm

(9) Holiday Inn Express (Nuclear Meltdown)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm-h7YR_410

(10) Holiday Inn Express (Jeopardy)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0o0Jjtvq0Y

(11) Vaccines and Aluminum
https://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-safety/vaccine-ingredients/aluminum.html

(12)  Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf

(13)  Adverse events in pregnant women following administration of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine and live attenuated influenza vaccine in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, 1990-2009
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20965490

(14)  Trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine and spontaneous abortion
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23262941

(15)  Justin Bieber arrested on drunken driving, resisting arrest charges
http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/23/showbiz/justin-bieber-arrest/

(16)  Aluminum in Your Diet
http://www.livestrong.com/article/403282-aluminum-in-your-diet/

(17)   Spinach and Goat Cheese Quesadillas  (original MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxu5

(18)  Seasonal Flu Vaccine Safety and Pregnant Women
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_vacpregnant.htm

(19)  MAYO Clinic: Pregnancy week by week
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/influenza/faq-20058522

(20)  Boost Your Produce Budget: smart shopping tips for buying local (MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxwg

(21) Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13678235

(22)  FDA Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations Warning Letter to “Thieves Oil” Manufacturer
http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2014/ucm416023.htm

(23)  Susceptibility of Drug-Resistant Clinical Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Strains to Essential Oils of Ginger, Thyme, Hyssop, and Sandalwood
http://aac.asm.org/content/51/5/1859.full

(24) Recipe Collection: Cheesy Potatoes (MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bxxt

(25)  Immune response turned up high by flu during pregnancy
https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/09/immune-response-turned-up–not-down–by-flu-during-pregnancy–st.html

(26) Immune Response Turned Up, Not Down, by Flu During Pregnancy
http://www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2014092221530035.html

(27) Deaths and Mortality
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm

(28)  Essential Oil Poisoning, Woolf, Clinical Toxicology, 1999, Vol. 37, No. 6 : pp 721-727
http://informahealthcare.com/doi/pdf/10.1081/CLT-100102450

(29) Antimicrobial Effect of Essential Oil Isolated from Eucalyptus globulus Labill
http://www.agriculturejournals.cz/publicFiles/39925.pdf

(30)  Are Essential Oils Safe?
http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/are-essential-oils-safe

(31)  A Case of Methanol Poisoning in a Child
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/crin/2014/652129/

(32)  Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — United States, 2014–15 Influenza Season
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6332a3.htm#Considerations_Use_Live_Attenuated

(33)  ATSDR Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine: Aluminum
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp22-c1-b.pdf

Image Credits

Pandermix flu vaccine from WikiMedia Commons, released into public domain with no restrictions.

Pregnant woman by Inferis, from WikiMedia Commons, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  Image owner does not necessarily share or endorse the views put forth by the author of this article.

Aluminum by Romary, from WikiMedia Commons, used under GNU Free Documentation License.  Image owner does not necessarily share or endorse the views put forth by the author of this article.

Essential Oil from WikiMedia Commons, released into public domain with no restrictions.

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

I’m a compassionate person.  I hate to see others suffering, even when they bring it upon themselves.  But when the suffering person not only asks for it, but actively encourages others to engage in the same behavior and then gets burned in the act,  I have to admit letting out an ironic laugh:

Modern Alternative Mama (MAMA) has lost her home to mold.

mldWhy is this funny (in an ironic, “teachable moment” kind of way)?  Take a look at one of MAMA’s most recent Facebook posts, linking to her website article on natural cleaning 1:

prodBad Advice
In her home-cleaning article 1, MAMA recommends soaking in water, scrubbing with vinegar, baking soda, microfiber cloths, and five other methods that range from dubious to ineffective for cleaning mold.  Much better methods exist, but they aren’t “natural”, so MAMA didn’t use them.  Only one of her methods — scraping, is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency 2.

Soaking in water is especially dubious.  The EPA recommends water and detergent and — very important — drying things up right away.  According to the EPA, mold is usually not a problem indoors, unless

“mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing”

Vinegar and baking soda have anecdotal support but don’t make the EPA list of what’s recommended and known to work. The EPA article contains a great deal of advice on dealing with mold and the dangers of letting it go untreated.  Danger signs that indicate when to call in professionals are clearly pointed out.  Never one to let science get in the way of folk remedies, we find this gem on MAMA’s web site:

claim

“but really — they work.”  Do they?  Let MAMA answer this herself, via her web site:

ep

The Aftermath
One might ask: how are things working out for MAMA and her family, who are reportedly suffering health problems from the mold?  Well…

dtYes… she’s been handling the problem “the natural way”.  If you’ve read past MAMA articles on “detoxing”, you’ll know this involves using natural “pathways” such as pooping, vomiting, and sweating.  Oh, and consuming lots of grains and juices.

As Winnie the Pooh famously said:  “Oh, bother.”

Normally, my heart would go out to someone who’s just lost their home.  But given the amount of dangerous information Modern Alternative Mama dispenses, I have to confess to a (heartless?) smug satisfaction that she’s reaping what she’s sown.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

 

References
(Please note: to prevent increasing search engine exposure to quack web sites, I use the excellent DoNotLink service to obfuscate hyperlinks to such sites).

(1)  Top 10 Natural Cleaning Tools I Use  (original MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bx8u

(2)  A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home
http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html#How

Legal Stuff
Images of screen snapshots of Facebook posts in a public forum are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.