America’s Last Line of Defense, May 17: Two Democrat senators made a huge mistake today when they decided to begin impeachment charges against our president under false pretenses. Under US Code Title 18 Subsection 410.91, knowingly perpetrating such an action is attempting a coup and therefore considered treason.
Not just treason, either…High treason. If the senators, Matt McCrosky from Vermont and Leon Pillman from Rhode Island, were to sign a full confession, which they won’t, they could actually be executed for their crime. People think impeachment is something you can just do on a whim because a bunch of people say things like “He’s a tyrant” and “he hates America.” You may have even heard that he sides with not just Russia but with certain terrorist groups, too.
America’s Last Line of Defense has a disclaimer that says: “We present fiction as fact and our sources don’t actually exist. Names that represent actual people and places are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and do not in any way depict reality.”
Even without the disclaimer, the story includes several red flags.
First, there are no U.S. senators named Matt McCrosky and Leon Pillman. Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed represent Rhode Island, and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy represent Vermont. The photo in the story published on thelastlineofdefense.org actually shows Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind, two former United Kingdom cabinet ministers.
In an email to FactCheck.org, Roosevelt called the story “amazingly implausible.”
“It would be bizarre for Congress to take the decision to impeach — its most powerful weapon against the president — and subject it to prosecution,” Roosevelt said. “Prosecutors work for the president, so Congress would be undercutting its authority in a very dramatic way. That’s one reason why there is no such law.”
He added that “the Supreme Court has said that most questions about impeachment are committed to Congress and not susceptible to judicial resolution, so no court would decide whether the pretenses were false. And anything a member of Congress did in recommending impeachment would be protected by the speech and debate clause.”
Treason is defined in Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” That “can’t be broadened by statute,” Roosevelt explained. U.S. Code Title 18 Chapter 115 sets the penalty for treason, he said, but doesn’t otherwise change its constitutional definition.
“It now seems likely that the President had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe,” Sherman said in a July 12 statement. “I believe his conversations with, and subsequent firing of, FBI Director James Comey constitute Obstruction of Justice.”
Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas is the only co-sponsor of the resolution to impeach Trump, a measure that is considered to be a long shot.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
President Donald Trump said that by allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines, “your premiums will be down 60 and 70 percent.” We couldn’t find any study supporting such a decrease, and experts we consulted disputed the idea that overall average premiums would decline significantly.
The president made the claim in his remarks before a luncheon on July 19 with Republican senators to talk about legislative efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Trump, July 19: [C]ross state lines, where you have — where it’s almost impossible for insurance companies to compete in different states. … We’re putting it in a popular bill, and that will come. And that will come, and your premiums will be down 60 and 70 percent. People don’t know that. Nobody hears it. Nobody talks about it. … We’re going to have to cross state lines … and you’ll have insurance companies bidding, you’ll have forms of insurance that you don’t even know about right now, because that’s the way it works. There’s going to be tremendous competition.
We asked the White House for support for the president’s claim, but we did not receive a response. We reached out to health care experts, and they knew of no study or analysis backing up Trump’s 60 percent or 70 percent figures — nor could they point to any other studies giving estimates for the impact on premiums.
In a “myth vs. reality” fact sheet, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners — a support organization established by the country’s state insurance regulators — said the idea that cross-state sales would bring about lower premiums was a “myth.” The reality: “Interstate sales will start a race to the bottom by allowing companies to choose their regulator,” allowing insurers to target the healthiest consumers. “While those individuals in pristine health may be able to find cheaper policies, everyone else would face steep premium hikes if they can find coverage at all,” the NAIC wrote.
Allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines — on the individual market, where those without employer plans or government plans like Medicaid buy their own coverage — has been a popular proposal among Republicans for some time. As the president mentioned, the idea is that it would promote more competition to bring down the prices of policies. It would cut down on state insurance regulations, as insurance companies would choose to sell policies out of states with fewer regulatory requirements.
In 2008, Sen. John McCain included the policy in his health care plan as he campaigned for president, saying it would “provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”
That, of course, was before the Affordable Care Act, when states varied widely in what they required of insurers on the individual market. But the ACA enacted countrywide minimum benefit standards, limits on out-of-pocket spending, limits on how much premiums could vary based on a consumer’s age, and requirements that insurers not use health status to price premiums or reject anyone, among other regulations.
