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Tonaki. Will a smoothie recipe from this tiny Japanese island cure tinnitus? Probably not.

Last week I wrote about LipoFlavonoid for tinnitus. I said there is no cure for tinnitus. Then I got this email that seemed to indicate I was wrong:

Stop the presses! (if there is still such a thing.)

Breaking news… Tinnitus can now be cured with a simple, three ingredient smoothie.

Yes, boys and girls, moms and dads, ladies and gentlemen, it’s true. It has to be. I read it on the Internet.

bit.ly/2PznkWM

The friend who sent the email is a skeptic who wasn’t trying to convince me there was a cure; he thought that website would make me laugh, and it did.

The claim is worth quoting in its entirety to illustrate its absurdity:

“Your tinnitus has nothing to do with your ears at all. But is instead, all down to a special type of “NERVE FAT” which every tinnitus sufferer is in short supply of. And right now, is being rapidly and ruthlessly destroyed by your own body.

We are quickly approaching the day when people who suffer from the horrible tinnitus symptoms can kiss goodbye to the worthless and expensive drugs, the ear pain and ringing.

Watch how, Todd Carson, a retired military officer was able to successfully treat his wife’s Tinnitus with a simple 3 ingredients smoothie, and in the process discovered the real cause of tinnitus.

Obsessed to help his wife’s painful battle with Tinnitus, Todd conducted a massive research with the help of his friend, an Ivy League University medical researcher, and found 3 special ingredients found on a tiny, barely populated island, which treat the root cause of Tinnitus. Against all odds, they created the tinnitus-silencing smoothie which would eventually save his wife from Tinnitus.

There is an accompanying video that wouldn’t play for me, but I found reports that it was tedious, lasted an hour, and consisted of pseudoscience and irrelevant verbiage. And at the bottom of the page, there is a note that this website is an advertisement. It states the usual requisite FDA disclaimer that the information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. In addition, it has this astounding admission:

any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this page, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story.

In other words, you can’t believe anything you read here.

My first thought was that this had to be a spoof. Unfortunately, it isn’t. There are numerous websites with reviews of Todd Carson’s Tonaki Tinnitus Protocol, and numerous reports from people who have tried it. There are positive testimonials but also many negative comments. Needless to say, there are no scientific studies. An answer to a query on Quora said “Their website reeks of b*******.” It does, indeed. The story hits all the usual CAM tropes: ancient Oriental wisdom, criticism of mainstream medicine, warnings to eschew prescription drugs, conspiracy, attempted suppression by Big Pharma, “natural,” limited supply, money back guarantee, a time-limited discount, etc.

Tonaki is a small island in Okinawa where an elderly woman supposedly told Todd Carson about the recipes. The Tonaki Tinnitus Protocol is described in Todd Carson’s e-book with a 21-day diet manual and a list of nutrients to take and foods to avoid. The 3-ingredient smoothie combines these three ingredients:

  1. Imo, a sweet potato
  2. Kombu, a seaweed
  3. Natto, a fermented soy bean delicacy

But the Protocol mentions at least 12 ingredients, “herbal treasures used by Japanese people for ages,” that are supposedly clinically proven to regenerate the myelin sheath around nerves, including a bitter melon called goya, Okinawan tofu, a bright green sea lettuce called Asa, and a cucumber-like vegetable called Loofah.

Another website promises a different natural 100% cure with ingredients that do not match the Protocol, including green tea, juniper berries, uva ursi, hibiscus, hawthorn berries, and vitamin C. It has the dire warning that tinnitus is the first signal that your brain could be dying! It is actually a sales pitch for the dietary supplement Tinnitus 911TM. That product is advertised to not only cure tinnitus, but to prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors. It also allegedly improves memory and raises IQ. Again, no evidence.

Conclusion: No reason to think smoothies will cure tinnitus

Sufferers with tinnitus are not likely to find relief in these smoothies from Okinawa. Or from any other dietary supplement, except inasmuch as they distract the patient and induce a placebo response. But the claims can provide entertainment and provoke laughter.

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Posted by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.