I’m a skeptic.  While it’s popular to pigeonhole skeptics as cynics who don’t believe anything and will criticise everything, it’s really not like that.  It’s really a question of not blindly accepting things as true. It’s about testing ideas for plausibility and evidence.  It’s something that grows out of a reaction to what this skeptic perceives as the willingness of so many to believe so many silly things.  While it’s tempting as a skeptic to be dismissive of other peoples beliefs – something I struggle not to do – it’s really a process of trying to separate the wheat from the chaff.  There is a lot of chaff in this world.

One of the ways I find myself responding to claims is to ask myself “Who says? And how to they know”.  I don’t usually say it out loud as folks don’t always take kindly to that kind of question. I do wonder though, and often try to find out.

The other day a friend made a comment in a conversation that starting me wondering. She said something like “juicing vegetables is better for you that just eating them but that will never be tested because there is no money in it”. There are two claims in that statement. They could both be correct, but I didn’t really have enough information to know. I did say something about not all the money going into health research came from the pharmaceutical industry, but that didn’t really fly. I didn’t have enough information to evaluate the statement. Part of what I was missing was “who said” and “how do they know”. But another part, that came first and is related to those questions, was “does that statement even make sense”.

The first statement I looked at was the “there’s no money in it”. This is related to my thoughts about Big Pharma. The assumption I read into it is that health research is only undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry. Since they probably can’t make money out of juicing vegetables, they won’t investigate the health benefits.

I looked it up on Wikipedia of course. While it varies from country to country, up to 70% of the funding for science comes from private industry, the rest from government.  A slightly lower percentage applies to medical research.  Since billions of dollars are involved, there seems to be plenty of money available that isn’t specifically from the pharmaceutical industry. This will not sway Big Pharma conspiracy theorists since they believe that Big Pharma controls all governments, but it does suggest that “no money in it” may not be a completely valid argument.  On top of that there are other ways to make money besides selling drugs.  Juiced vegetables will never be a drug, but if there were studies proving significant health benefits there would still be money to be made.  The sellers of juicers and vegetables could do extremely well.  If they could make vegetables more palatable for kids and convince parents of increased health benefits, they might have a huge increase in sales.  So money can be made.  In fact the first site I found promoting juicing was www.mercola.com.  It was no surprise to me that he sells a range of juicers on his site.  There is already money in it, tested or not.  This part of the statement doesn’t hold up.

The other part is more amenable to “who says”.  And that brings me back to mercola.com.  The first page I found in my Google search was this one.  It has a video and a longish article about juicing vegetables.  In it he says that juicing helps you absorb nutrients by pre-digesting the vegetables.  He offers no supporting evidence.  He also says that you can consume more vegetables and a larger variety by juicing.  That is probably true, but once again no evidence is provided.  The very first link on the page to anything at all is to his product page where, surprise surprise, you can buy a juicer from him.  I’m sure he’d also be happy to sell you the vegetables and books on how to cure cancer with your juicer, but I’m sure he’s doing just fine with the juicers alone.  The impression I get is that he think it’s good to juice.  It’s not something he either knows anything about or can even give a good justification for, but he’s pretty sure.  And anyway, there’s money to be made.

I looked and found a bunch of other sites that claim health benefits of juicing vegetable over eating vegetables, but none offered any evidence or even a convincing rational.  I was left thinking that the answer to the “who says” was people who make things up.  And often make things up for profit.  And the answer the “how do they know” is that they don’t.  They just make things up.

None of this means that juicing vegetables isn’t a good thing.  It doesn’t mean that juiced vegetables aren’t better for you than eating them.  It’s quite possible that the claims are correct.  I don’t know.  But the key point here is that they don’t know either.  They are saying it because it suits their beliefs, their ideology or even their pocketbook.  There is nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s important to know that they they don’t know what they are talking about.

One of the reasons I ask “who says” is I want to know if they are credible.  Joe Mercola is not credible.  He makes millions by recommending things to his audience and then selling those things to them.  That doesn’t mean he’s always wrong, but he is certainly not credible.  I couldn’t find anyone credible who was promoting juicing.

I did find this.  And this has a credible ring to it.

The question of juicing vegetables is trivial.  But questioning the idea is part of what I do.  I can’t really help it.  The purported benefits of juicing are not particularly plausible, there is no evidence for it, and it’s promoted by people who lack credibility. If it were true it would be in someone’s interest to produce evidence, but none has been forthcoming even though money is being made based on the claim.

On the other hand I like juiced vegetables.  If I have a lot of carrots and a juicer I’ll definitely juice them.  It tastes good and I’m pretty sure that any way I consume vegetables is better than not consuming them.

So juice those vegetables but don’t make claims you can’t back up.

I'm just a bit skeptical

Huh?

4 Responses to “Who says? And how do they know?”

  1. Good to hear you thinking out loud – very coherent.
    Just one teensy question: Is Mr. Mercola selling books that promote drinking juice to cure cancer?

  2. It’s up to the one making the claims to supply proof. I’m suspicious when proof isn’t presented. The claim may be true, but I’m left with doing the work.

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