Trump talked of making the cross-state policy separate legislation from a repeal of the ACA. The recent GOP health care bills in the House and Senate both included provisions giving states the ability to change or drop some of the ACA regulations, but the Senate is now set to consider repealing the ACA with a two-year delay.
The ACA did include a provision allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines, but states would have to enter into “compacts.” And the Obama administration never issued regulations establishing how those compacts would work. The Department of Health and Human Services would have to approve the cross-state sales, a February 2017 brief from the National Academy for State Health Policy explains. Five states have passed laws allowing interstate sales — with three of them doing so after passage of the ACA — but no insurers have entered new markets under those laws.
Impact on Premiums
So, if insurance companies could sell individual market plans across state lines, and state regulators didn’t have to follow ACA requirements, would “your premiums” go down “60 and 70 percent”?
Experts cited several reasons that the across-state-lines idea wouldn’t be a cure for high premiums as the president implied.
Joseph Antos, the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a Feb. 26, 2016, post on the think tank’s website that even with giving states regulatory authority, “one should not expect interstate sales to significantly reduce the cost of health insurance.”
Why? Primarily because the costs of health services are local. Medical services are more expensive in places like New York City or San Francisco — like virtually every other commodity — than they are in, say, small towns in Ohio, or even other areas of New York and California.
Antos, who was on President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and held other positions in the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Health and Human Services, told us in a phone interview that more regulatory flexibility “could reduce premiums to some extent,” but insurers are still locked into the costs of health services in a given geographic area. The “price of insurance is driven not by the cost of health care in the state where the insurer is legally domiciled,” Antos said, but rather in the state where the customer lives.
So a cheap plan in an inexpensive locale would still have to be priced higher if sold in a high-cost area.
Linda J. Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, told us that some people could see a drop in what they pay for premiums on the magnitude Trump claimed, if insurers significantly curtailed benefits. But other people — those who want or need to buy comprehensive policies — could see dramatic premium increases.
This is the “race to the bottom” that the NAIC cited in its “myth vs. reality” paper.
In states with unregulated markets, “you could create a situation where you are selling very low-priced policies to healthy people without much [insurance] protection whatsoever,” Blumberg, who was a health policy adviser to President Bill Clinton’s administration, said in a phone interview. “But that ignores the fact that … what you’re doing is driving up the premiums to impossible levels” in states that want to have insurance regulations.
It’s a “risk-segmentation strategy,” she said, where eventually the healthy people are pulled into one set of plans and those with health problems are left in another. Premiums would go up so much in states with regulated plans that it would become impossible for them to sustain those regulations.
That’s one reason state regulators don’t like this idea, says Blumberg, because “no state regulator wants … to be undermined by rules in another state.”
Antos wonders how much insurers could possibly strip down their policies. They could reduce some benefits, but it “would also have to be something people want to buy,” he said. And excluding certain benefits, like mental health benefits, wouldn’t reduce premiums by much.
It’s difficult to know what would happen, Antos said. If an insurer were to drop all inpatient services, for example, the premium would be a lot cheaper. “But who would buy it?” he said.
Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, said that the lion’s share of a premium is the money a plan has to pay for medical claims, as well as utilization. Selling insurance across state lines wouldn’t change the price of medical services — as Antos said — but if insurance companies could deny coverage or charge more for health conditions, a carrier could “push down on utilization by screening out sick people” and then, “they can charge a lower premium.”
“You could start to see dramatically different premiums” between regulated and unregulated states, Corlette said, echoing Blumberg’s comments.
A September 2016 study by RAND Corp. researchers looked at the impact of Trump’s health care campaign proposals, including selling policies across state lines. It didn’t provide estimates for the impact on premiums alone, but said that out-of-pocket costs would increase on average for individual market enrollees if the ACA were repealed, and increase even more if only the across-state-lines policy were added. But that doesn’t account for any tax credits, which presumably would be part of a larger ACA-replacement package.
