The China Study: My Response to Campbell

16 07 2010

Alright folks, I’ll be honest. I was not expecting my China Study critique, which started as a nerdy personal project pursued in the wee hours of the morn, to generate much interest. Like most of my weird projects, I figured it would be briefly perused by a few number-lovers before fading quietly into the abyss of cyberspace.

Instead, it went viral and racked up 20,000 page views within 24 hours.

I’m surprised, but equally thrilled. My self-marketing skills are pretty dismal, and it was only by the grace of all the bloggers who featured my critique that this page-view boom occurred. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word. I owe y’all!

This post is going to be quite long (no shocker there) and, in places, a bit more technical than the last. I know not everyone digs science mumbo-jumbo, so I’ll try to keep that to a minimum and explain things like journal quotes in simpler terms.

First, I’d like to address a couple points I’ve seen crop up in reader comments and emails I’ve received.

One: My graphs and simple statistical explanations. The graphs I posted were not intended to stand as new hypotheses or conclusions about the data. I apologize if I didn’t make this abundantly clear. Their sole purpose was to demonstrate, to the general layperson, how raw correlations (in the instances Campbell used them) can be misleading—as well as show how dramatically a single confounder can affect a correlation and make a positive trend appear where there may not be one at all. The graphs and explanations were meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive.

Two: Bias in Campbell’s representation of the data. This is a point I feel has been overlooked by some critics who’ve myopically targeted my use of statistics.

My biggest concern is with the way data appears to be cherry-picked to create a “plant foods are good” and “animal foods are bad” dichotomy when the actual data from the China Study (as well as from Campbell’s own research) does not reflect this.

For instance, when citing the anti-disease effects of plant foods, Campbell points to inverse correlations with biomarkers for plant food consumption as well as plant food intake itself. One example is in Claim #5 when he notes stomach cancer is inversely associated with plasma concentrations of beta-carotene and vitamin C (biomarkers) as well as with green vegetable intake (a plant food). (Both of these claims are based on uncorrected correlations, by the way.)

Yet when citing the purportedly harmful effects of animal foods, Campbell relies on blood markers (usually total cholesterol or apo-B) but fails to find direct relationships between disease and the animal foods themselves. He still indicts animal foods as harmful, but comes to this conclusion by enlisting the help of intermediary variables. And as I explained in the last post and will continue explaining in this one, the link between cholesterol levels and the diseases Campbell links them to are not even as straightforward as he suggests.

To those who approach this discussion already believing animal foods are generally unhealthy, this bias is subtle and might not be obvious. But to those who approach this discussion from a place of neutrality, the bias is unmistakable.

Response to Campbell

Now, onto business.

In case you haven’t heard yet, the much-discussed T. Colin Campbell wrote a response to my critique of his book. If you haven’t already done so, hop on over and read it on Tynan.net.

Let me preface this with something important. When it comes to science, my motto is an old line from Dragnet (which, having no TV, I’ve never actually watched): “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Or sir. Science itself should be cool, neutral, and somewhat soulless. As far as I’m concerned, personal conflicts, drama, mudslinging, grudges, and other flurries of emotion should be locked out of science’s doors and banned for life.

For this reason, I want to make it clear that even though I disagree with Campbell’s interpretation of the China Study data, I have no interest in launching any personal vendetta against him. I know some readers are none too pleased with the man, but I do believe he’s trying to promote a message he deeply believes will help others. I won’t be participating in any character attacks, regardless of how I feel about his interpretations.

That said, I’m a bit disappointed Campbell didn’t offer a more revealing glimpse into his own methods of analysis. Here’s a secret: If he wants to silence his critics, all he has to do is publish the details of his process—which, apparently, he has already written up:

A more appropriate method is to search for aggregate groups of data, as in the ‘affluent’ vs. ‘poverty’ disease groups … 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 [sic] 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.

I’ve emailed Mr. Campbell and asked him to consider publishing this material somewhere as a downloadable PDF or in another accessible form. Then the rest of us can study his methodology, look for oversights, and hopefully replicate his findings. I’ll update this when or if he responds.

UPDATE: Campbell has informed me via email:

To go back and fetch the material that I had previously written would take a lot of time that I don’t have. Also, much of it is in my peer-reviewed 300+ scientific papers.

Well, shucky darns. Although he doesn’t have time to fetch already-written material, he does have time to craft a more thorough response to my critique than the one published on Tynan.net, which he’ll be posting on his website sometime soon. Hopefully he’ll provide more details about his methods there.

Some responses to specific parts of Campbell’s letter

To clarify who’s saying what, quotes will always be italicized and indented. All bold parts of the quotations are my own emphasis and not the original author’s.

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

News flash: I was an English major with a creative writing emphasis. Cutesy is my thang. When the occasion calls for it, I can become Formal Monotone Academic Denise—but seeing as this is a blog and I needed to keep readers hooked for 9,000 words, I figured a more colloquial tone would be best.

Also, I wasn’t aware adjectives indicated bias, and if that’s the case, boy am I ever in trouble. You know what else? I sometimes use adverbs. That’s right. Evil adverbs. I learned them from Stalin when we worked together in the ’40s (oops, did I say that out loud?).

Campbell: As far as her substantive comments are concerned, almost all are based on her citing univariate correlations in the China project.

Actually, they’re based on the univariate correlations that Campbell cited first.

If you read my critique, you’ll see that Campbell’s claims align with the raw and uncorrected data, which—as I tried to illustrate—can be misleading due to the influence of other variables implicated with disease.

But it seems my critique wasn’t enough to convince some Campbell supporters that he did not use exhaustive analytical methods under some important circumstances, so I’ll present examples straight from his peer-reviewed papers.

