The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?

7 07 2010

Disclaimer: This blog post covers only a fraction of what’s wrong with “The China Study.” In the years since I wrote it, I’ve added a number of additional articles expanding on this critique and covering a great deal of new material. Please read my Forks Over Knives review for more information on what’s wrong with the conclusions drawn from Campbell’s casein/aflatoxin research, and if you’d rather look at peer-reviewed research than the words of some random internet blogger, see my collection of scientific papers based on the China Study data that contradict the claims in Campbell’s book. I’ve also responded to Campbell’s reply to my critique with a much longer, more formal analysis than the one on this page, which you can read here.

When I first started analyzing the original China Study data, I had no intention of writing up an actual critique of Campbell’s much-lauded book. I’m a data junkie. Numbers, along with strawberries and Audrey Hepburn films, make me a very happy girl. I mainly wanted to see for myself how closely Campbell’s claims aligned with the data he drew from—if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

But after spending a solid month and a half reading, graphing, sticky-noting, and passing out at 3 AM from studious exhaustion upon my copy of the raw China Study data, I’ve decided it’s time to voice all my criticisms. And there are many.

First, let me put out some fires before they have a chance to ignite:

  1. I don’t work for the meat or dairy industry. Nor do I have a fat-walleted roommate, best friend, parent, child, love interest, or highly prodigious cat who works for the meat or dairy industry who paid me off to debunk Campbell.
  2. Due to food sensitivities, I don’t consume dairy myself, nor do I have any personal reason to promote it as a health food.
  3. I was a vegetarian/vegan for over a decade and have nothing but respect for those who choose a plant-based diet, even though I am no longer vegan. My goal, with the “The China Study” analysis and elsewhere, is to figure out the truth about nutrition and health without the interference of biases and dogma. I have no agenda to promote.

As I mentioned, I’m airing my criticisms here; this won’t be a China Study love fest, or even a typical balanced review with pros and cons. Campbell actually raises a  number of points I wholeheartedly agree with—particularly in the “Why Haven’t You Heard This?” section of his book, where he exposes the reality behind Big Pharma and the science industry at large. I admire Campbell’s philosophy towards nutritional research and echo his sentiments about the dangers of scientific reductionism. However, the internet is already flooded with rave reviews of this book, and I’m not interested in adding redundant praise. My intent is to highlight the weaknesses of “The China Study” and the potential errors in Campbell’s interpretation of the original data.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: My response to Campbell’s reply, as well as to some common reader questions, can be found in the following post: My Response to Campbell. Please read this for clarification regarding univariate correlations and flaws in Campbell’s analytical methods.)

(If this is your first time here, feel free to browse the earlier posts in the China Study category to get up to speed.)

On the Cornell University website (the institution that—along with Oxford University—spawned the China Project), I came across an excellent summary of Campbell’s conclusions from the data. Although this article was published a few years before “The China Study,” it distills some of the book’s points in a concise, down-n’-dirty way. In this post, I’ll be looking at these statements along with other overriding claims in “The China Study” and seeing whether they hold up under scrutiny—including an in-depth look at Campbell’s discoveries with casein.

(Disclaimer: This post is long. Very long. If either your time or your attention span is short, you can scroll down to the bottom, where I summarize the 9,000 words that follow in a less formidable manner.)

(Disclaimer 2: All correlations here are presented as the original value multiplied by 100 in order to avoid dealing with excessive decimals. Asterisked correlations indicate statistical significance, with * = p<0.05, ** = p<0.01, and *** = p<0.001. In other words, the more stars you see, the more confident we are that the trend is legit. If you’re rusty on stats, visit the meat and disease in the China Study page for a basic refresher on some math terms.)

(Disclaimer 3: The China Study files on the University of Oxford website include the results of the China Study II, which was conducted after the first China Study. It includes Taiwan and a number of additional counties on top of the original 65–and thus, more data points. The numbers I use in this critique come solely from the first China Study, as recorded in the book “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China,” and may be different than the numbers on the website.)

From Cornell University’s article:

“Even small increases in the consumption of animal-based foods was associated with increased disease risk,” Campbell told a symposium at the epidemiology congress, pointing to several statistically significant correlations from the China studies.

Alright, Mr. Campbell—I’ll hear ya out. Let’s take a look at these correlations.

Campbell Claim #1

Plasma cholesterol in the 90-170 milligrams per deciliter range is positively associated with most cancer mortality rates. Plasma cholesterol is positively associated with animal protein intake and inversely associated with plant protein intake.

No falsification here. Indeed, cholesterol in the China Project has statistically significant associations with several cancers (though not with heart disease). And indeed, plasma cholesterol correlates positively with animal protein consumption and negatively with plant protein consumption.

But there’s more to the story than that.

Notice Campbell cites a chain of three variables: Cancer associates with cholesterol, cholesterol associates with animal protein, and therefore we infer that animal protein associates with cancer. Or from another angle: Cancer associates with cholesterol, cholesterol negatively associates with plant protein, and therefore we infer plant protein protects against cancer.

But when we actually track down the direct correlation between animal protein and cancer, there is no statistically significant positive trend. None. Looking directly at animal protein intake, we have the following correlations with cancers:

Lymphoma: -18
Penis cancer: -16
Rectal cancer: -12
Bladder cancer: -9
Colorectal cancer: -8
Leukemia: -5
Nasopharyngeal: -4
Cervix cancer: -4
Colon cancer: -3
Liver cancer: -3
Oesophageal cancer: +2
Brain cancer: +5
Breast cancer: +12

Most are negative, but none even reach statistical significance. In other words, the only way Campbell could indict animal protein is by throwing a third variable—cholesterol—into the mix. If animal protein were the real cause of these diseases, Campbell should be able to cite a direct correlation between cancer and animal protein consumption, which would show that people eating more animal protein did in fact get more cancer.

But what about plant protein? Since plant protein correlates negatively with plasma cholesterol, does that mean plant protein correlates with lower cancer risk? Let’s take a look at the cancer correlations with “plant protein intake”:

Nasopharyngeal cancer: -40**
Brain cancer: -15
Liver cancer: -14
Penis cancer: -4
Lymphoma: -4
Bladder cancer: -3
Breast cancer: +1
Stomach cancer: +10
Rectal cancer: +12
Cervix cancer: +12
Colon cancer: +13
Leukemia: +15
Oesophageal cancer +18
Colorectal cancer: +19

We have one statistically significant correlation with a rare cancer not linked to diet (nasopharyngeal cancer), but we also have more positive correlations than we saw with animal protein.

In fact, when we look solely at the variable “death from all cancers,” the association with plant protein is +12. With animal protein, it’s only +3. So why is Campbell linking animal protein to cancer, yet implying plant protein is protective against it?

In addition, Campbell’s statement about cholesterol and cancer leaves out a few significant points. What he doesn’t mention is that plasma cholesterol is also associated with several non-nutritional variables known to raise cancer risk—namely schistosomiasis infection (correlation of +34*) and hepatitis B infection (correlation of +30*).

Not coincidentally, cholesterol’s strongest cancer links are with liver cancer, rectal cancer, colon cancer, and the sum of all colorectal cancers. As we saw in the posts on meat consumption and fish consumption, schistosomiasis and hepatitis B are the two biggest factors in the occurrence of these diseases. So is it higher cholesterol (by way of animal products) that causes these cancers, or is it a misleading association because areas with high cholesterol are riddled with other cancer risk factors? We can’t know for sure, but it does seem odd that Campbell never points out the latter scenario as a possibility.

Campbell Claim #2

Breast cancer is associated with dietary fat (which is associated with animal protein intake) and inversely with age at menarche (women who reach puberty at younger ages have a greater risk of breast cancer).

Campbell is correct that breast cancer negatively relates to the age of first menstruation—a correlation of -20. Not statistically significant, but given what we know about hormone exposure and breast cancer, it certainly makes sense. And there is a correlation between fat intake and breast cancer—a non-statistically-significant +18 for fat as a percentage of total calories and +22 for total lipid intake. But are there any dietary or lifestyle factors with a similar or stronger association than this? Let’s look at the correlation between breast cancer and a few other variables. Asterisked items are statistically significant:

Blood glucose level: +36**
Wine intake: +33*
Alcohol intake: +31*
Yearly fruit consumption: +25
Percentage of population working in industry: +24
Hexachlorocyclohexane in food: +24
Processed starch and sugar intake: +20
Corn intake: +20
Daily beer intake: +19
Legume intake: +17

Looks to me like breast cancer may have links with sugar and alcohol, and perhaps also with hexachlorocyclohexane and occupational hazards associated with industry work. Again, why is Campbell singling out fat from animal products when other—stronger—correlations are present?

Certainly, consuming dairy and meat from hormone-injected livestock may logically raise breast cancer risk due to increased exposure to hormones, but this isn’t grounds for generalizing all animal products as causative for this disease. Nor is a correlation of +18 for fat calories grounds for indicting fat as a breast cancer risk factor, when alcohol, processed sugar, and starch correlate even more strongly. (Animal protein itself, for the record, correlates with breast cancer at +12—which is lower than breast cancer’s correlation with light-colored vegetables, legume intake, fruit, and a number of other purportedly healthy plant foods.)

Campbell Claim #3

For those at risk for liver cancer (for example, because of chronic infection with hepatitis B virus) increasing intakes of animal-based foods and/or increasing concentrations of plasma cholesterol are associated with a higher disease risk.

Ah, here’s one that may be interesting! Even if animal products don’t cause cancer, do they spur its occurrence when other risk factors are present? That would certainly be in line with Campbell’s research on aflatoxin and rats, where the milk protein casein dramatically increased cancer rates.

So, let’s look only at the counties with the highest rates of hepatitis B infection and see what animal food consumption does there. In the China Study, one documented variable is the percentage of each county’s population testing positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen. Population averages ranged from 1% to 29%, with a mean of 13% and median of 14%. If we take only the counties that have, say, 18% or more testing positive, that leaves us with a solid pool of high-risk data points to look at.

Animal product consumption in these places ranges from a meager 6.9 grams per day to a heftier 148.1 grams per day—a wide enough range to give us a good variety of data points. Liver cancer mortality ranges from 5.51 to 59.63 people per thousand.

Let’s crunch these numbers, shall we? Here’s a chart of the data I’m using.

When we map out liver cancer mortality and animal product consumption only in areas with high rates of hepatitis B infection (18% and higher), we should see cancer rates rise as animal product consumption increases—at least, according to Campbell. That would indicate animal-based foods do encourage cancer growth. But here’s what we really get.

In these high-risk areas for liver cancer, total animal food intake has a correlation with liver cancer of… dun dun dun… +1.

That’s it. One. We rarely get a perfect statistical zero in the real world, but this is pretty doggone close to neutral. Broken up into different types of animal food rather than total consumption, we have the following correlations:

  • Meat correlates at -7 with liver cancer in high-risk counties
  • Fish correlates at +11
  • Eggs correlate at -29
  • Dairy correlates at -19

In other words, it looks like animal foods have virtually no effect—whether positive or negative—on the occurrence of liver cancer in hepatitis-B infected areas.

Campbell mentioned plasma cholesterol also associates with liver cancer, which is correct: The raw correlation is a statistically significant +37. If it’s true blood cholesterol is somehow an instigator for liver cancer in hepatitis-B-riddled populations, we’d expect to see this correlation preserved or heightened among our highest-risk counties. So let’s take a look at the same previous 19 counties with high hepatitis B occurrence, and graph their total cholesterol alongside their liver cancer rates.

In the high-risk groups, the correlation between total cholesterol and liver cancer drops from +37 to +8. Still slightly positive, but not exactly damning.

If I were Campbell, I’d look at not only animal protein and cholesterol in relation to liver cancer, but also at the many other variables that correlate positively with the disease. For instance, daily liquor intake correlates at +33*, total alcohol intake correlates at +28*, cigarette use correlates at +27*, intake of the heavy metal cadmium correlates at +38**, rapeseed oil intake correlates at +25*—so on and so forth. All are statistically significant. Why doesn’t Campbell mention these factors as possible causes of increased liver cancer in high-risk areas? And, more importantly, why doesn’t Campbell account for the fact that many of these variables occur alongside increased cholesterol and animal product consumption, making it unclear what’s causing what?

Campbell Claim #4

Cardiovascular diseases are associated with lower intakes of green vegetables and higher concentrations of apo-B (a form of so-called bad blood cholesterol) which is associated with increasing intakes of animal protein and decreasing intakes of plant protein.

Alright, we’ve got a multi-parter here. First, let’s see what the actual correlations are between cardiovascular diseases and green vegetables—an interesting connection, if it holds true. The China Study accounted for this variable in two ways: one through a diet survey that measured how many grams of green vegetables each county averaged per day, and one through a questionnaire that recorded how many times per year citizens ate green vegetables.

From the diet survey, green vegetable intake (average grams per day) has the following correlations:

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: +5
Hypertensive heart disease: -4
Stroke: -8

From the questionnaire, green vegetable intake (times eaten per year) has the following correlations:

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: -43**
Hypertensive heart disease: -36*
Stroke: -35*

A little odd, oui? When we look at total quantity of green vegetables consumed (in terms of weight), we’ve got only weak negative associations for two cardiovascular conditions, and a slightly positive association for heart attacks (myocardial infarction) and coronary heart disease. Nothing to write home about. But when we look at the number of times per year green vegetables are consumed, we have much stronger inverse associations with all cardiovascular diseases. Why the huge difference? Why would frequency be more protective than quantity? What accounts for this mystery?

It could be that the China Study diet survey did a poor job of tracking and estimating greens intake on a long-term basis (indeed, it was only a three-day survey, although when repeated at a later date yielded similar results for each county). But the explanation could also boil down to one word: geography.

Let me explain.

The counties in China that eat greens year-round live in a particular climate and latitude—namely, humid regions to the south.  The “Green vegetable intake, times per year” variable has a correlation of -68*** with aridity (indicating a humid climate) and a correlation of -60*** with latitude (indicating southerly placement on the ol’ map). Folks living in these regions might not eat the most green vegetables quantity-wise, but they do eat them frequently, since their growing season is nearly year-round.

In contrast, the variable “Green vegetable intake, grams per day” has a correlation of only -16 with aridity and +5 with latitude, indicating much looser associations with southern geography. The folks who eat lots of green veggies don’t necessarily live in climates with a year-round growing season, but when green vegetables are available, they eat a lot of them. That bumps up the average intake per day, even if they endure some periods where greens aren’t on the menu at all.

If green vegetables themselves were protective of heart disease, as Campbell seems to be implying, we would expect their anti-heart-disease effects to be present in both quantity of consumption and frequency of consumption. Yet the counties eating the most greens quantity-wise didn’t have any less cardiovascular disease than average. This tells us there’s probably another variable unique to the southern, humid regions in China that confers heart disease protection—but green veggies aren’t it.

Some of the hallmark variables of humid southern regions include high fish intake, low use of salt, high rice consumption (and low consumption of all other grains, especially wheat), higher meat consumption, and smaller body size (shorter height and lower weight). And as you’ll see in an upcoming post on heart disease, these southerly regions also had more intense sunlight exposure and thus more vitamin D—an important player in heart disease prevention.

(And for the record, as a green-veggie lover myself, I’m not trying to negate their health benefits—promise! I just want to offer equal skepticism to all claims, even the ones I’d prefer to be true.)

Basically, Campbell’s implication that green vegetables are associated with less cardiovascular disease is misleading. More accurately, certain geographical regions have strong correlations with cardiovascular disease (or lack thereof), and year-round green vegetable consumption is simply an indicator of geography. Since only frequency and not actual quantity of greens seems protective of heart disease and stroke, it’s safe to say that greens probably aren’t the true protective factor.

So that about covers it for greens. What about the next variable in Campbell’s claim: a “bad” form of cholesterol called apo-B?

Campbell is justified in noting the link between apolipoprotein B (apo-B) and cardiovascular disease in the China Study data, a connection widely recognized by the medical community today. These are its correlations with cardiovascular disease:

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: +37**
Hypertensive heart disease: +35*
Stroke: +35*

And he’s also right about the negative association between apo-B and plant protein, which is -37*, as well as the positive association between apo-B and animal protein, which is +25* for non-fish protein and +16 for fish protein. So from a technical standpoint, Campbell’s statement (aside from the green veggie issue) is legit.

However, it’s the implications of this claim that are misleading. From what Campbell asserts, it would seem that animal products are ultimately linked to cardiovascular diseases and plant protein is ultimately protective of those diseases, and apo-B is merely a secondary indicator of this reality. But does that claim hold water? Here’s the raw data.

Correlations between animal protein and cardiovascular disease:

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: +1
Hypertensive heart disease: +25
Stroke: +5

Correlations between fish protein and cardiovascular disease:

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: -11
Hypertensive heart disease: -9
Stroke: -11

Correlations between plant protein and cardiovascular disease (from the China Study’s “diet survey”):

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: +25
Hypertensive heart disease: -10
Stroke: -3

Correlations between plant protein and cardiovascular disease (from the China Study’s “food composite analysis”):

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: +21
Hypertensive heart disease: 0
Stroke: +12

Check that out! Fish protein looks weakly protective all-around; non-fish animal protein is neutral for coronary heart disease/heart attacks and stroke but associates positively with hypertensive heart disease (related to high blood pressure); and plant protein actually correlates fairly strongly with heart attacks and coronary heart disease. (The China Study documented two variables related to plant protein: one from a lab analysis of foods eaten in each county, and one from a diet survey given to county citizens.) Surely, there is no wide division here between the protective or disease-causing effects of animal-based protein versus plant protein. If anything, fish protein looks the most protective of the bunch. No wonder Campbell had to cite a third variable in order to vilify animal products and praise plant protein: Examined directly, they’re nearly neck-and-neck.

If you’re wondering about the connection between animal protein and hypertensive heart disease, by the way, it’s actually hiked up solely by the dairy variable. Here are the individual correlations between specific animal foods and hypertensive heart disease:

Milk and dairy products intake: +30**
Egg intake: -28
Meat intake: -4
Fish intake: -14

You can read more about the connection between dairy and hypertensive heart disease in the entry on dairy in the China Study.

At any rate, Campbell accurately points out that apo-B correlates positively with cardiovascular diseases. But to imply animal protein is causative of these diseases—and green vegetables or plant protein protective of them—is dubious at best. What factors cause both apo-B and cardiovascular disease risk to increase hand-in-hand? This is the question we should be asking.

Campbell Claim #5

Colorectal cancers are consistently inversely associated with intakes of 14 different dietary fiber fractions (although only one is statistically significant). Stomach cancer is inversely associated with green vegetable intake and plasma concentrations of beta-carotene and vitamin C obtained only from plant-based foods.

This is congruous with conventional beliefs about fiber being helpful for colon health. And as a plant-nosher myself, I hope it’s true—but that’s no reason to omit this claim from critical examination. Here are all of the China Study’s fiber variables as they correlate to colorectal cancer:

Total fiber intake: -3
Total neutral detergent fiber intake: -13
Hemi-cellulose fiber intake: -10
Cellulose fiber intake: -13
Intake of lignins remaining after cutin removed: -9
Cutin intake: -14
Starch intake: -1
Pectin intake: +3
Rhamnose intake: -26*
Fucose intake: +2
Arabinose intake: -18
Xylose intake: -15
Mannose intake: -13
Galactose intake: -24

Surprise, surprise: I agree with Campbell on this one! All but two of the fiber variables have inverse associations with colorectal cancers. The first part of Campbell Claim #5 passes Denise’s BS-o-Meter test. Let us celebrate!

…But before we get too jiggy with it, I do have a nit to pick. Fiber intake also negatively correlates with schistosomiasis infection, a type of parasite. Try Googling “schistosomiasis and colorectal cancer” and you’ll get more relevant hits than you’ll ever have time to read. I’ll elaborate on this in a few paragraphs, so hang tight—but for now, I’ll just point out two things:

  1. Schistosomiasis infection is a very strong predictor for colon and rectal cancers, more so than any of the other hundreds of variables studied in the China Project (it has a correlation of +89 with colorectal cancer).
  2. The only fiber factions that don’t appear protective of colorectal cancer (pectin and fucose) also have the most neutral associations with schistosomiasis infection (+1 and -5, respectively—whereas other fiber factions had correlations ranging from -9 to -27 with schistosomiasis). In all cases, the correlation between each fiber faction and colorectal cancer parallels its correlation with schistosomiasis.

In other words: Is it the fiber itself that’s protective against colorectal cancer, or is it the fact that the counties eating the most fiber happened to also have the lowest rates of schistosomiasis? It would, I think, be wise to prune these variables apart before declaring fiber itself as protective based on the China Study data.

There is research conducted outside of the China Project suggesting fiber benefits colon health, but often that association dissolves when researchers adjust for other dietary risk factors, such as with the this pooled analysis of colorectal cancer studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Bottom line: It’s never a good idea to go looking for a specific trend just because we believe it should be there. Chains of confirmation bias are often what cause nutritional myths to emerge and persist. Fiber may be beneficial, but we shouldn’t approach the data already expecting to find this—lest we overlook other important influences.

Moving on. Now, what about the second part of this claim: Stomach cancer is inversely associated with green vegetable intake and plasma concentrations of beta-carotene and vitamin C obtained only from plant-based foods.

Is this a fair assessment? Let’s find out. Here are the correlations between stomach cancer and each of these variables.

Green vegetables, daily intake: +5
Green vegetables, times eaten per year: -35**
Plasma beta-carotene: -14
Plasma vitamin C: -13

Ah, looks like we’re facing the Green Veggie Paradox once again. The folks with year-round access to green vegetables get less stomach cancer, but the the folks who eat more green vegetables overall aren’t protected. Once again, I’ll suggest that a geographic variable specific to veggie-growing regions could be at play here.

As for beta-carotene and vitamin C concentrations in the blood, Campbell is correct in noting an inverse association with stomach cancer. However, the correlations aren’t statistically significant, nor are they very high: -14 and -13, respectively.

Campbell Claim #6

Western-type diseases, in the aggregate, are highly significantly correlated with increasing concentrations of plasma cholesterol, which are associated in turn with increasing intakes of animal-based foods.

From his book, we know Campbell defines Western-type diseases as including heart disease, diabetes, colorectal cancers, breast cancer, stomach cancer, leukemia, and liver cancer. And indeed, the variable “total cholesterol” correlates positively with many of these diseases:

Myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease: +4
Diabetes: +8
Colon cancer: +44**
Rectal cancer: +30*
Colorectal cancer: +33**
Breast cancer: +19
Stomach cancer: +17
Leukemia: +26*
Liver cancer: +37*

Perhaps surprisingly, total cholesterol has only weak associations with heart disease and diabetes—weaker, in fact, than the correlation between these conditions and plant protein intake (+25 and +12, respectively). But we’ll put that last point aside for the time being. For now, let’s focus on the diseases with statistical significance, which include all forms of colorectal cancer, leukemia, and liver cancer. (Despite classifying stomach cancer as a “Western disease,” by the way, China actually has far higher rates of this disease than any Western nation. In fact, half the people who die each year from stomach cancer live in China.)

First, let’s dive into the dark, murky chambers of the digestive tract and start with colorectal cancers. Off we go!

What Campbell overlooks about colorectal cancers and cholesterol

As I mentioned earlier, a little somethin’ called “schistosomiasis” is a profoundly strong risk factor for developing colon cancer and rectal cancer. In the China Study data, schistosomiasis correlates at +89*** with colorectal cancer mortality. Yes, 89—higher than any of the other 367 variables recorded.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a positive correlation.

It just so happens that total cholesterol also correlates with schistosomiasis infection, at a statistically significant rate of +34*:

Basically, this means that areas with higher cholesterol levels also had—for whatever reason—a higher incidence of schistosomiasis infection. It’s hard to say for sure why this is, but it’s likely that the high-cholesterol and high-schistosomiasis groups had a third variable in common, such as infected drinking water or other source of schistosomiasis exposure.

From this alone, it shouldn’t be too shocking that higher cholesterol also correlates with higher rates of colorectal cancer (+33*):

Clearly, we have three tangled-up variables to sort through: total cholesterol, colorectal cancer rates, and schistosomiasis infection. Is it really higher cholesterol that increases the risk of developing colon and rectal cancers, or is the influence of schistosomiasis deceiving us?

To figure this out, let’s look at what cholesterol and colorectal cancer rates look like only in regions with zero schistosomiasis infection. If cholesterol is a causative factor for colorectal cancers, then cancer rates should still increase as total cholesterol rises.

The above graph showcases a correlation of +13. Still positive, but not statistically significant, and a major downgrade from the original correlation of +33*. It does seem schistosomiasis inflates the correlation between cholesterol and colorectal cancers—something Campbell never takes into account. Is blood cholesterol still a risk factor? It’s possible, but we would need more data to know whether the +13 correlation persists or whether there are additional confounding variables at work. For instance, beer intake is another factor correlating significantly with both total cholesterol (+32*) and colon cancer (+40**).  If we remove the three counties that drink the most beer from of the data set above, the correlation between cholesterol and and colorectal cancer drops to -9.

See how tricky the interplay of variables can be?

What Campbell overlooks about leukemia and cholesterol

Next in our lineup of “Western diseases” is leukemia, which has a statistically significant correlation of +26* with total cholesterol. (Although the implication here is that animal product consumption raises leukemia risk, it should be noted that animal protein intake itself has a correlation of -5 with leukemia, whereas plant protein actually has a correlation of +15 with this disease. But let’s humor this claim anyway by looking solely at the role of blood cholesterol.)

If you’ll recall from the post on fish and disease in the China Study, leukemia correlates very strongly with working in industry (+53**) and inversely with working in agriculture (-53**). Although it’s possible the cause is nutritional, it’s also quite likely that an occupational hazard is to blame—such as benzene exposure, which is a major and well-known cause of leukemia in Chinese factory and refinery workers.

Lo and behold, cholesterol also correlates strongly with working in industry (+45**) and inversely with working in agriculture (-46**). If an industry-related risk factor raises leukemia rates, it could very well appear as a false correlation with cholesterol. How can we tell if this is the case?

Let’s try looking at the correlation between leukemia and cholesterol only in counties where few members of the population were employed in industry. If cholesterol itself heightens leukemia risk, our positive trend should still be in place. In the China Study data set, the range for percent of the population working in industry is 1.1% to  41.3%, so let’s try looking at the counties where the value is under 10%:

For the low-industry counties, the correlation between leukemia and total cholesterol is close to neutral—a mere +4. As you can see, this is hardly a damning trend. And in case you’re wondering if higher cholesterol could possibly spur the rates of leukemia in folks who are already at risk, this isn’t the case either: Using only counties that had 20% or more of the population working in industry, presumably the folks who had the most exposure to chemicals like benzene, the correlation between cholesterol and leukemia is a slightly protective -3.

What Campbell overlooks about liver cancer and cholesterol

I may not be vegan, but that doesn’t mean I like beating dead horses. Instead of rehashing the earlier analysis of liver cancer under Campbell Claim #3, I’ll just repeat that cholesterol does not have a significant correlation with liver cancer when you divide the data set into separate groups: areas with high hepatitis B rates an areas with low hepatitis B rates.

From page 104 of his book:

Liver cancer rates are very high in rural China, exceptionally high in some areas. Why was this? The primary culprit seemed to be chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV). …

… But there’s more. In addition to the [hepatitis B] virus being a cause of liver cancer in China, it seems that diet also plays a key role. How do we know? The blood cholesterol levels provided the main clue. Liver cancer is strongly associated with increasing blood cholesterol, and we already know that animal-based foods are responsible for increases in cholesterol.

Campbell connects some of the dots, but misses a very important one. Indeed, hepatitis B associates strongly with liver cancer. Indeed, cholesterol associates with liver cancer. But what he doesn’t mention is that cholesterol also associates with hepatitis B infection. In other words, the groups with higher cholesterol are already at greater risk of liver cancer than groups with lower cholesterol—but it’s not because of diet.

In addition to greater rates of hepatitis B infection, higher-cholesterol areas had additional risk factors for liver cancer, such beer consumption, which also inflated the trend. Despite Campbell’s claims, cholesterol itself does not appear to significantly heighten cancer rates in at-risk populations.

Given Campbell’s casein research and earlier observations about the animal-protein consuming children in the Philippines getting more liver cancer, I wonder if Campbell approached the China Study already expecting a particular outcome. In a massive data set with 8,000 statistically significant correlations, even a smidgen of confirmation bias can cause someone to find a trend that isn’t truly there.

An example of bias in “The China Study”

Body weight, associated with animal protein intake, was associated with more cancer and more coronary heart disease. It seems that being bigger, and presumably better, comes with very high costs. (Page 102)

Consuming more protein was associated with greater body size. … However, this effect was primarily attributed to plant protein, because it makes up 90% of the total Chinese protein intake. (Page 103)

Let’s read between the lines. Here we have Campbell claiming two things, a few paragraphs apart: One, that body weight is associated with more cancer and heart disease, and two, that body size in China is linked not only with a greater intake of animal protein, but also with a greater intake of plant protein. In fact, the link between body size is stronger with plant protein than with animal protein.

Yet notice how Campbell only implicates animal protein in the association between body weight, cancer, and heart disease. If he were to describe the data without bias, Campbell’s first statement would be this:

Body weight, associated with animal protein intake and plant protein intake, was associated with more cancer and more coronary heart disease.

Maybe his editor just overlooked that omission, eh? Right afterward, Campbell notes:

But the good news is this: Greater plant protein intake was closely linked to greater height and body weight. Body growth is linked to protein in general and both animal and plant proteins are effective! (Page 102)

Wait a minute. This is good news? Didn’t Campbell just say being bigger “comes with very high costs” and that it’s associated with “more cancer and coronary heart disease?” Why is body size a bad thing when it’s associated with animal protein, but a good thing when it’s associated with plant protein?

Does less animal foods equal better health?

People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.

This oft-repeated quote from “The China Study” is compelling, but is it true? Based on the data above, it seems like an unlikely conclusion—but let’s try once more to see if it could be valid.

As an illustrative experiment, let’s look at the top five Chinese counties with the lowest animal protein consumption and compare them against the top five counties with the highest animal protein consumption. A data set of 10 won’t yield any confident conclusions, of course, and I won’t treat this as representative of the collective body of China Study data. But since animal protein consumption among the studied counties ranged from 0 grams* to almost 135 grams per day, we should see a stark contrast between the nearly-vegan regions and the ones eating considerably more animal foods. That is, assuming it’s true that “even relatively small intakes of animal-based food” yield disease.

*The county averaging zero grams per day wasn’t completely vegan, but the yearly consumption of animal foods was low enough so that the daily average appeared less than 0.01 grams.

Here are the counties I’ll be using. The first five are our near-vegans; the second five are our highest animal product consumers. From both groups, I had to exclude a top-five county due to missing data for most mortality variables (illegible documentation, according to the authors of “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China”) and replaced it with a sixth county where animal protein consumption matched within a few hundredths of a gram.

Below are the names of each county, as well as values for their daily animal protein intake, the percentage of their total caloric intake coming from fat, and their daily intake of fiber (in case the latter two variables are also of interest).

To give you a visual idea of these quantities, 135 grams of animal protein is the equivalent of 22 medium eggs per day, 24 grams of animal protein is the equivalent of four medium eggs per day, 12 grams is two eggs, and 9 grams is one and a half eggs. Obviously, that’s quite a wide range even among the top consumers of animal foods, so the highest animal-food-eating counties (Tuoli and XIanghuang qi) may be the most important to study in contrast with the near-vegan counties.

Animal protein intake by county:

For reference, some other diet variables:

And now, mortality rates for important variables (as per 1000 people). I’ll save you my commentary and just show you the graphs, which should speak for themselves. Remember, the five left-most bars (Jiexiu through Songxian) on each graph are the near-vegan counties, and the five right-most bars (Tuoli through Wenjiang) are the highest consumers of animal products.


As you can see, the mortality rates for both groups (near-vegan and higher-animal-foods) are quite similar, with the animal food group coming out more favorably in some cases (death from all cancers, myocardial infarction, brain and neurological diseases, lymphoma, cervix cancer). This little comparison might not carry a lot of scientific clout due to its small sample size, but it does blatantly undermine Campbell’s assessment:

People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.

Sins of omission

Perhaps more troubling than the distorted facts in “The China Study” are the details Campbell leaves out.

Why does Campbell indict animal foods in cardiovascular disease (correlation of +1 for animal protein and -11 for fish protein), yet fail to mention that wheat flour has a correlation of +67 with heart attacks and coronary heart disease, and plant protein correlates at +25 with these conditions?

Speaking of wheat, why doesn’t Campbell also note the astronomical correlations wheat flour has with various diseases: +46 with cervix cancer, +54 with hypertensive heart disease, +47 with stroke, +41 with diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs, and the aforementioned +67 with myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease? (None of these correlations appear to be tangled with any risk-heightening variables, either.)

Why does Campbell overlook the unique Tuoli peoples documented in the China Study, who eat twice as much animal protein as the average American (including two pounds of casein-filled dairy per day)—yet don’t exhibit higher rates of any diseases Campbell ascribes to animal foods?

Why does Campbell point out the relationship between cholesterol and colorectal cancer (+33) but not mention the much higher relationship between sea vegetables and colorectal cancer (+76)? (For any researcher, this alone should be a red flag to look for an underlying variable creating misleading correlations, which—in this case—happens to be schistosomiasis infection.)

Why does Campbell fail to mention that plant protein intake correlates positively with many of the “Western diseases” he blames cholesterol for—including +19 for colorectal cancers, +12 for cervix cancer, +15 for leukemia, +25 for myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease, +12 for diabetes, +1 for breast cancer, and +10 for stomach cancer?

Of course, these questions are largely rhetorical. Only a small segment of “The China Study” even discusses the China Study, and Campbell set out to write a publicly accessible book—not an exhaustive discussion of every correlation his research team uncovered. However, it does seem Campbell overlooked or ignored significant points when discerning the overriding nutritional themes in the China Project data.

What about casein?

Along with trends gleaned from the China Project, Campbell recounts the startling connection he found between casein (a milk protein) and cancer in his research with lab rats. In his own words, casein “proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed” (page 5 of “The China Study”). Protein from wheat and soy did not have this effect.

This finding is no doubt fascinating. If nothing else, it suggests a strong need for more research regarding the safety of casein supplementation in humans, especially among bodybuilders, athletes, and others who use isolated casein for muscle recovery. Unfortunately, Campbell extrapolates this research beyond its logical scope: He concludes that all forms of animal protein have similar cancer-promoting properties in humans, and we’re therefore better off as vegans. This claim rests on several unproven assumptions:

  1. The casein-cancer mechanism behaves the same way in humans as in lab rats.
  2. Casein promotes cancer not just when isolated, but also when occurring in its natural food form (in a matrix of other milk substances like whey, bioactive peptides, conjugated linoleic acid, minerals, and vitamins, some of which appear to have anti-cancer properties).
  3. There are no differences between casein and other types of animal protein that could impose different effects on cancer growth/tumorigenesis.

Campbell offers no convincing evidence that any of the above are true. We do share some metabolic similarities with rats, so for the sake of being able to entertain the possibility that #2 and #3 are valid, let’s assume that the effect of casein on rats translates cleanly to humans.

How does Campbell justify generalizing the effects of casein to all forms of animal protein? Much of it is based on a study he helped conduct: “Effect of dietary protein quality on development of aflatoxin B[1]-induced hepatic preneoplastic lesions,” published in the August 1989 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In this study, he and his research crew discovered that aflatoxin-exposed rats fed wheat gluten exhibited less cancer growth than rats fed the same amount of casein. But get this: When lysine (the limiting amino acid in wheat) was restored to make the gluten a complete protein, the rats had just as much cancer occurrence as the casein group. Jeepers!

Campbell thus deduced that it’s the amino acid profile itself responsible for spurring cancer growth. Because most forms of plant protein are low in one or more amino acids (called “limiting amino acids”) and animal protein is complete, Campbell concluded that animal protein, but not plant protein, must encourage cancer growth. Time to whip out the veggie burgers!

Of course, this conclusion has some gaping logical holes when applied to real life. Unless you consume nothing but animal products, you’ll be ingesting a mixed ratio of amino acids by default, since animal foods combined with plant foods still yield limiting amino acids. The rats in Campbell’s research consumed casein as their only protein source, the equivalent of someone eating zero plant protein for life. An unlikely scenario, to be sure.

Moreover, certain combinations of vegan foods (like grains and legumes) have complementary amino acid profiles, restoring each other’s limiting amino acid and resulting in protein that’s complete or nearly so. Would these food combinations also spur cancer growth? How about folks who pop a daily lysine supplement after eating wheat bread? If Campbell’s conclusions are correct, it would seem vegans could also be subject to the cancer-promoting effects of complete protein, even when eschewing all animal foods.

Also, it seems Campbell never mentions an obvious implication of a casein-cancer connection in humans: breast milk, which contains high levels of casein. Should women stop breastfeeding to reduce their children’s exposure to casein? Did nature really muck it up that much? Are children who are weaned later in life at increased risk for cancer, due to a longer exposure time the casein in their mothers’ milk? It does seem strange that casein, a substance universally consumed by young mammals, is so hazardous for health—especially since it’s designed for a time in life when the immune system is still fragile and developing.

At any rate, Campbell’s theories about plant versus animal protein and cancer are essentially speculation. Despite a single experiment with restoring lysine to wheat gluten, he hasn’t actually offered evidence that all animal protein behaves the same way as casein.

But check this out. After delineating his discovery of the link between casein and cancer, Campbell writes:

We initiated more studies using several different nutrients, including fish protein, dietary fats and the antioxidants known as cartenoids. A couple of excellent graduate students of mine, Tom O’Conner and Youping He, measured the ability of these nutrients to affect liver and pancreatic cancer. (Page 66)

So he did experiment with an animal protein besides casein! Unfortunately, Campbell never mentions what the specific results of this research were. In describing the studies he conducted with his grad students, Campbell says only that a “pattern was beginning to emerge: nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development.” (Page 66)

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to see the actual data for some of this.

After a little searching, I found one of the aforementioned experiments conducted by Campbell, his grad student Tom, and two other researchers. It was published in the November 1985 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute: “Effect of dietary intake of fish oil and fish protein on the development of L-azaserine-induced preneoplastic lesions in the rat pancreas.”

(A preneoplastic lesion, by the way, is a fancy term for the growth that occurs before a tumor.)

In this study, Campbell and his team studied three groups of carcinogen-exposed rats: One fed casein plus corn oil, one fed fish protein plus corn oil, and one fed fish protein plus fish oil (from a type of high omega-3 fish called menhaden). All groups received a diet of about 20% protein and 20% fat and ate the same amount of calories.

Providing background for the study, the authors note that previous research has showed fish protein to have anti-cancer properties (emphasis mine):

Gridley et al. [n15,n16] reported on two studies in which intake of fish protein resulted in a reduced tumor yield when compared to other protein sources. Spontaneous mammary tumor development in C3H/HeJ mice was reduced. The incidence of herpes virus type 2-transformed cell-induced tumors in mice was also reduced in animals fed a fish protein diet.

Perhaps this should’ve tipped Campbell off that not all sources of animal protein spur cancer growth like casein does. For reference, the cited studies are “Modification of herpes 2-transformed cell-induced tumors in mice fed different sources of protein, fat and carbohydrate” published in the November-December 1982 issue of Cancer Letters, and “Modification of spontaneous mammary tumors in mice fed different sources of protein, fat and carbohydrate” published in the June 1983 issue of Cancer Letters.

