“No big dill” (Pickle juice cures)


There are two things wrong with Tomi Lahren’s claim that she represents the silent majority. Likewise, her assertion that pickle brine is loaded with health benefits is likewise fact-challenged. Lahren says she learned this through a Google search, which is the one part of her claim I can believe.

For that matter, I Googled “Nazis escaped to Mars” and got validation of that idea. But we know better than to focus solely on the source when determining a claim’s validity – no genetic fallacies on this blog – so let’s look at the evidence for the pickle brine claims that a Google search will unearth.

Some of the liquid’s supposed powers are the ability to relieve heartburn, control blood sugar, soothe Restless Leg Syndrome, and ease sunburn discomfort. But the most frequent claim is that it vanquishes cramps. However, most of these declarations are in the form of anecdotes, making them subject to post hoc reasoning. With one quasi-exception we’ll examine, none of the claims attesting to the healing propensity of pickle brine are backed by a double blind study.

When looking into this issue, one almost invariably ends up at Central Michigan University professor Kevin Miller, who has probably authored every study meant to determine if pickle brine will reduce muscle cramping. For these tests, Miller recruited fit and active college students to exercise and then drink 80 milliliters of pickle brine. He consistently finds there is never a measurable uptick in key nutrients or electrolytes one might get if chugging a sports drink.

There is one study that at first glance might seem like an outlier. This was overseen by Miller at BYU in 2010. In a hot room, 10 men bicycled for 30 minutes using one leg. They lost three percent of their body weight in sweat, enough to be considered mild hydration.

The subjects then had the big toe of their other leg electrically stimulated in order to cause cramping. Next they drank either nothing, pickle brine or deionized water, which serves as a close approximation of the dull green liquid when it comes to taste. Among those quaffing Vlasic Juice, cramps vanished in 85 seconds, which was 45 percent faster than for those who drank nothing and 37 percent faster than for those who drank the pickle placebo.

While this seems to suggest some pickle power, it really doesn’t. First, 10 persons constitutes a microscopic sample size that would tell us nothing substantial. Beyond that, Miller said it would take 25 minutes for a liquid to enter the bloodstream and quash any cramping if it had that ability. He suspects the toe pain was balanced by the unpleasant sensation in the mouth. In the Daily Beast, Tanya Basu quoted him as saying, “The vinegar or combination of vinegar and salt affected a reflex in the mouth and acted as a counterirritant.”

Even if one still clung to the BYU study as proof, many other results show the opposite. Skeptoid’s Alison Hudson found seven studies, which in totality suggest little promise for pickle brine as an elixir. She wrote, “One study concluded that drinking pickle juice after exercise did a poor job of replenishing electrolytes; another study determined that pickle juice ‘does not relieve cramps via a metabolic mechanism’; a third study suggested that swallowing the pickle juice might in some way relieve an electrically-induced cramp, but that, again, there was nothing metabolic going on.”

Since pickle brine is about 70 percent water, it would be of some rehydrating value. And if consumed in enough quantities, it might replace some lost carbohydrates and electrolytes. But this would be true of many beverages, most of which taste better than a heavy salt-and-vinegar solution that once housed hamburger condiments. In any case, there is zero evidence it assuages the litany of conditions listed in the third paragraph, regardless of what Larhen’s physician Dr. Google has to say.






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