Evan Saltzman, one of the authors of that report, told us that he didn’t think it was a stretch to say premiums would go down by allowing insurance to be sold across state lines. But a 60-to-70 percent drop seems “a little unreasonable.”
“Maybe a 21-year-old would see that kind of decrease, but a 64-year-old might not,” he said.
Then there’s the question of how much insurers want to sell plans across state lines. Insurance companies build networks of doctors and hospitals in a given area to provide discounted pricing. The ACA has highlighted the fact that insurers are able to reduce premiums by offering plans with narrow networks.
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told CNBC in late January that an across-state-lines proposal was past its prime: “Quite frankly, the idea of selling insurance across state lines is a dated concept. Insurance products are now tightly aligned with networks, and so buying an insurance product from another state that’s tied to a network in another state really doesn’t work for people seeking care.”
In fact, Corlette found that a “significant barrier,” more so than regulatory environments, to insurers entering a new market was ” the enormous difficulty that out-of-state insurers face in building a network of local providers.” In a 2012 report for Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, Corlette and her co-authors interviewed government officials and insurers in the handful of states that have enacted laws regarding cross-state insurance sales. As we mentioned, no insurer had entered a new market due to those laws.
The American Academy of Actuaries outlined all of the concerns we’ve covered here in a February brief. On provider networks, the professional association said: “Any cost savings resulting from differences in benefit coverage requirements among states can be small compared to cost savings that can be accomplished through negotiating strong provider contracts. Unless they are able to achieve a large enrollment, out-of-state insurers may have difficulty in negotiating with providers.”
The NAIC cautioned in a Jan. 24 letter to GOP leaders in the House of Representatives: “We continue to see proposals that would preempt state licensing requirements and, thus, consumer protections by allowing sales across state lines by federal edict, without proper discretion for the states to form compacts between themselves.”
Saltzman, co-author of the RAND study, said there’s also “selective entry” within states, where, for instance, Los Angeles has a lot of insurance competition but rural areas of the state don’t.
He said, and other experts agreed, that it’s very difficult to model an across-state-lines policy. The appendix to his September 2016 report noted that this was “particularly challenging given the lack of available data on insurer entry decisions and strategic behavior.”
It remains to be seen if a federal across-state-lines policy is politically, and practically, feasible. And since it hasn’t been tried, we don’t know exactly what impact it would have. But we found no evidence for President Trump’s contention that under such a policy, “your premiums will be down 60 and 70 percent.”
Editor’s Note: More articles about the 2017 health care debate can be found here.
Trump misleadingly suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein may be biased against him because Rosenstein “is from Baltimore” and “there are very few Republicans in Baltimore.”
Rosenstein, who has testified that he is not a member of any political party, was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. attorney for the district of Maryland and elevated to deputy attorney general by Trump.
And he is not from Baltimore. Rosenstein grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. As the U.S. attorney for Maryland, he worked in Baltimore, but lived in Bethesda, Maryland.
In a New York Times interview on July 19, Trump expressed frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from any federal investigation involving the 2016 presidential campaign. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and served as a senior adviser to his campaign.
Trump said that after Sessions told him about the recusal, he asked Sessions, “Who’s your deputy?” Trump announced his intention to nominate Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general on Jan. 31, and Rosenstein was overwhelmingly confirmed 94-6 by the Senate on April 25.
Trump, July 19: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.
When Sessions recused himself on March 2, it fell to Rosenstein to oversee any matters involving the 2016 presidential campaign. Just a few weeks later, FBI Director James Comey confirmed at a congressional hearing that the bureau was investigating “whether there was any coordination between the [Trump] campaign and Russia’s efforts” to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The first crack in Rosenstein’s relationship with the president surfaced shortly after Trump fired Comey on May 9. Rosenstein contradicted the White House’s initial contention that Trump’s decision to fire Comey was based on a recommendation from Rosenstein.
Rosenstein did, in fact, write a two-and-a-half page memo that laid out a case for Comey’s removal, citing Comey’s “handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s emails.” Rosenstein criticized Comey for holding a press conference on July 5, 2016, to publicly announce his recommendation not to charge Clinton, and for announcing on Oct. 28, 2016, that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Clinton.