So what were the results of Campbell’s experiment? According to the study, both the casein/corn oil and fish protein/corn oil groups had significant preneoplastic lesions. We don’t know whether to blame this on the protein or the corn oil, since—according to the researchers—intake of corn oil has previously been shown to promote the development of L-azaserine-induced preneoplastic lesions in rats.” However, the group that ate fish protein plus fish oil exhibited something radically different:

It is immediately apparent that menhaden oil had a dramatic effect both on the development in the number and size of preneoplastic lesions. The number of AACN per cubic centimeter and the mean diameter and mean volume were significantly smaller in the F/F [fish protein and fish oil] group compared to the F/C [fish protein and corn oil] group. Furthermore, no carcinomas in situ were observed in the F/F group, whereas the F/C group had an incidence of 3 per 16 with 6 total carcinomas.

There’s some significant stuff here, so let’s break this down point by point.

One: The cancer-inducing properties of fish protein, if there are any to begin with, were neutralized by the presence of fish oil. This means that even if all animal protein behaves like casein under certain circumstances, its effect on cancer depends on what other substances accompany it. Animal protein is therefore not a universal cancer promoter; only a situational one, at best.

Two: What does “fish protein” plus “fish fat” start to resemble? Whole fish. Campbell just demonstrated that animal protein may, indeed, operate differently when consumed with its natural synergistic components.

Since there wasn’t a rat group eating casein plus fish oil, we don’t know what the effect of a dairy protein plus fish fat would have been. However, it would be interesting to have more studies looking at cancer growth in mice fed diets of casein plus milk fat. If casein loses its cancer-promoting abilities under that circumstance, as fish protein did with fish oil, then we’d have good reason to think the various factions of whole animal products might reduce any cancer-promoting properties a single component has in isolation.

And Campbell and his team conclude:

[A] 20% menhaden oil diet, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, produced a significant decrease in the development of both the size and number of preneoplastic lesions when compared to a 20% corn oil diet rich in omega 6 fatty acids. This study provides evidence that fish oils, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, may have potential as inhibitory agents in cancer development.

Remember how Campbell said, summarizing this research, that “nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development”? Last I checked, fish oil ain’t no plant food.

Why does Campbell avoid mentioning anything potentially positive about animal products in “The China Study,” including  evidence unearthed by his own research? For someone who has openly censured the nutritional bias rampant in the scientific community, this seems a tad hypocritical.

But back to casein and milk for a moment. It’s interesting that the only dairy protein Campbell experimented with was casein, since whey—the other major protein in milk products—repeatedly shows cancer-protective and immunity-boosting effects, including when tested side-by-side with casein. Just a sampling of the literature:

Given all this, it seems unlikely that casein’s effects on cancer apply to other forms of milk protein—much less all animal protein at large. Isn’t it possible (maybe even probable) that casein has deleterious effects when isolated, but doesn’t exhibit cancer-spurring qualities when consumed with the other components in milk? Could casein and whey work synergistically, with the anti-cancer properties of whey neutralizing the pro-cancer properties of casein?

I’ll let you be the judge.

In summary and conclusion…

Apart from his cherry-picked references for other studies (some of which don’t back up the claims he cites them for), Campbell’s strongest arguments against animal foods hinge heavily on:

  1. Associations between cholesterol and disease, and
  2. His discoveries regarding casein and cancer.

For #1, it seems Campbell never took the critical step of accounting for other disease-causing variables that tend to cluster with higher-cholesterol counties in the China Study—variables like schistosomiasis infection, industrial work hazards, increased hepatitis B infection, and other non-nutritional factors spurring chronic conditions. Areas with lower cholesterol, by contrast, tended to have fewer non-dietary risk factors, giving them an automatic advantage for preventing most cancers and heart disease. (The health threats in the lower-cholesterol areas were more related to poor living conditions, leading to greater rates of tuberculosis, pneumonia, intestinal obstruction, and so forth.)

Even if the correlations with cholesterol did remain after adjusting for these risk factors, it takes a profound leap in logic to link animal products with disease by way of blood cholesterol when the animal products themselves don’t correlate with those diseases. If all three of these variables rose in unison, then hypotheses about animal foods raising disease risk via cholesterol could be justified. Yet the China Study data speaks for itself: Animal protein doesn’t correspond with more disease, even in the highest animal food-eating counties—such as Tuoli, whose citizens chow down on 134 grams of animal protein per day.

Nor is the link between animal food consumption and cholesterol levels always as strong as Campbell implies. For instance, despite eating such massive amounts of animal foods, Tuoli county had the same average cholesterol level as the near-vegan Shanyang county, and a had a slightly lower cholesterol than another near-vegan county called Taixing. (Both Shanyang and Taixing consumed less than 1 gram of animal protein per day, on average.) Clearly, the relationship between animal food consumption and blood cholesterol isn’t always linear, and other factors play a role in raising or lowering levels.

For #2, Campbell’s discoveries with casein and cancer, his work is no doubt revelatory. I give him props for dedicating so much of his life to a field of disease research that wasn’t always well-received by the scientific community, and for pursuing so ardently the link between nutrition and health. Unfortunately, Campbell projects the results of his casein-cancer research onto all animal protein—a leap he does not justify with evidence or even sound logic.

As ample literature indicates, other forms of animal protein—particularly whey, another component of milk—may have strong anti-cancer properties. Some studies have examined the effect of whey and casein, side-by-side, on tumor growth and cancer, showing in nearly all cases that these two proteins have dramatically different effects on tumorigenesis (with whey being protective). A study Campbell helped conduct with one of his grad students in the 1980s showed that the cancer-promoting abilities of fish protein depended on what type of fat is consumed alongside it. The relationship between animal protein and cancer is obviously complex, situationally dependent, and bound with other substances found in animal foods—making it impossible extrapolate anything universal from a link between isolated casein and cancer.

On page 106 of his book, Campbell makes a statement I wholeheartedly agree with:

Everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy.

It seems ironic that Campbell censures reductionism in nutritional science, yet uses that very reductionism to condemn an entire class of foods (animal products) based on the behavior of one substance in isolation (casein).

In sum, “The China Study” is a compelling collection of carefully chosen data. Unfortunately for both health seekers and the scientific community, Campbell appears to exclude relevant information when it indicts plant foods as causative of disease, or when it shows potential benefits for animal products. This presents readers with a strongly misleading interpretation of the original China Study data, as well as a slanted perspective of nutritional research from other arenas (including some that Campbell himself conducted).

In rebuttals to previous criticism on “The China Study,” Campbell seems to use his curriculum vitae as reason his word should be trusted above that of his critics. His education and experience is no doubt impressive, but the “Trust me, I’m a scientist” argument is a profoundly weak one. It doesn’t require a PhD to be a critical thinker, nor does a laundry list of credentials prevent a person from falling victim to biased thinking. Ultimately, I believe Campbell was influenced by his own expectations about animal protein and disease, leading him to seek out specific correlations in the China Study data (and elsewhere) to confirm his predictions.

It’s no surprise “The China Study” has been so widely embraced within the vegan and vegetarian community: It says point-blank what any vegan wants to hear—that there’s scientific rationale for avoiding all animal foods. That even small amounts of animal protein are harmful. That an ethical ideal can be completely wed with health. These are exciting things to hear for anyone trying to justify a plant-only diet, and it’s for this reason I believe “The China Study” has not received as much critical analysis as it deserves, especially from some of the great thinkers in the vegetarian world. Hopefully this critique has shed some light on the book’s problems and will lead others to examine the data for themselves.


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7 07 2010
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11 09 2010
26 06 2012
Joey

Interesting and thought-provoking review.

Read Campbell’s reply to Minger’s criticism here:

http://www.vegsource.com/news/2010/07/china-study-author-colin-campbell-slaps-down-critic-denise-minger.html

11 01 2011
Eric Krieckhaus

Thank you for this work Denise. What a thoughtful and critical (in the very good sense of that word) piece of work. Your approach is direct and compelling.
For some time now I’ve been discouraged that so many people who don’t know statistical analysis misuse it dreadfully – but people who SHOULD know their statistical analysis and are able to use it responsibly and yet STILL misuse it dreadfully…well that’s another ball of wax!
Again, thank you.

3 09 2013
Woofgang

How ironic you make this statement about people misusing statistical analysis – Denise clearly is out of her depths and you are thanking her???

11 09 2013
Wayne Gage

Denise spent a lot of time and concentrated effort to show the errors of Campbell. Instead of saying she’s wrong, show us where she is wrong through your efforts. Anybody can make an unsupported claim.

6 02 2011
dlibby

I find this very amusing!!! All of you give this Denise so much credit and really don’t understand the formulas!!!I’ll stick with the experts who have spent years,time and money to prove their facts!!!Also, we will be meeting with Colin Campbell on Feb.26th at Sublime Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale along with Dr. Neal and other Dr’s and scientist!! I’ll print this out and bring it with me!!I’m sure they will have fun with this!!!
It is very obvious that we are dealing with denial and reisistance to validate your own choices!!!!
Those of you who put so much faith into this article, should really do your own research!!

31 03 2011
Dean

dlibby. This is the first most unintelligent post I read yet. Your response is unscientific, immature and meant to inflame. So I’ll respond with your tone. You brag about meeting Colin, which is irrelevant. He could care less what you say or his critics say. I bet you didn’t print this and didn’t show him. I bet your “dinner meeting” consisted if you paying $100’s to sit a 100 ft away while he gave a speech and signed a few books. You then say “do your own research” but you say “stick with the experts”. I guess you’re the expert to determine who are the experts. The fact that you cannot undersatnd the formulas indicates you are just a cow eating the “grass” and you have no mind or no brains to study nutrition. Faith in science is not faith, it’s fact. Colin attempted science and failed. The writer here responds with more science than Colin ever considered and he’s the one selling books to millions. So, continue being a Campbell groupie and keep on living in denial yourself.

19 08 2011
mich

You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about but i must admit that as lame as your you’re reply to Dlibby was, it was also quite comical.

15 03 2012
Annie

Nice try dlibby in disguise. Ad hominems are not great arguments. Neither is supporting yourself with a different name.

29 04 2011
E

I understand the formulas. I’m a statistician. And I know that by doing only univariate correlations, Campbell is making a first-year undergrad-level error. Statistical modeling involves multiple statistics, not one or two variables taken in isolation. The fact that when we run multivariate analysis on several factors the claimed association between animal products and disease vanishes or reverses tells us that what we were measuring in the univariate analysis was not the effect of ‘animal products’, but the effects of additional confounding variables.

Minger, fresh from University, no doubt has the rules of good statistics still strong in her mind. Campbell has been in the field for years and may have let his statistical practice slip or not kept up with modern techniques. Skills need to be kept sharp and practiced constantly to be useful, and statistics is no exception. I would put more faith in someone with recent statistical training or refresher training than in someone who has been practicing the same stodgy, ineffective techniques for decades without learning anything new, and who is approaching the data with a clear bias.

5 02 2012
Philip Gillibrand

Er, I think you should try reading the posts in more detail. It is Campbell who did the multivariate analyses in The China Study, and Denise Minger who has made the first-year undergrad-level error by doing univariate analysis. Trying reading the book before commenting.

12 08 2012
You all make me tired

Yep. As a statistician….agree with Philip

13 08 2012
Denise B

You are agreeing that Campbell did the multivariate analyses, because you read the book? or just that Denise did not?

12 04 2013
victoriadiak

agree

15 03 2014
Lindsey

She did a univariate to show that he did not do a true multivariate analysis, by hypothesizing different possible dependencies. Instead of zeroing in on the technique, try reading it from the perspective of trying to understand the data.

26 03 2014
Richard

Denise talked about Casein and Whey together (multivariate) while Campbell just took Casein out of context. That is just one example.

6 06 2011
MarkL

I find you amusing (pardon my lack of exclamatory punctuation, but I harbor the however inane notion that the words I select will suffice to
augur what opinions I reserve)…and–pardon my lack of restraint for that which follows–somewhat deficient in the realms of literary abilities, general science research, & understanding, and anger
management.

Admittedly, to draw so much conclusion from so few words might be
suspect here, but I’ve already sought pardon, and I yet think you to be
quite immature and, in this specific arena of diet-and-health, overtly
unqualified so as to be, in any relevant manner, a serious consideration to the issues in review here.

21 08 2011
Dan

Dear dlibby,

I have not double checked Denise’s math. Have you?

We get that you believe her conclusion is wrong. Why?

Prove to us that you assertions are founded in reason instead of in your own bias or blind clinging to authority.

Her method of analysis is transparent. Yours is not.

She has point out direct correlations in source data. You replied only by calling her names.

If her conclusion is wrong, then logical and analysis should prove that it is wrong.

Calling her more names will not make her analysis more or less true. If she is wrong, show us why.

Don’t just say you can. Show us. That will change more minds to your way of thinking than anything you have written to date.

If you cannot, then please tell us why you wrote what your wrote.

5 02 2012
pojoel, Sweden

This is exactly how CAGW-skeptics are treated by climate threat alarmists.
The skeptic points out direct correlations in source data. The alarmist replies by calling the skeptic names. Interesting.

5 02 2012
Philip Gillibrand

That’s because the same pattern exists between the China Study and climate change science. Some people spend many years doing careful analysis of all the data, setting their studies in the wider context of previous knowledge and publishing their results in peer-reviewed journals. This is called science. Then other people, with no training in the subject, think they know better, do some simplistic and superficial analysis, and stick it on a blog. This is called skepticism.

12 05 2012
jmy

this is how the general public and the media public gets it wrong so many times

3 08 2012
Denise B

The China Study is not scientific research; it’s a mass-market book with a fervent mission. It doesn’t matter how many scientific studies he cites or who reviewed them – the book consists of his analysis and conclusions, and it has not been peer-reviewed.

You may have missed the part where Dr. Campbell admitted that he picked through the China data looking for what would confirm his already-developed hypothesis. Whatever work he has done in the past, this is not science.

What Denise has done is point out some of what he ignored and disregarded in the process that calls his conclusions into question.

The way to rebut her would be point by point. Where is that rebuttal? I cannot find one, by Campbell or anyone else.

2 04 2014
25 04 2014
Jack

Jefe,

http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/03/the-china-study-a-formal-analysis-and-response/

Colin Campbell is simply a wrong-doer. Nothing all.

Plus, you’re not jesus, and you haven’t read this post. Ignorant

1 04 2012
Gary Mullennix

Fun. I am curious as to how the restaurant meeting with the Dr.s went and if they in fact laughed and scorned Minger’s responsive analysis. Science relies upon the constant examination by others to find any and all inconsistencies or errors. To believe all that is said in one book or by one scientist doesn’t make you right. It just means you’ve picked a side. Root on fan!!

18 04 2012
1 02 2013
Jade

True experts do not (or SHOULD not) spend time and money to ‘prove facts’.
True scientists explore hypotheses. It is virtually impossible to prove most of them; all one can do is find evidence to support or contradict them.
I suspect that as you can’t even pluralize formula that you probably don’t understand the formulae either.

4 01 2014
walt

if something is considered proven, then it is considered a fact; that’s why experts don’t try to prove facts, they understand the grammar/logic of the language. however, if you think they should not try to prove to others what they claim because it’s beneath them, you’re talking from a pre-enlightenment religious dogma framework.

25 10 2011
Ryan Kingsland

You’re really smart.

22 03 2012
Bob Flood

Denise,

I just read this post, and I am amazed at your excellent analysis.

A few days ago, a friend loaned me a copy of “The China Study”, and my initial reaction was disappointment that Campbell’s graphs and charts provided so little evidence for his major conclusions. Then I found your critique, which articulated my own suspicions… and raised several more that I did not even consider.

Your criticism was very courteous and deferential to Campbell, and I commend you for it. Not everyone would be as tolerant, especially to a famous researcher who uses an “intervening variable” like cholesterol when the raw data provide little or no direct correlation between animals products and various diseases. Most veterans of statistical analysis would have no patience for this slipshod…or slippery… presentation.

Thanks again for your significant contribution.

Bob Flood

8 05 2012
John Vellinga

Congratulations on being a nutritionally semi-educated, statistically-illiterate, but well spoken blogger. As much as you dismiss Bill Gates’ educational failure vs. his business success in computers as evidence that education makes no difference in scientific endeavour; you might consider this: Bill Gates has been farting around with computers since he was a kid – long before most people knew that they even existed. He learned a lot by creating. The big difference between science and creation using applied science is that there is no truth. It just progresses. Bill Gates NEVER argued against the underlying science. He NEVER claimed that silcon was not a good medium for chips. He NEVER said that software was just a fad. (he did muse that “why would anyone need more than 640K – but that is just more of the same). Bill gates was a fly compared to IBM when he started. He did not refute everything they did or said or discovered. He made a way to progress it. He wrote their operating system. If YOU want to be Bill Gates – or have any credibility in your conceit to compare yourself to him, you might want to adapt your approach, You would stop attacking IBM (Dr. Campbell) and his thesis (silicon chips make good processors). Were you to wear his pedigree, you would have been doing research into nutrition since the age of 8 in your bedroom at night with Mom yelling “GO TO BED”. You wear your lack of education like a badge. I have a degree in statistics and engineering. Undergraduate only. So I am also not that well educated. However, I did focus on the statistics. Your analysis is deeply flawed in its critique.

8 05 2012
John Vellinga

By the way, my favourite univariate analysis is this: ïce cream causes drowning”. It is hard to find a stronger correlation coefficient than that between the consumption of ice cream the incidence of drowning. Try to figure that one out.

12 05 2012
danmcakes

Gee that wouldn’t have something to do with people eating more ice cream in summer would it? Gee errr youre so smart mister.

12 08 2012
You all make me tired

Yep, univariate correlations are pretty much crap in observational studies.

Were you also aware that larger shoe size in schoolchildren causes better spelling ability?

1 06 2013
Christopher Delgado

You are a jerk. I laughed so hard I spilled my food all over myself.

14 06 2012
lemurleap

To go on and on about Bill Gates and then end with a conclusion that the analysis on a separate topic is deeply flawed without explaining how doesn’t really set you up as a credible critic.

12 08 2012
You all make me tired

It is flawed because it is limited to bivariate analyses (two variables at a time, ignoring everything else—which is pretty much Campbell’s thesis as being a problem with prior research–you can’t look at it so simply) and also because it tries to infer conclusions from non-statistically significant correlations. The data requires much more complex statistical analysis.

Denise has found absolutely nothing here of interest. Her methods are unsophisticated and meaningless in this context.

—A statistician

24 06 2012
Garey

What many of you fail to realize is that owning a television and actually watching it from time to time causes heart attacks, especially in the USA where every heart attack is associated with a television in the home. Therefore, if you throw your television away, you will avoid heart attacks and certainly will have less stress in your life. I think I am correct, therefore I am. (I have a 50% shot at being right at least. If I am right, I am right and if I am wrong, I am wrong. See, 50/50

12 08 2012
You all make me tired

I’ve also heard that at some point in their lives every heart attack victim ate a banana. Coincidence? I think not.

18 10 2013
ClaudeA

Uh, uhm, Bill Gates is the world’s largest supplier of death-meds to stop live births to third world mothers and deliver infertility to involuntary male victims in his prey-sights. So, he’s a great man, eh?

Actually you are like the vegans who refuse to allow factful comments on their blogs, who go around spreading hate on open blogs where facts about the vegan death diet are posted.

Ever consider getting honesty in your mind?

19 10 2013
Dr. Georgie

I agree with John. It EASY To Criticized so you can DRAG the other person down. I have learned after 55 years of being adult that it the one that “demeaned” is the one to DON’T TRUST.You can take Dr. Campbell’s 2 cents worth and do whatever you please with it for yourself.
What are your QUALIFICATIONS THAT MAKES YOU QUALIFTY TO JUDGE??????
Years of medical education ?
Years of Biochemistry education?
Years of clinical practice ?
Years of research? ETC??????

25 05 2012
Mircea C

The only amusing and ironic thing here is the fact that no matter what subject on Earth there is , people fight about it. Football, electronics, religions, politics and now some study.
I wonder: what is worse to health? Meat, processed foods or all the frustration and unhappiness that leads to disputes everywhere for every possible subject?

So great I gave up meat because of respect for life and I don’t even care if it was unhealthy or not.
Best wishes everyone!

12 08 2012
You all make me tired

The most intelligent comment on here yet. Thanks.

16 08 2012
Tulip

I do soooo agree with you! What could ever be wrong with health? Less money in the pockets of men, torturing animals? It’s all about the money….always!
I think it’s best for all to eat a plant-based diet: for humans because of their (mental) health, for animals because otherwise they are being tortured to feed humans.

13 11 2013
rick

Plants are not life?

8 03 2014
Pat

Plants aren’t sentinent beings.

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed: to you it shall be for meat.”
-Genesis 1:29

18 03 2014
Fender

I’m guessing your respect for life doesn’t extend to the little insects that meet their doom in the form of your shoe (or car tire) crashing down upon their existence, fast tracking them to oblivion. Selective reasoning is bliss.

18 03 2014
R

not “selective” reasoning when you account for intention. you might want to do more reading on this subject (and on “reasoning” for that matter) before you comment. thank you.

14 06 2012
Adarondax

Let’s see if I understand this. Preferred sources of protein are fish, eggs, and whey. Don’t eat Elmer’s Glue. Get some sun each day. Get tested regularly for schistosomiasis. Does that sum it up in a nutshell?

18 06 2012
Alison

Very interesting. As far as the cholesterol link is concerned, it depends whether you see high cholesterol as a cause, or as a symptom of disease. Whilst much of the scientific community out there assumes it is causative, if you contemplate cholesterol’s role within the body as a substance the body uses in repair and restoration, then any kind of disease is almost certainly going to result in higher levels as it scoots around the body doing its job.

Seeing it as a symptom rather than a cause would throw the whole caboosh out of the window.

As far as the study is concerned, it’s called the China Study because it studied people in China. Generally, the chinese – especially in rural areas – eat a far more natural diet, whether predominantly plant-based, or meat-based, so how can it possibly have any real bearing on the effects of diet on people eating the ‘Western’ diet, full of sugar, processed carbs, chemicals and food that is generally mucked-about-with?

Dairy is also not a good comparison – whilst many groups in the World consume dairy and are healthy on it, it is raw and unpasteurised – complete. As the pasteurisation process destroys some of the elements within the milk, it becomes denatured and doesn’t react in the body in the same way as raw milk. The elements within the food communicate with the body – give it instructions on what to do with it. Once they are damaged, the body cannot process it as it should, and it then has the potential to become toxic. A small amount now and again may be tolerable, but when that is the only source of dairy consumed continuously, there has to be a fall-out at some point. Is it the cows milk Casein that is the problem, or the fact that some of the other elements that are needed for its digestion and processing in the body have been destroyed prior to its consumption?

Statistics cannot ever be true when there are so many different variables to take into consideration – and even missing just one can, and frequently does, throw concepts off into a whole different – and sometimes downright dangerous – direction. How can anyone ever make assumptions based on statistics if they don’t even understand (or only THINK they understand) why certain things act in certain ways or what they do?

17 04 2014
nkitajolie

Alison, thank you sooooo much for saying EVERYTHING I’d been thinking while reading this critique and the subsequent responses. I wholeheartedly agree, and I would’ve considered the entire critiqu an even more successful effort–I still give Denise prod for the analysis and willingness to question a lot of things I’d started to question myself–if any mention had been made of the differences between “western” and Chinese rural diets or the raw milk/dairy intake, and especially of cholesterol as a symptom of disease. BRAVO

2 06 2013
Christopher Delgado

Thanks to Denise, we have a proper interpretation of the study he conducted.
Thanks Dr. Campbell for providing data that supports an omnivoric diet and disproving any information that vegetarianism is healthier.

18 10 2013
ClaudeA

The u.S.A. is filled with unbelievable numbers of STUPID people! I cannot get over how many closed-mind “liberals” there are! But, it’s logical, since the Source of America’s greatness, Creator, was chased away along with His human health guide!

What’s left is stupid, willy-nilly nutcakes running around electing the likes of Bush and nobama, who are NOT actually presidents, but in reality mere stooges acting out their orders given by banksters running the world.

Really, it’s “good bye, America.”

Just study end-time records given humans by Creator in Hebrew Scripture to see why America disappears . . .

17 06 2014
thomasthecontender7

and Bigfoot …

9 02 2014
Veera

Good work, Denise. I have a question about claim #1: in the original study, were the people followed-up to see if they develop cancer or other diseases or were the diagnoses recorded at one time point only at the same time with information on diet, blood-work etc? If so, did they look into how soon cancers developed after detection of high cholesterol levels? What I’m aiming at is that due to altered energy metabolism, cancer may increase triglyceride and total cholesterol levels before it’s even diagnosed. Of course, this would only explain a very small proportion of the associations.

19 08 2014
Christoph

Dear Denise,

this indeed is a smart analysis, thank you very much!
In the whole debate one important fact usually is missed: we all have to die one day. And we will have one weakest organ which will make the body stop working in the end. Thus, everyone will have a final diagnosis. As we are built on a carbo basis and as we are using oxygen as the fuel for the cells, we will all develop cancer, if only living long enough. This is derived from the little mistake in construction (carbo based + oxygen fueled leads to cancerogenic changes of tissue – blame God, but think of the alternatives first…). It therefore is of no interest wether somenone get’s cancer or not, but it is of utmost interest wether he will die from cancer prematurely! Prematurely is not defined in this context. One might agree that 30somethings should not die from cancer, might silver liners? Is it okay to die by 90? There is no real answer to that, I suppose. Data should better be analysed not only by cause of death, but also by years reached and furthermore by quality adjusted lifeyears. I’d prefer for myself to die at 80 by cancer rather than dying at 60 from a heart attack. The war against cancer is a dumb idea, misleading people and filling them with false hope – and a great waste of money.

With kindest regards,
Christoph

14 09 2014
Olivia Sena

Maybe it’s time for this Denis to take off her/his blog, or at least some of the fallacies he/she wrote! 1. he/she has no qualifications to dare try debunking a scientific study, that was made in vitro, in vivo, on clinical subjects compared with statistic data amounting to the population of China! This would mean that whatever she wrote there, was proofread by a statistician, chemist, biologist (micro-biologist), doctor… well, a whole team of people of different specialisation. Dr Campbell did the study with a team of scientists, not alone in a lab or in a bedroom like this Denis and her blog 2. Meanwhile also other (and not few) studies have checked if the high protein intake is the dominator of degenerative diseases, and surprised.. they seconded Campbell. These are FELLOW SCIENTISTS, NOT A NO-ONE FROM INTERNET 3. to keep a normal intake of protein is automatically forcing u to be a vegan as diet 4. meanwhile other studies (and not few) have proved that protein of animal provenance is actually, even worse. 5. China study was never debunked, scientifically for real I mean! And the pro paleo diet, damn they tried so hard (some even on the field, doctors). China Study was not debunked! So luckily, it is not false even if some (for what ever mental reasons they have) are trying so deeply to reject the news! 6. An idiot claimed that China Study was proved false, and referenced back to this stupid blog, wrote by who the heck is Denis! This is disturbing! The disclaim this Denis used, should sound more like: I AM NOT A DOCTOR, NOR A BIOLOGIST, NOR A SCIENTIST, THIS BLOG IS MY PERSONAL OPINION AND PERCEPTION AND IT COULD BE, SCIENTIFICALLY, INCORRECT! 7. I am sorry to break this to some, but it appears that indeed the dominator for the degenerative diseases, is the high protein intake (with reference to animal source protein).

7 07 2010
Destination Healthy Foods

This study inadvertently points out how dangerous factory farming really is along with
aflatoxins and low fat dairy products.

29 12 2012
A simple guy

I agree. Not much else can we assume from this. Oh!!!! the natural and pure food. And also, great post Mircea C. Really, loved it.

7 07 2010
Apple-Man

This. is. Awesome.

GREAT job, Denise! I don’t know what to make of all this- it’s crazy. Campbell’s crazy.
I know you’re always nice to everyone, so I’ll say it for you; Campbell’s a freakin’ LIAR. I can’t believe this! Wow, I’m totally NOT referencing China Study again.

Well at least now we know the truth. Let’s spread it, people!

Once again, thank you and congratulations. This is amazing.

18 07 2010
kat

Apple-man,

Not sure if you’ll get this, but I just wanted to say you have an admirer. I’ll admit I’ve been lurking around the 30bad forum out of a mix of curiosity and amazement–I’ve never seen passive-aggressive played out in typed words like that in my life, and I’m in awe. Anyhoo, I appreciate your ability to keep your head up and speak your mind as an individual. Kudos to you and your ability to think critically. Keep it real, man.

8 05 2012
John Vellinga

Amateur hour. This is the problem with blogs. People who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground spread the “truth”.

8 07 2010
Stephan

Fantastic. I’m particularly interested in the correlation between wheat and disease. I’ve been writing about this for a while– mostly on the basis of fairly weak indirect evidence because there’s very little research on the health effects of wheat vs. other grains except in celiac patients. This is probably the best support I’ve seen for the hypothesis. And to think it came from the China study!

Here’s a study supporting wheat’s association with obesity in China (compared to rice; see table 3):

http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v32/n6/abs/ijo200821a.html

And my interpretation:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/07/wheat-is-invading-china.html

8 07 2010
Stephan

By the way, I would be super grateful if you could work your magic on the wheat data to see if it’s likely to be spurious or not. e.g., is it due to wheat’s association with heavy metals, infectious disease, latitude, etc. I suspect controlling for latitude will attenuate the association, since as I understand it wheat is mostly eaten in Northern China.

I’m going to link to this post in the next few days, after Richard Nikoley does, since he passed it on to me.

8 07 2010
Gary

As I read this, Denise, I can’t help but wonder: will your findings have any ramifications on your own approach to diet and health?

8 07 2010
Asclepius

Superlative work and well explained.

8 07 2010
Tweets that mention The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? « Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet -- Topsy.com

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lloyd Y. Asato, Margot M.. Margot M. said: #chinastudy is a fallacy, not fact http://bit.ly/cWyC6m #primal #paleo #zerocarb #vegetarian #beef #cancer #cholesterol #fail [...]

8 07 2010
Darrin

Wow. Just wow.

I am reminded of the confirmation bias when it comes to The China Study, a well-known cognitive bias which means that people only see what they want to see, ignoring any and all evidence to the contrary. So when a longtime veg*n comes out with an exhaustive study “proving” food from animal sources to be unhealthy once and for all, it’s definitely time to go back over his data with a skeptical eye.

A big kudos to you, Denise, for putting this together. Truly a page to keep as a reference for a long time to come.

9 07 2010
Monica

so similarly, when a meat-eater comes out with a “repudiation” of a study that “proves” food from animal sources to be unhealthy once and for all, is it time to go over his/her/their data with a skeptical eye?

I think your comment exposes your bias.

also, I think both of these studies miss the point.

10 07 2010
Fashionable

Meat eating is not an ideology, it´s just a baseline human activity. Veganism, on the other hand, is.

Also, the raw facts on display here are just devastating, regardless of what one´s dietary inclination is.

19 09 2010
Rusel Talis

I get sick just reading some comments. Bushrat got it right. When all agree, well.. thats impossible, U all have missed a valid point CONTAMINATION. Yes, it will raise your immune responses, but there is such a thing as viral overload – and we are there. I am so busy my website has not updated since 2008 , unlike the rest of the cutting edge world …

I spend time washing everything , and if I kept animals I would Neem ‘em

Alex @ amoderate life tells it plainly , not one longevity culture were vegan – but missed my point of Contamination – they were in isolated areas , no huge cash transactions – no dirty money, their animals were clean , their soil was clean … and they did not have synthetic Creatine or Carnitine or Acetyl Cystein and dont mix their food with poison (alcohol, to name just 1)

30 11 2012
Melissa

Obviously coming from someone who eats meat. Of course you’d only see it your way. Veganism is not an ideology. Why is it that people who eat meat and vegans can’t just accept each other and not criticize?

30 11 2012
gager

Almost all attacks come from vegans and vegetarians. When I post that I really like foie gras you,d think from the vegan reaction I eat human babies on a skewer . You won’t find any complaints from meat eaters when a vegan eats a toadstool.

30 11 2012
gsmullennix

Melissa…you’ve confused the question. Asking the greater philosophical question of why people don’t accept everyone’s lifestyle without comment has nothing to do with your conclusive statement that “veganism” is not an ideology. You provided no support for your claim and a very small amount of effort would tell you that being a “vegan” comes with a host of ideological prerequisites and rules.

10 07 2010
Darrin

“so similarly, when a meat-eater comes out with a “repudiation” of a study that “proves” food from animal sources to be unhealthy once and for all, is it time to go over his/her/their data with a skeptical eye?”

The data isn’t the issue here – it’s the interpretation. Campbell clearly took some serious leaps in the conclusions he made from the data, which is thankfully laid bare here.

But yes, if a monumental study a la The China Study came out showing vast nutritional benefits from meat compared with vegetables, I would certainly hope the skeptics would come after it from every angle, especially if it came from someone like Dr. Cordain, who has an established history of being pro-meat.

That’s how science progresses, Monica. Not by deleting, distorting, and generalizing, hoping the public will swallow it without question, but by making bold conjectures that you test rigorously and let others try to falsify. That’s why we no longer believe that the Earth is the center of the universe, rather that the sun is the center of the solar system.

“I think your comment exposes your bias.”

Yup. I am just full of biases. (I’m only human after all.) However I am one of the few people who will own up to them being biases and not facts. Half of what everyone knows is wrong. The hard part is trying to figure out what half that is.

29 12 2013
Everyone has a bia

Yes, everyone makes their assertions based on bias. For one to say they are completely neutral and have zero bias is a lie.

12 07 2010
Bushrat

Exactly what is the point that is missed?

13 11 2010
Sam

Darrin, Campbell was not a vegetarian until after the study and not a vegan until a long time after the study. I don’t think your observation about the confirmation bias is applicable here.

29 12 2013
ccouturier

True

5 06 2011
Tumeria Langlois

With all due respect, you were never a vegan. Veganism is NOT about diet. It is a commitment to living a compassionate lifestyle, respecting all sentient Beings and choosing not to exploit them in any way, shape or form. You may have followed a plant based diet, but vegan- NO! There is no such thing as an ex-vegan. That would be the same as saying “Well I used to think it was wrong to kick puppies, but now, what they heck, kicking puppies is just fine as long as I enjoy it.”

6 06 2011
Andrés

With all due respect, you still are killing them in several ways (monocrop the worst): http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2010/01/08/the-vegetarian-myth/

Life is nothing without death. Assume it, respect all our humans predecessors with their hunting allowing our bigger brains and grow up, since you are not ethically superior to us, full conscious humans.

12 06 2011
Buzzy2010

I think the expression veganism as an idealogy was used.

You are wrong when you say “there is no such thing as an ex-vegan”. Can a person not change ones mind? Or one’s philosophy? Many great artistic and scientific advances occurred through such a shift or change in an individuals philosophy – of suddenly seeing something another way, from a different point of view.

So, if it is not possible to be an ex-vegan, does that mean that I can never become an vegan? That I cannot one day, or over time, adopt your philosophy?

Are you saying that people cannot change (or leave/join religions for example?)

29 08 2011
Mark Gottlieb

Hey please chill a bit Tumeria. I think I’ve become a vegan over the last couple of months, consumming only plant based nutrition – that seems to fit the definitions I’ve seen of vegan. I like animals, love my three cats, they seem to like their human too. I don’t much care for house flys though. Living in an older log cabin in Montana, I seem to have plenty of house flies. And I swat them daily – otherwise my cats and I wouldn’t like our existence so much. I think I’m still a vegan.

And this overall blog post is very interesting and seems worth serious consideration.

15 12 2013
Mae

Well said Tumeria – I am vegan and could be nothing other than.

8 05 2012
John Vellinga

Badly done. Did you know that the first studies on car safety were done by the US Air Force? They wanted to know why so many pilots were dying. Turns out they were mostly dying in cars. People like Denise would have poo-pooed this.

8 07 2010
Jeremy

Great post! You explain things precisely and concisely.

A couple of typos:

“In these high-risk areas for liver cancer, total animal food intake has a correlation with liver cancer of… dun dun dun… +1.”

Should be 0.

“so for the sake of being able to entertain the possibility that #2 and #3 are valid”

Should be #1 and #2.

8 07 2010
Alex@amoderatelife

Hi Denise, as a biologist, I commend you for your detailed research and fact finding in this premiere article debunking a very dangerous compilation of hand picked misinformation. As a reformed raw vegan who now follows a real foods lifestyle according to the Weston Price tradition, I can tell you unequivocably that eating animal products and preparing foods in a traditional manner has indeed increased my health. Weston Price and other traditional foods enthusiasts were discussing these issues in the 1930’s and purporting a healthy balance of all foods and a removal of processed foods, but to no avail.

It is of interest as well to note that Jon Robbins of vegan fame also wrote a book called healthy at 100 where he revisits all the long lived cultures in the world to determine what each one ate and he NEVER found a vegan culture. All ate some form of dairy/meat, all ate fermented foods and all had limited processed sugars or grain products. All prepared their food in traditional ways and when their youth began eating the SAD diet, they all developed the same degenerative diseases seen accross the country, but they developed them much more quickly. Robbins does NOT promote this book because it obviously goes against his vegan agenda.

I will be sharing your study on my Thoughts on Friday Link love post and getting it out there to the Real Food community! Thanks so much for your hard work!
Alex@amoderatelife.

25 07 2010
Deb

Alex: I can’t thank you enough for mentioning the work of Weston A. Price!!!! After Googling his name and reading about his work, I am now ordering the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook by Sally Fallon. Please let me know if there is more information supporting this lifestyle. THANK YOU!

30 07 2010
Lily

Alex….key words “SOME form of meat or dairy” the China Study promotes 10% or less of animal protein which would account in my opinion as “some”. I wasn’t aware that there was a “vegan agenda” and he probably doesn’t promote it because he believes in animal rights. People can and do live healthy as vegans but just because you are vegan does not make you healthy….potato chips and beer is vegan…but not so healthy. I do agree that processed foods should be kept to a minimum and the body does need raw fruits ad vegetables but raw meat??? I think Denise is a little off on this one.

30 07 2010
neisy

For the record, the only raw meat I eat is fish (sushi/sashimi). We have Vegsource to thank for the “raw meat advocate” title.

27 08 2010
JP

Lily, part of the few (if only??) who dares tread on the steps of St. Denise!

I don’t see this as “first class” nor worthy of publication in the New England Journal. Healthy people for years have known moderation. I love The China Study because it challenges Americans to change their diet. The US spends more than any other society on Healthcare, yet we have some of the most unhealthy people. Why?

You make a fantastic point that all of his research is based on a “10% or less” animal protein consumption plan.

I agree, Denise is a little off on her “un-biased” review. Nothing wrong with telling people to eat more healthy.

