Monday, July 6, 2009

Enzymes and the pseudoscience heresy

A previous post of mine spoke about how one could conduct scientific research in the kitchen, with everything from tissue culture to molecular biology. However, one must always remember that these suggestions and comments actually come with a pre-condition of a good knowledge in science and a sensible head on ones shoulders.

One of my favourite phrases, “detox” is one of the most commonly used term among pseudoscience junkies. Somehow, the idea of the body being so full of bad chemicals and harmful elements due to our daily consumption, from the sound of if, probably as dangerous as a Chernobyl, that one needs expensive, “organic” (another 'favourite' pseudoscience term of mine) foodstuff to keep our bodies “clean”. Of course, most of them forget the most basic of their biology classes, the part where our kidneys and liver cleans out all waste products in the body.

However, recent developments in the country has caused me quite some concern on my previous suggestions, especially with the current “enzyme-making” fad and other related pseudoscience claims. Phrases like “natural live enzymatic components”, “enzyme drink for health and well-being”, etc. When none of the claims have any factual basis in science.

Hence, the recent fad of “creating” enzymes in the kitchen, 100% home-made, despite the fact that all recipes provided require you to buy certain overpriced products from direct-selling companies, are just nothing more than a less informed attempt to DIY. Let's all face it, one would not be able to DIY and make an antique-stained, chestnut wood cupboard without knowing how to wield a hammer and saw, despite what certain furniture companies would like you to think. Buying ready-made furniture, and putting them together with an allen key and crowing about how you DIY-ed your kitchen sink is just plain pure misguided.

I shudder to think what is currently brewing in the kitchens of most people “making enzymes”, primarily the literature being provided does not give much prominence to the necessity of sterile conditions. What is being sought out is a monoculture, may end up with a whole rainforest of bacteria, fungi and yeast. Similarly, the literature does not provide explanations on the necessity of various procedures and equipment, but instead just provided a recipe-book manner of instruction. Let's not forget how most home cooks have a tendency to substitute certain items should they find lacking. The whole exercise may be a living, ticking pathogen time bomb!

Hence I cite the example of a family friend who was “making enzymes”. She ended up having the cola bottle exploding in the kitchen coating the ceiling with gunk because no one bothered to inform her in the manual that it is important to allow gas to be expelled during the fermentation process. Instead, generic instructions on the importance of using glass/ceramic bottles/jars were provided without a science-backed explaination.

I am disgusted by how retailers actually prey on the gullibility of the public, and how uninformed the public are, and even more disgusted at consumer associations and related NGOs actually following such fads without a basis in science. I'm interested to see how many more explosions in the kitchen one can have before the public begins to wisen up.

-KC Liew

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