But Rosenstein later told Congress that he knew of Trump’s decision to fire Comey a day before he penned the memo. (In the New York Times interview, Trump continued to insist the letter played a role in his decision to fire Comey, though Trump acknowledged that even without it, “perhaps I would have fired Comey anyway.” See our story, “Why Did Trump Fire Comey?”)
Rosenstein further drew the ire of the president due to his decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials attempting to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Trump told the New York Times, “A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.”
But Trump’s insinuation that Rosenstein may be politically biased against him — based on being “from Baltimore” — is misplaced.
Rosenstein grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, as did Trump. He then went on to Harvard Law School and became a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. In the mid-1990s, Rosenstein was tapped by Kenneth Starr to help as a prosecutor with the Whitewater investigation involving Bill and Hillary Clinton’s business dealings in Arkansas.
In 2005, George W. Bush appointed Rosenstein to serve as the U.S. attorney for the district of Maryland. Two years later, Bush nominated Rosenstein to a federal appeals court, but the move was blocked by Maryland’s two Democratic senators. He continued to serve as a U.S. attorney under Democratic President Barack Obama.
It’s true that while Rosenstein served as the U.S. attorney for Maryland, he was based in Baltimore, which is an overwhelmingly Democratic city. In fact, Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-to-1 in the city, according to the Baltimore Sun.
But Rosenstein resides in Bethesda, Maryland. Montgomery County, Maryland, which includes Bethesda, is strongly Democratic — with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans more than 3-to-1 — but there are plenty of Republicans in Bethesda.
Thiru Vignarajah, who once worked as a federal prosecutor under Rosenstein at the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland, described Rosenstein as a “rock-ribbed Republican” in a column he wrote for Vox in May.
But a 2011 profile of Rosenstein in the Washington Post noted, “Colleagues say he keeps his politics out of the office.” The profile said: “He is one of only three U.S. attorneys — out of 93 nationwide — appointed by then-President George W. Bush who has been kept on by the Obama administration.”
In his written testimony for the Senate judiciary committee, Rosenstein stated, “I have not been a member nor held office in or rendered services to any political party or election committee.”
Q: Did former President Barack Obama follow President Donald Trump to the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany?
A: No. That claim was made on websites that don’t “make any warranties” about the reliability of their information.
I read a posting on Facebook that said Obama showed up at the G-20 conference and is shadowing Trump. It sounds like fake news to me. Is it?
Former President Barack Obama didn’t attend the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in early July as headlines on a viral story falsely claim. Several readers asked about the story, which Facebook users also flagged as potentially fake news.
“Obama Goes to G20 Summit,” reads the headline on one version of the story published July 8 on World-politicus.com. The same story, published on Wetheproudpatriots.com, was headlined, “Obama Shows Up In Germany For G20 Acting Like The President … Look What He Did To Screw Trump.”
“Obama is a shadow president that will not leave the current administration alone,” the story says. “He has been doing everything he can to mess up what Trump is doing. And being a liberal elite, he can get away with it. Everywhere President Donald Trump goes, Obama shows up too. A little odd, no? This concerning practice has gotten on the last nerve of the Trump administration and it shows that they are concerned with what Obama is trying to do. Obama needs to realize that he is no longer the president, no matter how much he wants to be.”
But neither website provides any evidence to support the headlines stating that Obama was at the 2017 summit, where leaders from 19 countries and the European Union gathered to discuss international cooperation on financial and economic issues.
Instead, those websites point to a July 7 story published by the Young Conservatives website, which only faulted the Obama administration for not making hotel reservations for the U.S. delegation. BuzzFeed, followed by several othermedia outlets, had reported that the Trump administration couldn’t find available hotel rooms in Hamburg. The president stayedat the city government’s guesthouse.
In fact, the “terms and conditions” page of the We the Proud Patriots website says the site “does not represent or imply that it endorses the material there posted, or that it believes such material to be accurate, useful or non-harmful.” And a “disclaimer policy” on World-politicus.com says it “does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website (world-politicus.com), is strictly at your own risk.” That makes both websites unreliable sources for genuine news.
Other sites that published the story about Obama attempted to bolster their false headlines with photographic evidence.