6 02 2011
dlibby

Well said!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6 06 2011
MarkL

dl, you really oughta try and stop the punctuation…people might think you’re incapable of a confrontation without tossin them the bird, when their perspectives differ from yours–or your heroes. hopefully, we all contain passion about our existences, but the excess of hubris and anger, nee arrogance, can easily
consume our prospects for sensitivity and reason….tools without which we are unable to do more than dribble and sputter about, such as you seem to immerse yourself in the processes of. You are passionate. Good, Why not get busy with the objective education you are in need of? Or you could remain an ignorant cheerleader for anyone whom your whims attract you to. And even if you do, still watch the exclamation marks…it has been said that the next syndrome is writing in
all caps…and then…the possibilities of either utter madness, or a life in politics…perhaps both.

15 04 2012
apanz

I like the enthusiasm you state with your exclamation marks. Don’t change because of the negative view of someone with anger issues :o)

12 04 2011
Wayne

Mingers blog reads more like a science paper than many science papers. Unlike Campbell Minger follows all the rules of logic.
And your comment, “love The China Study because it challenges Americans to change their diet.” is laugh out loud dumb.

17 03 2011
Sarah

Exactly. Key word here, “some.” I eat a mostly whole, plant-based diet, but I still eat “some” animal products, but less than 10%. I will never be 100% vegan. After adopting this diet, I got down to the size I was in high school. I love my food, and I imagine maintaining my diet and preventing disease will be effortless because of plant-foods. I’m very thankful!

28 10 2011
hoohoo

Actually there is a girl on Youtube …come to think of it there are two people I know of on Youtube who were previous vegans and had to include meat in their diet because of deficiencies. The girl had a B12 deficiency that could NOT be helped with B12 shots or taking supplements. She decided to eat fish and is healthy now. Her symptoms IIRC were pretty severe.

I probably have her video in my favorites so I’ll look for it. I’m sure some people already know of her. She got a lot of shit for going back to meat, especially from raw food vegans.

8 07 2010
Spencer

Great work! It’s really nice to see that critical thinking is far more important than just having a great academic pedigree.

8 07 2010
Terry

Although not explicit, there seemed to be an inference that cholesterol could be a cause of some diseases, when there was positive correlation. Since the body produces cholesterol, it is very possible that the disease (especially involving the liver) modifies cholesterol levels.

Great work!

8 07 2010
The China Study Discredited | Food Renegade

[...] I’ve finally read what I consider the go-to article online for helping folks in love with The China Study see the light. The post is written by someone who [...]

8 07 2010
8 07 2010
hans keer

It’s been a while since I looked at the China Study. You and Chris Masterjohn did a great job in interpreting the thing well. VBR Hans

8 07 2010
Sue

Wow!! This is more work than my Master’s thesis was. Fantastic job!! I expect to see you on Oprah soon.

8 07 2010
Chris Kresser

This is truly a monumental work, Denise.

It vividly illustrates the danger of “science with an agenda”, as practiced by Campbell and others of his ilk.

Thank you.

29 07 2014
James Peters

Oh, The Irony

8 07 2010
FoodRenegade

LOVE this summary! I’ve long passed out Chris Masterjohn’s critique and subsequent dialog with Campbell as an online resource for those wondering about any holes in The China Study. But this summary, along with your prior posts over the past month, are the most thorough I’ve ever seen. You can bet I’ll be passing this along to others from now on! KUDOS to you and your hard work.

And THANK YOU so much for doing this research for yourself. I know I certainly wouldn’t have done it, although I’m glad to see it done!

Oh, and I second Stephan’s desire to see you put your skills to work analyzing the wheat connection. I’m VERY curious about that, mostly because I’ve been following Stephan’s own analysis of whatever relevant studies are out there.

8 07 2010
Paul C

Great work, thank you for providing your research.

I am somewhat depressed after your skillful demonstration of how other variables like parasite infections and other unknown variables can affect the data. This leads me to believe nutrition science will forever be based on beliefs rather than reasoned science, leaving opportunities for egotistic scientists to lead themselves and the rest of us down paths of good intention but harmful destination.

12 07 2010
Bushrat

Actually, her demonstration proves how important a thorough understanding of statistics is for any scientific venture. There is a great deal of bad science in all areas that boils down to the researchers basic statistical illiteracy.

8 07 2010
Robert McLeod

I assume your correlation coefficients R^2 are in the range of [-100,100] instead of the typical [-1.0,1.0]?

Very interesting to see the tight correlations between infectious vectors and cancers. There’s evidence for similar correlations between bacterial infection of the arterial wall and heart disease.

Also the anti-dairy protein angle is interesting as well. From what I recall, the Lyon heart trial also had some evidence for dairy intake as being a major difference between the trial and control groups, with the trial group ingesting about half the dairy products and having lower incidence of heart disease.

13 07 2010
Chris Masterjohn

Robert, her correlation coefficients (r) range from -100 to +100 but her r-squared values range from 0 to 100. You can derived them simply by squaring the r values she reported. Squared numbers can’t be negative. :)

Chris

15 12 2010
Phillip

Except ‘i’ :-)

8 07 2010
Richard Nikoley

Denise:

I’m so glad you contacted me and I hope my post and efforts to get the word out does your marvelous, high quality, honest and integrated work justice. By the look of comments you’re getting some ver well deserved recognition.

Nothing short of your collection being the go-to critique of The China Study is acceptable. Right now I’m using Google to source other likely interested parties to make them aware of your work and I challenge and encourage others to do likewise.

6 02 2011
dlibby

I have looked at your website and found you to do a great injustice to good health and twist the truth to your own beliefs!!!!
Remember there are more people who look into theories of long time study and the long term benefit,s as to those who have little knowledge and pick it apart for their own agenda!!!

8 07 2010
The China Study: Junk Science and Lies

[...] Sorry for the re-post, but this is too important not to pass around. Free The Animal has an outstanding post on the misleading pile of dookie that is The China Study. Here is the original analysis that Richard is referring to to which was generated by Denise Minger… [...]

8 07 2010
jon w

wow, this is amazing. hope you decide on a career in nutrition research. I will link to this wherever I can.

8 07 2010
Kevin Neilson

Congratulations on a wonderful bit of analysis. First-rate. Extraordinary. Add superlative of choice. K

9 07 2010
9 07 2010
Julie

That was a really good read. As a non-academic/statistician, you clearly described the data in a way that everyone can understand. Thanks, Julie

9 07 2010
Tuck

Wow. Bravo.

Incredibly impressive work.

9 07 2010
Kurt G Harris MD

Simply superb.

This really belongs in a peer-reviewed journal. This piece is far better and certainly more important than the average dross I read in medical journals.

Like Stephan, I have been trying to put the hurt on wheat as one of the three “neolithic agents of disease” that are responsible for the diseases of civilization.

http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2009/6/23/the-argument-against-cereal-grains.html

http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2010/3/12/the-argument-against-cereal-grains-ii.html

To find that the actual data on which the China Study was based has a stronger relative risk associated with wheat than almost any other food variable is simlutaneously shocking and gratifying.

I second Dr. Guyenet in asking you to dig deeper into the wheat issue.

Nice work.

9 07 2010
WOD for TJ’s Gym CrossFit San Rafael/Corte Madera/Novato Fri. July 9th, 2010 « TJ's Blog

[...]  Yago, thanks for keeping the dream alive! On another note and this will disappoint some of you.  The Debunking of the China Study.  Thanks Coach Barnes.  Here is another link to “The Protein Debate”, a paper of two [...]

9 07 2010
Real food and environmental information wrap up | A Moderate Life

[...] to make a correlation that eating animal protiens in any form is bad for your health. Well, Denise Minger of Raw Food SOS who rather recently added animal protien back into her diet presents an exhaustive review of [...]

9 07 2010
Jamie

Fantastic work! Mad respect for someone to dedicate the time to robust scientific rigor. Pity Powell couldn’t do the same himself!

9 07 2010
the china study. « katka, dnevno.

[...] — niti časa, pravzaprav, da bi se s tem sploh ukvarjala), zato pa me toliko bolj razveseli takšenle post (ki sem ga odkrila preko tega [...]

9 07 2010
Eva

Wow, that was a lot of work just for me to READ it! Most impressive. It’s amazing what intelligence, objectivity, and hard work can accomplish. I would REALLY love to see you eventually tackle other similar projects. It’s so wonderful and so sadly rare to find someone who can root out basic unvarnished truths from piles of numbers. What I want is to understand what is healthy, but that has been amazingly hard info to find! You obviously have a wonderful natural talent for pushing aside the bull and getting to the meat of the matter (excuse the pun).

9 07 2010
A Critique Worth Reading « For His Glory & for Our Good

[...] because I want to move on to bigger and better things here!), but I wanted to point you all to a great article I just read (most of it). It’s very long but I think worth at least skimming. The author [...]

9 07 2010
China Study Problems of Interpretation | Ideal Health Care

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy [...]

9 07 2010
Valtsu

Such a wonderful post! Thank you :)

9 07 2010
Dave

Outstanding, and one of the few examples to be found (including amongst “real” scientists like, ahem, T. Colin Campbell) of the proper use of classical statistics. Nice job not extrapolating correlations beyond what they are, which are numbers derived from data, as opposed to hypothesis tests.

9 07 2010
matt180

Really solid, and a great reminder at just how twisted, knotted, confusing, and convoluted epidemiological research can be – hence why I never cite epidemiological study as evidence of any pre-asserted hypothesis.

9 07 2010
Pork Chops, Beet Greens, a Nice Iron Session, and “The China Study”, Debunked « Theory to Practice

[...] resembling serious, quality, ethically-performed science after considering Denise Minger’s complete dismantling of the work…well, there’s just not much hope for them.  And I use the term “work” loosely, here.  [...]

9 07 2010
Dave

BTW, being a “data junkie”, you should check out Jaynes’ book on Probability Theory. I expect you would get a lot out of it. You can read the first three chapters online here: http://bit.ly/9RNnwO

9 07 2010
The Healthy Skeptic · Rest in peace, China Study

[...] Usually I direct those folks to Chris Masterjohn’s excellent critique of the China Study. Now, however, I’ll be sending them over to read Denise Minger’s freshly published China Study smackdown. [...]

9 07 2010
Sally

“Apart from his cherry-picked references for other studies (some of which don’t back up the claims he cites them for)”

I’ve long believed this of many authors who promote a vegan diet.

I followed a vegan diet for about 5 years. While all my numbers were great, I didn’t feel well. When I added animal products back into my diet, I felt much better and the numbers all improved.

9 07 2010
JLL

Great post, I found it through the paleonu.com blog, which I follow regularly.

I’ll be checking your blog from now on also, even though my diet is pretty different from yours (see my blog for more info).

– JLL

9 07 2010
Marc

Superb!

I liked your avocado post also.

Marc

9 07 2010
9 07 2010
Jae

I can’t thank you enough for this!! I agree with Dr. Harris’s review that you approached the data in a tone as close to neutral as possible, which I am especially thankful for (b/c it shows how careful of a thinker you are and that you are not pushing an agenda). You tore apart everything that deserved tearing apart, and you left us with some real gems hidden in the data that Campbell buried. Thanks to Richard for pointing so many of us toward this, too. =)

9 07 2010
Emily Deans MD

Amazing work. Thank you so much. I shudder to think that much of the 2010 USDA guidelines are based on similarly derived association data. This is why I believe the safest way to eat is as close as we can muster to how our ancestors ate, using as much scientific knowledge as we can glean from controlled prospective trials to figure out which Neolithic foods are also safe (and which paleo foods are best left out too).

I’m also intrigued by the possibilities of real health policy implications that could literally help hundreds of millions of people in China. Implementing hepatitis B and parasite infection control throughout the countryside, for example.

9 07 2010
Jim Storey

Very nice, rigorous critique of Campbell’s methodology!
Simply, the vegan crowd’s premise that humans supposedly evolved eating only plants is absurd to anyone with the slightest knowledge of evolutionary biology or paleontology. Anyone promoting such as agenda, even with a string of credentials after their name, is pretty much doomed before they begin :-).

BTW, some of us are currently having a discussion on Campbell’s (negative, of course) review of the “New Atkins Diet” book, if anyone is interested. I enjoy it, not because any great scientific revelations are there, but several vegans are active and I get some sort of perverse pleasure in taking aim at. Sorry, it’s a personality defect I’ve got to get over someday… not today, however.

23 03 2013
Robert

Hilarious :-)

9 07 2010
jeff

really excellent. the china study has been hanging around in the back of my mind while my reading and eating have carried me in other directions entirely. i feel reassured by your logic and analysis. thank you.

9 07 2010
Shelby

Thank you so much for all of your hard work and dedication to finding the truth. I found this critique through Robb Wolf’s website and couldn’t be more pleased with it. I’ve had vegans/vegetarians throwing The China Study at me as if it were gospel for far too long. Even The Protein Debate between Campbell and Cordain seems to have no effect on the illusions. This is something that always scares me in the realm of science and health, when a person’s own opinions clouds their judgment and causes them to form a theory and only ask the questions that will give them the answers they seek. Bravo to you for such a well crafted critique.

9 07 2010
The China Study Smackdown Roundup | Free The Animal

[...] had a chance yet to read Denise Minger's expose, STOP what you're doing and go read it, instanter. The China Study: Fact or Fallacy. And know this: even if you don't care about T. Colin Campbell, The China Study, hapless vegans, or [...]

9 07 2010
Robb Wolf

Outstanding analysis. Really looking forward to more work from you.

9 07 2010
China Study & T. Colin Campbell: Someone just made you there vegan bitch.

[...] Study and offering a more levelheaded and non-biased interpretation of the data. You can read it here. It also seems that the true conclusion to be drawn from The China Study is that wheat not meat is [...]

9 07 2010
Pallav

awesome work denise, the analysis and time spent by you in this is awesome, especially eye opening is the role of wheat in this. i wonder if you could do one article on wheat itself and perhaps homogenised/pasteurised/UHT milk as well. :)

9 07 2010
jon w

you should publish this, or at the very least, you should post a version of this to amazon.com as a book review…

12 05 2012
jmy

it wouldn’t even make it past the first peer after he finished crying.

9 07 2010
9 07 2010
Don Matesz

HI Denise,

Thank you for putting this together, I know how much time and work went into it. I will definitely link to this from my blog and also refer my students to it. This is by far the most thorough critique of Campbell’s work that I have seen so far. Kudos!

Like Stephan, I would like to see the data on wheat parsed a bit more. I hope you can get around to that.

Don

9 07 2010
The China Study Toppled - A Tale of the Confirmation Bias

[...] Here’s the link: China Study: Fact or Fallacy? [...]

9 07 2010
Anthony Knox

What everyone else said.

Excellent work.

You have a very bright future in whatever field you choose to pursue.

9 07 2010
Around the Fitness Horn « x lyssa

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? [Raw Food SOS] [...]

9 07 2010
Tom Naughton

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I receive frequent emails and blog comments from vegetarians who believe the China Study was handed down by The Almighty. Now I know where to send them.

I’ve read other articles on Campbell’s selection bias, but this one is the most comprehensive by far.

9 07 2010
neisy

To all who have responded, e-mailed, or simply read in silence so far: a sincere and enormous “thank you.” I wasn’t expecting this analysis to generate so much interest, especially given its daunting length, and I’m thrilled so many people have found the information useful.

A number of you expressed interest in the wheat/heart disease correlation. My next post will be delving into this issue (based on China Study data) in great depth, although the post might not be up for a week or so. In the meantime, a blogger named Brad Marshall wrote a fantastic post on this exact subject in 2005 — so mosey on over there if you haven’t already, and take a gander:

http://bradmarshall.blogspot.com/2005/12/is-wheat-killing-us-introduction-maybe.html

I’ll be testing whether the wheat/heart disease connection holds true when adjusting for other factors (like latitude). Campbell actually published a paper mentioning this correlation in 1998, so he was definitely aware of it, although obviously chose not to include it “The China Study.”

To those of you who’ve asked questions, I’ll be getting back to you individually (probably not very promptly, though — sorry in advance!).

Thanks again, everyone!

10 07 2010
anand srivastava

Thanks for doing what the authors should have done with this data. I hope you tease out more information from the study.

I would be waiting for your Wheat results. I have also gone nearly wheat free, after reading so much about it. It was interesting to note that it does cause such wide ranging damage and not just to gluten sensitive people. Now I will try to be more strict.

Thanks for pointing to the excellent article by Brad Marshall. It actually contains more gems than just the wheat. It shows that Rice is more beneficial than potatoes (Tubers). This to me totally doesn’t make sense. I have been reading about the Paleolithic diet, and it makes sense that Tubers would have been in our diet since ages, but to think that Rice which is a neolithic food, is more beneficial than potatoes, just doesn’t compute for me.

I hope that you will also work your magic on the rice and tuber data from the study. It will be interesting if the data shows a negative (or at least insignificant) correlation for rice with the various diseases.

It will allow me to eat rice more guilt free. I will help me relish biryani guilt free ;-).

Thanks again, and hope that you get into nutrition field.

11 07 2010
Ed

Denise, if you haven’t already noted it, you might keep an eye out for potential confounders (high omega-6) vegetable oil, and sugar, when looking at the wheat data.

12 07 2010
Bushrat

In line with ed’s comment you should also look at trying to break down cholesterol into HDL, LDL and trigs and see what affect this has on the data. The current theory that I believe holds the most water is that the ratio of HDL to LDL is the best indicator of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Further, the type of LDL matters (i.e. small and dense or big and fluffy).

I’m not sure whether this distinction is made in the data you have, but if it is then it would be interesting to see how closely the different types of cholesterol correlate with various heart problems.

10 07 2010
Summertime « The Red Pill

[...] read the link from my previous post.  It’s amazing stuff.  Also see here and here.  Wheat–> 67% relative risk [...]

10 07 2010
anon

This work is amazing. Nobels have been awarded for much less. To my thinking, you have persuasively established wheat as the #1 threat to modern human health. (“Staff of life” indeed!)

That Campbell has finally been put to rest pales beside this accomplishment.

(Though I do have to wonder about what kind of man can discover the slow yet extraordinary danger wheat posed to billions of his fellow man — and then consciously attempt to hide that fact from them!

The mind reels.

10 07 2010
Interesting Reading #528 – Amazing graphics card, Bluetooth4.0, YouTube mobile, Spy stuff and much more… – The Blogs at HowStuffWorks

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? – “When I first started analyzing the original China Study data, I had no intention of writing up an actual critique of Campbell’s much-lauded book. I’m a data junkie. Numbers, along with strawberries and Audrey Hepburn films, make me a very happy girl. I mainly wanted to see for myself how closely Campbell’s claims aligned with the data he drew from—if only to satisfy my own curiosity. But after spending a solid month and a half reading, graphing, sticky-noting, and passing out at 3 AM from studious exhaustion upon my copy of the raw China Study data, I’ve decided it’s time to voice all my criticisms. And there are many…” [...]

10 07 2010
Richard Nikoley

Anon:

Let’s not fall into the same trap Campbell did and which Denise worked so hard to show.

What she did was to demonstrate that other associations were much stronger than animal products and pointed out that Campbell failed to mention those.

At best, she falsified Campbell’s conclusions as laid out in his book. Let me be clear: she falsified his conclusions, not the hypothesis that animal products are bad, because you simply can’t do that either way with epidemiology.

On the other hand, Denise has created a ripe field for new hypotheses to be tested in rigeur.

10 07 2010
anon

Richard,

I agree. The correlations are damning, but not proof.

Still…Denise gets my personal Nobel. :-)

10 07 2010
Nutrition and Physical Regeneration » The China Study Has No Clothes: Smackdown Of T. Colin Campbell

[...] Minger, editor of the website Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet, has done an exhaustive and detailed analysis of The China Study. Minger, a former lurker at the [...]

10 07 2010
Tom Nikkola

Outstanding article. Thank you.

10 07 2010
Milk Builds Strong Bones? - Page 2

[...] ton of raw foods. I think she eats her animal products raw? anyway, she Dismantles the China Study The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet and asks Why Campbell didn't look at his own evidence which shows that WHEAT, not animal products [...]

10 07 2010
Buh-bye, China Study | The Low-Carb Curmudgeon

[...] That all changed today. I think it’s time for T. Colin Campbell to get a real job. [...]

10 07 2010
Chalk fight «

[...] The China study: fact or fallacy? If you have some time give this a read. Its very long but its very good info. [...]

10 07 2010
Olivia

You’re wicked awesome!

10 07 2010
Kimmy Bozman

Oh, woman!
You are amazing! You really took the bullet for those of us who have recently thought to commit to the same thing…with so much more grace and accuracy than I ever could have. Well done! Thanks for the number crunching, research, analysys and balanced presentation. Thanks for avoiding an alarmist perspective (present too frequently on BOTH sides of the fence when it comes to the China Study.) and making the fruits of your labors public information. Thank you, thank you, sincerely…1,000,000 thanks!

10 07 2010
Miki

Unbelievable amount and quality of work. I knew Collin T. was full of it when I learned he was part of that group for responsible medicine that somehow omit to mention they are all vegetarians on a mission. A case of diluted personal integrity you could call it. I read the earlier critic but yours is by far the most comprehensive and comprehensible.
I am going to translate as much of it as I can to Hebrew (the language of my blog) and if the review I wrote of The Vegetarian Myth is any indication we are going to have a lively debate here.
Looking forward to the piece on gluten. It should be noted however that recent research shows that not all wheat varieties are equal in terms of damage they can inflict, with most recent verities been more potent.
Miki

10 07 2010
Gary Wu

Wonderful analysis! I too were stuck by the associations between wheat and the many diseases listed. Kudos to you for the detailed analysis and concise writing.

10 07 2010
10 07 2010
anita

well done! the number crunching you did is a amazing (interesting hobby!!)..thanks for giving me a concise argument with “sciency” numbers that I can present to others!!

10 07 2010
michael

Wow! This is a new subject for me, and I am speechless. What a great, great, analysis you did. I just added you to my blogroll. I don’t want to miss a single post you write from now on. I love your reasoning, all your hard work involved, and care you’ve taken in making this one great well researched article. Thank you.

10 07 2010
Janet

Good job doing plots. That’s really important to see data trends, as it really is true that a picture is a better summary than numbers. And as a long time teacher of statistics and researcher myself, I’m absolutely thrilled to see people analyzing data themselves. Seriously, it’s really wonderful to see that whatever I’ve taught in intro stats class that no one wanted to take gets used by some people. Your analysis is a good start, but like all nutrition data, this data is tough, and correlations aren’t enough to analyze it properly. If you continue in this vein, you may want to learn more statistics. Here are some issues you need to deal with:

1) Outliers. In the plot of that disease that starts with s versus a cancer (colorectal?), you have most of the data clustered around zero prevalence of the S disease, with little evident trend and then you have one outlier from a place with high S disease, and then two points in the middle. That one outlier may be enough to give you the high correlation, and if you took it out, you might have insignificant correlation, and certainly if you took both that point and the 2 middle points out, you would.

2) Confounding between meat and income. Places with highest grain intake are likely the poorest, and places with the highest meat intake are the wealthiest. See the study discussed here about grain/meat intake in China:

http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2007/07/real-world-giffen-good.html

Obviously income has enormous health impact that go beyond meat intake.

3) Simpson’s paradox: When you have confounders that might make an enormous difference in the outcome, you have to stratify by them, which you did in some places, when you looked separately at cancer risk of people people with Hep B (if I remember correctly) and without. In some cases, once you stratify, you see that a correlation actually reverses. Here’s one example of that in some sex discrimination data:

http://www.umsl.edu/~banisr/4326/sexbias.htm

4) Ecological fallacy. Ecological data is a good place to start, but it’s the most crude type of data because obviously there are lots of reasons why, say, Mississippi and Colorado and Massachusetts are different, and a pattern seen across states (or in this case, Chinese provinces) might not hold for each individual within them. In fact, it might be the opposite. When you break down and look within each state, the data might look different. Here’s one example: blue states (Democratic majority states) are richer, but once you look within each state, richer people are more likely to vote Republican. At the same time, some states have stronger association between income and party affiliation than others.

http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2005/11/income_matters.html

These are just a few issues that I saw off the top of my head. I don’t mean to be discouraging. Nutrition data is just really really hard. And obviously all these issues apply to the original published analysis that you are reanalyzing their data.

I hope that you go on to improve the analysis beyond this, or find individual data to work with. Or ways to improve ecological data (which is hard to work with, and I am not so familiar with the methods people use with ecological data.) Some nutrition data that is publicly available is public release NHANES, the main US federal survey of nutrition. I think anyone can get that, and they are very thorough in documenting things like serving size (though obviously as soon as you have people measure their food, they are going to change their eating habits to some extent, and people also lie about which food they eat.)

Good job with this analysis. I haven’t seen the original book, but if it really is as you say, it’s great to see challenges to claims resulting from substandard data analysis. Nutrition is really hard to study, though.

11 07 2010
neisy

Janet,

I’m glad I checked my spam queue, because your fantastic post was snagged there. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this — you bring up so many excellent points and obviously have a wealth of experience with stats!

1) When writing this critique, I considered posting graphs adjusted for outliers (and played around with this while to see how the correlations were affected), but ultimately chose to just plot the data as recorded in the original monograph. My reasoning: The only correlations supporting Campbell’s claims were the uncorrected ones, and since I was analyzing his claims (not necessarily the validity of the correlations), I figured it’d be best to post the graphs reflecting that.

In most cases, the outliers vanished naturally once I removed confounding variables. For instance — the outlier you pointed out, in the graph plotting schistosomiasis and total cholesterol, is the same county represented by the outlier in the graph immediately after it (total cholesterol and colorectal cancer). Once the data is adjusted for schistosomiasis infection, that county and its misleading placement disappears.

EDIT: I just realized you were talking about schistosomiasis and colorectal cancer, not schistosomiasis and cholesterol. My bad! Without the farthest outlier, the correlation remains very high (+74). Without the farther three outliers, including the two in the middle you mentioned, the correlation also remains high (+55).

2) Great point regarding meat and wealth. Thanks for the link — I’ll check it out. It’s unfortunate the China Study didn’t document income/financial variables, but it may be something that could be approximated indirectly (for instance: Wealthier areas may have less diseases related to poor living conditions, like pneumonia and tuberculosis, so we could divide regions based on indicators of substandard living and see what that does). This is something I’ll be looking into further. Thanks for bringing it up.

3) Stratifying data did seem to portray the correlations in a new light. Very interesting link; thank you!

4) Ecological fallacy — in my opinion, this is one of the biggest design limitations of the China Study. Despite the large number of people initially involved, all data was aggregated at the county level, resulting in only 65 data points — none of which preserved the intricacies of individual diet and disease rates; only the averages of a population. Since regions tended to be somewhat isolated and reliant on the same foods (usually what grew locally), this may be less of a problem with the China Project than with other studies of its kind, since regional diets tended to be homogeneous (according to the project’s research team).

As you’re aware, this sort of study can never yield proof — only clues and hypotheses — so even the most rigorous analysis will have limitations. It could definitely be worthwhile to integrate the ecological data with individual/controlled studies to create something even more definitive.

Thanks again for your thorough comments. Given your background on this subject, I’d be particularly interested if you see anything I can fine-tune in the analysis above (especially because my lack of credentials will, to some people, be reason enough to dismiss everything I’ve written). I want this to be as accurate as possible, even working within the study’s obvious limitations.

Denise

6 02 2011
dlibby

Where did you study nutritional science? Have you been at it for 50 some years?? Wow….I haven’t seen your name or your credentials to match that of T.Colin Campbell…amazing but I guess you don’t need it on this blog because you have obviously convinced some of these readers and certainly not the majority thankfully, of your misleading data, But then I don’t believe that anyone here really knows science or has any real education that is pertnet to this subject!!!You may have a small following but Campbells book has sold millions and has reached those who do know what he is talking about!!!Some of you should go to” Lona Linda” and research what scientist all over the world have found!!They come together ever year for seminars to educate those on vegetarian/vegan diets!!That is something you can not argue with!!I’ll be taking your data to Sublime in Ft. Lauderdale on the 26th to share with Campbell and other educated experts, who have spent most of their lives promoting good health!!!

20 11 2011
asrdeejay

Compare the digestive systems of herbivores, omnivores, and us…..which do our most resemble? Your agenda is showing, dlibby. She used Campbell’s own information, anyone with the insight, patience, and understanding of statistics could have done that…and she did. Study anatomy, and you’ll have your answers as to how we need to eat.

20 11 2011
20 11 2012
Dave

Your comment is full of… well I can’t say on here. :) – Let’s just say your conditioning is obvious. Credentials mean NOTHING in relation to the validity of the scientific data. Stop trying to shoot the messenger and look at the actual science. That’s critical thinking 101.

As far as “good health,” that’s subjective.

10 07 2010
Insanity log

[...] [...]

10 07 2010
Khrystyna

This is amazing, congratulations on what you’ve achieved here it’s seriously impressive. You are such an inspiration to me as a fledgling nerd of nutritional science (I just finished a 4 year degree). Maybe if I try really hard I can be as smart as you and blog as well as you do about these things one day *sigh….* Only problem is I can’t handle numbers so statistics is a disaster area for me lol :)

http://foodfloraandfelines.blogspot.com/

10 07 2010
Dr. William Davis

This is absolutely brilliant!

Like Stephan (above), I’d also love to hear more about the data surrounding wheat. I’ve suspected such correlations before, but I wasn’t aware they were embedded in Campbell’s data.

10 07 2010
Chipping Away at The China Study « Liberation Wellness

[...] I’ve finally read what I consider the go-to article online for helping folks in love with The China Study see the light. The post is written by someone who [...]

10 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

Thanks for making your exaustive analysis available to the public for free. Since I used to live in China, I can put a lot of the dietary data into context. I didn’t notice any data about plant versus animal fat. Eastern city-dwelling Chinese use a lot of refined vegetable cooking oils, specifically soy and corn, to stirfry vegetables on high heat for a short period. Since Campbell is anti-fat, an examination of plant versus animal fat is not relevant to debunking his claims, but I would be interested in any data, if available.

10 07 2010
mrfreddy

interesting responses on the 30 bananas a day forum, some are touting Campbell’s previous retort to his previous critics (Colpo and Masterjohn), which I can paraphrase as “they are misinterpreting uncorrected raw data”… what the hell does that mean? Seems to me you worked very hard to correctly interpret the raw data. And Campbell worked very hard to torture the raw data to conform to his own biases. I guess by corrected data, he means “only that data that confirms what I already know”

That guy’s legacy, hopefully, will be as the text book example of how not to do science. If you are a young, or even experienced scientist, you should constantly be asking yourself, “what would TC Campbell do?” And then you should probably do the opposite!

others are taking the “how could she, she is killing more animals…” Doesn’t matter to them one bit that Campbell’s conclusions appear to be very seriously in error.

10 07 2010
neisy

Hi Mr. Freddy,

I’ve parted ways from 30BAD and won’t be posting there again, but you’re free to pass this along if folks there are confused.

I’ve seen Campbell’s responses to previous critics and have been perplexed by the “misinterpreting uncorrected raw data” accusation. My best guess is that he’s referring to the “Death from all causes” or “Death from all cancers” variable, which several critics cite in their reviews in order to vindicate animal foods. Both of these variables can be misleading taken out of context: In the raw data, correlations between animal food consumption are inverse for death from all causes (meaning the meat eaters tend to live longer) and also inverse for death from all cancers (meaning the meat eaters tend to have lower rates of cancer, in totality). These are easy things to cite for anyone looking to discredit “The China Study.”

But what the uncorrected data here overlooks are the many, many confounding variables at play. Do the meat eaters also live in areas with better health care and living conditions (leading to fewer instances of non-diet-related disease)? Do the meat eaters experience less “death from external causes,” another variable that contributes to all-cause mortality? Any number of entangled variables could sway the “Death from all causes” variable, rendering it fairly useless uncorrected.

Similarly, the “Death from all cancers” variable can be misleading without looking at individual rates of specific cancers. Some are obviously related to lifestyle habits (like smoking and lung cancer), exposure to external hazards (like toxins in the workplace), infections (like hepatitis B or schistosomiasis)–so on and so forth. If, for instance, plant-eaters tended to be heavier smokers than the meat-eaters and exhibited much higher rates of lung cancer, then the “Death from all cancers” variable would lean in favor of meat consumption for reasons unrelated to diet.

In these cases, I’d certainly agree with Campbell that using the uncorrected data is unwise and potentially misleading. That said, it appears Campbell himself relies on the raw data, since the correlations he cites are only valid before correcting for confounding variables.

The analysis on this page avoids those traps by looking at individual cancers instead of cancer in the aggregate, dividing populations into high-risk and low-risk groups, and adjusting for variables known to influence disease rates.

I hope that clarifies some things.

Denise

10 07 2010
John

Don’t be fooled people, Denise has misinterpreted raw data, just as many inexperienced “researchers” do. Denise is not qualified to read such data correctly.
Please refer to the use and misuse on pp. 54-82 of the China Project monograph.

The following is Dr Campbell’s rebuttal. The rest can be found http://www.vegsource.com/articles2/campbell_china_response.htm

” China Project results are no exception to these limitations of single experiments. It was very large, unique and comprehensive but it was observational (i.e., not interventional), simply observing things as they were at a single point in time. It provided an exceptionally large number of hypothetical associations (shown as statistically assessed correlations) that may indicate but does not prove cause and effect relationships. These unanalyzed correlations are considered raw or crude. It is highly unusual to find such ‘raw’ data in a scientific report because, in part, untrained observers may misunderstand such raw data.

For the monograph, we were somewhat uncertain whether to publish such raw data but decided to do so for two principle reasons. First, we wanted to make these data available to other researchers, while hoping that data misuse would not be a significant problem. Second, because these data were collected in rural China at a time when data reliability might have been questioned, we chose to be as transparent as possible. We discussed data use and misuse on pp. 54-82 of the China Project monograph that curiously was overlooked by Masterjohn and Jay’Y’.

10 07 2010
neisy

Hey John, it’s probably sufficient to post this on one entry instead of three of them.

I agree wholeheartedly with what Campbell says about the limitations of the China Project data (and for the record, I read the warning chapter in the China Study monograph before diving into the data). If you read my critique, you’ll see that I don’t slap down the raw correlations for this very reason: They’re misleading and can easily imply trends that aren’t actually there. This is why I focus on untangling variables and adjusting for confounding factors, thus rendering the data no longer ‘raw’.

Campbell’s claims, on the other hand, only appear to be valid before those adjustments are made. In every instance I analyzed, his claims matched with the raw correlations but not with the corrected ones.

If you feel you or someone you know would be better qualified to handle the statistics, by all means, track down a copy of “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China” and analyze it for yourself. I’ve tried to be very transparent with my process here so that others may replicate my methods or identify any logical errors, should there be any. If you have suggestions for how I can improve upon this analysis, I’d be glad to hear them. Apart from that, RE: your quote from Campbell — you’re preachin’ to the choir. :)

Thanks,
Denise

10 07 2010
Richard Nikoley

And who do you think you’re trying to fool, “John?”

That poor excuse for a “rebuttal” (filled with ad hominem and hand waving — pretty much all Campbell ever does) has been around since 2006 and was in response to Masterjohn and Colpo. It does not in the least address the brunt of Denise’s critique.

“Denise is not qualified to read such data correctly.”

You fools crack me up.

11 07 2010
mrfreddy

Also saw your goodbye post on the 30bad site, also well done. You have a fun to read writing style.

I don’t think I’ll ever be posting there, haha… I’d be an even bigger and more square-er peg than you in that environment. I was just over there having a look around cuz I was curious about how the vegan true believers would react to your astounding analysis.

I expected to see some head in the sand reactions, but wow, I was suprised at what I found… some interesting characters over there…

10 07 2010
Rosemary Rich

Hello Denise,

I found this via Dr. Harris as well. One word. Masterful.
Also urge you to explore the wheat correlation.

Thanks!

11 07 2010
Debunking Junk Science: Goodbye China Study | Abundant Brain

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy- by Denise Minger This entry was posted in general, scientific research and tagged Denise Minger, junk science, Raw Food SOS, T. Colin Campbell, The China Study, vegan, vegetarian. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Exploding Nutrition Myths #1: Agave and Glycemic Index [...]

11 07 2010
Rick

Two things that can’t be vilified too much…wheat and The China Study.

Great job Denise.

“Campbell actually raises a number of points I wholeheartedly agree with—particularly in the “Why Haven’t You Heard This?” section of his book, where he exposes the reality behind Big Pharma and the science industry at large.”

The best way to sell a lie? Shove it in with some truths.

11 07 2010
rayna

Your analysis is completely OVER-SIMPLIFIED. Every good epidemiologist/statistician will tell you that a correlation does NOT equal an association. By running a series of correlations, you’ve merely pointed out linear, non-directional, and unadjusted relationships between two factors. I suggest you pick up a basic biostatistics book, download a free copy of “R” (an open-source statistical software program), and learn how to analyze data properly. I’m a PhD cancer epidemiologist, and would be happy to help you do this properly. While I’m impressed by your crude, and – at best – preliminary analyses, it is quite irresponsible of you to draw conclusions based on these results alone. At the very least, you need to model the data using regression analyses so that you can account for multiple factors at one time.

11 07 2010
neisy

Hi Rayna,

Given that this is the first ‘critical’ comment posted so far, you’ll probably get flamed pretty soon — but I’m very grateful for your suggestions, and particularly for your offer to help me get this information publicized even further once it passes your standards. For that, a giant thanks!

For the sake of making this critique more accessible to readers, I only included the simplest/linear graphs to illustrate some relationships between mortality rates and confounding variables. However, while analyzing the data I did run multiple variable regression analysis on (nearly) all the mortality statistics you see here. I found the results were similar to what I achieved by stratifying the data/eliminating variables by hand (ie, combing through the data in the monograph and using only counties without a certain risk factor — maybe a more crude method than is typically used by statisticians, but again, it produced similar results to running multiple regressions, and I was more interested in seeing whether generally positive or negative associations were in place rather than determining exact numbers). In fact, when running MRA the protective trends for animal foods were even more accentuated in most cases (I recall a -70 between animal protein and cardiovascular diseases).

For what it’s worth, Campbell’s claims all align with the raw correlations but not with adjusted ones, as far as I can tell, which makes me very curious about his own methods for analyzing the data.

I didn’t venture beyond linear regressions because I didn’t visually identify curvature in my scatterplots, but if you think this was an error on my part, please let me know. I realize there are probably more sophisticated methods that you PhD-ed epidemiologists use, and I would be much indebted if you let me in on your secrets. :)

At any rate, I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to draw conclusive statements from the China Study data or prove anything beyond my original point: that Campbell’s analysis of the data overlooks important variables influencing disease rates. That’s the intent of this critique. Nothing more. I don’t see how, in any conceivable way, he could reach the conclusions he did after taking obvious risk factors into account. Campbell is the one insisting this mammoth collection of ecological data shows that meat-eaters are less healthy than plant-eaters and I am simply testing whether this is supported by the data.

Again, thanks for your generous offer to help. When you get a chance, please shoot me an email at deniseminger@gmail.com and we can discuss this more. I’m going to dedicate all of next weekend (translation: I will probably work for 48 hours straight and not sleep) to recording the results from multiple regressions and any other analytical methods you recommend. As it stands, I’m confident in the critique on this page, but I’m certainly willing to perform additional analyses if that would make this more readily accepted in the medical field.

Thanks,

Denise

11 07 2010
Ed

Rayna, I think you miss the point. The only conclusion Denise draws is that Campbells presentation of correlations from the data is misleading and inaccurate at best. You are over-interpresting Denise’s post. Defensive much?