Snoopack.com, for example, included a photo of Obama standing near German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but it’s an image from the 2015 summit in Turkey. The photo that Xbn-news.com published along with the story shows Obama talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2016 summit in China.
In an email to FactCheck.org, an Obama spokesman confirmed that the former president “was not at the G20 summit, Germany or even Europe and was never scheduled to be there.” Obama was last in Germany in May for an event with German Chancellor Merkel, his spokesman said.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
In his latest attack on the media, President Donald Trump gave a misleading account of news reports regarding a previously undisclosed second conversation that he had had with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit.
The New York Timesreported on July 18 — more than a week after the G-20 summit in Germany — that Trump and Putin had a “second, undisclosed, private conversation” at a dinner held for the G-20 leaders and their spouses on July 7. The Washington Post, too, reported that the “second meeting, undisclosed at the time, took place at a dinner for G-20 leaders.”
Both stories were based on a newsletter written by Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the Eurasia Group, for the clients of his New York-based risk management company.
In a statement released on the evening of July 18, the White House confirmed that the two leaders talked at the July 7 dinner with the aid of a Russian interpreter, as the Times and Post reported. This second conversation took place only hours after the two leaders had met earlier that day in a highly anticipated and well-publicized meeting.
But Trump dismissed the reports of the second conversation as a “fake news story of secret dinner with Putin,” claiming the “press knew!” That’s misleading.
Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is "sick." All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!
The media — the Times, Post, CNN and othermajormediaoutlets — did not describe the event as a “secret dinner.” They accurately described it, as the Times did, as a “private conversation” that took place at a “leaders-and-spouses dinner.”
And while the media knew about the dinner, which was on the public schedule, reporters did not witness the two leaders talking because the dinner was off-limits to the press.
The president’s official schedule for July 7 included a 9:45 a.m. EST meeting with Putin that lasted more than two hours and was widely covered by the media. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended that meeting and discussed it with the media that same day after it ended.
The president’s schedule that day also included a 1 p.m. EST concert at the Elbphilharmonie followed by a “social dinner” at 2:15 p.m. EST. It was at the dinner that Trump and Putin spoke for a second time.
At the time, there was no official White House acknowledgement or read out of the second conversation between the two leaders. The only media mention of it that we could find was a single sentence in a July 8 BuzzFeed article about the other G-20 countries reaffirming their support for the Paris agreement. “BuzzFeed News understands that the two leaders engaged in another ‘long chat’ right after a G20 dinner on Friday night, according to a source present,” the website wrote. It wasn’t until July 18 that the White House confirmed that the conversation took place and only after Bremmer’s report was widely picked up by the media.
While the White House does not dispute that the two leaders spoke at the dinner, there is a disagreement over the length of the conversation.
Bremmer has said, based on his interviews with those present at the dinner, that the Trump-Putin private conversation lasted “roughly an hour.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the conversation was brief and nothing more than “pleasantries and small talk” were exchanged.
As for what the press knew about the second Trump-Putin conversation, the fact is that the dinner was closed to the media — so Trump’s claim that the “press knew!” is puzzling. We asked the White House what the president meant, but we received no response.
The media relies on White House pool reports at such events. The print reporter assigned to pool duty that day was Washington Post reporter Abby Phillips, who filed pool reports that were distributed to the media. Phillips filed a pool report that evening that said she was in a “hold location” during the concert and dinner. The next pool report she filed was after the dinner. She wrote, “We haven’t seen POTUS in many hours but he has reached his temporary home in Hamburg.”
It’s no secret that Trump is frustrated by the media coverage of the ongoing federal investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether there was any coordination between the Russians and his campaign. He frequently attacks major media outlets as “fake news.” But the president cannot dismiss legitimate news stories, as he is doing here, by twisting the facts.
Q: Is bacon better for you than tilapia? Does tilapia cause cancer and/or Alzheimer’s disease?
A: No. These false claims, spread by multiple websites, are not supported by solid scientific evidence.
What is the truth about warnings that eating tilapia may cause cancer and/or Alzheimer’s Disease? What is the nutritional value of tilapia fish?
Multiple websites, such as edrugsearch.com, eatthis.com and draxe.com, have claimed that scientists have found hamburgers and bacon are better for you than tilapia. Versions of these articles have spread through Facebook, with users flagging them as potentially fake. Our readers also have asked us about the dangers of eating tilapia.
Many of these alarming articles about tilapia claim that bacon is a better health option than tilapia because the fish lacks essential nutrients and can increase risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. But there is no solid evidence that eating tilapia increases the risk of either of these diseases.
The fish is also a low-fat source of protein and a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12 and selenium. However, other fish, such as salmon, are a better source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients.
Experts told us there’s no debating whether or not bacon and hamburgers are better for you than tilapia — they’re not. Both bacon and hamburgers are high-fat sources of protein. Bacon is also high in added sodium.
Where did this idea that bacon is better for you than tilapia come from in the first place?
Some of the anti-tilapia articles point to a controversial scientific study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in July 2008.
In that paper, Floyd H. Chilton, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University, and his colleagues conclude that “tilapia is not a good choice” for “individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease.” The researchers add: “All other nutritional content aside, the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia.”
Inflammation is the body’s response to toxins or unwanted substances; it can occur in the arteries when cholesterol forms plaque.
Shortly after the study was published, a number of experts wrote an open letter disputing the idea that tilapia was unhealthy. “Tilapia and catfish are examples of lower-fat fish that have fewer omega-3s” than oily fish, but “still provide more of these heart-healthy nutrients than hamburger, steak, chicken, pork or turkey,” they wrote. “Replacing tilapia or catfish with ‘bacon, hamburgers or doughnuts’ is absolutely not recommended,” they cautioned. In November 2008, Harvard Medical School wrote a letter similarly concluding that tilapia is a “good choice for dinner.”
Still, years later, Chilton’s finding about inflammatory potential, which did not concern “all other nutritional content,” continues to be twisted into claims that bacon is generally healthier than tilapia.
We reached out to Chilton for comment, but he didn’t respond.However, he told Fox News in April 2014 that his research was being taken out of context by those warning against tilapia’s risks.
“We never intended to paint tilapia as the cause of anything bad,” he said. But, he added, “If your doctor or cardiologist is telling you to eat more fish, then you should look for varieties that have higher levels of omega-3 and avoid those with high inflammatory potential.”
How did Chilton and his colleagues come to their conclusion that tilapia has a high inflammatory potential, higher than bacon and hamburgers?
Chilton and his team measured the content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in 30 “commonly consumed farmed and wild fish,” including tilapia, salmon, tuna, cod, catfish and trout. The researchers found that farmed trout and Atlantic salmon contained “relatively high concentrations” of omega-3 fatty acids, while farmed tilapia and catfish contained “much lower concentrations” of these essential nutrients.
They also found that farmed trout and Atlantic salmon had low ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, whereas farmed catfish and tilapia had high ratios of these compounds, meaning they had notably more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two groups of chemical compounds that are essential to the normal functioning of the body, but that humans can only obtain through food. Among other things, the body uses these nutrients to form molecules that regulate the functioning of the heart, lungs and and immune system. These compounds are also found to regulate processes in the brain.
The science is clear that eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and failure, says the National Institutes of Health.
As for omega-6 fatty acids, the American Heart Association concluded that research indicates consumption of 5 percent to 10 percent of an individual’s energy from omega-6 fatty acids “reduces the risk” of coronary heart disease “relative to lower intakes.” The association added, “The data also suggest that higher intakes appear to be safe and may be even more beneficial.”
Some researchers argue that it’s the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that matters most for preventing heart disease, not the absolute quantities of each, says the NIH. But no study has pinpointed an optimal ratio. The NIH adds that still other researchers argue the ratio theory isn’t a good measure for predicting or preventing disease.
So there’s no scientific consensus on the ratio theory. But Chilton and his team used tilapia’s high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio to argue that tilapia had a high inflammatory potential in their 2008 paper.
Chilton and his team also argue that omega-6 fatty acids, specifically one type, arachidonic acid, are generally inflammatory. Since they found that tilapia contained “high quantities of arachidonic acid,” the researchers concluded that tilapia is not a “good choice” for “individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease.”
What about compared with bacon and hamburgers?