Also, here is something I don’t know. How do you perform multiple regression on 300 variables with 65 data points? And if that’s really the right way to do it, why didn’t Campbell do it that way? Would this only further damn his analysis?

12 07 2010
JD

You don’t. There aren’t enough degrees of freedom to do such an analysis. It’s impossible.

13 07 2010
DML

Rayna is right: This analysis, while impressive and very well done, is indeed over-simplified.

However, Ed is also right: Denise is not attempting to draw any conclusions as such; rather, she is pointing out the inaccuracies of Campbell’s interpretation of the data.

The irresponsibility lies with the paleo quacks who are now declaring that this “proves” that wheat is indeed the cause of disease. Maybe, maybe not; at best this analysis generates a possible hypothesis that there is a possible link between wheat consumption and disease. Nothing more.

28 09 2010
moksha

can someone cite for me the study/analysis that shows how rheumatoid arthritis follows wheat consumption in populations as wheat expanded outward from the fertile crescent? i have seen it referred to but have not the actual analysis. i have a family member that i am trying to make aware of this nasty.

(yes DLM, Denise is not the only bright light to find something sinister about our opioid-stimulating wheat consumption)…

11 07 2010
Jenna

hmmmmmmmm rayna, are you the woman the militant vegan named Freelee JUST RECRUITED because she’s threatened by the fact the China study is bunk?!?!

anyone else, read it here

http://www.giveittomeraw.com/forum/topics/my-official-critique-of-the?commentId=1407416%3AComment%3A1376265&xg_source=msg_com_forum

you’re probably a vegan too, huh rayna? *eyeroll*

11 07 2010
rayna

for the record, i did NOT say that the china study *isn’t* bunk – i simply pointed out the errors in denise’s analysis and conclusions. and my offer still stands – i am happy to assist denise with a more appropriate analysis. and if the results still show that dr. campbell’s claims are untrue, then i am happy to share this publicly. but i think if one is going to undertake a scientific stab at something, one should do so responsibly. that’s all i’m saying.

12 07 2010
JD

But your critique of Denise applies even more to Campbell himself. Are you not grasping the point that “Campbell’s claims, on the other hand, only appear to be valid before those adjustments are made. In every instance I analyzed, his claims matched with the raw correlations but not with the corrected ones.”?

11 07 2010
rayna

i don’t think my being vegan invalidates my intellectual capacity for critiquing denise’s analysis. i’m an epidemiologist. i critique my OWN studies with far greater detail than i’ve done here, trust me.

11 07 2010
Jenna

rayna wrote this on another forum here http://vegsource.com/talk/raw/messages/100021596.html

“2) Much of her conclusions are drawn from purely ecologic data –
that is, data that is in aggregate – such as comparing the average
fat consumption in Japan and the U.S. and the corresponding
breast cancer rates. Sure, it can be informative, but it doesn’t tell us
anything about some of the other factors that might be related to
fat consumption and breast cancer. Ecologic studies are considered
to be at the bottom of the “epidemiologic study totem pole.” And
we can NOT draw individual-level conclusions from them, i.e. we
cannot say that an individual who consumes less fat will, on
average, be protected from breast cancer (even if that’s true, we
cannot draw this conclusion from an ecologic study – there’s even a
term for it: “ecologic fallacy”).”

(so she says the conclusions are faulty b/c they’re drawn from purely ecological data……hmm…. that’s what the China Study IS, ecological data….so apparently this book was bunk from the start?? looks like campbell is guilty of the ecological fallacy then)

“OK, my disclaimer: I’m an epidemiologist, and yes, scientists are
NOT objective (I’ll say it: I’m an ardent veggie with a happy veggie
family). Hell, science is not objective. I mean, you could be given a
blob of numbers that mean nothing. It takes some context,
interpretation, and data processing to make anything meaningful
out of those numbers. Yes, scientists can be biased, and so can the
studies they conduct, and the analysis of those studies. But good
scientists do the best they can, are open about their methods, and
fair when discussing their results. I applaud Dr. Campbell for
making his raw data available – very few scientists do this. I will be
totally honest and say I have not read “The China Study” (I guess I
feel it’d just be preaching to the choir, but I think I will read it
now…). “

11 07 2010
DNA Testing News » China fiction?

[...] Nikoley of Free the Animal and Stephan Guyenet of Whole Health Source have been talking about an analysis of the China Study raw data performed by a young woman named Denise [...]

11 07 2010
Die veblüffende Biegsamkeit von Fakten: The China Study « Urgeschmack

[...] bislang fundierteste und vernichtendste stammt nun von Denise Minger, selbst ehemalige Veganerin. Sie untersuchte die Originaldaten und fand, dass Campbell bestenfalls [...]

11 07 2010
Sue

Rayna, why don’t you do a more appropriate analysis as you say and see what you come up with.

11 07 2010
Jenna

the vegans are organizing a gang up…. like mafia, they are. shows how threatened they are by this !!

http://www.30bananasaday.com/forum/topics/the-china-study-dr-campbell?page=14&commentId=2684079%3AComment%3A628510&x=1#2684079Comment628510

11 07 2010
Alex

Dear vegans,

Please actually rebut these criticisms instead of just appealing to the authority of your credentials.

Thank you

11 07 2010
James

You have a cat as an avatar and you’re not a vegan? An animal lover that eats animals, now there’s a contradiction if I ever saw one.

11 07 2010
Alex

I love animals, but I am not in bondage to a newage hippy ideology that prevents me from being at peace with the natural world as it is, carnivores, omnivores, herbivores and all.

28 09 2010
moksha

gawd i am so tired of this inane veg-head reply – i read “the secret life of plants” waaaay back –

veg-heads: that salad you are munching is screaming all the way down–

that i enjoy my ancestral evolutionary diet that includes meat hardly means i am a heartless animal hater – duhhhh…

11 07 2010
Veganbibelns fall | Kostdoktorn.se

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy [...]

11 07 2010
James

lol rebute criticisms that are based on misinterpreted data, makes a lot of sense.

12 07 2010
Bushrat

If Denise has misinterpreted the data than you should be able to show this. I’ll be awaiting your reply.

11 07 2010
Rebecca

A friend of mine in stage 4 cancer had given me “The China Study” to read so I could give her my opinion on the research given. Upon comletetion I wanted to burn it. Our bodies are not made from cookie cutters and to say so bodly that animal fats and dairy are bad for mankind is lunacy.
Look at history and what mankind has been successfully eating for thousands of years Greed and the love of the almighty dollar is the main reason our diet has become such an issue. Government, food production and big pharma work hand in hand. Dr Campbell, very proudly, listed all of the grants he recieved for his studies!
For those who are educated beyond their intelligence, I am thankful for Denise’s great work. But as for me with a PhD (plain high school diploma),The truth or rather the “untruths” about the China Study didn’t take charts and graphs. It was as clear as the nose on my face.
The bible says “Everything in moderation”, no truer words have ever been spoken.

16 08 2010
herbguy

All things in moderation indeed!
Remember that originally, in Genesis 1:29-30, both man and beast was given “every green plant for food”. Surely, for healing, it would seem to make sense to “go back to the basics”.

16 08 2010
Martin Levac

Common sense and religion don’t mix. I fail to see how it makes sense to “go back to basics” when the basics are religion. Unless, of course, we’re talking about faith. Are we talking about faith?

25 08 2010
Bill Strahan

Yeah, every green plant. If you like the Garden of Eden idea, remember it had plants, and animals, not grains. In fact…Genesis 3:19, when they were kicked from the garden:

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Sounds like bread was part of the punishment. No bread for me, thanks!

11 07 2010
Emily Deans, M.D.

The most curious thing about the whole exercise is that Ms. Minger’s correlations made with the uncorrected data apparently match Dr. Campbell’s.

I would imagine that Ms. Minger made a few mistakes in her analysis along the way. She is only human, was burning the midnight oil, and has no world class epidemiologists on hire to help check her work. Dr. Campbell, as a full professor at Cornell, no doubt has some very fine epidemiologists at his disposal. If he chose to publish the correlations from the uncorrected data, I cannot credit that it was a mistake.

How many “correlations” and “associated withs” in the current up-for-debate 2010 guidelines come from the China Study data and the papers published by Dr. Campbell’s group?

The China Study data set is problematic, as explained by the epidemiologist in the comments, and of course by Ms. Minger herself. Nevertheless such a large data set is important, and could have some meaningful information. If the data is processed correctly.

11 07 2010
Weekend Link Love | Mark's Daily Apple

[...] China Study. Yes, we’ve seen it belittled, but never in such amazing fashion. Raw Food SOS thoroughly discredits the China Study, and Richard Nikoley is there with a bullhorn to spread the word. Rob Wolf is all over this one as [...]

11 07 2010
T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study: Finally, Exhaustively Discredited | Free The Animal

[...] here is the link that sums it all up, a 9,000 word masterpiece, The China Study: Fact or Fallacy. I'll quote from the [...]

11 07 2010
Kat's Food Blog » The China Study

[...] I have read rebuttals against the China Study before but this past week read through a most interesting and thorough discussion of not just the China Study book, but of the actual raw data the study was based on. Denise from Raw Food SOS took the time to sort through all the data and what she found was quite interesting. Many of the claims made by Campbell were simply false. Read her full post here: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/. [...]

11 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

Rayna suggested:

“At the very least, you need to model the data using regression analyses so that you can account for multiple factors at one time.”

Engineer Richard Kroeker did just that two years ago. You can see his results on an Amazon discussion thread here .

11 07 2010
Miki

When doing wheat correlation latitude may have to be taken care of since vitamin D is important factor in both CHD and cancer.

11 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

John wrote:

“We discussed data use and misuse on pp. 54-82 of the China Project monograph that curiously was overlooked by Masterjohn and Jay’Y’.”

I located the monograph here . I read the foreward and the study description and methods but could not find any information about data use and misuse that would be relevant to this debate. I also have a copy of The China Study. I would very much appreciate it if you or someone else could direct me to text in the book or online that would explain how Campbell and others connected data from the monograph to their conclusions about animal and plant protein and fat. The monograph itself states in the section “Study description and methods” that no conclusions can be drawn from varying data on fat consumption, noting that fat consumption raises (in its words) both protective HDL and harmful LDL. Links or page numbers will do.

11 07 2010
Ut i solen igen « Paleofriend

[...] andra har redan skrivit om slakten av The China Study skriven av en lekman; Denise Minger, och djuret Richard Nikoley har sammanfattat och listat de [...]

11 07 2010
Apolloswabbie

Thank you Denise!

My friend Greg Glassman once wrote “Truth is like a beach ball, it takes a lot of effort to hold it underwater and eventually, it will rise to the surface.”

11 07 2010
Scott Miller

Just need to thank you, Denise, for this well-researched post. Pretty much closes the book on Campbell’s erroneous, biased “scientific” conclusions.

12 07 2010
Michael

Hi Denise,

Thank you for your wonderful analysis. Like others before me I am interested in a more detailed parsing of the data concerning wheat and whether the wheat consumed was refined processed wheat. Even though he is a vegan, my guess is T. Colin Campbell would agree with any correlations throwing modern refined processed wheat under the bus.

Look forward to more of your work (and I also sent you an email).

Take care..

12 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

In the monograph, wheat is identified in English and Chinese as wheat flour. There is no information about whether the wheat flour was whole, unbleached white, or bleached.

12 07 2010
Michael

Yes, I was aware of that, and those two links I mentioned below were helpful. I also asked Chris Masterjohn and he wasn’t sure but going from memory he thought it was refined (which may also include bromating, treating with transglutaminase etc.).

12 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

You can read Chinese, too? : )

I wonder how Masterjohn would know what kind of flour was consumed during a study that took place in the 70s. Bleached flour was certainly around in China then, and today nearly all flour sold in stores is refined white flour. However, I do not know how rural collectivized farms treated wheat flour back in the 70s. If I can find a Chinese internet forum where foreign nationals can post, I might ask.

12 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

I looked up the email addresses of a few Chinese professors of nutrition, contacted them, and one has responded (it’s morning in China). Dr. Duo Li of Zhejiang University stated briefly in his reply that rural Chinese ate whole wheat products in the 70s and that refined wheat was rarely consumed then.

13 07 2010
Chris Masterjohn

Actually Michael what I wrote to that particular question was “I don’t think the China Study really collected details about kinds and processing of wheat. I think there were only two districts that consumed wheat and dairy and they were modernized, but that’s off memory.”

(And when I say memory, I mean it has been five years since I looked at the monograph.)

My comments about the processing were a question to you about the type of wheat flour Dr. Davis was using in his self-experiment.

Chris

13 07 2010
Michael

Chris,

My bad. When you referred to the two districts as being modernized, I assumed you meant in your recollection you thought they were consuming refined wheat and pasteurized dairy.

12 07 2010
Michael

Okay, two of the links posted in this comment thread, Brad Marshall and Richard Kroeker, point to the consumption of refined wheat flour, i.e. white flour, which changes the landscape considerably. Brad Marshall seems to dismiss this issue because white rice is also consumed, but white rice does not have the same impact on the body as white flour (refined wheat flour). Nor does this take into account all the processing other than refining that typical modern day refined wheat flour undergoes.

Both however are outstanding links.

12 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

I scrolled up the thread and couldn’t find the link to Marshall. Kroeker’s information comes from a present-day Chinese initiative to enrich flour. I looked online for information about Chinese wheat production and processing and couldn’t find any information specifying one way or the other how flour was processed back in the 70s. I will probably send emails to some middle-aged Chinese who might be able to recall.

12 07 2010
Vindication, “Maps”, and the Athletic Vagabond « Theory to Practice

[...] late in the week to an epic dismantling of Campbell’s study (links here) by Denise Minger, of the Raw Foods SOS blog.  Denise has produced an erudite body of work that ought to keep all the Campbell apologists [...]

12 07 2010
Bushrat

Denise, I think you would be very interested in this paper:

Siri-Tarino, Sun Q, Hu F B, Krauss, R M. “Meta-Analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010, vol. 91, pp535-546

It is a meta-analysis of just over 20 papers that looked at the link between saturated fat intake and heart disease. Very good statistical analysis, and I think at one point the authors show that in two studies the researchers misinterpreted their own data.

12 07 2010
Bushrat

Denise, I think you would be very interested in this paper:

Siri-Tarino, Sun Q, Hu F B, Krauss, R M. “Meta-Analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010, vol. 91, pp535-546

It is a meta-analysis of just over 20 papers that looked at the link between saturated fat intake and heart disease. A very good statistical analysis.

12 07 2010
12 07 2010
r

Hi Denise,

As promised, I’m posting my response to your email on your site. You asked that I provide some tips on where to start and how to proceed. BTW, you mentioned “epidemiology secrets” and I just want to say: no “secrets”!! Epidemiology is just critical thinking, but with numbers. It’s no different from many other disciplines. Maybe some time you can help me with writing (scientists are generally terrible writers, hehe).

Note: I’ve included some comments on what went wrong and how it can be corrected merely for demonstrative purposes – not at all malicious attacks, OK? This is how we all learn after all. In caps, I will highlight steps in the action plan for you.

STEP 0: Do a literature search. I find it helpful to keep an excel spreadsheet with columns for author, title, journal, year, summary of paper, strengths of the study, weaknesses, and concluding remarks. This is essential, as one shouldn’t just blindly go into an analysis without having at least some background information on the subject matter. No need to be an expert, but good to know what’s already out there, and what needs to be done.

1. Correlations:
For this discussion, the outcome will be colorectal cancer, since you used it on your post. Similarly, the primary exposure of interest will be total cholesterol. By by basing your conclusions on uncorrected correlations alone, you’ve made a huge leap that doesn’t have much ground to stand on. The simple correlations are biased, as you yourself pointed out when evaluating total cholesterol, schistomiasis, and colorectal cancer. As such, if you don’t adjust for potential confounders via multiple regression, the association you observe is biased. We almost always need to adjust for confounders, and this is very true in your case.

STEP 1: It’s a good habit to evaluate the correlations between all exposures and also between all exposures and the outcome at the individual level. So, for *every* analysis you plan on doing, run create scatterplots for every X against X and every X against Y, using the *individual* data (where possible), and provide the correlation + 95% confidence interval for each.

STEP 2: Create histograms for every exposure of that is categoric and density plots (or you can create histograms with very narrow bars) for every exposure that is continuous. This will tell you how the variables are distributed and what the appropriate summary statistics for them would be. For example, if total cholesterol is not normally distributed (follow a bell curve) then *median* total cholesterol might be a better summary statistic then *mean* total cholesterol (good to know when you present descriptive statistics of the data you’re using). Sometimes it’s useful to present different stats for a single variable.

2. Individual data vs. aggregated data:
You stated you didn’t see much curvature, but keep in mind that you were presenting with aggregated data (eg. average total cholesterol for all individuals) instead of including individual-level data (the exposure and outcome for a single individual). Consequently, there was a big loss in information, and you can’t make accurate decisions on how to model your data if you plot aggregated data. Related to this, your analysis was ecologic (used aggregated/grouped data) but you made individual-level conclusions when you used the term “risk factor.” This is referred to as an ecologic fallacy – and it’s just that. A fallacy. For example, all we can say based on your cholesterol-colorectal cancer example (the one that doesn’t account for schistomiasis) is that the counties with higher mean total cholesterol tend to have higher incidence rates of colorectal cancer. We can’t make the leap to calling cholesterol a *risk factor* for colorectal cancer.

STEP 3: Don’t aggregate your data in your analysis. Why? You lose A LOT of information when you aggregate data and you can bias your results. So keep that data at the individual-level. For descriptive tables, by all means, aggregated data is necessary for obvious reasons. But in your analysis, individual-level data when you’ve got it is essential.

3. The right regression model:
One of your outcomes was incidence rates of colorectal cancer. When you do your analysis with individual-level data, with incidence rates of colorectal cancer as your outcome, linear regression = WRONG model. Make sure you know which models to use and when. To start – when modeling “raw” rates (case counts and person time), we almost always use Poisson regression, and often we need to account for overdispersion as well. Get to know some of the other common regression models as well.

STEP 4: Write out all of the primary exposures of interest you want to investigate and the corresponding outcome of interest and how you’re setting up your outcome variable (are you interested in colorectal cancer *incidence rates*, *prevalence*, a simple yes/no the person has colorectal cancer?)

STEP 5: Write out what the appropriate regression model would be for the different analyses you plan to conduct.

4. Confounders:
These are factors that are related to the exposure and the outcome of interest such that *not* adjusting for them will produce a biased association between exposure and outcome. As you saw, schistomiasis might be a confounder. And in fact, county might be too – and is actually upstream of schistomiasis in some sense, right? Two confounders that almost *always* must be included in a model are AGE and SEX (provided your analysis isn’t restricted to one sex). This is especially true for chronic disease (eg. cardiovascular disease and cancer). In this particular case, body mass index (BMI) would be very important to include as well. County may also be important.

STEP 6: For every analysis you do, write out all potential confounders you can think of and why. You know the data better than I do as you’ve worked with it extensively. And, from STEP 0, you’ll know your context.

STEP 7: Write out *how* the confounders are related to the exposure and outcome. Is the confounder protective (i.e. decrease risk) for the outcome? Or is it a risk factor? How is it associated with the primary exposure of interest? This is where those scatterplots in STEP 1 come in handy! The purpose of this is to give you an idea of *how* an observed association might be biased if you *don’t* adjust for certain confounders. It is tedious, but thorough and, like STEP 6, will allow you to approach your analyses with more contextual background.

5. “Cleaning” and “recoding” your data:
Raw data is not *in and of itself* a bad thing. It is simply the data in its original form. But in order to be useful for analysis we often need to “clean” it and “recode” it. When I say “clean” it, I mean setting up the *dataset* that is free (to the greatest extent possible) of unnecessary data (for example, if you’re interested in ovarian cancer, you wouldn’t include men), or mistakes (for example, if an individual in the data was coded as being a man with ovarian cancer, this is clearly wrong). In this case, you might either omit it since you don’t have a way to check which is correct or, based on other data for that individual choose to change “man” to “woman” or “ovarian cancer” to “no ovarian cancer.” “Recoding” means setting up the *variables* to be useful. For example, we might recode BMI in categories of underweight, normal, overweight, and obese rather than leave it as continuous. Some variables may already be categoric, if the corresponding data were collected that way.

STEP 8: Clean your data. You will likely need to set up multiple datasets.

STEP 9: Write out *how* you’ve cleaned your data. (This is good record keeping.)

STEP 10: Recode your data. This might include combining variables too.

STEP 11: Create a “data dictionary” similar to the one on the Oxford site. But in addition, include a description of how you’ve coded your data (eg. 1=underweight, 2=normal, 3=overweight, 4=obese). Again, good for record keeping, but also “keeps you honest” so others know how you set up your data. This will often be apparent when you present your results, but not always. It’s a good habit to keep track of this, in any event.

STEP 12: Replot all newly *categorized* variables against the outcome(s) of interest. Why? Because the categorized data may reveal non-linear relationships with the outcome (in fact, this is a strength of categorizing data – that we can account for some non-linear relationships). For example, underweight might be a risk for something, whereas normal BMI is protective, while overweight and obese are a risk (“U-shaped”).

6. Exploration of your data through descriptive statistics:
Almost all scientific papers start out with a “Table 1″ which presents a description of the data. It tells us things like What’s the % of women and men in our data, What is the proportion of people with and without the exposure and with and without the outcome?

STEP 13: Create descriptive tables of all relevant variables. This includes your primary exposure of interest, confounders, and outcome. Obviously, you will have different tables for each analysis as you’re interested in different primary exposures (cholesterol? meat? total caloric intake?) and outcomes (cardiovascular disease? colorectal cancer? bladder cancer?). To save time, you might include all relevant exposures and confounders in rows, and cross-classify them with all outcomes of interest in columns.

6. Analysis:
The fun part.

STEP 14: Run your models. Keep track of what you include in your models b/c oftentimes we will evaluate several models for each analysis depending on what’s called “fit statistics.” Since you are familiar with p-values and I assume interpretation of beta coefficients, use these to help inform you of which variables to include in your final model *within the context of the analysis at hand* (this is key – if you have reason to believe that a confounder is important to include, keep it in the model even if it’s non-significant).

STEP 15: Create tables for results from *all* analyses (including the models you decide to can in favor for another one) and what regression model was used. This is much more transparent than simply producing your final model.

There’s more “post-analysis” stuff that should be done, but really Steps 1-15 is a pretty thorough.

7. Publish:
I can’t stress this enough. This is a long-term goal for sure, especially as you will likely end up with multiple papers! But once you think you’ve got the data set-up and analyses down, you need to write it up and send it on for peer-review. Peer-review is not perfect for sure, but it is the best measure we have for good science. It gives credibility to your efforts. Besides, you *do* want to be acknowledged for your efforts, right? By publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, you’re more likely to gain more widely publicized attention, which I think should be the goal of most epidemiological studies; we want to improve public health through informing not only our peers, but also the public.

As a last note, I know this is a huge undertaking, but these are steps to a thorough analysis. I have no doubt you’re capable of tackling it.

Best wishes.

12 07 2010
r

PS. I’m sure you already planned to do this, but make all of the above available. With your large readership, you can make this a collaborative effort.

12 07 2010
mrfreddy (www.beefandwhisky.com)

R,

I haven’t read it yet, so perhaps you can tell me, which of your 16 steps did TCC follow for his China Project publication?

If your argument is that anything less than your complete process is bad science and not to be trusted, what might this say about TCC’s work?

13 07 2010
r

i’m not trying to defend TCC’s work by this post, i’m merely providing a framework for denise since i offered help, and she accepted.

12 07 2010
CPM

Hi R,

Thanks for sharing all that information on data analysis. I think data analysis is very interesting, and I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

It is amusing though that some people are so simple-minded to think that you are somehow defending the China Study by critiquing Minger’s work here. I believe that a vegan website is prominently displaying your comments as some type of defense of the China Study.

They are so blind to see how much your thoughtful commentary is so incredibly damning of Campbell’s work itself. Every criticism you have found with Minger’s work applies also to Campbell’s work, and in most cases it applies even more frequently and strongly to Campbell’s.

The key thing is, Minger’s work is just an analysis used to bring to light the problems with Campbell’s work, whereas apparently many people are using Campbell’s “findings” from this ecological data to base and support (and defend) their views on optimal nutrition. These findings that Campbell derived from the uncorrected raw data are so important to some people that they feel the need to attack anybody that questions the analysis and interpretations that were used to reach these findings.

13 07 2010
r

fair points. but i think it’s important to remember that “the china study” relied not only on the data from the china project, but hundreds of other studies as well.

12 07 2010
Rick

Denise, you might not want to trust this Rayna woman. She is part of a group called Debunking the China Study Critics here-

http://www.30bananasaday.com/group/debunkingthechinastudycritics/forum

Where she posted this-
My response to Denise’s acceptance of my offer to assist, Its purpose was to re-articulate the limitations of her analysis, but also to inform. Good science should prevail, after all. Also, I think it’s good to attack with kindness. :-)

Clearly she is not approaching this with intent to help you but to prove you wrong and make it look as though your argument is weak.

I encourage everyone to go to the first link and see what the insane vegans are doing. They aren’t interested in science, they’re interested in pushing their own agenda. This is plainly obvious. They aren’t even interested in you doing more analysis, they just want to destroy your hard work because they don’t like its outcome.

Sickening.

12 07 2010
r

I’m really sorry for using the “wrong” words. I can see how they can be misconstrued. Anyhow, I think it’s important to be kind, whether I agree. When I wrote it out “attack”, I was thinking of a shirt my husband has with bouncing Buddhas acting as “bullets” as a funny way to portray pacificism. I genuinely wished to offer help and guidance to Denise as she is clearly a smart, ambitious woman who simply needed a little push to expand what she’s already done. In any event, I can see I’m not at all welcome here, so I will close out and wish everyone luck.

13 07 2010
Bushrat

Perhaps you could send an email to Campbell and offer to help him with his statistics. He clearly needs a refresher course.

It seems that the China study is nothing but a large data set waiting for someone to properly analyse it. With your experience and statistical knowledge you should try it. You would certainly do a better job than Campbell.

3 05 2011
Victoria

R-
Too bad others have made personal attacks on you. Denise did an impressive job. But as you pointed out, it needs to be checked by others who are qualified to do so. A mistake she may have made would be almost impossible for her to identify herself.
I hope she follows your suggestions and submits her work for peer-reviewed publication.

12 07 2010
Sam Mac

Fantastic. This is analyzing data done right. If only all our scientists were this diligent and competent we would be living in a much better world. A big thanks for all the hard work.

12 07 2010
Catherine Clark

My husband had throat cancer last year and lost most of his swallowing capacity due to the procedures done. He was advised to go vegan to keep the cancer from returning. We believe this was successful, as well as doing his best to get his system back to a better PH. However, veganism, and he was practicing it in good form using high quality foods, still left him in a weakened state. When we became the pick-up location for raw milk products in our area, he met a nutritionist that advised him to add some raw eggs and raw, high quality animal protein to his diet. He started with the raw eggs in his blends, as he is now mostly tube fed from the cancer procedures. What a difference! The addition of just 1 raw egg in each of his tube blends made a huge difference in his energy levels. Of course he uses eggs from a trusted source from our local farmers market, with very clean conditions and healthy hens that are allowed for forage for themselves and we can tell the eggs are of good quality. He also found that adding a small amount of high quality, grass feed meat to his diet made another difference in his energy level. So while he continues to alkalize his system, he has now balanced his dietary needs so that he is now able to return to work in the trades and even lift his floor sander once again as he now finds his strength returning, which it wasn’t doing on a vegan diet.

12 07 2010
r

Catherine, I saw this and just had to respond. I am so happy to hear your husband is doing better. I hope he doesn’t have to have any more chemotherapy or radiation therapy – horrible stuff!! Best wishes to you both.

12 07 2010
A Challenge and Response to The China Study | Life Outside The Box | Tynan

[...] people, all suggesting that I check out the same article. A really smart and thorough girl wrote a critique of The China Study which resonated with me. I’ve been sent a few critiques of the China Study before, but none [...]

12 07 2010
Alex

Awesome post. Thank you, Denise!

Alex

12 07 2010
anon

Denise, I don’t know if you’ve actually heard from Campbell directly, but he is bad-mouthing you to third-parties, and questioning whose water your carrying. However, you ought to read it so you can pre-emptively address his velveteen slander:

http://tynan.net/chinastudyresponse

It is a nasty piece of work, probably the most impressive array of back-handed compliments I’ve ever read.

12 07 2010
Binko Barnes

There are plenty of good reasons to abstain from meat eating. But maximizing nutrition and health is not one of them.

Humans evolved eating meat. In fact, it’s pretty much a universal truth that all societies of humans seek out animal products and consume them on as regular a basis as they are able.

However, it’s perfectly valid to abstain from meat for ethical or environmental reasons. Most Buddhists, for example, refrain from meat eating because reverence for all life is central to Buddhism.

Just don’t expect to have your choice validated on nutritional grounds. As a poster noted above, John Robbins, who is vegan, let his honesty overcome his bias and wrote a book called “Healthy At 100″ about the most healthy societies on earth. All of them consumed some degree of animal products.

I’m baffled by the need that people have to seek endless validation for their choices. If vegans decide to stop eating meat because they believe that factory farms are barbaric or because they believe that industrial meat production is very destructive of the environment why isn’t that enough?

Personally, I would like to be a vegan. But I can’t. I want good health. I want to live a moral life but I don’t want to sacrifice my health to do so.

13 07 2010
Alex

Vegans do not have a monopoly on morality. Here are my thoughts on that:

http://feedmelikeyoumeanit.blogspot.com/2010/04/case-against-dogmatic-veganism-short.html

14 07 2010
anand srivastava

Just pointing out that the current Dalai Lama eats meat. He is not happy about it, but eats it because he is not healthy otherwise. He is from a region that is traditionally at a very high altitude and experiences very little sun. This makes it very important to eat meat for the Vitamin D.
Infact he is the first Dalai Lama to be Vegetarian ;-).

http://www.ivu.org/people/writers/lama.html

Farming is bad period. That includes Vegetables and grains grown in Farms. We should return to eating only that which grows in the Wild. But I guess that is not practically possible. So everybody tries to determine their own ways.

26 04 2012
THINk

If the current Dalai Lama eats meat, then he is not a vegetarian. Also, there are very few natural sources of vitamin D, and beef is not one of them (minus the liver). Cholesterol in our skin (cholesterol helps give our cells structure) is a precursor for vitamin D, and is converted into vitamin D through direct contact to sun light.
Sustainable farming is our way of using what our beautiful-life-giving Earth has to offer without destroying it. So, farming is not bad as long as it doesn’t upset the Earth’s natural balances. I grow organic vegetables in a space I made in my garden. Does that make me a “demon farmer” that’s destroying our planet? No. That’s Monsanto’s job.

19 11 2012
Tim Straight

Yes humans evolved eating meat, but only when it didn’t eat them first, and they didn’t eat it on a daily basis, and only after countless years of not eating meat, and it was real game, not the industrialized, genetically modified, hormone induced meat we eat today. And no, not all societies eat meat; India and China eat very little meat today, yet they have the lowest rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, angina, obesity. If you think it’s just a freaky coincedence, buy more stock in McDonald’s.

12 07 2010
Mark

Can you please increase the font size? Very difficult to read and hard on eyes.

16 08 2010
herbguy

I second that motion!
With all the sincerity and respect my bifocals and tear strained eyes can evoke.

12 07 2010
Mark

I don’t have time to review every comment but did quickly scan the text. This analysis seems very impressive, especially given the writer’s young age with no training in nutritional science (see her web page).

She claims to have no biases–either for or against–but nonetheless liberally uses adjectives and cutesy expressions that leaves me wondering.

As far as her substantive comments are concerned, almost all are based on her citing univariate correlations in the China project that can easily mislead, especially if one of the two variables does not have a sufficient range, is too low to be useful and/or is known to be a very different level of exposure at the time of the survey than it would have been years before when disease was developing. There is a number of these univariate correlations in the China project (associations of 2 variables only) that do not fit the model (out of 8000, there would be) and most can be explained by one of these limitations.

A more appropriate method is to search for aggregate groups of data, as in the ‘affluent’ vs. ‘poverty’ disease groups, then examine whether there is any consistency within groups of biomarkers, as in considering various cholesterol fractions. This is rather like using metanalysis to obtain a better overview of possible associations. I actually had written material for our book, elaborating some of these issues but was told that I had already exceeded what is a resonable number of pages. There simply were not enough pages to go into the lengthy discussions that would have been required–and I had to drop what I had already written. This book was not meant to be an exhaustive scientific treatise. It was meant for the public, while including about as much scientific data and discussion that the average reader would tolerate.

She also makes big issues out of some matters that we had no intent to include because we knew well certain limitations with the data. For example, only 3 counties (of the 65) consumed dairy and the kind of dairy consumed (much of it very hard sun-dried cheese) was much different from dairy in the West. It makes no sense to do that kind of analysis and we did none, both because of the limited number of sample points and because we discovered after the project was completed that meat consumption for one of the counties, Tuoli, was clearly not accurate on the 3 days that the data were being collected. On those days, they were essentially eating as if it were a feast to impress the survey team but on the question of frequency of consumption over the course of a year, it was very different. Still, the reviewer makes a big issue of our not including the data for this county as if I were being devious.

In short, she has done what she claims that should not be done–focusing on narrowly defined data rather than searching for overarching messages, focusing on the trees instead of the forest.

I very carefully stated in the book that there are some correlations that are not consistent with the message and, knowing this, I suggested to the reader that he/she need not accept what is said in the book. In this very complex business it is possible to focus on the details and make widely divergent interpretations but, in so doing, miss the much more important general message. In the final analysis, I simply asked the reader to try it and see for themselves. And the results that people have achieved have been truly overwhelming.

One final note: she repeatedly uses the ‘V’ words (vegan, vegetarian) in a way that disingenuously suggests that this was my main motive. I am not aware that I used either of these words in the book, not once. I wanted to focus on the science, not on these ideologies.

I find it very puzzling that someone with virtually no training in this science can do such a lengthy and detailed analysis in their supposedly spare time. I know how agricultural lobbying organizations do it–like the Weston A Price Foundation with many chapters around the country and untold amounts of financial resources. Someone takes the lead in doing a draft of an article, then has access to a large number of commentators to check out the details, technical and literal, of the drafts as they are produced.

I have no proof, of course, whether this young girl is anything other than who she says she is, but I find it very difficult to accept her statement that this was her innocent and objective reasoning, and hers alone. If she did this alone, based on her personal experiences from age 7 (as she describes it), I am more than impressed. But she suffers one major flaw that seeps into her entire analysis by focusing on the selection of univariate correlations to make her arguments (univariate correlations in a study like this means, for example, comparing 2 variables–like dietary fat and breast cancer–within a very large database where there will undoubtedly be many factors that could incorrectly negate or enhance a possible correlation). She acknowledges this problem in several places but still turns around and displays data sets of univariate correlations. One further flaw, just like the Weston Price enthusiasts, is her assumption that it was the China project itself, almost standing alone, that determined my conclusions for the book (it was only one chapter!). She, and others like her, ignore much of the rest of the book. Can any other diet match the findings of Drs. Esslestyn, Ornish and McDougall, who were interviewed for our book (and now an increasing of other physicians have done with their patients)? No diet or any other medical strategy comes close to the benefits that can be achieved with a whole foods, plant based diet.

I also know that critics like her would like nothing better than to get me to spend all my time answering detailed questions, but I simply will not do this. As we said in our book, no one needs to accept at face value what I say. Rather, as we said in the book, “Try it” and the results will be what they are. So far, the reports of positive benefits have been nothing less than overwhelming.

I hope this helps, although it was written in haste.

Colin

http://tynan.net/chinastudyresponse

12 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

Young girl? She looks like an adult to me. How would you like being called “gramps”? Ageism cuts both ways. If Denise Minger is a “young girl,” then your co-author of the China Study was a ‘young boy” when he helped you write the book, Dr. Campbell.

13 07 2010
Alex

Mark/Colin says: “I know how agricultural lobbying organizations do it–like the Weston A Price Foundation with many chapters around the country and untold amounts of financial resources.”

The Weston A Price Foundation is a non-profit. As such, their books are open to the public. Their budget for 2009 was…$1,406,000. This hardly qualifies as “untold amounts of financial resources”.

http://www.westonaprice.org/funding-3.html

(or check their actual IRS filing).

The fact that you failed to check the facts on this, and instead resorted to ad hominem (feminem?) attacks, undermines any claim you might have to objectivity or sound research methodology.

27 08 2010
Igor

Yup, he’s definitely taking the low road. Not only by attacking the Weston A. Price Foundation, which is a tiny, underfunded, understaffed group composed mainly of volunteers, but by insinuating that the author of this piece is a shill. I wonder how much he’s being paid by the soy/corn/cotton industry?

1 01 2011
E S Hunt

The harshness of the comments directed at this book are quite suspect. To ignore the “whole sum of the book” with flippant demeaning statements is more diversion than science. … ? Trying to elevate one-self by putting down others perhaps?

Campbell’s work looks at some real anomalies in the health/nutrition /science fields of today, and they are not minor, and should not be dismissed. Thank you Colin Campbell for your science, and your bravery in revealing some of these situations to the public. I’m aware of more such actions, and I think you may have understated it.

I think some of your analyses are intriguing, Denise. I hope the statistical methods suggested by others will strengthen and refine your observations, and further good scientific findings.

12 07 2010
CPM

You know, instead of worrying about WPF boogey-men and telling people to just try the diet espoused in the book and see if it works, it would be nice if Campbell simply explained how he performed his analysis of this particular data set and reached his conclusions, and then he could make this publicly available, say in a scientific journal where it could undergo peer-review…or at least on the internet so that interested parties could review his methods. Just sayin’…

13 07 2010
DML

LOL! I agree CPM! I was just about ready to make a similar point, but you beat me to the punch. His post was mostly hand-waving and ad hominem attacks, as Alex stated. I do think he made some valid points, too bad it was surrounded by nonsense.

13 07 2010
N

Ms. Minger, thank you for sharing the fruits of your study of this research. It has clearly generated a great deal of conversation and that usually is a good thing. I hope that it helps you move towards the graduate studies in nutrition that you state elsewhere on your blog interest you and that you might become equipped with a professional toolbox for this kind of analysis.

@CPM – I’m not interested in taking “sides” in the conclusions that people are debating here, but regarding your comment Campbell has published extensively on these topics. You might start with “Diet and chronic degenerative diseases: perspectives from China” by Campbell and Junshi, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 59, 1153S-1161S, available for free download at http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/59/5/1153S . Unlike the third party summary of results without discussion of methodology that Ms. Minger used to structure her analysis, a choice that makes sense for presentation purposes, this summary of research includes description of the analyses and some reasoning behind the choices made in them, as well as references to the individual studies for further study.

There’s room for discussion and debate about the conclusions reached based on any experimental results, but Dr. Campbell has been exceedingly transparent and professional in carrying out his research and there is no cause for accusations of obfuscation or fraud as I see in many of these comments.