The researchers measured, on average, 134 milligrams of arachidonic acid in 100 grams of tilapia, with some samples reaching 300 mg per 100 g. They also say that 100 grams of bacon and hamburgers contain 191 mg and 34 mg, respectively, of arachidonic acid, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database Standard Reference Release 20. This led Chilton and his team to conclude: “All other nutritional content aside, the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia.”
Other experts dispute the measurements in the Chilton study.
Chilton and his co-authors claim that tilapia “contain[s] some of the highest levels of arachidonic acid found in human beings’ food chain,” but William S. Harris, an expert in fatty acids and human nutrition at the University of South Dakota, told us that wasn’t accurate. Harris wrote a commentary criticizing Chilton’s study when it was published.
Harris, who is also the president of OmegaQuant, a company that performs fatty acid analysis for researchers, told us tilapia isn’t high in omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids because the fish isn’t high in fat, period. The levels of fatty acids in fish correspond to the quantity of fat in fish, he explained.
Kevin Fitzsimmons, an expert in aquaculture at the University of Arizona, agreed with Harris.
“Despite the implications of [Chilton’s] paper, single slices of bacon and burgers would have way more total omega-6 fatty acids than ten tilapia fillets,” he told us by email. “I have no problem with theory that excessive amounts [of arachidonic acid] might lead to inflammation.” But he added, “the fact is that the very small amounts of arachidonic acid in tilapia (and many other fishes) would never amount to enough to harm humans, no matter what the ratio to omega-3 fatty acids.”
Harris also said that all other nutritional content is important when evaluating what’s better for cardiovascular health. Tilapia may not be the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, but “hamburgers and bacon have bad things in them,” he said, such as high levels of saturated fat and added sodium, both of which are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
And compared with tilapia, both bacon and hamburgers are high-fat sources of protein. Foods high in fat contribute to obesity, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over one-third of U.S. adults are obese, adds the CDC.
In short, the idea that tilapia has high inflammatory potential rests on a debated link between arachidonic acid and inflammation. It’s also based on the theory that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids corresponds to inflammation potential, a theory that lacks scientific consensus.
And the study in question didn’t say that bacon was generally healthier than tilapia. Since tilapia is low in fat, it’s not a good source of fatty acids, period. But it’s still a good source of protein and other nutrients. Given bacon’s high fat and sodium content, it’s clearly not a healthier option than tilapia.
Can Tilapia Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?
The purported connection between tilapia and Alzheimer’s disease also rests on the fish’s arachidonic acid content, even though other foods have higher levels of the fatty acid. There’s no strong evidence linking arachidonic acid to the onset of Alzheimer’s in humans.
Alzheimer’s is a neurological disease characterized by memory loss and other cognitive issues. The causes of the disease “probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors,” explains the NIH.
Richard Ransohoff, an expert in neurodegenerative disease at Biogen, a biotechnology company that develops treatments for neurological diseases, told us by email that “evidence for a relationship” between Alzheimer’s disease and dietary arachidonic acid “is weak and indirect.” He added, “Equal data support and contradict the assertion that high dietary” arachidonic acid promotes Alzheimer’s.
He pointed us to an analysis of the available research on the subject by Jean Luc Olivier, then at the University of Lorraine in France, and others published in the journal Biochimie in November 2016.
“Several studies” support arachidonic acid’s involvement in Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers found. This means the omega fatty acid likely plays a role in the mechanism of the disease. But it doesn’t mean eating foods containing arachidonic acid necessarily increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. In fact, Olivier and his team point out that there has been conflicting research on mice fed arachidonic acid-enriched diets.
One 2015 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and conducted by Takashi Hosono, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Japan, found that an arachidonic acid-enriched diet delayed memory impairment in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. In another study published in Brain Research in July 2015, Hosono’s research team also found that the mice’s brain tissue showed less evidence of Alzheimer’s.
However, another study published in Neurobiology of Aging three years earlier showed the opposite. Konrad Beyreuther, the director of Network Aging Research at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and colleagues found that mice fed arachidonic acid-enriched diets had more evidence of Alzheimer’s in their brains than those fed normal diets. But many of the differences were not statistically significant, which means they could have been due to chance.