13 07 2010
JD

Interesting to see that Campbell’s own published work seems to rely on nothing but univariate correlations. At one point, he says, “based on an overview of the univariate correlations, colon and rectal cancer mortality rates were consistently inversely correlated with all fiber and complex carbohydrate fractions except for pectin.” He never mentions any terms or concepts (such as “regression” or “multivariate”) anywhere else that suggest anything other than univariate correlations.

13 07 2010
CPM

Hi N,

I’m not that experienced at this sort of thing, but in the paper you reference it appears all of his correlations are univariate. That has been a criticism by some of Minger. There has been the implication in some of Campbell’s responses to critics that he used a more sophisticated analysis than his critics did, but as of yet no one has pointed out any evidence of this as far as I can tell.

Like I said, I’m not that experienced in this sort of stuff and I might be missing something, but the paper you referenced appears to be very lacking in the epidemiological requirements that some are demanding of Minger and in fact appears less sophisticated than Minger in the analysis of confounding variables.

13 07 2010
N

With the amount of research in discussion here there’s no way around looking at specific studies if that is the level of detail you desire. A summary can be only that. I provided that citation as more detailed summary (but still only a general summery) that also included references that would allow one to identify the literature where these studies were discussed in full detail. It is simply a more informative starting point than the paper Ms. Minger used for presentation purposes.

For example, using the academic summary rather than the popular one, it is easy to follow up with “Nonassociation of Aflatoxin with Primary Liver Cancer in a Cross-Sectional Ecological Survey in the People’s Republic of China”, in CANCER RESEARCH 50, 6882-6893, and see the multivariate regression analysis that examines the relationship between the variables of interest that cannot be answered by the univariate approaches given in the summary and examined in further detail by Ms. Minger.

While methods such as this multivariate regression analysis can be found in several of those specific studies, I do think that Dr. Campbell relies a bit heavily on simple correlations. However he is attempting to map out mechanisms of disease that are not easily modeled with conventional statistics alone, and this employs other areas of expertise in addition to the simple data analysis. Again, his conclusions are open for debate, but his approach here is uncontroversial. There is a whole discipline of computational biology dedicated to that kind of modeling that came of age after Dr. Campbell’s research career came to a close that might further explore these ideas in a more data intensive way. At the level of the individual study, however, his methods meet professional standards and are described in detail that should be taken into account before leveling the kinds of accusations seen throughout this discussion.

13 07 2010
JD

N — the fact that Campbell used multiple regression in a previous article on alfatoxins doesn’t excuse his failure to do so as to The China Study; it makes it even more inexplicable.

Moreover, this just doesn’t make sense: “However he is attempting to map out mechanisms of disease that are not easily modeled with conventional statistics alone.” Not true at all.

13 07 2010
N

@JD The paper mentioned *is* part of The China Study. The China Study is not a single work, except perhaps as a reference to the data set gathered. Whatever summary of The China Study we look at, whether it is the popular book, the popular summary on the Cornell website that Ms. Minger used, or the journal article I provided, in the end it hangs on those individual studies such as the article an alflatoxins. It is a large body of work.

And quite I’m curious why you would say that the complex systems involved in disease development are easily modeled by conventional statistics alone.

13 07 2010
JD

OK, so what you’re saying is that Campbell was somehow able to use multiple regression for the aflatoxin part of the China Study, but when it came to his much-publicized conclusions about plants vs. meat, he was suddenly forced to use univariate correlations because of . . . something about conventional statistics? Unbelievable. Univariate correlations are conventional statistics themselves, just of a fairly worthless sort. Nor is there anything about disease development that prevented Campbell from controlling for numerous other factors.

13 07 2010
N

@JD No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. And it’s become clear that you’re not interested in real discussion on the matter. But I will clarify one last time. He’s clearly fond of summarizing information with correlations, and I suggested that this was perhaps overdone, but he is able to back that up with references to the in-depth analysis on which his conclusions are based. Those lists of sources at the end of these articles and taking up a good 35 pages at the end of his book aren’t for decoration, they provide supporting information. Debate his conclusions, but these methods are not suspect.

13 07 2010
neisy

Actually, many of Campbell’s references don’t actually support what he cites them for. For example, in Chapter 1, Campbell states “Heart disease can be prevented and even reversed by a healthy diet” and lists two references. Both those references are for studies that use diet *in conjunction* with other lifestyle changes (quitting smoking, stress management, exercise) or drugs (cholesterol lowering medications), making it unclear whether diet alone or the other changes improved heart health. And both studies were merely preliminary. Other examples of misleading citations abound in the book. Footnotes make things look authoritative, but even they require further investigation to validate.

14 07 2010
N

Indeed, attention to references is always a must. Both for the information they provide and the information may they fail to provide. In my attempts to clarify my meaning I probably overstated the confidence one could place in the unchecked content of any given reference in order to explain that they are present to provide information that cannot be included in such a high level summary of results. My point is simply that there is room to debate his conclusions, but that this should be done based on a full appraisal of the work and not just the summarized information. I think this should be a pretty uncontroversial position!

12 07 2010
Kevin

Awesome post, thanks Denise! I included snipets and linked to your article in my blog post: http://healthymindfitbody.com/2010/07/12/the-china-study-bites-the-dust/

Cheers,
Kevin

12 07 2010
Alex

“Can you please increase the font size? Very difficult to read and hard on eyes.”

Mark, you can use your browser’s ‘zoom’ function to increase the text size on your end.

12 07 2010
Rick

LOL. Classic Campbell there. Can you imagine anyone else in a position of prominence behaving the way he does? How can anyone take this buffoon seriously?

12 07 2010
AgingBoomersBlog.com » China Study Unmasked

[...] who has fallen for the nonsense in Campbell’s so-called “research,” you must click here right now to read Denise Minger’s outstanding expose of the bogus and dangerously misleading China [...]

12 07 2010
Yet another independent debunking of "The China Study" book

[...] list of debunkers. I highly recommend her six-part series, but these two are good places to start: The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? Notice Campbell cites a chain of three variables: Cancer associates with cholesterol, cholesterol [...]

13 07 2010
neisy

Hi all,

Once again — a gigantic “thank you!” for the feedback, questions, and other comments that keep pouring in. I’m up to my nose in a sea of emails (anyone have a snorkel handy?), and if you’ve written to me, I do promise a response is on the way! Maybe not very soon. But it’ll come. Cross my heart.

I was thrilled to see that Mr. Campbell took the time to reply to my critique. Also thrilled to see he called it “impressive” and insinuated I may have a research team (nope, just me), although I wish he had gotten a little deeper into the methodology he himself used. I’ll be addressing all of the points he raised in my next blog post, which will be a combination of responses to both his reply and to some questions I’ve received from readers.

It seems the main criticisms against my review so far are that I’m using raw data and univariate correlations. This misses the point completely, as I’m trying to point out that it’s Campbell whose claims, in every single instance, align perfectly with the raw data but become erroneous once major confounders have been adjusted for. I’ll try to explain this point better in my reply, as perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough in the critique.

In addition, as I’ll explain in my reply, univariate correlations weren’t the only ones I used in my analysis — they’re just the only ones I chose to include in this post. I felt they’d be effective for getting my message across to a standard audience who may not be too interested in stats jargon, since they’re a simple way to illustrate the effects of confounding variables and they’re easy to graph visually. I also ran multiple variable regressions on the data I used and it corroborated with what I achieved through the more “crude” methods highlighted in this critique. In the not-too-distant future, I’ll be writing a separate post with the results of these regressions — and maybe including downloadable spreadsheets with some data, so any skeptics can test for themselves what I’ve done.

Again, I can’t even express how grateful I am for all the responses. I have not replied to most of the comments left on this post due to time constraints, but I *have* read each and every one of them.

So, thank you. And stay tuned. :)

13 07 2010
Eva

I am disappointed that Campbell decided to make rude insinuations instead of simply explaining how he got his numbers. My prediction is he and some associates will be creating a continuous stream of hoops for Ms Minger to jump through which they will claim are needed in order to be ‘professional.’ They will claim they are doing this as a kind favor to ‘help’ her. The more hoops she jumps through, the more byzantine and laborious the hoops that will be presented. Meanwhile, they themselves will continue to not give any explanation for their own erroneous looking conclusions. But hey I could be wrong and if the truth varies greatly from that prediction, it should become vastly more interesting. I will stay tuned to see how it comes out!

13 07 2010
xtremecoutureathleticpharmaceuticals

You did a great job with this. I am impressed. I will refer athletes to this very post the next time one of them brings up the China Study.

Dr. John Fitzgerald (Blood Doc John)
XCAP.tv

13 07 2010
Neet Ielasi

As one who tends to ‘glaze over’when it comes to long winded posts,i (almost ) read every word you wrote..Again Denise you are freakn amazing woman,finally some one with a balanced view point on that stinking China study,thanks for a balanced view point you are sharing with us here.
I am also a reformed raw vegan,thank goodness,before my health totally melted in a puddle in front of me!
keep up the good work babe :)

13 07 2010
el-bo

there goes my, planned, internet hiatus :( :D:D

i was pretty sure you wouldn’t have put so much work into this without first checking that you had something more to offer, in terms of critique, than previous attempts

maybe you showed your hand too early and maybe it was a mistake to pander to those, like myself, who needed the simplified version :) but at least we got the rather disappointing and inevitable (and dismissive/patronising) campbell ‘rebuttal’ out of the way

to watch the masses scurry around on the sidelines condemning you at all stages, disregarding your – stated – intention and your, still, valid doubts regarding campbell’s own methodology is more than a little amusing….such entertainment and no one is charging for tickets

whatever the outcome, it is inspirational to see the huge effort you have put into this and the way you have handled yourself through it all….

it seems there is more to come…looking forward to it

13 07 2010
Chris Masterjohn

Fantastic job Denise! I’ve finally gotten through your material and I’m glad you’ve taken the critiques offered thus far to a new and much more in-depth level. I’ve posted a link to your work on my blog.

Chris

13 07 2010
ffnz

Hello Denise,

Thank you for sharing your analysis. A question: did you use age adjusted data, that is, compare the prevalence of diseases in similarly aged participants across counties and countries?

15 07 2010
ffnz

Does anyone recall reading whether Denise used age-adjusted data for her analysis? I’ve looked, but haven’t been able to find any reference to this on the site. Thanks.

13 07 2010
Fat Head » Outstanding Critique of The China Study

[...] read critiques of The China Study before, but a young blogger recently posted her own, and it’s a thing of beauty.  As I’ve mentioned in a few posts, my college physics [...]

13 07 2010
Martin Levac

Denise, Campbell said this here: http://tynan.net/chinastudyresponse
“No diet or any other medical strategy comes close to the benefits that can be achieved with a whole foods, plant based diet.”

In rebuttal:

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/low-carb-gaining-a-foothold-with-the-mainstream/

Just in case you need some ammo.

13 07 2010
Mark

I was a vegetarian/vegan for over a decade and have nothing but respect for those who choose a plant-based diet, even though I’ve chosen to eat animal products for health reasons. My goal, with the “The China Study” analysis and elsewhere, is to figure out the truth about nutrition and health without the interference of biases and dogma. I have no agenda to promote.
———————–

If you had said, data doesn’t support the plant based diet’s claim, would have been fine by me. Here you are saying you’ve chosen to eat animal products for health reasons. Animal products are dangerous to neutral is one thing, you infact go to an extent of terming them as healthy. Can you tell us how animal protein is health protective?

You write you’ve respect for those who follow plant based diet but wouldn’t do it yourself. I smell some fish here!

13 07 2010
neisy

Hi Mark,

That’s not quite what I said. “I eat animal products for health reasons” means I reintroduced them into my diet and discovered the health problems I experienced as a vegan vanished. In repeated experiments of going back to veganism and then back to non-veganism, I’ve found that, for me, the animal products are the factor keeping those problems from cropping up again. I prefer to eat whole foods than to supplement, so non-vegan is the route I’ve gone rather than stuffing my cupboard with pills.

For me, this is what helped. I also believe the human body is incredibly adaptable and can survive on numerous combinations of foods, so I don’t feel I have the authority to say that what does (or doesn’t) work for me will (or won’t) work for others.

I just want to give people access to information, and then let them use it how they wish. I have no interest in delineating a single optimal diet. There are plenty of other folks tackling that goal. :)

13 07 2010
Alex

I have respect for people who choose to live their life as Buddhist monks, but I wouldn’t do it myself. I have respect for firefighters, but I wouldn’t do it myself.

13 07 2010
Joy Houston

After reading Lynne McTaggart’s book The Field, I’d have to agree with your end summary that Campbell, and all researchers to some degree, find what they are looking for. The fact that they are looking for results skews the possibility on non-biased data. Thank you for the very comprehensive breakdown. Impressive.

13 07 2010
meatnpotatoesforlife

“…In fact, when running MRA the protective trends for animal foods were even more accentuated in most cases (I recall a -70 between animal protein and cardiovascular diseases) ”

I find this very interesting. Campbell’s dug his own grave with his response and can’t wait for more on this series. I also find his claims of the Tuoli data being unreliable to be disingenuous, as if they spent an entire year in every other county to get their raw data. Also, thanks to the innanets, we now have visual proof of what some these nomadic tribesmen actually eat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZMCZo9TPNs

Granted this is Mongolia and not Tuoli but I’d imagine the diet is similar all across the wide swath of land from Mongolia to the Central Asian countries. Great work, as usual Denise!

13 07 2010
Daniel

Amazing work Denise! A very outstanding analysis of the China Study. I am amazed by the amount of work you put into this. I’ve read critiques of the study but your work is the best so far in my opinion.

While I somewhat agree with your skeptics that it would be ideal to use multiple regression analysis on your data and show it to us, it would be better for them to prove to us that Campbell used only or mainly multiple regressions to construct his conclusions, and also show us that by using multiple regression on the data, it will lead to a different conclusion than your’s.

13 07 2010
r

A number of people have pointed out that the criticisms of Denise’s analysis apply to Campbell as well, and since they seem to be at least somewhat familiar with statistics, I’ll expand on my initial critique (Denise, I hope this will be helpful to you as you build on your initial analysis).

First and foremost Denise did not take into account potential confounders. I think everyone understands at this point that confounders can bias the observed correlation towards or away from the null (i.e., correlation=0). She only *partially* took schistosomiasis into account by restricting her analysis to counties without schistosomiasis. Her p-values only reflect the test of whether the correlation was significantly different from zero. *Not* if there was a statistically significant change in the exposure-outcome correlation after taking schistomiasis into account.

Let me repeat that. The p-values Denise provides reflect whether correlation=0. They do not tell us whether or not schistosomiasis is a potential confounder. To determine this, we need to know if the correlation of +33 for all counties was statistically significantly different from the correlation of +13 for just the counties without schistosomiasis. This is where 95% confidence intervals would be helpful, but Denise doesn’t provide these. Nor does she tell us what the correlation is only among counties *with* schistosomiasis. There are several ways to tease out whether we should include a factor in our analysis, but here are two commonly used methods, using the schistosomiasis/cholesterol/colorectal cancer example:

Method 1:
1. Calculate correlation for entire sample
–> Denise calculated this to be +33.

2. Now stratify on the variable you think is a potential confounder, i.e., schistosomiasis, and calculate the correlation within each stratum.
–> Denise stratified on county but we’ll let this slide b/c this was probably her only choice. For counties with no schistosomiasis, the correlation was +13. What about the correlation for counties with schistosomiasis? Denise does not provide this.

3. Compare the within-strata correlations (+13 and ??) to the correlation for the the entire sample (+33), and test whether they are statistically significantly different from each other (not whether they are significantly different from 0). One should first perform a global test, and if the result is significant, proceed with pair-wise tests.
–> Denise did not do this.

4. If the correlations are significantly different from each other, then there is evidence that there may be confounding. If they are not significantly different from each other, there is evidence for no confounding.
–> Denise did not do this.

5. Bonus step: if the pair-wise tests between stratum-specific correlations are significant, this is evidence for effect modification.
–> Denise did not do this.

Method 2:
1. Run a full model that includes cholesterol and schistosomiasis as exposures (ideally, the model would include more than just this, but we’ll keep it simple) and colorectal cancer as the outcome. Obtain the adjusted correlation, and make a note of the residual deviance or log likelihood for the model.

2. Run a reduced model that does not include the variable you think is a potential confounder, i.e., just include cholesterol as an exposure. Make a note of the residual deviance or log likelihood for this reduced model.

3. Now take the difference of the deviance or the -2 times the difference in the log likelihoods. This is your chi-square test statistic with k degrees of freedom (in our example, the degrees of freedom=1). Calculate the corresponding p-value. A significant/small p-value strongly suggests that the we should stick with the full model (i.e., the one with cholesterol and schistosomiasis). A large/non-significant p-value suggests that the full model doesn’t add much more information and therefore we would opt for the more parsimonious model. In other words, the reduced model (i.e., the one with cholesterol only) is probably sufficient.

I’m assuming Denise did none of this since there was no mention of it. To her credit, Denise does mention why she took a look at schistosomiasis.

When people criticize Campbell for not including schistomiasis, it is very possible that upon further inspection, it was *not* a potential confounder as Denise concluded based on her results. A factor is a confounder if and only if it:
1. Is associated with the exposure (cholesterol)
2. Is a risk factor or protective factor for the outcome (colorectal cancer), and
3. Is not on the causal pathway between the exposure and outcome.

Perhaps criterion 1 was not met and therefore not included in Campbell’s final analysis. Only Campbell and colleagues know for sure what the detailed analyses were; a final presentation will always include only the most salient points.

As for many of Campbell’s conclusions being drawn from purely ecologic data, I think this ignores the fact that while the China-Cornell-Oxford Project was a large component of the book “The China Study,” the book’s thesis is based on hundreds (in fact, nearly 1000) of additional references that corroborate the Project’s findings.

13 07 2010
JD

This is all very interesting, but it does nothing to disprove Minger’s criticisms of Campbell’s findings.

Nor is this accurate:

the book’s thesis is based on hundreds (in fact, nearly 1000) of additional references that corroborate the Project’s findings.

Impossible. There are not hundreds or 1,000 valid studies that would corroborate the conclusion that plants are so superior to meat. For example, a recent systematic review of valid studies found no evidence that meat, eggs, dairy, or saturated fat have any relation to heart disease. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19364995?dopt=Abstract

14 07 2010
Marco

Seriously?

Does your browser not show italicized text? Maybe the font size is too small? Perhaps you simply lack the ability to read or comprehend the intent?

No offense if it wasn’t your intent (or rather, no offense at all- just take this as an opportunity to reevaluate your critical thinking skills and writing style)- Your observations are nothing more than pedantic bigotry. Logically, pigeonholing only works if you do so relative to the intent. You don’t seem to show an understanding of her intent, so your pigeonholing seems disingenuous and rude.

If you understand the intent, you might recognize that she is using a similar methodology as Campbell. Campbell doesn’t explicitly outline how he comes to his conclusions, but it is possible to extrapolate his methodology based upon his final numbers and the original data set. Campbell uses data acquired using a specific methodology and then uses that data to support a claim. Denise seems to be emulating the same methodology

14 07 2010
Marco

Oops, premature ‘enter’ing–

… same methodology and found that there is plenty of data contrary to Campbell’s claims.

Your observations, by derivative, only suggest that Campbell’s methodology wasn’t sufficient to begin with, which support Denise’s findings. I find it hard to believe that you are some kind of champion of proper analysis when you have little foresight in the logical conclusion of your own observations.

14 07 2010
Bushrat

Also, for another a very good meta analysis of 21 (If I remember right) papers that found no link between saturated fat and heart disease have a look at this paper:

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.27725v1?papetoc

11 09 2010
the0great0t

The health authorities are fully aware of the serious flaws and omissions in this meta-analysis. This study was funded by the National Dairy Council, dairy being the number one contributor of saturated fat in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. It was also conveniently published just before the USDA lowered the dietary recommendations of saturated fat for the first time in 20 years, from 10% to 7% of total calories.

Below is a section from the statement released by the European Heart Network in regards to their opinion of this meta-analysis, titled “European Heart Network position piece: Impact of saturated fat on cardiovascular disease obscured by over‐adjustment in recent meta‐analysis”

“However, the meta‐analysis (and an accompanying opinion piece by the same authors (4)) is compromised by a number of serious flaws and omissions. These are enumerated and discussed in detail in an editorial from Jeremiah Stamler (5). The most serious of these flaws is an over‐adjustment for serum cholesterol levels. The meta‐analysis involves data from 16 studies that evaluate the impact of saturated fat intake on CHD incidence or mortality, and 8 studies that evaluate the impact of saturated fat intake on stroke incidence or mortality. The authors state that ‘wherever possible, risk estimates from the most fully adjusted models were used in the estimation of the pooled [relative risks]’. It is well‐established that saturated fat intake is associated with increased level of serum cholesterol (6), and that serum cholesterol levels are associated with CHD and CVD (7). Therefore, serum cholesterol levels lie on the causal chain between saturated fat intake and CHD and CVD, and to adjust for serum cholesterol levels in a meta‐analysis will obscure the impact of saturated fat intake on these health outcomes. Yet 7 of the 16 studies included in the meta‐analysis of CHD events, and 4 of the 8 studies included in the meta‐analysis of stroke events were adjusted for serum cholesterol levels. These studies accounted for nearly half of all CHD and CVD events included in the meta‐analyses. Adjustment for serum cholesterol levels will inevitably bias the results of the meta‐analyses towards finding no association between dietary saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease, but the authors do not mention this limitation in their article. As Jeremiah Stamler asserts in his editorial, what was actually found by the meta‐analysis was ‘a statistically non‐significant relation of SFA [saturated fat] to CHD… independent of other dietary lipids, serum lipids, and other covariates’ (5). A more appropriate and informative analysis would have included non‐adjusted associations between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. An examination of the forest plots provided in the article shows that those cohort studies that did not adjust for serum cholesterol levels were more likely to find a positive association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease, suggesting that a meta‐analysis of unadjusted data would likely produce positive results. “

References 5-7
(5) Stamler J. Diet‐heart: a problematic revisit. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010; 91: 497‐499.
(6) Clarke R, Frost C, Collins R, Appleby P, Peto R. Dietary lipids and blood cholesterol: quantitative meta‐analysis of metabolic ward studies. BMJ, 1997; 314: 112.
(7) Prospective Studies Collaboration. Blood cholesterol and vascular mortality by age, sex, and blood pressure: a meta‐analysis of individual data from 61 prospective studies with 55,000 vascular deaths. The Lancet, 2007; 370: 1829‐1839.

The full statement from the European Heart Network can be found here:

http://www.sydan.fi/lehtiarkisto/sydan_210/artikkelit/fi_FI/elainrasvat/_files/83538765767049682/default/EHN%20position%20piece%20-%20sats%20meta%20analysis.pdf

Below is a published study showing reversal of severe heart disease backed up with angiogram evidence.

http://www.heartattackproof.com/resolving_cade.htm

16 07 2010
anon

r, will you be demanding the same of Campbell? Or is this just a bunch of intimidation and hand-waving?

13 07 2010
anon

It is amazing how many vegans are insistent that Denise do her analysis their way, while, for Campbell, opacity and “just trust me” serve just fine.

“r”, you’d be waiting forever before Campbell could jump through those hoops…in his recent “defense”, he relies on conspiracy theorizing, snarky remarks about girlishness and — his big finish! — “try it; you’ll like it.”

(Of course, his defense was “written in haste” — no doubt he would demolish Denise with actual data if only he weren’t so very, very busy.)

14 07 2010
anand srivastava

It seems to me that there are not many only one. They all seem to reason in the same way. It maybe that they all are into group think.

When I was reading the 30BAD site. I noticed that Apple-Man (the second poster to this article) was trying to reason with the people there. It was so funny and saddening. I am not sure how he felt about banging his head into the void. I can only pity the pure vegans as to what it does to their brains. I am surprised that some eventually survive with their critical thinking abilities still alive.

Lierre Kieth’s book The Vegetarian Myth is amazing when you understand that she survived the crippling effects of Tofu.

13 07 2010
el-bo

still confused as to why criticisms of campbell’s findings would be answered by critiquing denise’s work, further….

13 07 2010
el-bo

—>”It is amazing how many vegans are insistent that Denise do her analysis their way, while, for Campbell, opacity and “just trust me” serve just fine.””n his recent “defense”, he relies on conspiracy theorizing, snarky remarks about girlishness and — his big finish! — “try it; you’ll like it.”<—-

makes my hair stand on end

13 07 2010
Sarah

Thanks for the highly informative post. I have two hopefully simple questions – first, it seems that the data in the study regarding cancer rates was actually rates of mortality from various cancers. Even in the 1970s, I believe some cancers were successfully treated, but that there would have been quite a strong effect of access to regular medical care (ie, early diagnosis) that would favour populations in industrialized areas. Is this accounted for, or is the assumption in the analyses (both Minger’s and Campbell’s) that mortality rate from cancer = incidence of cancer? Is this also the case for other diseases referenced?

Second, my impression from both the China Study book and Minger’s post was that individual data was not actually available to be used in the manner suggested by the previous poster? I thought that aggregate data was all that existed; ie, individuals were surveyed regarding dietary habits, and this data was plotted against data from hospitals and health authorities on cancer and disease rates for the local populations as a whole. If this is the case, then surely no more accurate analysis can be done because there is no data on what the individuals who developed cancer or various cardiovascular ailments typically ate. I’m no expert in any of this – I took stats in university so I can follow the arguments – but it seems that the data itself, while certainly suggestive of further lines of inquiry, is insufficient for even identifying real correlations, because there only established link between individuals who participated in the dietary survey and individuals who suffered from various diseases is geographical. How big are the counties? Do they have similar population sizes? China is certainly not a genetically homogeneous country, either – were differences in ethnic distributions accounted for?

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m unconvinced that this data set deserves all the attention it’s been given. I think Minger’s analysis is good in that it points out the shortcomings of “The China Study”, but it should NOT be used (and I believe she would agree) to argue the opposite point. In the same way that the data doesn’t really support the assertion that an all-plant diet is healthy, neither does it support the assertion that an omnivorous, high-meat, or any other type of diet is healthy.

14 07 2010
Chris Masterjohn

Here’s my review of Denise’s review if anyone would like to read it:

Denise Minger Refutes The China Study Once and For All

http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/denise-minger-refutes-the-china-study-once-and-for-all.html

Chris

14 07 2010
nomo17k

Denise. Such a great effort.

Why don’t you submit a paper on your findings to a respected peer reviewed journal? Given the popularity of your blog, it probably won’t be hard for you to collect enough money from readers (donations!) to fund the expenses required for the whole process, if your paper successfully ends up being published.

In science, peer review by qualified, relatively unbiased judges is the most important process. You haven’t proven anything unless your work stands that test. Unfortunately blog is just about the worst place for this kind of process, since most are just interested in promoting their agenda. I cannot trust any of the commenter here, because I have no way of knowing their qualifications.

The implication of nutrition science is huge for the public. As such, if your critique of the China Study really stands the test of rigorous scientific reviews, that would be very important. Since I have no knowledge of nutrition, I wish to see how your work is received in the nutrition science community.

Please do consider my suggestion seriously.

23 06 2011
Darrel

I whole heartedly agree. Upon peer review, I don’t think there would be much of Ms. Minger’s study left standing. Sorry about that.

7 08 2014
squiggs82

I couldn’t agree more.

14 07 2010
Disputing the China Study | Cooking Blog

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? Categories: nutrition Tags: Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback [...]

14 07 2010
peterlepaysan

nomo17k,

you apparently think that a review of someone’s published conclusions (not peer reviewed) have to be peer reviewed.

those of us that reside on planet earth find this somewhat odd.

the book is in the public domain.

denise minger reviews the book.

you demand peer review???????????????

you appear to be a particularly bad pr flack for vegans.

oh, btw, “nutrition science” is a non sequiter.

I am bemused by the thought that book reviews have to be “peer reviewed”.

I doubt that any book review has ever involved new research.

the book is there ,we can all read it.
the review is there, we can all read it.

you want “peer review”?

time you started eating meat and getting the brain cells activated.

16 07 2010
nomo17k

Let me just say a junk comment like yours only serves to taint the serious work that Denise is trying to do — exactly the reason why peer review by qualified experts instills a bit more confidence in people who want real information, not religious beliefs from zealots.

By the way I eat meat. Just not the kinds of shit you may be eating at McDonald’s.

23 06 2011
Darrel

Let’s state this simply: If it’s not peer reviewed, it’s garbage.

13 01 2013
Kristin

That would include The China Study then. it is only a popular press book.

14 07 2010
Mark

While Denise’s effort is excellent, she too may be biased. As she states, she wanted to critique Campbell’s China study. So you can not rule some element of bias, without malicious intent.

I’m not smart enough and stat wizard to tell where Denise is making mistake if at all she made any mistake. Her thought process is pretty cool though i.e. If high meat and dairy = high cholesterol = higher rate of chronic diseases such as cancer and CVD then high rate of meat consumption should be equal to high rate of chronic diseases.

Mathematically speaking, if A=B=C then A should be equal to C.

Other way to look at this stuff is, there are many world class nutritionist believe that high cholesterol is a risk factor for CVD. Many health organizations specifically focuses and advises people to use less meat, less saturated fat, less dairy along with exercises to reduce the risk of CVD. Framing ham study specifically established risk between high cholesterol and higher rate of CVD.. so Independent of Campbell’s China Study..how come Denise’s analysis show it otherwise? Logically thinking it sounds something is a miss? Isn’t it?

14 07 2010
CPM

Hi Mark,

I don’t think she is the one saying A=B=C, you might want to read it again.

Also, you may want to look at these for starters:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-saturated-fat-review-article-by-dr.html

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/12/dirty-little-secret-of-diet-heart.html

14 07 2010
Daniel

Mark, I think you are trying to mean “A=>B and B=>C”, so A=>C. So are you trying to say “Meat and saturated fat leads to a higher LDL, High LDL leads to a higher incidence of heart diseases” so “meat and saturates fat leads to a higher incidence of heart disease”?

Is not exactly A=B=C. From this logic we cannot really deduce “no meat and saturated fat => no heart disease”. There could also be other factors that cause heart disease. Not to mention that meat or saturated fat actually increases the large fluffy LDL which is harmless and not the small dense ones. Here’s a meta-analysis on saturated fats:

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.27725v1

The reason why these authorities are advising people to cut out meat and dairy is because of the Ancel Key’s 7 countries study which like Campbell’s study, is guilty of some omissions. Countries like France that consumed a large amount of animal products has less CVD than in the US for example.

14 07 2010
Pallav

Hey Denise,

you might want to give vegetarianism a go again with sprouting + boiling grains(specifically brown rice – GBR) and legumes before consuming them to dilute the phytic acid concentration in them which might be inhibiting the micro nutrient uptake by your body .

The idea of veganism is mainly practised in the east but sometimes the west takes it without considering the traditional eastern processes prior to consuming the grains and pulses.

Conclusions which do not consider the traditional cooking practices can’t be entirely relied on!

14 07 2010
anand srivastava

Pallav, I am an Indian too. And no I don’t believe that the Vegetarianism of India can apply to other people.

There are three very distinct qualities that are required for being a vegetarian.
1) You must live in a tropical place with year round sun. Vitamin D3 is an absolute requirement. And if you don’t get it from sun you must get it from Meat. This applies to people staying indoors and to people living in Northern Climates or high altitudes. This is not negotiable. Nowadays you can supplement.

2) You need to eat a lot of Dairy. The dairy will provide a lot of missing nutrients, like Vitamin B12, Zinc, Iron, Vitamin K2, etc. If you cannot handle Dairy you cannot be vegetarian period. This is also not negotiable.

3) You need to eat a lot of vegetables, particularly greens.

Rest of all is fluff. Even Indians in this age are not taking care of the 3 points. You should know that heart disease, cancer and diabetes are growing like a wild fire in India.

The reason is the lack of the above 3 cultural necessities, which people have stopped, due to changed occupations, and doctor’s advice. Unfortunately you cannot even get good quality dairy in the cities.

Bottomline you remain Vegetarian in the present circumstances at a great peril. Move to a village and take up some job that requires staying in the sun most of the day, get a source of grassfed dairy, eat a lot of traditionally grown vegetables, and eat less, then you can be a vegetarian.

Incidently eating less calories, but highly dense nutrients helps get rid of a lot of problems. The way Denise is structuring her diet contains a lot of eating less calories (although it involves eating a lot of quantity of food).

14 07 2010
Pallav

Hi Anand,

It’s good to see other indians taking interest in nutrition and understanding doctors advice is not always right. For all the points you raise i’m on the side of population aware of them from health blogs like this!

Why i bring eastern cooking practises in the debate is because like a sea saw we are move in favour of plant based diets or animal based diets. weston price versus campbell.

Considering the effort put in this research i’d certainly hope a more balanced take on nutrition can be had giving due credit to both plant and animal based diet (a combination of both) and not allow irrational reductionism to creep in.

Giving plant portion of the diet credit is not possible without considering the holistic traditional cooking practice which goes into making it nutritious.

27 08 2010
Igor

@Pallav – Since you brought it up, are you aware that the WAPF doesn’t endorse a carnivorous, but rather, omnivorous, diet? That it encourages people to eat grains that have been soaked, sprouted, or fermented, just like you recommend?

I often hear people talk about the WAPF as if they were advocating an exclusively meat-based diet. That is simply not true. It makes me wonder if people who think that have actually bothered to read their literature.

14 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

“In contrast, the variable “Green vegetable intake, grams per day” has a correlation of only -16 with aridity and +5 with latitude, indicating much looser associations with southern geography. The folks who eat lots of green veggies don’t necessarily live in climates with a year-round growing season, but when green vegetables are available, they eat a lot of them.”

I’m wondering how you got that correlation. According to monograph maps and data for green vegetable intake per day, the counties with the highest intakes, Wuhua (monograph code UF 434.9g), Echeng (OB 360.4g), Panyu (UB 341.9g), and Qianshan (JB 311.2) are all located at mid to low latitudes. On the other hand, counties with the very highest latitudes, Baoching (GA 98.0g), Tuoli (WA 26.0g), Changling (FA 86.3g), xinyuan (WB 69.2g), all have very low daily intakes. There are some ups and downs. Some counties at higher latitudes have higher consumption than counties at lower latitudes, and some counties near each other have very different consumption amounts.

Speaking as someone who grew up in Michigan and ate out of a garden every summer and as someone who lived in northern China, I cannot visualize how people in a northerly climate with a three-month growing season could possibly eat more green vegetables per day on average than people with access to vegetables year round. Of course, vegetables can be canned and pickled, but salted vegetables are a separate category in the monograph. I’m interested in knowing how you got that correlation.

14 07 2010
neisy

I’m wondering how you got that correlation.

It’s already calculated on the “Green vegetable intake (per day)” page in the monograph. Look in the table on the most far-right column next to the variable for latitude.

14 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

According to the monograph, p557, titled D043 GREENVEG

-33 G001 LATITUDE

Look at the dots on the map on the preceding page, p556, diet survey GREEN VEGETABLE INTAKE (g/day/reference man, fresh weight). The black dots representing highest intake are concentrated on or near the coast at mid to lower latitudes with a few further inland at mid to lower latitudes. The two mid inland dots are around Beijing, I believe. I notice that the clusters of black dots representing high intakes are around Shanghai and Guangzhou. As I recall from the monograph, while most counties were rural, some suburban counties were included.

15 07 2010
neisy

Hi Whatsonthemenu,

Any chance you’re looking at the book “Mortality, Biochemistry, Diet and Lifestyle in Rural China” rather than “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China?” The former actually features the China Project II, which studies additional counties and Taiwan, rather than the first China Project. Many of the numbers may be different.

If you’re not looking at a book but using the data from Oxford’s website, this is also the China Study II data and will be different than what I (and Campbell) used. The overall trends should mostly be the same, but specific correlations could be different between the data sets. I’ll put a disclaimer about that on the page where I link to it.

If you are using “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China,” let me know and I’ll check to see if I’ve made an error. I try to be scrupulous about that and check my work 80 times, so I’m hoping this isn’t the case. ;)

15 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

Yes, I am. That explains the discrepancy.

You might want to revisit this hypothesis, however:

“Since only frequency and not actual quantity of greens seems protective of heart disease and stroke, it’s safe to say that greens probably aren’t the true protective factor.”

Would you agree that foods which confer some health benefits, such as omega-3 rich fish, offer more protection if eaten regularly than if eaten only a few months of the year? Eating, say, 2 servings of fresh green vegetables a day for four months isn’t the same as eating those 2 servings for a period of 10 months.

If you believe that latitude-dependent vitamin D is a protective factor, I would agree with you completely. However, regular consumption of fresh green vegetables may also offer some protection.

14 07 2010
Chew Man Foo

Now all Denise has to answer is http://www.drmcdougall.com‘s anecdotal evidence that moving from meat eating to vegan diet helps many people get off diabetes and heart medication. Watch the testimonial videos…

Meanwhile, she’s still got to answer all the global warming problems with the way we raise livestock now (according to a recent U.N. report, raising livestock accounts for more global warming than all human transportation combined…see: http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=775299 for one footnote).

14 07 2010
Pallav

Too much of anything is bad! balance between plant/animal diet has to be maintained. people on either extreme of the spectrum will suffer a variety of problems.

15 07 2010
Alex

I think we can call agree that there are big problems with the way we raise livestock now–environmental problems and health problems.

I disagree that Denise has to answer those issues in the present article. That’s a whole other issue.

Having said that, I would add that raising livestock using non-CAFO, polyculture methods, grass-fed for cattle, is better in every respect than what most animal operations are doing now. Managed properly, animals are a net positive for the environment, not a net negative. And we have the “technology”–we’ve had it for thousands of years. We just don’t have the political will and proper economic incentives to make the changes.

14 07 2010
Alternative Medicine Expertise from Aspire Natural Health » Blog Archive » More (and probably the last) on the China Study

[...] Denise Minger published a statistics-based scathing review of the China Study (found here at http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/-305).  This has, as expected, created some heavy [...]

14 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

Back again. The green vegetable page on the monograph lists a correlation of -33 with latitude. This shocked me. Some southwest inland provinces are extremely poor, and I wondered if some very poor lower latitude outliers are throwing the statistics. I noticed that the correlation with elevation is almost the same at -30. Rocky, acidic soils are not good for crop cultivation. Looking at provinces with extremely low green vegetable intakes, I noticed Huguan (CB 0.0, midnorth inland), Shangshui (DA 15.3 mid inland), Xuanwei (RA 6.8 low inland), Longde (XB 17.6 midnorth inland), and Jingxing (BB 8.4, midnorth, listed as in a coastal province but appears to be inland on map). By looking at the locations on a map, I know that some of these counties with very low daily green vegetable intakes are located in mountainous areas, but I do not know their exact elevations, and I’m not ambitious enough to check them out.

My point is that I think we can learn more by looking at the trees than the forest with regard to daily green vegetable intake and many other food items as well.

14 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

Oops, I misinterpreted latitude. A negative correlation is expected for green vegetables if people consume less of them the further north they live.

14 07 2010
Ian

Here is a rebuttal to Denise’s article that accuses her of a naive understanding of statistical analysis. Here is one of the most damning of the criticisms: “when she refers to “statistical significance”, all that’s being tested is the “null hypothesis” that there is no correlation (i.e. correlation = 0). it is not testing whether an exposure is or is not a risk factor for the outcome, even though Denise uses this term loosely.” Also, we all know that correlation is not causality and risk factors are not the same as causes.

http://www.30bananasaday.com/group/debunkingthechinastudycritics/forum/topics/a-cancer-epidemiologist/

14 07 2010
neisy

As I’ll explain better in my next post (hopefully up by tomorrow), I’m simply replicating the methods Campbell used — which were mainly univariate correlations straight from the raw data — and showing how they failed to account for confounders. The criticisms RE: my statistical methods apply directly to him. They can nail me for taking a too simplistic approach, but in doing so, they’re cutting of their foot to spite their leg, so to speak. ;)

14 07 2010
Ian

“I’m simply replicating the methods Campbell used, which were mainly univariate correlations. The criticisms RE: my statistical methods apply directly to him.”

Not according to the article I cited. Campbell did not perform his analysis on raw data and any good scientist would adjust for confounding variables. Are you saying Campbell didn’t do that? Campbell’s study is flawed, but that has already been noted by Anthony Colpo, Chris Masterjohn, and many others. The article also accused you of deleting a comment.

QUOTE. Your analysis is completely OVER-SIMPLIFIED. Every good epidemiologist/statistician will tell you that a correlation does NOT equal an association. By running a series of correlations, you’ve merely pointed out linear, non-directional, and unadjusted relationships between two factors. I suggest you pick up a basic biostatistics book, download a free copy of “R” (an open-source statistical software program), and learn how to analyze data properly. I’m a PhD cancer epidemiologist, and would be happy to help you do this properly. While I’m impressed by your crude, and – at best – preliminary analyses, it is quite irresponsible of you to draw conclusions based on these results alone. At the very least, you need to model the data using regression analyses so that you can account for multiple factors at one time. UNQUOTE

14 07 2010
neisy

Not according to the article I cited. Campbell did not perform his analysis on raw data and any good scientist would adjust for confounding variables. Are you saying Campbell didn’t do that?

Yes. For the most part, anyway. As I’ll show you in the next post, Campbell’s correlations all perfectly match the raw data. I don’t know how I can state that any more clearly…

His way of ‘adjusting’ was primarily to separate disease groups into two clusters (diseases of affluence and diseases of poverty), and cite the (raw) correlations between those disease groups and various blood markers and foods as a way of linking them to diet. He zeroed in on the (raw) correlations with cholesterol and disease, and based many conclusions about animal food consumption off of that. He did not thoroughly adjust for confounders for the disease groups, as far as I can tell, presumably because he was more interested in the “forest” than the “trees,” as he himself stated in his response to me.

I will be discussing all of this in the post I’m working on, so just sit tight, ‘kay?

I haven’t deleted a single comment, by the way, although I’ve had to “free” a couple of valid ones from the spam folder.

14 07 2010
CPM

Hi Ian,

The person that you claim to be defending Campbell has not said that she has reviewed any of his papers. There is one available free online at : http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/59/5/1153S

If you look at this paper, and then look at your comment about “any good scientist would adjust for confounding variables”, you must deduce that Campbell is not a good scientist because there is no mention of confounding variables.

And as has been said over and over and over again, the only documentation that seems to be available shows that Campbell performed simple univariate correlations on the RAW DATA.

14 07 2010
N

@CPM That is a high level summary where, for good or for bad, Campbell has chosen to summarize information with simple correlations. What is important is that where appropriate the studies in question are carried out including more sophisticated methods. And in general, where I’ve followed the references in that article, he does.

14 07 2010
CPM

Hi N,

The thing is, he did use those simple correlations without mention of confounding variables, and Ian just damned Denise for this (even though she did use confounding variables to a degree) and said that a good scientist would never do this. I think people are going a little overboard in their defense of Campbell.

I believe he chose to use these simple correlations in his book as well, and these have been given a certain weight by the general public because the publisher chose to make a big deal about the China data.

The thing is, if someone has problems with Campbell’s conclusions and think he might be overly biased, you have to begin your critique somewhere, and you have to kind of take it one argument at a time.

Many of his defenders are claiming that these are more than simple correlations, and he himself has said or strongly implied this when replying to critics. You have to address these simple correlations that he did choose to use or people will keep throwing them out there like they mean something.

14 07 2010
N

Yes, you have to begin somewhere, and that is at the level of the study.

14 07 2010
CPM

Hi N,

It depends. The China Study was a book for the general public. Some of the arguments in the book were based on studies (and apparently some of the studies did not exactly say what Campbell claimed), but apparently some of the arguments in the book were just simple correlations from raw China data.

Most of Denise’s critics won’t even admit that Campbell ever used simple correlations in any manner.

I also think if one of your larger arguments is going to be that Campbell is misusing science in this book, it is a valid point to discuss his use of simple correlations to support his points when apparently other correlations are contradictory. Some people are apparently ready to burn other people at the stake for using simple correlations, so maybe this is a worthwhile topic for a critic to at least explore.

14 07 2010
N

Well, I’m much more interested in cutting through the noise and addressing the scientific matters at hand than letting angry mobs dictate how analysis should or should not be done.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with using correlations, although care must be exercised. Like any statistic they must be used with demonstration that some understanding of what is conveyed is had. But people generally understand what a correlation means. In my experience that often dictates usage more than what may or may not be the most mathematically appropriate statistic for a given task even among scientists. Campbell uses simple correlation often, especially when summarizing results, probably for these very reasons. Where appropriate, as would be demanded in any of the peer reviewed setting where his individual studies are published, more sophisticated methods are used when necessary to demonstrate a given relationship. Being able to back up a relationship described using a correlation with a study that contains more in depth analysis is a perfectly valid way of conveying scientific information. A lack of such demonstration would be much more suspect. Along these lines, I hope Ms. Minger will follow up with the additional analysis that she has mentioned a few times now is coming.

A book targeted toward a lay population is going to be even more casual in its descriptions of experimental results, although to his credit he still provides complete references. I have not found his references to be of poorer quality than average in the scientific community, although that is not to say I’m surprised to hear that some can be found that seem questionable. But on the topic of the book, as far as I can tell Ms. Minger’s discussion is not about the book but a Cornell news article summarizing a presentation given that summarized a wide range of research. Unfortunately this is even less informative, lacking references or any description of methodology at all. That is why I have suggested that the academic summary linked a few times here be used to advance the discussion, because at least it allows one to follow up with the appropriate studies in question.

And to be sure at times Campbell does use correlations alone. Sometimes documenting an association is all that the situation requires. At other times complex mechanisms may not have conventional statistics that are well designed for testing them. An unproven computational or statistical model may be even more suspect than an expert’s manual mapping out of the most parsimonious relationship between associations. This isn’t to say that it’s at all foolproof, but there comes a point where we approach the limits of our ability to extract and share information from a complex dataset. It’s perfectly reasonable to set one’s level of skepticism in the results accordingly.

Skepticism in Campbell’s conclusions is healthy. I am by no means convinced that the evidence convincingly brings us to the end point he suggests. But Campbell has been exceeding transparent and professional in his work. To assert otherwise is an insult to the whole scientific community.

1 01 2011
E

aahhh a voice of reason…

16 07 2010
Neet Ielasi

Babe,don’t exhaust yourself.Rest and recover you are putting so much effort in here.I for one appreciate every single word you have written,you are very enlightening,others may not and it’s not worth wearing yourself out for,ever!

14 07 2010
Chris Masterjohn

For the record, since I am named here, I cannot speak for Colpo although I suspect he would agree with me on this, I think Denise has made important contributions that go way over what I had done five years ago. You can read my opinion here:

http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/denise-minger-refutes-the-china-study-once-and-for-all.html

Chris

14 07 2010
Mark

I love it! Will you be doing a wheat post based on the China Study data?

15 07 2010
neisy

Yes! It’ll be the post after the next.

14 07 2010
Mark

Guys,

I didn’t mean to say Denise said if A=b and B=c then A has to be equal to C. This is what Dr Campbell is accused of doing. I don’t fully understand Dr Cambell’s methodology so I can’t say for sure whether he simply used above logic or there was more than this that was involved that led him to implicate animal protein.

What Denise has done is from Raw data she tried to see if A equals C or if there is positive correlation between A and C. Just want to make sure I’m understood properly.

14 07 2010
Whatsonthemenu

And one more thing regarding the weak positive and negative correlations between average green vegetable intake and heart diseases and stroke. You wondered why average intake does not have strong negative correlations indicative of a protective effect but frequency of green vegetable consumption does. You speculated geography might hold the answer, but then you headed in the direction of latitude. As I clarifed, the correct correlation between average green veggie intake and latitude is -33, not +5. Geography holds the answer, but it’s differences in latitude. It’s suburban versus rural. Look at the green veggie intake map on p556. Notice the black dot clusters on the coast in the middle and in the south. The midcoastal cluster is around Shanghai. The south coastal cluster is around Guangzhou. If you check out these two hot spots on other maps, you’ll see these folks ate a varied diet with a bit of everything back in the 70s and 80s, and they still do today. The area that appears to have eaten a diet approaching a modern one with processed foods is around Shanghai with the highest consumption of added sugars and starches (like cornstarch as a sauce thickener) and of vegetable oils, no surprise to anyone who’s been served a plate of bokchoy drowning in oily sauce.

If you’re still interested in the green veggie paradox – why frequency is negatively correlated with those disease but average intake is not – you might explore differences between suburban and rural veggie eaters.

15 07 2010
Eva

“But Campbell has been exceeding transparent and professional in his work. To assert otherwise is an insult to the whole scientific community.”

My answer: An insult to one man is not an insult to all men. An insult to one violin player is not an insult to all violin players. And an insult to one researcher is certainly not in any way an insult to a whole scientific community. And if Campbell wants to be transparent, then he can tell us how he came to his conclusions instead of making excuses for doing the exact opposite.

I have nothing but respect for those who try to do what is morally right and those who care about animals, but the predator/prey relationship is a natural part of the animal ecosystem and we are animals too. If we are to truly understand what is healthiest, we cannot think of diet as a religion and researchers that got some papers published as Gods that cannot be questioned. Vegans can be the best vegans only if they are willing to be totally objective about what may or may not be true. What you eat is a choice. What we are designed to eat is not. Maybe in a perfect world, we would always be designed exactly for what we think we should be designed for, but this may not be a perfect world. If we are designed to eat some meat, then understanding that will only help vegans understand better how to avoid problems when they choose not to eat those things anymore. It will allow them to find better vegan substitutes. It will allow them to be healthier.

Diet issues are particularly tricky to understand because the addition of any type of food necesarily means the reduction in other foods. If you eat more fish, and your caloric intake remains the same, then you are eating less of something else. Is it meat that is healthier or is it less grains that are healthier? Or maybe it is saturated fat that is healthier? There are plenty of vegan sources of saturated fat. None of us know all the answers yet. SOme of what we now think will later turn out to be wrong. But which parts? Now is not the time to think we have all the answers and attack all who disagree with religious zeal. Both the meateaters and the vegans still have a lot to learn. The sooner we all admit that, the faster we will learn more about the truth.

15 07 2010
Low Carb Diet – Health & Weight Loss (Publication) « Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

[...] for those of you who are worried about the China Study (Click here for information)… read this, this and this for the debunking party! from → Uncategorized ← Coconut [...]

15 07 2010
Daniel

I am looking forward to your next post. I am very interested by the connection of wheat with health in China. By the way, I found this in the amazon comment section to the book China Study. Richard Kroker, an engineer with a PHD, has done a multiple variable regression analysis on the China Study raw data. Did you obtain a similar result?

http://www.amazon.com/Analyzing-the-China-Study-Dataset/forum/Fx1YJPR95OHW08P/TxY4S5EZD8Y2XE/1/ref=cm_cd_dp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&s=books&asin=1932100660&store=books

15 07 2010
Informed Skeptic

Might Denise be employed by T Colin Campbell in order to drum up publicity and sales of The China Study?

Nothing sells books like a good controversy.

I find it hard to believe that an untrained blogger could come up with such a rigorous analysis without professional help, and who better to provide that help than TCC himself. Also, the “beginner mistakes” in stats that Denise makes are probably a setup so that later T Colin Campbell can write a scathing defense of the book and sell even more copies.

15 07 2010
anon

You’d better stop thinking; you’re about to sprain something.

18 07 2010
Informed Skeptic

Colin, knock it off please.

15 07 2010
neisy

*Sigh*

I admit it. You caught me.

I’m actually a Japanese spy who infiltrates the meat and dairy industry headquarters Monday through Wednesday, collaborates with T. Colin Campbell Thursday and Friday, and spends Saturday fashioning my top-secret plans for world domination (which include implanting dairy cows with human embryos to breed an army of half-bovine ninja children).

On Sundays I rest.

It’s a tough life, I tell ya.
;)

15 07 2010
Alex

Can I be your assistant?

15 07 2010
Michael

The world is full of autodidactic folks, and thank God for them. This is why I specifically tackled the credential issue in my post about Denise’s work.

15 07 2010
Mark

Denise,

Once you said, you introduced meat for health reasons, that really stopped many folks from reading it any further. This is what I read at some other forum where I frequent. Take it for whatever it is worth.

15 07 2010
Michael

Probably a good thing Mark. An inability to read a critique of one’s position usually means you are still knee deep in the grip of ideology. Of course it doesn’t mean if you do read you aren’t, but for those can’t or won’t it almost certainly means that.

23 01 2012
Peter

An inability to read a critique of one’s position usually means you are still knee deep in the grip of ideology.

Damn good words of wisdom

15 07 2010
Mo

I haven’t been this entertained in a geeky statistics way since grad school. And the fight in the comments reminds me of many a technical conference between two parties whose entire existence apparently revolved around their hypothesis being the One True Way, which require all doubters to be struck down.

Congrats Denise on a simple and elegant (though no doubt time-consuming and painstaking) analysis. Your post lives up to exactly what you said you were doing – no more, no less, whereas the people posting “helpful hints” are out there tap-dancing on the edge of the stage.

15 07 2010
el-bo

oooops, sorry denise

just discovered that you were only 23 years old (one of campbell’s criticisms that actually finds its way to print)…all bets are off..

you are far too young to have anything of value to say….i mean campbell’s gotta be 40 years your senior….ever heard of respecting your elders

trust, and respect, automatically defaults to the older dude

sorry, that’s just how it is

i’m sure this essay of yours will look good in your scrapbook, denise, but leave the science to the older folk

:o)

16 07 2010
Neet Ielasi

Elbo! surely you are joking?

16 07 2010
el-bo

c’mon, neets

you know me :D:D:D:D:D:D

16 07 2010
Neet Ielasi

yeh i do you little scamp!! remember the misunderstood humor????? ;)

16 07 2010
kat

Denise,

I just wanted to show some support for what you’re doing here, and say a big “thanks!” I’m impressed with what you’ve done so far and look forward to your upcoming posts. I think it’s sad that the 30bad folks clearly don’t understand what your work is showing (or even what you set out to do), and insist you jump through hoops. I can tell you that nothing short of peer review will satisfy them (they’re really geared up about this, and apparently Campbell is going to offer up a more detailed–and let’s hope less snarky and more professional–reply). I would recommend you didn’t waste your time if I weren’t so interested in what your analysis shows! Anyway, don’t let the haters get you down!

Best wishes –
Kat

16 07 2010
Hadley V. Baxendale

Denise, you concluded your article with: “It’s no surprise “The China Study” has been so widely embraced within the vegan and vegetarian community: It says point-blank what any vegan wants to hear—that there’s scientific rationale for avoiding all animal foods. That even small amounts of animal protein are harmful. That an ethical ideal can be completely wed with health. These are exciting things to hear for anyone trying to justify a plant-only diet, and it’s for this reason I believe “The China Study” has not received as much critical analysis as it deserves, especially from some of the great thinkers in the vegetarian world. Hopefully this critique has shed some light on the book’s problems and will lead others to examine the data for themselves.”

However, The China Study, on page 243 states in pertinent part that salmon, tuna, and cod may be eaten; only meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs should be avoided. Moreover, The China Study plainly states that the science shows that animal protein may be eaten without causing adverse health problems if the amount is 10% or less of one’s daily calories; for the typical 2000 calorie eater that means that 50 grams of animal protein may be eaten daily.

I do agree however that on page 242 of his book Dr. Campbell makes a leap when he opines that “it’s not unreasonable to assume that the optimum percentage of animal-based products is zero, at least for anyone with a predisposition for a degenerative disease. But this has not been absolutely proven. Certainly it is true that most of the health benefits are realized at very low but non-zero levels of animal-based foods.” Why he wrote the foregoing and advises the reader “to try to eliminate all animal-based products from your diet, but not obsess over it,” is beyond me.

We read The China Study and find example after example of why it is okay to eat 50+ grams of animal-based protein daily without jeopardizing our health, and why we should eat a variety of whole, unrefined plant-based foods, and in his list of foods to eat, he includes in pertinent part salmon, tuna, cod (fish), but then he throws in his “assumptions” which he admits “has not been absolutely proven” that we should avoid animal-based protein. What? This assumption without any scientific basis should not have been included in The China Study — I don’t know why Dr. Campbell threw this in his book on pages 242 – 244. In answer to his questions, “What Does Minimize Mean?” and “Should You Eliminate Meat Completely?” the research in The China Study answers: minimize means eating a serving of animal-based protein daily, and no, we should not eliminate meat completely.

So The China Study does support Denise’s hypotheses; it does not support a vegan life-style! I think Denise would do us all a service if she pointed out the foregoing regarding Dr. Campbell’s advice to eat salmon, etc.

16 07 2010
Mike Teehan

Instead of driving yourself with all these numbers why not just look for visable proof in REAL people. I decided to try plant based eating and here is what happened: (the numbers have actually gotten better since this was published last October) Why I’m a believer in Dr. Campbell’s advice:

http://www.drmcdougall.com/stars/mike_teehan.htm

18 07 2010
Richard Nikoley

Hey Mike:

While I congratulate you on the large weight loss and it’s certainly got to be healthier than where you were, man have you lost a LOT of lean mass.

Those wanting to lose fat while PRESERVING, even building lean mass & strength might want to consider a paleo-styled diet including lots of animal protein & fat.

Here’s my 60 lb weight loss, but it was 100% fat loss.

http://freetheanimal.com/2009/09/interim-progress-update.html

That’s of about a year ago. Here’s yesterday 6th & 7th pictures down:

http://freetheanimal.com/2010/07/movnat-day-4-integrating-and-combining-skills.html

y’know, long as we’re haulin’ out anecdotes & all.

18 07 2010
Michael

Good response Richard, though I think you are talking to a spammer, since he posted the exact same comment on my blog.

9 02 2011
tracker

Never seen a vegan body builder… just sayin’

20 10 2010
Auggiedoggy

Mike T,

Been there, done that and came to the same conclusion as Denise. Reintroduction of animal foods, albeit less in volume than in previous years, has resulted in an improved state of health and one I think is optimal for me. My diet is plant-based with some meat to supplement it plus a drastic reduction in grain consumption. Glad you found something that works for you.

Rob

16 07 2010
neisy

Hi everyone,

Quick update: I’ll be posting my response to Campbell either tonight or tomorrow. Alas, “day job” duties have stood in the way of cranking this out as quickly as I’d hoped.

I’ve also been informed that Campbell is writing a more thorough response to my critique and will be posting it on his website, http://www.tcolincampbell.org, in the next day or so. Mr. Campbell has also released a newsletter asking the graduates of his course in plant-based nutrition to come to my blog (and others linking to it) and “read and respond in a way befitting of Dr. Campbell and his message,” so for those of you arriving here via that avenue, welcome!

Thanks again for the comments, feedback, and occasional seething, embittered character attacks; I appreciate all of it. ;)

Denise

16 07 2010
Maxwell

I anxiously await the updates from both Denise and TCC.

I hope TCC will refrain from:

1) Any mention of his own qualifications and experience.
2) Any reference to Denise’s age and/or qualifications.

If TCC has good science on his side (and I believe he probably does), he need not clutter up the argument with storytelling. Just the facts, please!

This is not a typical lay audience. This is an audience that craves understanding. We don’t want to be persuaded you’re a credible source. We want to UNDERSTAND The China Study. Help us understand exactly how you analyzed the data. Help us understand what you found. Help us understand what you did not find.

Advice for Denise: Please refrain from any snarky comments or little jabs at TCC. You might even owe the man an apology.

Maxwell

17 07 2010
anon

Denise has been elegant throughout. It was Campbell who sank to ad hominems.

BTW, “You might even owe the man an apology” is pretty snotty yourself.

17 07 2010
Kyle

I enjoy snarky, so please don’t refrain, and it is your blog after all.

Apology? I don’t think so. If TCC had presented and defended all of his findings in a much more transparent manner from the get go this wouldn’t be an issue at all. If his findings and conclusion are indeed all justified and scientifically correct great, I’m sure Denise will be more than civil about it.

“I’m sorry you didn’t give us all the information the first time around.”

That might work though.

17 07 2010
Tandi

I am glad that you feel you have found a diet that works for you, however, I must question how a 23 year old English major has the knowledge or qualifications to even begin to evaluate epidemiological studies and scientific research?

I believe that each individual should research health and nutrition and try to find accurate information and well conducted studies to support that information. However, It is also important to recognize your own limitations in interpreting data and research and avoid proclaiming yourself an expert who can adequately evaluate research when you clearly do not have the education or experience to do so.

The statistical analysis you have tried to accomplish is extremely misleading not to mention inaccurate and naive. You do not have any experience in epidemiological research and therefore do not even begin to understand how data is to be evaluated and how conclusions should be drawn. To believe you can discredit scientific research based on personal nutrition study is arrogant to say the least.

While I applaud your persistence in striving to justify your own personal beliefs about an optimal diet, this analysis is far from ‘proof’ that the China Study is a fallacy. You don’t have any experience in scientific research or epidemiological studies so how can you even begin to proclaim that you can prove any scientific research to be valid or invalid?

Dr. Campbell has conducted research for over 40 years. Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. He has more than seventy grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding and authored more than 300 research papers. What credentials do you have that qualify you to discredit his research? What credentials do you have that qualify you to even evaluate this research?

I realize that you want to justify your own dietary beliefs but it is irresponsible to try to discredit scientific research merely because it goes against your own personal beliefs, when you clearly do not have the knowledge, education or experience to do so. I believe you owe Dr. Campbell a sincere apology for recklessly and naively disparaging his work without any knowledge, education, qualifications or experience to do so.

17 07 2010
CPM

Hi Tandi,

Credentials blah, blah, blah…Campbell used simple correlations of the raw data to make some of his key arguments; you don’t need any experience in epidemiological studies and scientific research to see that. Denise simply took it one step further and introduced confounding variables to show how flawed the simple correlations were. She was not publishing her own epidemiology study; she was using hard numbers to criticize the one that had been published.

If Campbell had just come out and said,” yes, I used simple correlations and this is my reason why (and maybe in hindsight I should not have used these in my book)” in replying to his critics maybe he would not catch so much flak, but instead he has belittled anybody who has questioned his use of these simple correlations, called them agents of the Weston Price Foundation, and claimed that his simple correlations of raw data were not in fact simple correlations of the raw data. How esteemed is that?

The possibly bigger issue though is if Campbell has misrepresented the findings of his references, which Denise and others have claimed he has done. From what I understand that is almost a mortal sin among scientists. A rational person would have a hard time defending this, but many of his defenders do not seem to be so rational sometimes.

17 07 2010
N

Are you unwilling or unable to follow references to supporting studies?

17 07 2010
CPM

Hi N,

I don’t have access to most of the scientific papers, and I don’t have time to really look into it in that great of detail. Hopefully as Denise proceeds she can maybe go in that direction.

Using the paper that has been used here before http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/59/5/1153S ,
I can however pick out a few statements such as the one below where it appears to me that while references might be important information, they do not represent a more in-depth analysis of the China data beyond Campbell’s simple correlations. I could be wrong without accessing the actual papers (just sometimes very limited abstracts), but I believe for example one of the studies referenced below is for Israeli data.

“Plasma cholesterol concentration was associated directly with all-cancer mortality rates measured in this study. Most notably, these associations were statistically significant for eight different cancers, including colon cancer (P < 0.01 for males and P < 0.001 for females) (55, 56, 66)."

Some of his correlations may have better analysis to back them up, but some of them don't.

Again, you can maybe argue whether the use of simple correlations were justified or not, but Campbell has bashed other people for doing this when they come up with contradictory correlations to his own, and he has said or implied that he has not used simple correlations of the raw data.

As I said before, you got to start somewhere (and I know we disagree on where to start), but Campbell has seemingly always responded to his critics by claiming that he has always used a more sophisticated analysis than them and that his critics cannot be trusted because they used simple correlations of the raw data (and that they are all possibly agents of the Weston Price Foundation out to get him).

17 07 2010
CPM

PS –

“Are you unwilling or unable to follow references to supporting studies?

According to the person I originally responded to, I am not qualified to even look at his Campbell’s scientific papers anyway. I am not epidemiologist or a scientific researcher.

17 07 2010
N

Some of us have spent long hours in libraries to become familiar with these matters, and so don’t see a lack of personal access as a reason not to investigate as far as it takes to answer these questions. And nobody said you weren’t qualified to read about this. A few statistics courses allow interpretation of results. I would hope that a student coming out of one of my statistics classes could recognize some of the problems in Ms. Minger’s analysis for example. To do it yourself is another matter. Even with years of statistical expertise I do not have the epidemiological skills to carry out a proper analysis on this data.

17 07 2010
JD

” I would hope that a student coming out of one of my statistics classes could recognize some of the problems in Ms. Minger’s analysis for example. ”

I would hope that someone who supposedly teaches statistics classes would realize that Denise isn’t the one with the problem here — she’s just pointing out that Campbell’s univariate correlations are bunk.

17 07 2010
Chris Masterjohn

Tandi and others,

Pointing out someone’s age or credentials is generally an implicit admission that one cannot competently address the person’s argument. Denise has been extremely respectful of Dr. Campbell in a personal sense and has dealt with data. I think she deserves equal respect and those criticizing her should criticize her data and data analysis directly.

It does not take a long time, not even a few statistics classes, to learn how to generate pearson correlation coefficients and multiple linear regression models. One can gain a very excellent understanding of these things from reading half of a statistics book, and one can gain sufficient understanding to perform them correctly by purchasing software and reading the tutorials. Besides which, someone who began college at 16 as stated on her web site and is now 23 could easily have taken plenty of statistics courses if she so chose to do, again, not that it would have been necessary.

It is clear to me that the “cancer epidemiologist” that you are quoting, who has posted here and has been quoted many times over, neither read the China Study nor read Denise’s review, except perhaps by casual skim. This epidemiologist critcizes Denise for using ecological data and analyzing by county, conceding at one point that perhaps this is all she had access to. Had this person read either the book The China Study or read the original monograph, they would know that the China Study is an ecological study and pooled all the blood of all individuals’ in a local unit into a large vat so the investigators could measure more biochemical markers.

Had Dr. Campbell only published in peer-reviewed journals, the discussion of his work would be limited primarily to peer-reviewed journals. When he chose to write a best-selling book, however, he opened up his arguments to criticism by the public. This was the course he chose.

As he acknoweldges in his own brief response to Denise that has been posted in the comments section here, he believes the better choice is to correlate animal food intake, cholesterol levels, and so on, with multiple depenedent variables such as “diseases of poverty” and “diseases of affluence,” but this was excised from the book due to space. Obviously, this is a novel approach, debatable, and would be controversial among researchers. In any case, it is not the same thing as adjusting for confounding variables by having multiple independent variables — and that type of data was also not presented in The China Study. One need not follow 700 references to find this out. It is up to Campbell to state in the text “after adjusting for…” when he presents his correlations, and he never states this because it isn’t true.

Denise’s analysis was very simple, and that is part of its strength. Many people have been floating the idea that any reputable scientist would “adjust for confounding variables.” This is, first, nonsense. Any reputable scientist would first and foremost present raw data. Look in ANY peer-reviewed publication where multiple regression is used and you will see that the first thing presented is the unadjusted data. As the “cancer epidemiologist” pointed out, one of the criteria of a confounding variable is that it must not be on the chain of causation between the thing whose effect it is confounding and the dependent variable. This is not something that can be determined by statistics. It requires discussion, argumentation, and subjective judgment. Ten researchers will present ten judgments on what may or may not lie in a chain of causation because frequently we just don’t know. Adjusting for confounding variables is a partially subjective process subject to much uncertainty and disagreement, and this is why usually in a peer-reviewed paper the raw correlations are presented along with several different multiple regression models.

In The China Study, there are over 8000 statistically significant correlations. There are many different factors one could put into a multiple regression model. Which ones do you pick? Ten researchers will give ten answers. There is no “correct” multiple regression model.

Before one adjusts, one must make a case for it.

What Denise did here is take simple correlations that Campbell was using and make a strong, well-developed argument that Campbell did not take into account many compelling confounding factors.

And she did, contrary to many statements found within the comments section, analyze some of his references. The most remarkable of these was showing that his claim that animal protein uniquely promotes cancer in aflatoxin-treated animals is based on his own study showing that plant protein is just as effective as animal protein as long as the missing amino acids are provided as would occur on a mixed vegetarian diet.

My analysis of why this contribution of Denise’s was so important can be found here:

http://westonaprice.org/blogs/denise-minger-refutes-the-china-study-once-and-for-all.html

Chris

18 07 2010
Michael

Nicely done Chris, you have taken some of the words right out of my mouth, as you will see in my follow up article on Denise’s work.

17 07 2010
Rich

I think Dr. Campbell owes me an apology for ostensibly being a scientist and penning his hack, biased conclusions in “The China Study,” and also for being a total unhealthy-appearing asshole in any video I’ve seen of him. Also, his whole argument about “The China Study” being only one chapter of his book – it was the TITLE of his book. Also, let’s examine the subtitle: “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health” – PARDON ME if we take that seriously, Dr. Campbell. Seems that your argument that the actual study itself was fairly unimportant seems, well, disingenuous.

22 07 2010
Frank

Another name calling sheeple. Keep eating animals and you will know the truth the hard way.

10 01 2011
Cam

Wow, that’s quite the rebuttal, Frank

lol

23 06 2011
Darrel

RICH said: “his whole argument about “The China Study” being only one chapter of his book – it was the TITLE of his book.”>>

DAR
It’s very common for author’s to have the title of their books chosen by their publisher (who chose titles to be provocative and sell books, which is their only goal). As Dr. Campbell notes, they submitted 200 title suggestions, not one of them was the title the publisher chose to use. To quote:

“We suggested 200 possible titles, not one of which was ‘The China Study’. But when we objected, he said that we already had signed the contract and this was his right and responsibility.”

http://www.tcolincampbell.org/fileadmin/Presentation/finalmingercritique.pdf

27 08 2010
Igor

@Tandi – Your attitude is a tad elitist, don’t you think? So the “experts” are there to tell us lowly peons how to eat and think and live our lives and we must never question their advice, uh?

17 09 2010
SupremePundit

This is why most people are confused by what they read in the papers. English majors writing about subjects they do not understand. If data is something that makes Denise happy than she should learn how to use it. Correlation is not Causation. If it was wearing clothes would be the cause of urination. The simple fact that the monograph is available and all of the data is contained in it will allow many more of these fools to come up with ridiculous correlations and claim they are causes.

17 09 2010
CPM

@ SupremePundit

It is kind of funny you talking about other people being confused by what they read…Dunning-Kruger…

P.S. While Denise has said repeatedly that “Correlation is not Causation”, the eminent Dr. Campbell has said that he can cherry-pick simple correlations to prove that his hypotheses are correct (not just develop hypotheses, but to prove that hypotheses are correct.)

9 02 2011
tracker

A title after your name, a degree and $1 will buy you a soda at McDonalds.

My great grandfather who had a third grade education, was one of the smartest men my father ever knew. People who had no formal education came up with all kinds of scientific discoveries. Until recently that is, when all of a sudden it doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how much you study on your own, but instead “credentials” are dragged out as if it means something. It doesn’t mean shit though. I’ve seen plenty of men who have PhDs who couldn’t really think their way out of a paper bag.

17 07 2010
Martin Levac

Tandy, it is just as irresponsible to take Campbell’s word as is without question. Do you take Campbell’s word as is without question?

17 07 2010
N

One doesn’t need to take his word for it when following references to the specific studies in question to answer further questions. Most researchers are also much more responsive to questions when it’s evident that you’ve done this too.

17 07 2010
Martin Levac

But when one follows the references and finds they refute the word, as Denise has done, then one must start to doubt the word. Most researchers would soon realize that one doesn’t need to be a researcher to figure that one out.

17 07 2010
Sue

Tandi – LOL!!

17 07 2010
Tandi

Did I take Dr. Campbell’s research alone and decide that was all the evidence I needed, absolutely not. Research scientists are not all honest, and you can pretty much get any conclusion you want if you set it up correctly. So obviously you cannot just take a study at face value. However, I wouldn’t necessarily blindly believe an oversimplified evaluation of research by some random person either.

Quote from an epidemiologist on this evaluation:

“Your analysis is completely OVER-SIMPLIFIED. Every good epidemiologist/statistician will tell you that a correlation does NOT equal an association. By running a series of correlations, you’ve merely pointed out linear, non-directional, and unadjusted relationships between two factors. I suggest you pick up a basic biostatistics book, download a free copy of “R” (an open-source statistical software program), and learn how to analyze data properly. I’m a PhD cancer epidemiologist, and would be happy to help you do this properly.

While I’m impressed by your crude, and – at best – preliminary analyses, it is quite irresponsible of you to draw conclusions based on these results alone. At the very least, you need to model the data using regression analyses so that you can account for multiple factors at one time.”

17 07 2010
Martin Levac

Right, so if the same ideas that were generated by the epidemiological studies were eventually tested using interventional trials, and subsequently refuted, would you then change your mind on the subject of optimal diet for human health? How about this one here, will that do?:

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/low-carb-gaining-a-foothold-with-the-mainstream/

Don’t let the facts get in the way of your beliefs.

17 07 2010
arcomedian

Is the book that Ms. Minger is analyzing a compendium of observational studies?
If I understand her logic correctly she’s not making assertions that certain variables have causal relationships, quite the contrary, she’s highlighting the fact that the associations between those variables are weak.

Moreover she’s quite clearly outlining her methods which, while simple, don’t seem egregiously flawed.

Per the suggestion she should be using regression…. check out the definition of “correlation”, (wikipedia is excellent).

“…account for multiple factors at one time.”, please explain, especially why this is _necessary_ for her critique.

I have to say that I’m strongly put off by the suggestion that expert supervision is necessary for a clean statistical analysis…. but if she wants help….

On a more positive note I (a random stranger) also heartily endorse R. It’s awesome: http://cran.r-project.org/

9 02 2011
tracker

///“…account for multiple factors at one time.”, please explain, especially why this is _necessary_ for her critique.///

It’s necessary so they can make data look like it’s something it isn’t.

They do it in real estate and unemployment statistics too. They “adjust” the numbers so that they take the season (or some other factor) into account. It can make the data look better or worse. And I don’t need a math degree or a science degree to figure that one out.

19 07 2010
arcomedian

A correlation _is_ an “association”, in particular a simple linear association. I think what you mean is “Correlation does not imply causation.” In many, if not most, if not all (I’d have to reread) of the cases above she was pointing out a _lack_ of correlation…

17 07 2010
Frank Buurman

Denise,
You also forget some possible relationships. Quite normal, because it is impossible to see/know everything.
f.i.: you correlate wheat-consumption with the occurence of cancers.
But how do we consume wheat:
– bread is consumed with meat/cheese, containing preservatives, colouring agents and other suspicious stuff, or with sweet stuffs – wich also correlate to cancers.
– there is a big difference between ‘old fashioned’ bread with sourdough, and bread with yeast.
– cereals contain additives, maybe in overdose (f.i. Kellog’s All-Bran contains metallic (!) iron and other stuff ) and are consumed with milk (a bad combination, because nutrientuptake, other then calcium is inhibited)

So also your story is far from (statistical) complete…

17 07 2010
anon

Yes, Denise, your analysis is invalid because you did not do a multiple regression analysis of the consumption of Kellogg’s All-Bran in Xuanwei province.

17 07 2010
Frank Buurman

anon: you don’t mention the other 2 points I pinpointed.
beside that:
– bread also contains additives like cysteine that may influence the results (the thiol side chain often participates in enzymatic reactions)
– wheat in non-western countries is (often) more contaminated with aflatoxins.

17 07 2010
Saturday Link Love: Edition 4

[...] you up to date on the latest about The China Study? If you have not read the long essay by Raw Food SOS, then I recommend you bookmark the link and read it asap. I will be doing a post on it myself very [...]

17 07 2010
joseph

denise, i read your reply to campbell first and was stunned, then i read this and was even more stunned. i think you might be the smartest 23 year old person i’ve ever seen. your writing style is also fantastic. if you wrote a book i would buy it immediately no matter what it was about.

any chance you’re single? heh heh heh… :-)

18 07 2010
Richard Kroeker

Say Hey-

Nice work. Beware the truism “no good deed goes unpunished”.

It was a shock to me at first to find out the depth of the chasm between what is known and what is accepted wisdom. After some time I got over it, as this is (sadly) not the only area of knowledge under assault by emotionally involved people with a predetermined answer. Those of us who do this type of work (data analysis) for a living are trained to see this bias in ourselves and we try hard to use tools that are resistant to manipulation. Just bear in mind that no honest researcher will withhold the raw data (nor their methods) from you.

There is one thing I see mentioned above that I wanted to expand upon a bit. While this data set was a massive amount of work to accumulate, and even though it may be the best data generally available on mortality and nutrition; the data set does not hold answers so much as it helps us form the right questions. It is easy to over analyze a data set with fancy math tools; the hard work is to follow up on the initial (clear and obvious) questions.

A correlation is a correlation. We are actually after cause and effect. You see this caution repeated many times above in one form or another. The heart of this issue is that the answers we seek can not be found in the numbers. The numbers guide you as to how to spend your limited time available in investigating cause and effect in matters of interest to you.

This data set screams “wheat is bad for you.” After chasing previously formed questions about plant vs animal protein issues, cholesterol, vitamins and the like – you have to come back the the big surprise; “wheat is bad”.
At first you may not want to believe it – even if you have a gluten allergy that has progressed to celiac disease. To make progress on this issue you have to go outside the data set to find a well supported mechanism that explains the nature of the problem.

If you think the argument about plant vs animal foods is “difficult”, you don’t know the meaning of the word. I have been studying the problem with wheat for two years now. Good luck with your quick follow up in a “few days”. I fell down the rabbit hole. The problem is not that nobody knows why wheat is bad for you. The problem is that “we” have not been listening.

Check out the relationship in the china data set between Vitamin C blood levels and wheat consumption. I missed its importance at first, but it is very helpful in understanding why wheat has to be fortified with vitamins. But depleting vitamins is not the only problem with wheat; those who are interested should check out the newly discovered hormone zonulin that wheat can mimic. I also recommend “Dangerous Grains” by James Braly.

The core of the issue with wheat are polypeptides that we can not digest completely. We are known to be rapidly genetically adapting to wheat – and there is no clearer proof that it is a dangerous thing to eat.