Why the conflicting research? Olivier and his team point out in their 2016 analysis that Beyreuther fed his mice “a 10-fold higher amount” of arachidonic acid than Hosono and his group fed their mice.
Harris, at OmegaQuant, said there’s no way a person could consume that much arachidonic acid relative to their diets, so Beyreuther’s analysis was “irrelevant” to human biology. Mouse studies don’t always translate to human beings, he emphasized.
Still, at least one anti-tilapia article cited Beyreuther’s study as proof that the fish increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Can Tilapia Cause Cancer?
Articlescirculating on the web also claim tilapia may have up to 10 times more carcinogens than other fish because of what farmers feed tilapia. The articles point to one particular carcinogen, dioxin. But tilapia hasn’t been found to contain high levels of dioxin or any other carcinogens.
Fitzsimmons, at the University of Arizona, told us this claim “makes absolutely no sense.” He explained that tilapia consume “mostly algae and aquatic plants in the wild and plant based ingredients in farm feeds.” This means they are lower in the food chain than carnivorous fish like salmon.
Dioxin is “bio-accumulated,” which means it becomes “more concentrated going up the food chain,” he explained. “So you would expect dioxin levels in carnivorous fishes like salmon and bass to be higher than tilapia or catfish or shrimp,” he said, adding, “that is what the real science confirms.”
Fitzsimmons pointed us to an April 2009 study by Stefan van Leeuwen, an expert in chemical pollutants at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and others. Published in Environmental Science and Technology, the study analyzed the levels of a number of different carcinogens, including dioxin, in salmon, trout, tilapia, pangasius and shrimp.
The group found: “Carnivorous species contained higher contaminant concentrations than omnivorous species.” Tilapia had roughly the same amount of contaminants as pangasius and shrimp, but less than salmon and trout, which are both carnivores.
Still, all of the samples had “very low” contaminant levels, “far below the European and Dutch legislative limits,” the researchers concluded.
An October 2013 study published in the Journal of Food Processing & Technology came to similar conclusions about tilapia imported to the United States. Gulnihal Ozbay, an assistant professor in natural resources at Delaware State University, and another researcher found that tilapia had “safe levels” of mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead by the Food and Drug Administration’s standards. All of these metals may cause, or are definitively known to cause, cancer.
Overall, there’s no evidence that tilapia contains high levels of carcinogens.
“I have no idea why anyone would spread an obvious falsehood that has absolutely no basis in science or a single study with data,” said Fitzsimmons. “Anyone who looks at the facts published in hundreds of peer reviewed literature can see the many obvious nutritional benefits of eating tilapia and virtually all other fishes.”
A: No. That fake story comes from a website that invites visitors to “Create A Prank And Trick All Your Friends!”
A story on Channel23news.com proclaims that “after 2 and 1/2 years of medical research, Indiana government officials have passed the bill to legalize Marijuana in Indiana.” It further says that “dispensaries and clinics” in the state “will be opening in October of this year and begin taking new patients.”
Facebook users flagged the story as potentially fake news. They’re right; it’s bogus.
Readers may have noticed that the header on Channel23news.com is an illustration of a man laughing with the text “You Got Owned!” superimposed over his head. The sidebar of the webpage says “You’ve Been Pranked!” and urges readers to “Create A Story & Trick Your Friends!”
Also, the homepage of Channel23news.com doesn’t feature any other posts. There is only a form that allows the website’s visitors to create their own made-up stories. It has fields to enter the title and content of the fake article, as well as a photo. Once done, users can share the stories on Facebook and other social media platforms.
A disclaimer at the bottom of the page says: “We do NOT support FAKE NEWS!!! This is a Prank website that is intended for Fun. Bullying, Violent Threats or posts that Violate Public Order are NOT permitted on this Website.”
In April, Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb did signHouse Bill 1148, making cannabidiol, which comes from the marijuana plant, legal for patients with “treatment resistant epilepsy.” The legislation creates a registry for those able to use the substance.
Holcomb distanced the bill he signed from broader legalization efforts, saying that “this does not put us on a slippery slope to legalizing marijuana, quite the contrary.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.