After two years (and counting…) of investigating the health effects of wheat consumption I am fully aware of one salient fact. Assuming plant foods are naturally good for you is absolutely childish. Put in a very general way, all food kills you. The problem is just that you die much faster if you don’t eat any. Your particular genes allow you to digest your “historic foods” better that “novel foods”. There isn’t going to be one right answer.

-Rich

PS. I also recommend Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s simple discussions about why it is necessary to wash seeds (such as wheat) before eating them.

18 07 2010
Moving forward « The Red Pill

[...] might find this interesting.  T. Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study wrote a reply to Denise Minger’s analysis (and bitch-slapping) of his data, to which she has replied again.  All very interesting stuff, and that Minger is quite a brilliant [...]

19 07 2010
Leanne

Brava! This is one of the most objective and honest analyses I have read in many years. Denise, you have the heart and mind of a TRUE scientist. Please, disregard the snooty comments of those fools who confuse credentials with capability or integrity. As a layperson (non-statistician) who has read many medical studies while researching personal issues, I have encountered many an epidemiological study where the conclusion drawn did not account for many variables that could potentially affect the results. It is a pleasure to read the results of your hard work, that provide an effective counterbalance to shoddy science.

Thank you.

19 07 2010
Betty

I’m SO glad that you did this. Just before finding the Paleo diet and lifestyle, I bought and read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s books, Eat to Live etc., which are heavily based on the China Study data. I felt pretty confused, knowing that I eat butter, dairy, and meats and have perfect blood pressure and cholesterol. Thank you for cutting through the BS, and pointing out what should have been obvious. I hadn’t gotten as far as reading the China Study itself, and most likely would have had a very hard time wading through it to draw the conclusions that you did in such a clear unbiased way! thank you, thankyou!

20 07 2010
20 07 2010
moox

Absolutely brilliant!!
I have been looking for an intelligent, objective critique of the China study for a long time and this definitely fits the description, without some of the biases of the surprisingly few other critiques to date. I used to be a big fan of Dr. Campbell and the China Study, having read it three times, believing that such an extensive and comprehensive study led by a Scientist with Dr. Campbells credentials had finally revealed the “truth” abiut diet, nutrition and disease. Having recently looked into the other side of the issue; paleolithic nutrition, low carb, high fat etc.. I started to have many questions and the direct correlation between animal protein and cancer made less and less sense. I was therefore very pleased to find this critique that meticulously takes apart Dr. Campbells theory by using the actual data from the original China Study itself. From this we can see that the conclusions Dr. Campbell arrives at and which he repeats incessantly in his book, namely that animal protein causes or rather facilitates the progression of cancer, are selective conclusions with no statistical basis from the data of the actual China Study.
I would therefore like to thank Denise for her excellent work in helping to expose yet another hidden agenda attempt at misinformation.

22 07 2010
Frank

Moox, just keep eating animals and you will learn the truth the hard way. Denise Minger is a rank amateur and not even close to Dr. Campbells league. The China Study is a peer review work that we are fortunate to have available to us.

22 07 2010
CPM

Hi Frank,

Campbell’s book, the China Study, is not a peer-reviewed work. It is just a book where some guy argues his hypothesis, one that he did not feel was getting enough ‘air-time’ in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

22 07 2010
Frank

I said the China Study, not his book. His hands were tied on the title. And he is not some guy, he is a true scientist, he does not need “air time”. If you want vibrant health read his book, be grateful he produced something for you to criticize when you should instead be quiet if that is all you have to offer.

27 08 2010
Igor

If you want vibrant health, read Nourishing Traditions. Veganism ain’t a healthy lifestyle.

9 02 2011
tracker

What is this a religion? Be quiet if you disagree?! Apparently she violated the Holy Office of Veganism. I smell a witch hunt in the making.

20 07 2010
Some Things to Read « DC Skeptics

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy: “It’s no surprise “The China Study” has been so widely embraced within the vegan and vegetarian community: It says point-blank what any vegan wants to hear—that there’s scientific rationale for avoiding all animal foods.” [...]

22 07 2010
Frank

Vegans do not need to hear there’s “scientific rationale for avoiding all animal foods.” They know from living it and enjoy excellent health and do not need to rely on the propaganda of the monied interests that have made this country the sickest nation on the planet. Here is a clue for you: have you noticed that all the name calling and inflammatory words couple with personal attacks never come from the ones providing information like that found in the China Study? That speaks volumes.

22 07 2010
kat

“Rank amateur” isn’t inflammatory?

22 07 2010
mrfreddy

“have you noticed that all the name calling and inflammatory words couple with personal attacks never come from the ones providing information like that found in the China Study? That speaks volumes”

actually no, I have not noticed any such thing.

Go back and read any rebuttal written by TCC himself. Count the ad-hominem attacks. (btw, that means attacks on the messenger not the message). He works fromt the same template every time. 1) Question the credentials of his critic 2) Remind you of his own impressive CV 3) Mention that his diet has been proven to eliminate disease 4) Belittle the critic some more 5) Complain about being called names like buffoon (that one seems to have really gotten to him 6) Implore you to “just try it? and most importantly 7) Never, ever respond to the actual criticisms in any meaningful way.

step away from the kool-aid dude…

22 07 2010
Frank

It’s acurate.

22 07 2010
Frank

Make that accurate.

22 07 2010
Frank

Correct that: accurate. But I think it is obvious that my statement is true. It’s something I noticed over 30 years ago when I first got into this; it stuck out like a sore thumb. As i said; it speaks volumes.

22 07 2010
Frank

Wow, you are in all the way. You can have the last comment if you need it, this will be my last. You comment makes me think you are reading something else all together and there is no way to reach you. After 30 years of vibrant health i think I’ll keep drinking the kool-aid dude.

24 07 2010
Greg

3.5) Invent associations and/or motivations for the critic out of whole cloth

27 08 2010
Igor

If vegans have “excellent health,” then why is it every vegan I’ve ever known — and I’ve known at least a dozen — looked like they were on the verge of dying, sometimes after only a few weeks on their new diet?

21 07 2010
Kate

I have to commend your effort and time spent studying the data behind Campbell’s book, and you do raise some very good points (such as Campbell being unable to prove a direct link between animal proteins and cancer).

I have not read the book yet, but have ordered a copy and am looking forward to making up my own mind about the study.

What I would really like to know, but have been unable to find in any source, is whether Campbell was a vegan/vegetarian before embarking on this nutritional study. Many detractors imply this as a way of reducing Campbell’s credibility, accusing him of going into the project with an agenda. The accounts of his life I have read seemed to suggest that he was originally a believer in the meat and dairy industry due to family ties, but it was this research that changed his mind, which is not suggestive of going into the project with bias, but rather the opposite. I really wish there was a credible source which stated when he became a vegetarian/vegan.

I also wish nutrition didn’t need to be such a political minefield…

22 07 2010
deb

What you will find out after recieving your book, is that he was neither vegetarian or vegan when he started all this. He grew up on a dairy farm, eating the very foods that are considered “American”. He also started out trying to find better sources of protein to fix an apperant “defiency”.

It’s great that Mrs. Minger set out to work so hard at refuting Dr. Campbell’s work, but she is no scientist with no credentials and no peer reviewed work. This is her opinion and her alone. I will gladly follow the doctors and scientists that not only have all those above, but live the life and are healthy for doing so. Not one takes medication for a chronic disease like so many others in the nation.

Nutrition wouldnt be such a political minefield if it were left up to the dietians and doctors. Government and politicians let big dairy, meat, egg and pharma control most of what we read and hear and how we hear it through the regualr media.

22 07 2010
CPM

Hi Deb,

There are plenty of doctors and scientists that think eating meat and fat is beneficial, and they live the life and are healthy doing so too.

Campbell said that basically one of the reasons that he published the book is because he felt that similar views were under-represented in the scientific literature. In essence, Campbell is saying the majority of scientists don’t share his views. That does not mean his hypothesis is wrong, but it does mean that credentials are kind of a pointless issue to bring to the argument.

Especially when all Denise has done is point out flaws in his arguments and evidence in his book used to support his hypothesis. The book is not peer-reviewed scientific literature. It is some guy arguing his hypothesis to a jury of laypeople.

22 07 2010
arcomedian

Hi CPM. I agree with your statement. I’d like to add that “lay-people” should also read and (loudly) critique “peer reviewed” literature.

22 07 2010
Frank

She did not point out flaws. Read Dr. Cambells reply. And there were plenty of doctors and scientists who told us smoking was good for us too. They live the life and are healthy doing so too? Who are they. If they consume meat and dairy for years and years it will degrade their health; they are not immune to the laws of phisiology.

22 07 2010
kat

Frank,

Campbell is not an omnipotent being so of course there will be flaws in his work, and Denise pointed out quite a few. You can’t hope to understand that, and the weakness of Campbell’s response, if you don’t read this post and the next. Read really slow if you have to. Just read it. Oh wait that’s right, you don’t need scientific rationale to defend a vegan diet. Seems strange you would even bother spamming up the comments if that truly were the case.

22 07 2010
Frank

Try this Kat,

These attacks are a clear sign of the widespread success of Dr Campbell’s work. His 35 years of research is nothing to sneeze at. And the positive results so many have had from changing to a plant-based diet after reading his book, is frightening to his opponents. The results are real and undeniable…backed up by standard medical tests. Remove the cause of illnesses & they go away. An animal food-based diet is the cause of the majority of common diseases. A low-fat plant-based diet is the answer.

His findings on the direct effect of dairy casein
on cancer markers is astounding…add casein, markers go up, subtract casein, the markers go down. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Get dairy completely off your plate if you want to be well. And while you’re at it, remove the dead carcasses as well.

Dr Campbell is a gentle & humble man, with all the best intentions of sharing his findings with the world, in order to help people. He is not out for fame or wealth. He simply is sharing the truth.

22 07 2010
kat

Frank,

Seriously man, read the post. It’s obvious that you haven’t. If you want to debate the issues that Denise raised then cool, we’ll do that. But you simply can’t do that without first reading the post. Coming here and trying to discuss these things based off of Campbell’s response is like trying to discuss Crime and Punishment by reading a cliff notes version of Romeo and Juliet. It ain’t the same.

“Dr Campbell is a gentle & humble man…” Well now I’m not so sure you’ve actually read his responses, either.

23 07 2010
Frank

Seriously man, I read them both. What Denise raised really amounts to somebody wanting attention, there is nothing to discuss. As VegSource.com wrote “we were mildly surprised that Dr. Campbell felt he needed to take the time to dignify Minger’s musings with a response”.

23 07 2010
Martin Levac

@Frank,

Well Frank, I agree there is nothing more to discuss with you.

Good bye.

25 07 2010
Dave

@deb,

Yes, the dietitians and doctors are doing a wonderful job. Just look at the amazingly slim and healthy people all around! I’m glad we’re not in the midst of any sort of chronic illness epidemic, like diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

25 07 2010
Dave

@Frank,

I don’t suppose you have any actual scientific points to make, as opposed to vague inferences about sociology and psychology?

27 08 2010
Igor

They also let big soy, corn, and cotton have their way too.

22 07 2010
22 07 2010
arcomedian

Thanks for posting this Sally. I read it.

22 07 2010
Emily Deans MD

What is up with that obsession with WAPF? Too bad he didn’t read Minger’s response to his initial response! And that he hangs his hat on the “mysterious missing comment” that never really went missing. Who does his fact-finding? Unimpressive.

22 07 2010
david

subscribe

22 07 2010
Thursday, July 22nd: Hunger and Obesity are 1 issue « SouthBaltimore CrossFit

[...] write the vegetarian manifesto.  Well, and ex-vegan (but still raw food advocate) decided to look at his data in detail to see whether the conclusions held up at all (they don’t, in any way).  Now that article is long and complicated, but Dr. Harris of PaNu [...]

22 07 2010
Frank Buurman

I mentioned some points before, here are some others:

1: relativism: the ‘fact’ that wheat (in some form, in a certain context) causes relative more cancers doesn’t mean that meat (in larger quantities) won’t.
And what is meat ? There is a difference between USA and EU (Chinese ?) meat, between fresh meat and ‘fabricated’ meat.
Or between organic and ‘conventional’. What other products do consumers (who consume a lot of, or less, meat/wheat) eat, that are’nt taken into account ? (legumes & fruit, nuts, (un)refined oils, diary), have they been adapted to the ‘western’ way of life ?

2: environment: what are the environmental factors ? Living in an unhealthy environment may be correlated to wheat consumption. Environmental factors play a very important role in the development of cancers.

3: smoking: do the big wheat consumers in China also smoke more ?

So again my point: Denise (with all respect for her energy and superiour intelligence),
you cannot make any definite conclusions from this data – and you have to explain this limitations and possible other correlations in your publication to be taken serious in your ‘overall’ analysis.

22 07 2010
kat

Frank,

Please show where in this post Denise makes any “definite conclusions.” Thanks.

Kat

23 07 2010
Frank Buurman

ok. ‘definite’ is too hard. the definite conclusions are taken by others…
but with Denise’s analysis as excuse.
When you’re trying to superevaluate statistical data analysis, you have to break through the boundaries of the data themselves – and through your own boundaries.
Because life is very complex – in all respects. And you have to account for that in your conclusions.

ps
Can someone tell me, why the so (scientifically) praised ‘Mediterrenean’ diet is that healthy ? They consume a lot of wheat overthere (what I saw): bread, macaroni, cous-cous, bulgur…
Some other factors play a role….

22 07 2010
Nena Niessen

Dr Campbell has done an amazing job with the China Study exposing the dangerous of consuming animal products.

Just answer me one question , how long does meat stay in your body before is eliminated, and how long does vegetables take before they come out. I work at a cancer clinic and see the results of poor diet. kids as little as 5 years old already with cancer. Once the patient is switch to a plant base diet Miracles they get better!!!

I myself I’m a cancer survivor. I grow up in farm in Nicaragua My mother force me to eat meat not realizing the damage she was causing me. I had asthma, constipation , depression , parasites. And many other illness associated with meat and dairy. First time I had cancer was 17 and later at 27. I made the switch to plant base diet and my world change .

Meat causes inflammation, constipation , retardation, meat has not fiber. How can this be good.

If the number and chart are not right who cares the bottom line is plant base diet is best for any one who is looking for good health . I think that some times we complicate thing. Specially when it comes to food!!!.
Even in the bible talks about a plant base diet. The test of the food if you care to look is on the book of Daniel.

22 07 2010
Martin Levac

Good for you Nena. See here for more information about different diets:

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/low-carb-gaining-a-foothold-with-the-mainstream/

Let me ask you this, if an all plant diet was really best for humans, how come the group that did the best was eating a diet with the fewest plants?

9 02 2011
tracker

Actually sugar and refined carbohydrates cause inflammation. Low carb and paleo diets are anti-inflammation.

Fiber may irritate the lining of the colon and bowels. We’re not cows or horses after all and cannot digest it.

To say that people are sick from eating meat when they’re eating a standard American diet that is high in both sugar and refined carbs is naive. People in the bible ate copious meat. I suggest you not cherry pick verses.

22 07 2010
Elizabeth

Denise,
You are 23 years old.
Who wrote this material for you?
Your extracts from The China Study (book), which is just a meta analysis, is not working with all the data. Your critique is therefore a distortion.

Note I don’t know Campbell, nor do I particularly care about whether he is right or wrong – I have been doing research independently in this field for 35 years myself and have no answers or any axe to grind.

However, he is a person who has worked his life to help people be healthy.

As a professional researcher however, I believe certain protocols must be followed or the field of nutrition on the web will become like a Rush Limbaugh hour – full of ugly insinuations with very bad fact finding.

I am surprised that if you are truly interested in fact finding, you would attack like this. Campbell is neither a crank nor crazy. He is a 72 year old scientist who has taught at MIT, Cornell and worked for the National Institute of Health.

Where are your credentials? Just being a web blogger hardly qualifies you to make these conclusions, as nicely as you write.

I hope you take your conscience into account before you publish material provided by others in the future.

I am quite sure that your materials are well intended, but they are completely unscientific in their methodology and their conclusions – as with Mr. Limbaugh.

NES

22 07 2010
CPM

Hi Elizabeth,

Rational thought requires no credentials. The results speak for themselves. The same goes for reading comprehension ability…

Also, it is very scientific of you to criticize Denise’s age, claim that somebody else wrote this for her with no evidence at all, and harp on credentials instead of content. You must be a student of Campbell’s.

It is also very scientific of many of Campbell’s supporters such as yourself that feel that the intended audience of Campbell’s book are unqualified to judge its merits and must simply bow down to his credentials as though he is the only scientist in the world that has every published a book on nutrition, let alone published a scientific paper.

27 08 2010
Igor

Elizabeth,

What has Campbell offered you in exchange for smearing his critics? Are you one of his grad students? Are you sleeping with him?

9 02 2011
tracker

Your credentials and $.75 will buy you a cup of coffee.

You don’t critique anything she wrote, you don’t say it’s wrong. You resort to ad hominem attack, equating her to Rush Limbaugh and accusing her of plagiarism.

You say you’re a researcher? Heh. No surprise there.

22 07 2010
Julie

Denise and everyone else,

Please just read TCC’s response and it is CLEAR that he is the expert and Denise is 23 with no qualifications! Has Denise ever been in a lab? Has Denise ever conducted a scientific study? I mean, PPPLLLLEEEAAASSEE!!!

22 07 2010
MA

Hi Julie,

I see that like Campbell himself, his supporters come well equipped to debate the merits of the issues at hand. It is very important when discussing scientific merit not to use your own brain or a little bit of critical thinking and instead rely on what some random scientist told you (and be sure to mention age and credentials.) You have failed to account for the Weston Price boogeymen though, so your brilliant rebuttal is not a total success.

27 08 2010
Igor

What does epidemiology have to do with being in a lab?

23 07 2010
GaryB

Atkins diet all over again. I started a weight loss regime, I didn’t follow Atkin’s diet but I basically cut way back on starch and thereby went way up on meat. I happened to have a full physical scheduled in month 2 of the diet: Lowest bad cholesterol scores I’ve ever had, highest good.

I suspect a lot of our health issues are less about meat and more about lack of exercise. I don’t try to eat a lot of meat, but I eat it for taste … and the taste can be exquisitely good. Or to quote whomever really said it:

“Eating healthy doesn’t make you live longer, it just seems like it.”

24 07 2010
vizeet srivastava

Thanks for such a detailed analysis. When I was in school my teacher used to say with statistics you can prove anything. In these kind of studies no matter how good your parameters are and how reliable is the data collected you can never eliminate foreign factors. Then there are big profit making companies who have stake in these researches.
I believe more reliable way of doing analysis is following:
1. We need to understand our evolution.
2. We need to understand traditional diet world over. As we live in more secured environment i.e. we don’t have insect byte, we eat clean food, we have good health care etc. But diseases like heart problems, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, autism, infertility etc are growing.
Following is more elaborate:
1.Farming is not more than 10000 years old. How much we are adapted to it depends a lot on ancestory. So she cannot ignore this factor while doing her research.
2. We evolved from chimps 4 million years back. Chimps are not pure veg, they are 90% veg. Our gut got simplified to eat more non-veg.
3. Why humans have teeth decay and labor pain? This is another important question.
4. Are we getting all required minerals and vitamins? As we used to get in older times.

We don’t need these studies to understand what is good for humans. We just need to invest some time thinking and trying to find answers.

25 07 2010
Dave

“When I was in school my teacher used to say with statistics you can prove anything.”

I don’t think your teacher understood statistics. Statistics is just math. You can’t “prove anything” with math, as this would imply that two people working on the same problem would get different answers. The whole point of math is to have a self-consistent formal system for solving problems.

The issue here isn’t statistics, but people. People can “prove” anything to themselves, precisely because they don’t use a rigorous reasoning system (and yes, I include myself in that group). That’s why we have mathematical methods for trying to understand the real world. The problem is that scientists don’t properly apply those methods.

Denise has not demonstrated much evidence for any particular hypothesis here. Instead, she has shown that the data contains remarkably weak support for just about everything that Dr. Campbell has said (or just about any other statement you could draw, apart from “these variables are correlated”). That doesn’t mean Dr. Campbell does not have other evidence to support his views, but sadly he is choosing to not share this evidence with us, and so all we have to go on is the China Study.

26 07 2010
Vizeet Srivastava

‘You can’t “prove anything” with math, as this would imply that two people working on the same problem would get different answers.’
Oh Really, then how do you prove?
I said with statistics you can prove anything that also means you can really prove nothing. People keep on giving reference of studies which are based on statistics. I have zero faith in them.

27 08 2010
Igor

@Dave – Perhaps it’s true that you can’t prove anything with statistics, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

9 02 2011
tracker

Paleolithic people didn’t have tooth decay. They didn’t eat sugar or wheat.

Saturated fat is required for brain development. We are not chimps, obviously. Our meat consumption as hunter gatherers is probably why.

25 07 2010
NaturGym » Blog Archive » What’s evolution got to do with it? (Part 1 — Why is evolution important?)

[...] ignored. (For a great example of how evidence can be used to show whatever you want, look at this critique of “The China Study”. I might do a whole post on the debate around this later.) Unfortunately, large nutritional studies [...]

26 07 2010
M Burke

The China Study conspicuously leaves out grains/gluten as Framingham study does women/sugar and many studies are cited by opposing sides as proving their point because no one understands the data or the implications. Well done Denise!

26 07 2010
Amelina

I can’t believe I read not only the entire post but also about 60% of the comments. Clearly I have not much to do with my time on a Monday afternoon :) The post was well worth it, though. I’ve read so much material on both sides (whatever you want to label those sides) and I’ve also been on both sides, too! In the end I usually appeal to the fact that no society or cultural group has ever existed on zero animal products. That there answers any and all questions I might have.
Great work.

27 07 2010
Parag

Friends,
You don’t need to believe Dr. Campbell. Just read The China Study, slowly and completely, and figure out the truth for yourself. Facts speak for themselves.
I, and a few of my acquaintances, tried a whole-foods plant-based diet (coupled with biweekly exposure to sunlight in noon and some physical activity) for a few months (strict compliance), and it is working wonders for us, so we continue to be on it. Some of my friends failed, because they were mostly eating junk (plant-based) foods.
The China Study book is not just about Dr. Campbell’s work, but more than that it describes the work and results of numerous other research studies, independent and unbiased, that point to the undeniable benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet.
Denise has adopted a detailed but very narrow view that is insufficient to relate to the larger context. This approach will only add to further confusion and misleading conclusions.

27 08 2010
Igor

I’m not interested in how this diet is working out for you and your friends over a period of a few months or even a few years. What is of interest is how you’ll fare over a lifetime of eating this way.

My prediction is you’ll eventually learn “the hard way” that you need some animal foods in your diet to stay healthy.

27 07 2010
mrfreddy (www.beefandwhisky.com)

Friends,
Here’s Dr. Eades reaction to reading the China Study, and all this recent commotion-it’s a doozy!

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/cancer/the-china-study-vs-the-china-study/#more-4213

here’s a little nugget:

“In fact, in my studied opinion, The China Study is a masterpiece of obfuscation.

It is obfuscatory in so many ways it could truly qualify as a work of obfuscatory genius. It would be difficult for a mere mortal to pen so much confusion, ambiguity, distortion and misunderstanding in what is basically a book-length argument for a personal opinion masquerading as hard science.”

29 07 2010
moox

mrfreddy,
thanks for the link to Dr Eades reaction and a great big thank you to Dr. Eades for his excellent commentary! Yet another massive blow to Dr. Campbells shameful attempt to use his credentials not for the cause of scientific truth, but rather further his or rather PCRM’s idealogical agenda.
It is one thing to say that a whole foods plant based diet is the helthiest diet around (which it probably is, minus the grains, plus a little or moderate amount of animal protein) and quite another to demonize all animal protein and linking all modern degenerative dieseases to its consumption. What makes it worse was Dr. Campbells attempt to masquerade his desired outcome as credible science.

27 07 2010
Zach

Denise,
I gave you a shout out via a link in an article I wrote that was published on a libertarian website, hopefully further widening your audience for this great piece.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig11/shelton-z1.1.1.html

Good job once again.

27 07 2010
The China Study vs the China study | The Blog of Michael R. Eades, M.D.

[...] been alive with commentary the past few weeks since Denise Minger lobbed her first cannonball of a critique across the bow of The China Study, the vessel T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. rode to fame and [...]

27 07 2010
land animal

I am glad you wrote this post. Too many vegetarians and vegans hold up this book as scientific evidence to support their decisions. Campbell’s highlighting of nonexistent correlations in data while omitting actual correlations to propel his war on casein are evidence that this book is pure science fiction. I personally eat plant-based and actually habitually live vegan (except for rare occasions) and love it, but I do not hold up “The China Study” as a reason to live this way.

28 07 2010
Ura Hack

This post and the time you are wasting is what happens when any idiot gets a computer and internet access. enjoy your fat and yuor early debilitative disease. and your picture is ugly too, whats with the caterpillars crawled up and died over your eyes.

28 07 2010
Martin Levac

LOL! Look who’s talking. Stay in school, kid.

29 07 2010
Thursday, July 29th: Fad Diets, Bad Diets « SouthBaltimore CrossFit

[...] plant and grain dominated diets are BS (long version) (short [...]

29 07 2010
krasmuss

It is mind-blowing that so many people out there seem to think Denise’s few week/months of data reduction is equivalent or superior to the rigorous ongoing research done by a scientist of the highest calibre and his research team for several decades. These are the same people that read a ‘health’ book based largely on the opinion of someone claiming to be a researcher and some scattered poorly designed studies that appear to back up their claims. These books are all too often completely lacking in references and statistically valid analyses for the claims that they expouse, unlike the China Study, which backs up every claim with a reference (frequently from a peer-reviewed publication) and displays only statistically relevant data. I think it is important to question what you read, but it is equally important to understand the context of the information you’re reading, specifically how it was gathered, reduced, and interpreted. I’d like to see Denise try to publish her ‘study’ according to the same rigorous standards that academic researchers face today…I doubt anyone encouraging her to do so in this blog is qualified to judge the real implications of Denise’s ‘work’ for the nutrition community.

29 07 2010
Martin Levac

Are you qualified? Do you have a degree? Where’s you back pass? Ticket please? This ain’t about qualification, it’s about validity.

Is Denise’s critique of Campbell’s work valid?

29 07 2010
MA

“I’d like to see Denise try to publish her ‘study’ according to the same rigorous standards that academic researchers face today”

Denise did not write a study. It was a critique of Campbell. Your defense of Campbell is worthless talk when your own words prove your lack of reading and thinking fundamentals.

You have to separate the scientist from the salesman shopping around his hypothesis. You have to separate his scietific papers from his claims of hearing the right ‘symphony’. You have to separate the science from the science abuse.

It is science to discuss a study that shows feeding rodents sucrose, aflatoxin, and a complete protein causes a quicker spread of cancer than feeding them sucrose, aflatoxin, and an incomplete protein. It is science abuse though to say this one little study proves that animal protein causes cancer and plant protein does not.

It is fair game to point out science abuse where ever it occurs. You don’t have to publish your own paper. It is not like Campbell’s book is peer-reviewed anyway.

20 10 2010
Bran

I completely agree with MA. Your data is worthless. You did not conduct a 35-year study and are just a meat loving person who doesn’t want to face the reality of the harmful effects of animal protein and milk products. I completely agree with Dr. Campbell, and all of the information that he discusses has been reiterated in numerous studies and documentaries. Thanks for the terrible critique

20 10 2010
Richard Nikoley

Wow, how “uncommon.” Yet another vegan True Believer with nothing to say but affirmations of blind faith and say-so.

Underwhelmed.

20 10 2010
kat

hahahaha you didn’t even read MA’s post! seriously, please keep it coming!

27 08 2010
Igor

Dude, it’s not a “study”. It’s a criticism on someone’s blog of a book published for a mass audience.

What’s with you guys? It’s like you’re all sharing the same template (are you?).

29 07 2010
Stuff You Should Read : The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition

[...] The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? – Denise Minger. Denise goes into great depth and detail, as she crunched the data of the massive China Study herself! Performing some actual statistics on the raw data, she came to some very different conclusions than our dear Dr. Campbell. This is one hell of a read, but if you are someone who has any interest in the China Study, it is well worth your time. [...]

29 07 2010
Bobby Davis

You may not like my comment but it is true. God created Adam/Eve to eat from the Garden of Eden (all plant based diet). They were strickly vegetarians and Adam lived to be 930 yrs old. After the flood, and during the time the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, they petitioned God to allow them to eat meat. God granted their request and pointed out what animals and fowl/birds they could eat and which ones they should stay away from for the sake of their own health. After meat was introduced into the diet the life span drastically reduced. Moses only lived 130 yrs and at the beginning of the 20th century (6000 yrs since Adam), the lifespan of mankind was somewhere in the mid 30’s. So, whether you believe in plant based or animal inclusion in your diet, perhaps we should consider and understand that God’s wisdom is higher than mans. Every element of the human body can be found in dirt not in meat. From a scientists point of view, my conclusion supports Dr Campbell and his research is right on. Denise makes some good points as well, but I can not accept that eating meat or fowl of any kind at any time is conducive to a healthy body. Everything the human body needs for nourishment is in a plant based diet especially a raw organic one and it is the most bioavailable source of nutrients known to promote healthy cell growth. When you take into consideration the body’s pH balance, meat and dairy are high on the acidic side and we know that an acidic body gets sick where as a more alkaline body stays well. Also note that raw plant based food comes with its own digestive enzymes which break down and provide fast nourishment whereas meat does not provide any type of nourishment that the body can use – it pulls enzymes from the body putting more stress on the digestive system. Give me salad and a fruit bowl, please. My 2 cents for what it’s worth.

29 07 2010
MA

Bobby,

It is possible that the Earth is only 7000 years old, but this has nothing to do with science. It may be true, but the scientific evidence says otherwise.

By the same token it may be true that animals are bad for you, but this has nothing to do with science.

It is disturbing when a scientist comes out and says that this is scientific fact. He should know better. He is abusing science to advance his own agenda. It is fine to have an agenda, but he needs to leave out the science abuse and the ‘hocus pocus’.

He keeps insisting though that he is using superior science and he keeps making claims such as that it is pure scientific fact that all animal protein causes cancer. What he is doing is not science. It is science abuse.

30 07 2010
Martin Levac

Hey Bobby, how come the Original Sin is the eating of the apple but not the fish, chicken or beef? How come God killed the guy who gave him fruits and vegetables but not the guy who gave him meat? Seems to me God wanted us to keep eating meat and stay away from the fruits and the vegetables.

By the way, did you see the movie Religulous? It’s quite interesting to learn that the Bible is just a copy of some other religion 1000 years older. In fact, many religions are just copies of each other. Makes me wonder if God wanted to spread his wisdom to as many people as possible or if this religion thing is just pure bullshit.

Just imagine if it was all just bullshit. We couldn’t truthfully rely on the Bible or any other religious book now could we? We’d really have to figure things out on our own wouldn’t we?

Just saying. Peace out.

29 02 2012
Chad

Actually in Genesis 9 shortly after the flood God says to Noah, “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the the green plants, I now give you the everything.” Thats quite a bit before the part in Exodus where the Israelites were wandering the in the desert with nothing but mana to eat and started grumbling about having no meat. Based on your own statements that “God’s wisdom is higher than mans” it seems to me he has given you the animals to eat.

There is a lot of question about why only after the flood did God tell Noah that he should eat animals as well as plants. The best rational I have heard what that it was easy before the flood to get enough nutrition from plant sources only but the flood so drastically altered the world that it now was necessary to eat some meat. Meat probably was eaten before this command as Abel, Adams son, was keeping flocks before he was murdered. I suppose it could have been for the wool but . .

I’ve been reading the comments and would like to say as many have said. Campbell need only show us his math and we can stop this debate one way or the other.

I find all these comments about age and credentials very disappointing.

29 02 2012
Darrel

You believe in Noah and his boat? No wonder you’re disappointed with talk of “credentials.”

Did Noah take the 2,000 plus species of carpenter ants and termites aboard his wooden ark?

That would be a neat trick.

29 02 2012
gager

It’s amazing that in this age of reason that there is still belief in this fantasy. The whole garden of eden is a myth.

30 07 2010
M Gibson

3 years ago, a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer, described to me a book, The China Study, which had changed his life. After reading it, and changing his diet, his cancer went into remission. His cancer is still in remission. Since then, after reading the China Study, and then other books by Esselstyn, McDougall, Furhman, N. Barnard, Ornish, and others, my husband and I changed our diets. I had suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and multiple allergies. Today, my digestion works perfectly, and I no longer need medications for allergies.

A recommendation to those interested in the debate about whether Dr. Campbell’s findings are valid: Try eating a plant-based diet for a couple of weeks, and see how you feel.

Do your own experiment; it’s easy, and there is lots of great advice on how to get started: Try the web site of Dr. McDougall’s Website http://www.drmcdougall.com/index.html.

30 07 2010
mrfreddy

So, Mel, your argument is “never mind that Campbell completley botched the science, a whole plant food diet works, it cures cancer, it cures IBM, try it, you’ll like it!”

That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?

Well, the whole point of doing science properly is to get to the truth. And the truth may we be that a different diet, say, paleo, offers the same results. And there is plenty of evidence on that front, especially for IBM. And therefore you and everyone else listening to TCC may be avoiding meat for no good reason. And doing damage to yourself in the process.

There are lots of people doing good science in this arena. T. C. Campbell isn’t one of them.

And btw, I did try the Ornish diet many years ago. Lost lots of weight, but I was miserably hungry ALL of the time. Never again.

30 07 2010
Martin Levac

Gibson, a few years ago, I read Gary Taubes Good Calories Bad Calories and another book by Weston Price called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. It changed my life. I cut out all carbs from my diet and selected only meat, or mostly meat and cheese. I still eat like that today. I lost at least 50lbs in one year and returned to good health even more quickly. But unlike you, I know what I needed to cut out from my diet to return to good health. You, you just cut out all meat, sugar and whatever refined and processed crap you used to eat. No wonder you got sick before and no wonder you returned to fair health when you cut all that out. However, you didn’t need to cut out meat since that’s not what made you sick in the first place. What made you sick is all the refined and easily digestible carbohydrates like white sugar, HFCS, starch and grains of all kinds.

So what’s the difference between you and me? Well, you cut out everything not knowing what made you sick. I cut out only what made me sick. We both returned to fair or good health but your health will continue to degrade since meat is the only thing that contains an essential nutrient for humans: Vitamin B12. And without this vitamin, we get sick, sometimes irreversibly so. But the worst thing about it is that we can keep going for a long time before we realize that we’re deficient in that vitamin.

27 08 2010
Igor

In all fairness, you don’t need to eat meat to get B12 (you can get it from eggs or dairy, though apparently eggs contain a substance which blocks its absorption), and you don’t need a lot of B12 to avoid a deficiency.

What B12 does indicate though is that it’s utter nonsense to claim that veganism is the natural diet of our species since we wouldn’t need a vitamin that can only be obtained through animal foods if that were the case.

4 10 2010
foreverhealthyandyoung

“No foods naturally contain vitamin B12 – neither animal or plant foods. Vitamin B12 is a microbe – a bacteria – it is produced by microorganisms.”

“All of the Vitamin B12 in the world ultimately comes from bacteria. Neither plants nor animals can synthesize it. But plants can be contaminated with B12 when they come in contact with soil bacteria that produce it. Animal foods are rich in B12 only because animals eat foods that are contaminated with it or because bacteria living in an animal’s intestines make it.” Human animals have the same capabalities.

An ideal way for us to get B12 is where the animal obtained it: from the soil. Apparently it is supplying enough for the animal if the meat is rich in it. It makes sense it would be sufficient for us then too.
B12 concerns are the result of overcleaning everything including our food. Everyone who has a their own garden knows that sometimes a little dirt will inevitably be ingested with the food.
This is not the case for overcleaned produce from the grocery store.

Just a heads up, refined foods and high protein diets deplete B12.

4 10 2010
Martin Levac

I don’t know where you got your information on B12 but according to this, B12 comes from bacteria that lives inside the animals we eat, not from dirt:

“Ultimately, animals must obtain vitamin B12 directly or indirectly from bacteria, and these bacteria may inhabit a section of the gut which is posterior to the section where B12 is absorbed. Thus, herbivorous animals must either obtain B12 from bacteria in their rumens, or (if fermenting plant material in the hindgut) by reingestion of cecotrope fæces.”

So, if you must get your B12 from dirt, it’s only because some animal crapped in the dirt you’re eating. Why not just eat the animal outright and be done with it. Well, it seems we’ve been doing just that for the last couple million years anyway.

Where did you get your information about B12 anyway?

4 10 2010
Martin Levac
4 10 2010
foreverhealthyandyoung

“Most people consume enough B12 through animal products or fortified foods in their diet. On the other hand, animals that do not eat other animal products acquire the nutrient from bacteria in their guts or from bacteria-infected dirt on their plant food. An estimated one-quarter of people older than 60 in this country have trouble absorbing B12. B12 deficiency can lead to nerve damage, anemia, and forgetfulness. ”

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-02/hhmi-sce022106.php

I think the logic that most people forget when they say, “if a diet absent of meat is natural, B12 wouldn’t only be in animal foods,” is that the animals that don’t eat meat, that people eat which is so rich in B12, obtained their vitamin B12 from sources that were not animal. Humans, being animals oursevles, have the same exact capabilities. Therefore to say that meat from an herbivore is high in B12, is to say that B12 is easily obtained through non-animal means. Do you see what I’m saying?

B12 is found in dirt, feces, in the liver and intestines. Our body store it to use later.

“So, if you must get your B12 from dirt, it’s only because some animal crapped in the dirt you’re eating.”I’m not sure that this is the only reason dirt is rich in B12. But this is exactly what manure, is which many plants are grown in. Bacteria can be good. I think living in modern times we forget the whole cycle of life and food etc.

You said, “B12 comes from bacteria that lives inside the animals we eat, not from dirt” because of this quote, “Ultimately, animals must obtain vitamin B12 directly or indirectly from bacteria, and these bacteria may inhabit a section of the gut which is posterior to the section where B12 is absorbed. Thus, herbivorous animals must either obtain B12 from bacteria in their rumens, or (if fermenting plant material in the hindgut) by reingestion of cecotrope fæces.”

This quote is saying that herbivorous animals obtain the B12 (from outer bacteria sources) and then those bacteria/B12 inhabit and get stored in the gut, where the animal then obtains it to use it by the body. Please read it again.

Sure, you can eat the animal to obtain the B12, but I think people must be aware that that animal obtained it by non-animal means. If they can, we can to. There are many reasons why people prefer to eat lower on the food chain so it’s not as simple as “just eat the animal and be done with it.”

“B12 is not present IN foods so much as ON them within the dirt or bacteria. Because animals eat plant forms complete with the dirt, they are able to store B12 in their tissues. Meat eaters are then able to obtain this nutrient in their food, whereas vegans must obtain it in a supplemental form — unless, of course, they adhere to the old saying “everyone must eat a peck of dirt in their lifetime.” Still, it is advisable to take supplements in this case. When plant foods are cleaned, the bacteria and the B12 are removed. Modern farming techniques also deplete the soil of this nutrient unless “organic” methods are used” http://www.innvista.com/health/nutrition/vitamins/b12.htm

4 10 2010
Richard Nikoley

I recently blogged on the B12 issue here, with refs:

http://freetheanimal.com/2010/09/dr-seale-any-b12-present-in-animal-foods-is-only-because-of-bacterial-contamination.html

In short, ruminants produce a lot of B12 in the rumen, well ahead of the small intestine where it’s absorbed, hits the portal vein and goes straight to the liver. Ruminant liver is nature’s b12 vitamin, as well as it’s natural muti vitamin. Ruminant liver is, ounce for ounce the most nutritionally dense food on the planet.

The error is in conflating the human digestive tract with that of other animals and in particular, ruminants with a very complex stomach, just for the purpose of converting all that plant material into nutrients we can’t, or do very poorly.

They eat the plants, we eat them, just as evolution worked out through the logic of natural selection.

4 10 2010
foreverhealthyandyoung

You quoted “Ultimately, animals must obtain vitamin B12 directly or indirectly from bacteria, and these bacteria may inhabit a section of the gut which is posterior to the section where B12 is absorbed. Thus, herbivorous animals must either obtain B12 from bacteria in their rumens, or (if fermenting plant material in the hindgut) by reingestion of cecotrope fæces.”

Please read this again. Wki is stating that animals must obtain their B12 from bacteria (from outside sources or from another animal-direcly or indirecly) then the bacteria/B12 that they ingest inhabits and is stored in the gut and liver to be used when the body needs it.

“Most people consume enough B12 through animal products or fortified foods in their diet. On the other hand, animals that do not eat other animal products acquire the nutrient from bacteria in their guts or from bacteria-infected dirt on their plant food.”

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-02/hhmi-sce022106.php

I think the logic that most people forget is that if the herbivorous animal was able to obtain enough B12, by not eating meat, to supply it’s meat-for you- with enough B12, then human animals naturally have the same exact capabalities of obtaining B12 through non-animal ways.

When people state that meat (from a cow or such) is high in B12, they are then affirming, without even realizing it, that B12 can easily be obtained from non-animal sources. Do you see the flaw now in the popular, “B12 is only found in meat, that is why a non-meat diet is not natural?”

You talk about the animal crapping on the soil and us obtaining B12 that way. Soil is made up of a mixture of poop and other substances which we grow our crops in. Extremely beneficial bacteria. In addition, manure is used to grow many crops, manure is poop. I think the germophobic mentality of today is causing more harm than good.

B12 is found in the bacteria in dirt, stored in the liver, intestines and present in high amounts in the feces. Probably the reason why many dogs eat poop!

“B12 is not present IN foods so much as ON them within the dirt or bacteria. Because animals eat plantforms complete with the dirt, they are able to store B12 in their tissues. Meat eaters are then able to obtain this nutrient in their food, whereas vegans must obtain it in a supplemental form — unless, of course, they adhere to the old saying “everyone must eat a peck of dirt in their lifetime.” Still, it is advisable to take supplements in this case. When plant foods are cleaned, the bacteria and the B12 are removed. Modern farming techniques also deplete the soil of this nutrient unless “organic” methods are used.”

http://www.innvista.com/health/nutrition/vitamins/b12.htm

It is not as easy as, “Why not just eat the animal outright and be done with it.” Many people believe that eating lower on the food chain is optimal. There are many reasons that someone would choose not to obtain their B12 from animals.

5 10 2010
Martin Levac

Your logic is faulty because it does not take into account that humans who do not eat animal flesh, or some adequate substitute like dairy, will suffer the consequence, and do suffer the consequence.

Your logic is faulty because it’s based on the assumption that the quantity and quality of the B12 that exists anywhere else but in the animal flesh humans eat is adequate for humans.

If the B12 that exists elsewhere was adequate, then humans would not suffer the consequence of not eating meat or an adequate substitute like dairy.

Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story though.

PS. Don’t confuse “news” with “truth”. Further, don’t confuse “sales pitch” with “news”. Your two links are “news” and “sales pitch” respectively. None can be characterized as “truth”.

Where did you get your information from B12?

5 10 2010
foreverhealthyandyoung

Martin-Did you even read what I wrote? or the quoted bits??? I and they agree that vegans most certainly can suffer from B12 deficiency-the consequences of not eating getting the bacteria through animal products, or other means.

But that simpy doesn’t negate the fact that B12 is found in bacteria in the dirt. Most people-vegans included-do not eat vegetables straight from the earth. The food at the grocery store is 100% sterile. It’s triple washed with bleach to kill bacteria, among other invasive procedures. Root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and beets that could have a glowing chance to supply B12 bacteria, get the same invasive procedures, and then add insult to injury, they are also routinely peeled, therefore even if one picks it straight from the garden, they’re taking away all traces of B12.
Ultamitely, once food from the grocery store is finally eaten, all B12 is completely, 100% gone.

I posted my sources already. Search and you will find that B12 is from bacteria, this bacteria exists on soil. I think my links are fine. You can always find others yourself that fit your criteria. I’m not looking for vegan pushing sites that give vegans B12 hope with soil. The fact is that B12 is present in baceria rich dirt and noone can dispute that.

That’s a good question though-can the B12 from dirt be adequatly absorbed into the body? I’m not sure. I know we need much less the ruminant animals as Richard was talking about. Our requirements are very small and it does get stored in our bodies.
Other good questions are is B12 destroyed by cooking? I do know that microwave cooking destroys much of it but what about other forms? Also, does the B12 from conventional meat get aborbed well into our bodies? What about from conventional milk? What makes someone absorb B12 well? I think people with stomach or intenstinal problems have trouble.

This is interesting:
“A study that came out of Tufts University last year found that as many as 40 percent of healthy men and women have low levels of B-12 — and those levels were deficient even though the people were eating diets tht has amuch as three times the recommended daily intake of this critical vitamin.”

This study shows clearly that B12 adequacy is more than just shoving the appropriate B12-rich things into your mouth. There is more that meets the eye.

lastly, did someone say that eggs weren’t a good source for B12?

Richard, I’ll definitely read your article. Thank you.

5 10 2010
Martin Levac

I read what you wrote. However, I did not read only what you wrote. Relax, you are not the Holder of The Truth. The intarweb is hugelol. In fact, a vegan person wrote something here believeitornot:

http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?18297-The-myth-about-B12-dirt-and-stools

“I don’t know what’s worst, really, 480 billion bugs or 1 kg stools/soil mixture pr. day…”

It’s interesting that a vegan person would be smart in this matter. Yet the same vegan person would imply that you could still get enough adequate B12 from plant matter such as algae.

You did post your sources. However, neither source you posted have any value. Because, if you didn’t know already, news and sales pitch is not synonymous with truth. But if you want to believe in it, that’s just fine by me.

Eh waitaminute. Are you saying this discussion is just a matter of belief? That would just be sad.

5 10 2010
foreverhealthyandyoung

Martin- please address the study I posted and the questions I asked. That would be great.

This isn’t a discussion about belief, but fact.

The links I posted were not sites selling products. As for news sites, they can offer legitimate information and studies. According to this site, wikipedia is not an ideal source:

http://library.williams.edu/citing/wikipedia.php

It is interesting to note that there are many cultures who practice geogphagy (such as iranian vegans, Africans..) to obtain nutrients, including B12.

Also pregnant women and children crave dirt and may eat it for the nutrients.

Also interesting to note that many farm animals, contained indoors, are fed a diet fortified with B12 to prevent common deficiency. Therefore, one could ask, “why not just take the b12 vitamin, rather then eat the whole animal.”

Effect of soil ingestion on B12 in sheep:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16528394?dopt=Citation

“strict vegetarians who do not practice thorough hand washing or vegetable cleaning may be untroubled by vitamin B-12 deficiencies.”

http://www.victorherbert.com/cv576.pdf

“Pernicious anemia appears to arise not from shortage in the diet, but from impairment of the ability to absorb Vitamin B-12.”[Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71st Scientific Meeting, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, January 5, 1952, p. 295]

this is of interest:
B12 is present in water.

http://www.aslo.org/lo/toc/vol_7/issue_2/0151.pdf

If we’re going with wiki information, here is this interesting tidbit:
“The world’s largest group of professional dietitians says the form of vitamin B12 sourced from animal-products is protein-bound and not as easily digested, especially as people age, and therefore recommends B12 supplementation for everyone over the age of 50″

“Another bacterial source happens to be that plants and edible fungi (like mushrooms) on farms or in the wild may absorb vitamin B12 from bacteria in soil, but since modern pesticides kill most B12 in the soil (including on organic farms to some degree, as the pesticides spread, via hydrology, from non-organic farms to organic ones), the B12 in these plants is not considered a reliable dietary source,[32] whereas B12 supplements from bacteria grown under controlled conditions are considered reliable amounts of B12. There is a patent for a cultivating vitamin B12 from plants.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarian_nutrition#Vitamin_B12

“This crop [comfrey] has been used as a salad green and potherb because it was considered a good source of protein and a rare plant-derived source of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is produced usually by soil bacteria and fungi or in the small intestines of some animals.”

http://www.appropedia.org/Comfrey

Not about B12, but interesting nonetheless:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/66838.php

5 10 2010
Martin Levac

Wait a minute, are you trying to convince me that humans don’t suffer deficiency when they don’t eat meat or dairy? But I’d have to ignore a bunch of stuff about the subject. That just won’t do.

Here’s a link to an actual scientific study which outlines the consequences of eating too little meat:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Starvation_Experiment

The result? Emaciation and neurosis. You tell me how good that is. Oh and that’s an actual clinical trial where they fed humans foodstuff just to see what happens. Whaddyaknow, an actual science experiment. Believeitornot, a single experiment like that can refute a mountain of bullshit like the crap you posted.

Don’t believe me? Try the Biosphere 2 project for confirmation of the same evidence. Don’t believe either paper? Well then I guess you’re fucked.

5 10 2010
foreverhealthyandyoung

I think I have some very useful, thought provoking links. You really should take the time to click into them and read them.
Vegans most certainly can get B12 deficiency. I’m not sure I said otherwise ?
What is odd though is that heavy meat eaters also have the risk of being B-12 deficient. There is more to B12 than meets the eye. Much more. It’s not so cut and dry.

Regardless, I am a huge proponent of starting a garden and getting in the habit of eating those slightly dirty veggies, for omnivores and vegetarians alike!

Regarding your study. I wouldn’t view it as the “consequences of eating too little meat.” That is a hasty conclusion to come to, in my opinion. You could just as easily come to the conlusion that it was the consequences of not eating enough plant foods. The participants were eating cabbage, bread, and rutubaga (with small amounts of meat and dairy) two times a day and walking 22 miles in a week! The goal was to lose 25% of their weight, if they didn’t lose weight fast enough their portions were cut back evenmoreso. I would view this as not getting adequate calories (especially) in relation to physical activitity. As well as not getting enough nutrients, and variety in the diet. If you starved yourself on a 100% meat diet, you would experience the same health detriments. Think of Christopher Johnson McCandless, as one example.
That study proves nothing but the fact that adequate nutrition and calories-in other words FOOD is vital to the human body. This study is not anti-vegetarian or pro-meat. I’m surprised that you would come to the conclusion you did.

“Don’t believe me? Try the Biosphere 2 project for confirmation of the same evidence.”
What I found for this project was that the parcipiants were severely lacking in oxygen inside the facility (the equivalant to being at an elevation of 13,400 ft) which resulted in some health problems.

but as for their diet, this website says this: http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/57/6/B211.abstract
“We conclude that healthy nonobese humans on a low-calorie, nutrient-dense diet show physiologic, hematologic, hormonal, and biochemical changes resembling those of rodents and monkeys on such diets. With regard to the health of humans on such a diet, we observed that despite the selective restriction in calories and marked weight loss, all crew members remained in excellent health and sustained a high level of physical and mental activity throughout the entire 2 years.”

6 10 2010
Martin Levac

If you are new to nutritional science, you must be made aware of a common fact regarding semi-starvation experiments, every single one of them reports continuous, persistent deep hunger in all participants. Why would the Biosphere 2 project be any different? The answer is that it isn’t any different, they just scantly reported it in the multitude of papers written on it. Deep persistent hunger is one of the defining features of semi-starvation. In other words, if you don’t eat enough, you will suffer deep persistent hunger.

Not to be confused with starvation, which is entirely different from semi-starvation. In these studies, hunger is not characteristic. In fact, the opposite is true. Once we stop eating altogether, hunger increases for a short time, then after a few days, hunger just disappears completely.

Again, why would the Biosphere 2 project not report such a characteristic aspect? Maybe they took it for granted. Maybe it’s because it was a capital venture and not a scientific experiment.

Do you know what we don’t tell you when we tell you that you must eat less to lose weight? We don’t tell you that you will be continuously hungry. That’s what we don’t tell you.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter. The effects of eating not enough meat and the effects of eating not enough food are the same. That’s because for humans, meat and food are synonymous. They are one and the same.

The “hasty conclusion” I came to is obvious. That’s because it’s true. They did, in fact, eat very little meat, and they did, in fact, suffer emaciation and neurosis. Would you rather conclude that they suffered because they ate mostly plants? That’s fine by me too. Even then, this means we are not suited to eating a plant based diet. Ergo, eating too little meat will cause deficiency.

Or maybe they suffered because they didn’t eat enough food? Well, remember what I told you about outright starvation? Hunger disappears in those studies. What makes semi-starvation different? The intake of foodstuff that does not satisfy hunger. Rather, the intake of foodstuff that causes deep persistent hunger. One, not enough meat, and two, too much plant matter. Those are the facts no matter what you conclude from them.

Further explanation. In order to understand the above, we must know what hunger is. Hunger is the physiological signal to eat food. But then we must also define food. What is food but that which satisfies and suppresses hunger. Ergo, if that which you eat does not satisfy hunger, then it’s not food.

We must further examine what happens with a ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet will induce the same physiological response as outright starvation which is to say suppressed hunger. We can therefore conclude that whatever is contained in such a diet is food.

And about the Biosphere 2 project, why don’t you go directly to their website, you’ll find a whole page full of papers written on it. I’m sure it’s a much better source of information.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there are other gurus on the internet who are just as wrong as you were a moment ago.

27 08 2010
Igor

“Try eating a plant-based diet for a couple of weeks, and see how you feel.”

I did. I feel better on a diet which includes both plant and animal foods.

Your anecdotes are completely meaningless unless you tell us how you were eating before you switched to this diet. If you were eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), then it’s entirely possible that switching to a whole-food plant-based diet would be a temporary improvement.

Have you tried the type of diet suggested by the Weston A. Price Foundation for a few weeks to see how it makes you feel?

4 10 2010
foreverhealthyandyoung

That’s great! I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read of people who have cured their cancer with a plant diet.

31 07 2010
Archie L. Tucker

Personally, I think any reply to Denise Minger’s blind leap to criticize Dr. Campbell’s work is a wasted effort and risks lending undue credence to her baseless claims. However, I do have this to say: How can she even consider that she possesses the credentials, academic or otherwise, to challenge the findings of a scientist with a PhD in biochemistry and several decades of experience in labs and fieldwork in the area of nutrition? I suppose such research facilities as Cornell and Oxford should reconsider their acceptance of his research findings in support of someone who has absolutely no academic credentials in this arena. In addition, does she think all peer reviews of his work should be reconsidered just because she “likes to crunch numbers”? Please! Give the readers some credit for intellect and common sense.

Archie L. Tucker
Certified in:
Biology, anatomy, health, and astronomy

31 07 2010
MA

Archie,

You have to separate when Campbell is talking about science (his peer-reviewed papers) and when he is abusing science with his weak hypothesis (his book and articles) that he is spouting as “Truth”.

As I said in another comment, James D. Watson has a Nobel Prize and headed up the Human Genome Project. He has a buttload of genetics credentials. He also thinks blacks, women, and fat people are not as smart as skinny white males. If you can’t back up hypotheses, then they are not science.

If you really want to condemn all meat as carcinogenic because one rat study showed that feeding rats sucrose, aflatoxin, and a complete protein causes cancer to spread more quickly than feeding them sucrose, aflatoxin, and an incomplete protein, then what you are doing is not science.

If you want to believe this because some guy with a PhD says this, then maybe you are the one lacking “intellect and common sense.”

If you are still caught up on credentials, you might also consider the fact that Campbell’s hypothesis is not well accepted within his the scientific community or even among many of his colleagues. He wrote his book to appeal to the general public because nobody in the scientific community would believe it. There is too much contradictory evidence. (You know, he could use his money to fund a very definitive study instead of pointing at his one rat study.)

He is abusing science, and he is persuading his followers to abuse science. It is a disgrace for someone who used to be a scientist to be doing this. The same people defending Campbell could be using the very same arguments to defend “Creation Science”. Campbell needs to take a step back and see what he has taught his minions about science by ignoring the process of science and instead insisting on his own “Truth.”

31 07 2010
Martin Levac

What’s up with the idiots on the Campbell camp? There’s so many of them. Why don’t we have as many idiots?

Oh right. Never mind.

1 08 2010
Greg

Wow, Archie, are you for real? Your reply had not one single substantive idea in it…just more ad hominem and appeal to authority. Why so much of that when discussing Denise’s posts? Nothing you wrote had anything to do with what Denise posted, not any little part of it. Can’t we just stick to what she or Dr. Campbell SAY ABOUT THE DATA as the topic?

(Also, what does “certified in” mean in relation to those fields? Since you’re bringing it up presumably to speak to your own credentials…)

27 08 2010
Igor

Hiding behind credentials shows that you guys don’t have a leg to stand on.

31 07 2010
Richard Nikoley

Shorter Archie L. Tucker:

What is of far less importance than who says it.

Archie L. Tucker
Certified in:
ad hominem

~~~

Personally I love how all the Campbell sycophants are exposing themselves as total regurgitative fools.

I think many of them might do well to read this.

http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/News/072717-2010-07-26-valedictorian-speaks-out-against-schooling-in-graduation-speech.htm

“I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience,
especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I
cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest
that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system.
Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed
this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the
next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that
certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human
being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone
who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before
him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave.”

1 08 2010
Michael

There is a lot of responding to spam going on here. Many of the defenders of Campbell are just doing a one off – meaning they are posting the same piece at a number of blogs with no intention of seriously engaging the subject matter. A number of the last few comments here were posted at my blog as well. I don’t even bother approving them anymore.

1 08 2010
Jon

All that spam over more than 700 comments and maybe 1 or 2 Campbellites said anything substantive. It’s the Campbell school of “new science.” Campbellism is the new Creationism.

2 08 2010
Marco

No offense- Creationism is a terrible analogy. If you can explain Baryongenesis, CP asymmetry, and simulate the creation of organic material under primordial conditions then you might have a case against creationism. Otherwise, it’s arrogant to claim that any creationist argument is invalid. From within the scope of studies via the scientific method, we cannot show, scientifically (which is neither absolute nor objective) or hypothetically, that there is no agency responsible for the ordered creation of our visible reality (note that “Creationism” is not limited to the “God making the earth in 7 days” rabble). The ‘origin of existence’ debate is a proxy battle between Theists and Atheists, of which there are very strong and logical arguments on both sides.

CC and his gang are simply contradictory and wrong by their own words. CC generates income from his misinformation, making it much more appropriate it to compare him to the Sophists of ancient Greece- who literally lectured BS for money.

17 04 2013
John B.

Its called Occam´s razor: It states that among competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions should be selected. – Wikipedia

There are certain revolutions in the science, which move the whole paradigm to another level. Theory of evolution is widely (scientifically) accepted. You can show your scepticism, but this scepticism falls on the same level as rejection of Holocaust or presumption.

The whole logic beneath this 1000 comments discussion is that meat-eaters are desperately trying to argue about scientifically valid and correct research. It is so easy to go vegan. I´m vegan myself for less than one year, and I feel healthier than ever before.

18 04 2013
denise b

Scientifically valid research supporting veganism? Where? Show me the peer-reviewed evidence and show me evidence that it is widely accepted by scientists.

I don’t see the least bit of desperation from meat-eaters. If and when I am convinced that dietary changes will make me healthier, I will gladly make those changes. I’ve seen nothing remotely convincing yet. And no, other people’s testimonials that they feel better since they stopped eating meat are not convincing. I feel better since I started eating more meat.

I would be interested in hearing why you find CC to be the “correct” research out of all the conflicting research out there. On what basis did you make that decision?

2 08 2010
Jon

Not to get too far off-topic, but most biblical Creationists see the bible as literal truth. To them it is not a hypothesis, and like Campbellites no amount of evidence in the world will convince them otherwise. I am saying the majority of creationists are only science pretenders (most creationists don’t know what a baryon is and only care if it supports their “Truth”.)

Creationism is an artifact of separation of church and state in the United States. They are trying to dress-up it with science so that it can be taught in public schools, but it is ultimately just science abuse.

They don’t mind referencing various scientific studies when it suits them, but if any scientific study does not support the “Truth” then it must be flawed. For most creationists, the truth is that the world is not more than 10000 years old. In Kansas and Texas (at least) they tried to remove all mention of dinosaurs and radioactive dating from textbooks.

For Campbellites the “Truth” is that animal food is bad and plant food is good. There are numerous studies that contradict this, but Campbell’s “Truth” means these all must be flawed.

The process of science means nothing to these people. Creationists and Campbellites are just pretenders of science. Most of the pro-Campbellite comments here have had nothing to do with science (let alone common sense or reading comprehension), but they have insisted that their science is superior.

2 08 2010
Marco

Seems like a fun way to kill some time until the heavens begin dueling again ;). Late- excuse the… galoompfingness.

The most esteemed critical thinkers of both creationism and evolutionary theory are a minority that don’t associate themselves with either side. The radical faction that you are referring to is also a minority that just happens to get the most attention. Even this minority, despite being… insincere, has a valid point (I’m just doing this for fun, mind you).

Science is nothing more than a series of observable consistencies (or rather, things that we say are consistent because we believe to observe them as such… particle-wave duality is the poster-child of this). The incompleteness theorem(s) require that we assume that every conclusion we make is NOT true (partially for the reason stated previously), even if it is applicable. Any law we “discover” is something that we define, and may be overturned in the future. The process of Science can become deceptively doctrinal and appear to be ‘more right’ than some other idea, but that’s the worst kind of science- the kind that leads you to reject possibilities. No possible truth can be proven to be more right than some other possible truth (doesn’t that sound ridiculously tasty?)- so what value is there rationalizing one truth over the other? A truly scientifically minded person knows that they cannot claim anything that they discover with science to be truth- so why would they ever want to believe anything to be true? (Let’s avoid this huge crux of a question for now and focus on the merit of radical creationists.)

Is it bad science to use science to push some political agenda? Sure (look at global warming- what a mess). But it’s WORSE science to reject the possibility of something being true. If dissenting arguments are not taught, then we are guilty of indoctrination regardless of what IS taught. The creationist agenda (currently) doesn’t want education to teach one idea exclusively– even if they use bad science to show that some alternative idea is plausable, even if they are disingenuous and evil in their recommendation- their ultimate goal is better than a one-sided school system that shoves processed junk down your throat. A school should probably be a place where students can find inspiration to live full, peaceful, healthy, and productive lives- being exposed to many ideas isn’t a bad way to promote the critical thinking skills that result in a full life. Just as catholic schools of the past were unwilling to teach novel ideas, schools of today are falling into the same trap with archaic ones. There is plenty of truth to be found in the creation myths of old- many of which could be true!

To get supremely off-meta-topic,
In regards to science, we ultimately cannot escape the fact that we humans have convictions- there are things that we believe that we don’t really understand. If we follow the trail of our convictions back to the source, before we can believe anything to be true, we must first believe that we can believe things to be true. We can believe that we have free will, but then we do not have the free will to disbelieve in our free will– Science is rittled with these types of metaphysical paradoxes that are neither true nor untrue nor can even be approached scientifically. You can, however, use theology and philosophy to construct a way of life that is rich and full of meaning, despite knowing that you know nothing. The ‘crux’ isn’t just a question of science, but of anything a person believes. It’s definitively unnecessary to tie oneself down to ideas that are not important for you to live happily and to function healthfully, so why do people do it? One could say that evolutionary theory is an arbitrary conviction to have- it does very little to promote the explicit enrichment of one’s life (which, in that sense, atheism would be even stupider… but only in that sense).

If creationists are pushing for a second perspective to be taught in schools, then, from a scientific point of view, that’s fundamentally a good thing (so long as it isn’t implemented by fundamentalists… that could get scary).

*ahem* The end result of creationist policy would not win them money directly. Their indoctrination of others would not necessarily result in direct financial gain. Campbell’s church is explicitly a money-making machine driven by sophistry. Radical creationists ALSO use sophistry, but they are not sophists in the way that Campbell is.

Of course- my original contention was only that it would be “better” to call Campbell a sophist than compare him to creationists because most creationists are not radical nor in it for the money nor intentionally misguiding others.

2 08 2010
Jon

Marco – I’m not sure about “radical creationists” being the minority, but for the most part the only creationists I care about are the ones that want to change textbooks to say or imply that the world is only 10000 years old.

I think there are probably plenty of alternative views that can be discussed in high school, but if it is a science class or a science textbook it needs to remain relatively close to mainstream science. I think discussing historical paradigm shifts would be probably be more instructive to emphasize “being open to other possibilities” than debating evolution. I also think something like QM interpretation would be a better topic than evolution to discuss metaphysics. Monotheism can actually be a rather limited viewpoint at looking at the universe.

I also don’t know if high school students have enough of a background to debate the science behind evolution. I think it is important in a science class to emphasize that science is open for discussion and debate, but it does not mean that you can turn any science question into high school debate club without understanding some of the science about it. You have to stick to the science and your arguments have to be supported by science. You have to know what science is to do this.

2 08 2010
Marco

(I’m soooo sorry denise!)

I pwwwomise they are a minority- Most people on the planet are theists and thus also creationists. Only a small portion believe in the literal word and there are even fewer with an inferiority complex strong enough to stand up and say that it is more true than evolution in a political context.

Making a textbook read as nonsense would be unfortunate- but the simple fact of the matter is that evolutionary theory is NOT science either. By extrapolating on our knowledge of basic “rules”, we can make sense of evolutionary ideas (and some creationist ideas) only up to the point of pseudoscience. Because you can’t actually teach the scientific process of evolution, evolutionary theory more or less belongs in the historical portion of a science class (all science classes also teach history of science). There are plenty of modern well-composed alternatives that deserve exposure.

You have to know what science is before you can debate it? Sounds an awful lot like CC :P. I was in HS 7 years ago, I remember having debates with fellow students over just about everything that was said in a class- if you design curriculum based upon the premise that kids won’t understand, then you’re robbing them- we must have faith in our future generations! *ahem* So If it’s truly scientific, then there isn’t much room for debate. It follows that any conjecture should be proposed with a dissenting opinion otherwise it will appear to be scientific. Even if all the science that can be used to support either side is not available and understood, they deserve to be presented with two ideas. The teacher doesn’t need to host a debate- s/he just needs to get the information out there in a way that will help keep their minds open to infinite possibilities.

2 08 2010
Jon

Marco – If you are saying that everybody that believes in a higher power is a creationist, then you are using the term a lot more broadly than I am. I could comment more on some of the other points, but I think we have digressed too much already.

2 08 2010
Marco

Theists are almost definitively creationists. Most people use the term much more broadly than you are which is the only reason why I say it’s unfair to equate Creationists with a charlatan. All-in-all it’s a bunch of unnecessary nitpicking… I mean, after all, it’s obvious that you’re making a joke and obvious that you’re talking about the literal biblical creationists- but that doesn’t mean that it is imprudent of me to point out that Creationism has a much much larger context than the bible bashers.

2 08 2010
Marco

Err- correction. It is TOTALLY imprudent of me to have said anything. I apologize!

8 09 2011
wayne

Biggest load of nonsense I’ve read in a long time. To many errors to correct each individually. I’ll just give it a “fail”.

20 06 2013
JustAsk

Wayne, “to” many errors to correct each individually? I think I rest my case with your misspelled criticisms…maybe not the brightest bulb on the tree?

4 08 2010
5 Good Reads, 8/4/10 « Primal Bodybuilding

[...] Raw Food SOS, a fellow data geek took the China Study to task.  Re-Analyzing the data gives us a completely [...]

6 08 2010
14 08 2010
Dave

According to Dr. Campbells book, in rural China a 143 lb. person averages 64 grams of protein, of which about 5 grams comes from animal sources. When you adjust for completeness of protein and digestability, that’s very close to the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization. That means a significant percentage of people are much lower than the minimum requirement and should benefit from additional protein, animal or otherwise.

16 08 2010
Ben Greenfield

Fantastic response. You elegantly phrased the thoughts twittering through my head as I read The China Study. I had doubts, and now I understand why after seeing your stats. Kudos.

21 08 2010
Weekend Link Love | Pure Spontaneity

[...] you ever thought about being a vegetarian you must meet two women: Denise and [...]

22 08 2010
Tim

Excellent analysis! Campbell is a vegan and, like many vegans, is motivated by political belief. His China Study is a textbook example of confirmation bias. The fact that a scientist like Campbell would choose to present such flawed data means he is more concerned with propaganda than science. If anyone is actually interested in the science of diet, read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. As Denise so painstakingly pointed out, its all about the variables. I have no doubt the variable we should be focusing on is refined carbohydrates, not meat and dairy.

24 08 2010
Neil

Very impressive research and analysis but, at the end of the day, we all only believe what we WANT to believe. For example, one person may read the bible and think it’s the greatest story ever told and also believe that it’s the truth. Another person may read the bible and conclude that it’s really just the greatest story ever told. So, whilst Debra’s work is impressive for the amount of time and effort she’s put in, as a vegan I am, not surprisingly, very firmly sat in Dr Colin Campbell’s camp. I just believe Dr Campbell.

Also, there have been a few comments on here from “reformed vegans” (including Debra) who are delighted that, in their eyes, Debra has debunked Dr Campbell’s research and they are now revelling in eating an omnivorous diet once again. If that’s what they truly believe then that’s fine. But what I really don’t understand is just what was their motivation for becoming a vegan in the first place? Was it moral over concerns for the animals, or was it personal health concerns, or just concerns for the environment of the planet as a whole, or maybe all of these reasons? Why did they truly feel the need to start eating animals once again and appear to have become almost vitriolic in their attitude towards veganism? Was it really just to “regain” their lost health because a vegan diet made them “ill”? In my opinion, it’s more than likely they’ve shifted their moral concerns for the animals, and for the planet, just so they can eat animals once again for personal pleasure and without any moral guilt because “it’s for the sake of my health”.

I truly believe that anyone who has “health issues” AFTER commencing a vegan diet, then it’s completely their own fault and have only themselves to blame for eating a totally un-balanced and malnourished diet. A balanced, plant-based diet is TOTALLY nourishing to human health – I should know, having eaten a plant-based diet for over 30 years and I feel terrific.

Maybe Denise could do some further research and post the statistics highlighting the pro-rata ratio of sick meat-eaters and sick vegans who are currently in-patients of all the hospitals in the world. I’ll wager that the pro-rata percentage of sick meat-eaters far outweighs the sick vegans.

24 08 2010
Richard Nikoley

“Very impressive research and analysis but, at the end of the day, we all only believe what we WANT to believe. For example, one person may read the bible and think it’s the greatest story ever told and also believe that it’s the truth. Another person may read the bible and conclude that it’s really just the greatest story ever told. So, whilst Debra’s work is impressive for the amount of time and effort she’s put in, as a vegan I am, not surprisingly, very firmly sat in Dr Colin Campbell’s camp. I just believe Dr Campbell.”

Thanks for that, Neil. I dumped religion about 20 years ago. Dammed if I’ll ever take it up, again. And of course this is always how I’ve viewed the vegan catechism anyway, so thanks for the confirmation.

24 08 2010
Tom

“Also, there have been a few comments on here from “reformed vegans” (including Debra) who are delighted that, in their eyes, Debra has debunked Dr Campbell’s research”

The point isn’t that she debunked his research, but that it was never “bunked” to begin with. 8,000 statistical data points can be used to “prove” anything that you want. Just leave out the ones that don’t agree with you pre-formed conclusions and you’re golden.

“I truly believe that anyone who has “health issues” AFTER commencing a vegan diet, then it’s completely their own fault and have only themselves to blame for eating a totally un-balanced and malnourished diet. ”

I totally agree. A vegan diet is a totally un-balanced and malnourished diet.

See what I did there? I took a datum (in this case, a quote, but it works with statistics, too) out of context and made it support a completely different conclusion than it means. It’s so easy, a caveman… never mind.

And that’s what Denise points out. Data was taken out of context and made to support a conclusion.

Science is making the conclusions fit the data. Bad science is having a conclusion and finding the data that fits. Denise pointed out bad science. Go, Denise! The world needs more Denises.

25 08 2010
Neil

Oops! Sincere apologies DENISE! Debra is my nagging omnivorous wife.

Tom, yes I do see what you’ve done now. Much too clever for me. Must be all that animal protein that gives you far superior intelligence to plant eaters. Any stats on this too?

25 08 2010
neisy

No worries, Neil — I’ve been called worse things than Debra. ;)

But what I really don’t understand is just what was their motivation for becoming a vegan in the first place? Was it moral over concerns for the animals, or was it personal health concerns, or just concerns for the environment of the planet as a whole, or maybe all of these reasons?

Depending on the person answering this question, it could be any of the above or all or none. Some people become enamored with the idea of saving the planet and reducing suffering, and feel veganism is the best way to do that. Others read books like “The China Study” and grow convinced that veganism is the only healthy diet. Others are led to believe they’re spiritually unclean if they consume meat or animal products (especially folks who get deeply into yoga or embrace the Eastern concept of “ahimsa”). And I’m sure there’s the odd duck or two out there who, for whatever reason, just doesn’t like the taste of meat or fish or eggs.

Was it really just to “regain” their lost health because a vegan diet made them “ill”?

Often, it really truly honestly is. I pried myself loose from vegan ideology about six or seven years ago, and in the time since then, I can’t tell you how many struggling vegans I’ve talked to who are losing their hair or facing a mouthful of dental decay or getting sick all the time or feeling lethargic or losing physical strength… on and on and on. You don’t hear about these things as much when you’re a vegan yourself, since there’s so much filtering and idealism and censorship of the “dissenters” — but once you step out of the vegan haze and take your fingers out of your ears, you start really hearing what people have gone through, and often it’s pretty scary.

I have no doubt that some people are feeling just peachy keen as vegans — especially short-term — but this is not a diet humans have ever eaten at any point in our existence, is not a diet we could logically be adapted to, and is not a diet that could justifiably be prescribed as best for everyone.

In my opinion, it’s more than likely they’ve shifted their moral concerns for the animals, and for the planet, just so they can eat animals once again for personal pleasure and without any moral guilt because “it’s for the sake of my health”.

Nah. This is probably the case once in a while, but for the vast majority of vegans-turned-omnivores (especially the ones who were very committed to — and vocal about — the vegan mission), returning to a diet with animal foods is incredibly difficult and is not a decision that comes lightly. When I stopped being vegan, I was completely repulsed by the idea of putting anything animal-derived in my mouth — both physically and ethically. But you know what? Biology won. I got healthier. When you’re watching your body disintegrate and find a remedy that contradicts your current ideology, I don’t think there’s any shame in revising that ideology and finding something that allows you to truly be healthy.

I truly believe that anyone who has “health issues” AFTER commencing a vegan diet, then it’s completely their own fault and have only themselves to blame for eating a totally un-balanced and malnourished diet.

*Sigh*

A balanced, plant-based diet is TOTALLY nourishing to human health – I should know, having eaten a plant-based diet for over 30 years and I feel terrific.

I’m glad you found something that works for you, Neil. Awesome! Keep thrivin’. But please realize that a single person’s experience can’t be extrapolated to the whole population. If one person lives to the age of 106 smoking a pack a day, does that mean everyone can do the same thing without any problems?

Maybe Denise could do some further research and post the statistics highlighting the pro-rata ratio of sick meat-eaters and sick vegans who are currently in-patients of all the hospitals in the world. I’ll wager that the pro-rata percentage of sick meat-eaters far outweighs the sick vegans.

Part of the problem with comparing vegan or vegetarian groups against meat-eaters in general is that, almost always, the vegs are also adopting other lifestyle or diet habits like exercise, a reduction of processed foods, etc. Usually when someone cares enough to change their diet, they also care enough to make other positive changes for their health — so it’d be no surprise if vegans came out ahead when compared to folks eating a standard Western diet (the “omnivorous” component being of lesser importance). A more useful experiment would be to take all the junk food vegans out there (ie, those who cut out the meat but keep noshing on vegan potato chips and refined starches and Coke) and see how they fare in comparison to those on SAD. Or better yet, compare whole-food, health-conscious omnivores with the vegans. Then you’d have a more valid study.

8 03 2011
nk

i have nothing against anybody. just stating an opinion on vegetarianism being a ‘eastern’ thing which is used willy nilly (not u denise) on many occasions. india became predominantly vegetarian after a period of buddism. prior to that indians ate meat.

27 08 2010
Tom

Neil,

“Must be all that animal protein that gives you far superior intelligence to plant eaters. Any stats on this too?”

Since you ask…

“The recent debate over the importance of meat-eating in human evolution has focused closely on the means of acquirement… but rather less on the quantities involved…

In considering the evolution of human carnivory it may be that a level of 10-20% of nutritional intake may be sufficient to have major evolutionary consequences…

Meat-eating, it may be argued, represents an expansion of resource breadth beyond that found in non-human primates…

Homo, with its associated encephalization, may have been the product of the selection for individuals capable of exploiting these energy- and protein-rich resources as the habitats expanded.

– Foley RA, Lee PC (1991) “Ecology and energetics of encephalization in hominid evolution.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, vol. 334, pp. 223-232.”

Mammalian bodies are subject to Kleiber’s Law, which observes that the resting metabolic rate (RMR) of an animal scales to about 3/4 of it’s mass. So (to take an example from Wikipedia) a cat with a mass 100 times greater than a mouse will have a RMR about 31.5 times higher (100 ^ .75).

But a 100 kg. human and a 100 kg. sheep will have roughly the same RMR.

Now I think that you will grant that, with the rare exception, humans have larger brains than sheep. And that sheep have larger stomachs than people.

I bring these two points up because the brain and the gut are the two most metabolically greedy organs in the body. And humans have a much larger brain and smaller gut than

The theory raised by many anthropologists is that the inclusion of energy- and nutrient-dense meat in the diet of early man enabled our ancestors to develop a larger brain (although it may not be _why_ the brain developed).

There is a very thorough article on this subject at

http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-4a.shtml#part%204

That’s from an evolutionary perspective. From a here and now perspective?

There was a study in England in the late ’90s that showed that a vegan diet can lead to a shrinking of the brain over time. The cause was linked to a deficiency of vitamin B-12, for which there is no reliable vegan source (yeasts are living organisms, and thus not vegan).

27 08 2010
Igor

I would wager the opposite.

25 08 2010
EduardoCorrochio

Don’t worry Denise I’m sure Neil was just projecting his hatred of his “nagging omnivorous wife” onto you. I’m sure he’s thinking “I have to eat all these damn plants and she gets to eat real food!”

26 08 2010
Neil

EduardoCorrochio,

Are you David Blaine in disguise? Amazing how you can read my mind so ….inaccurately.

Just for the record – I do not hate my wife and neither do I hate Denise! How on earth you have deduced this from my comments, I will never know.

Give me those “fake” plant foods anyday.

26 08 2010