First, let’s look at “Diet, Lifestyle, and the Etiology of Coronary Artery Disease: The Cornell China Study” published in the November 1998 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology. One statement from the paper, from the section discussing “Diet-Coronary Artery Disease Relations,” notes the following:

The combined coronary artery disease mortality rates for both genders in rural China were inversely associated with the frequency of intake of green vegetables (r = -0.43, p<0.01)…

Remember the “Green Veggie Paradox” from my last post, which pointed out that frequency of green vegetable consumption may be a geographical marker for southern regions where heart disease rates are lower, instead of an actual protective agent against heart disease? Well, here’s that paradox again. In a peer-reviewed article. Co-authored by Campbell. Using the raw data (-0.43). And neither him nor the rest of his team made adjustments, ran more sophisticated analyses to account for confounding variables, or even mentioned other factors that could explain the correlation between frequent green-vegetable consumption and healthier hearts.

Had Campbell tried to understand the apparent discrepancy between frequency of green vegetable consumption (which had a strong inverse association with coronary heart disease) and the amount of green vegetables consumed (which had a weak positive association with coronary heart disease), he may have realized there was more to our fibrous friends than meets the eye. For instance, geography is closely tied to heart disease in the China Study data, with lower latitudes exhibiting lower rates. And if frequency of green vegetable consumption strongly reflects geography, it seems any researcher committed to accuracy would want to tease apart these variables before citing them in a scientific paper.

In this article, Campbell also employs several other unadjusted correlations straight from the monograph:

The combined coronary artery disease mortality rates for both genders in rural China were inversely associated with … plasma erythrocyte monounsaturated fatty acids (r = 0.64, p<0.01), but positively associated with a combined index of salt intake plus urinary sodium (r = 0.42, p<0.01) and plasma apolipoprotein B (r = 0.37, p<0.01).

These numbers are all raw correlations. Campbell didn’t conduct a deeper statistical analysis on any of it to account for potential confounders, such as lifestyle habits or other dietary factors that might accompany specific biomarkers.

These apolipoproteins, in turn, are positively associated with animal protein intake (r = 0.26, p <0.05) and the frequency of meat intake (r = 0.32, p<0.01) and inversely associated with plant protein (r = 0.37, p <0.01), legume (r = 0.26, p<0.05), and light colored vegetable intake (r = 0.25,  p <0.05).

Again, we have a match with the uncorrected data. And again, Campbell and his team didn’t appear to run multiple variable regressions or any other analyses to see if the raw data was accurate. (And notice how Campbell can’t say animal protein itself associates with heart disease, but has to pull a connecting variable into the picture to make his theory fit.)

Why didn’t Campbell pay more attention to the role of confounders? Why did he accept the raw data, which showed plant foods as protective and an animal-food biomarker as harmful, without conducting deeper analyses?

This might be the answer:

The principal hypothesis of this study was that the greater the dietary proportion of a variety of good-quality plant-based foods, the lower the rate of chronic degenerative diseases.

Essentially, Campbell and his team approached the data set specifically looking for trends showing plant foods to protect against disease (and, perhaps, showing animal foods to be harmful).

If you’ll recall, the China Study has 8,000 statistically significant correlations. That’s a lot. Enough, in fact, to find pretty much anything you want if you look hard enough—especially if you use a bit of sloppy science and cite raw correlations or chains of variables when they suit your needs.

Of course, that’s not the only China-Study-based  paper showcasing analytical shortcomings. Let’s look at “Fish consumption, blood docosahexaenoic acid and chronic diseases in Chinese rural populations” published in the September 2003 issue of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. This paper examines the role of fish and the essential fatty acid DHA in relation to several diseases.

Campbell and his crew’s methodology for studying the variables:

Pearson’s correlation coefficient was used to explore the relationship between variables. The two-tailed test of significance was used to examine the significant differences within variables.

Alright, this is your standard high school stuff: examining the linear relationship between two variables. No multiple variable regressions. No adjustments for confounding variables. And from these rudimentary correlations, Campbell and his team cite a number of observations about the relationships between fish, other meat, total lipids, blood markers, and disease, ultimately concluding:

[T]he protective nature of DHA or aquatic foods is intrinsic and global, with implications for health world wide. The decline in sea and fresh water food consumption in many regions last century could be an adverse, contributory factor to the increasing risk of chronic diseases and the rise in mental ill health …

Researchers concluded from these raw correlations that the DHA is associated with lower risk of many chronic diseases. But might this effect become even more pronounced through different statistical models—namely ones that account for confounding variables?

It seems likely, and here’s why. In this paper, Campbell and his team noted that diabetes is positively associated with DHA in the China Study data, despite other research showing the opposite:

Diabetes showed a positive but non-significant relation with DHA in Fig. 2, which meant no clear-cut conclusion about the efficacy of lower DHA level in diabetes even though a negative association has been found between DHA and triglycerides in plasma [in previous research]. … [We] have no explanation for the positive correlation with diabetes.

No explanation, eh? I’ve got one. In this paper, Campbell and other researchers determine that fish is the most significant source of DHA in the studied counties. And we know from the China Study monograph that fish-eating regions tended to have high intakes of processed starch and sugar compared to other counties—a correlation of 0.58. Could processed sugar and starch intake be skewing the relationship between DHA and diseases like diabetes? If so, why didn’t Campbell et al run more appropriate analyses to account for this?

Still not convinced Campbell’s methods are less than perfect? Here’s some more. From “Diet and chronic degenerative diseases: perspectives from China,” published in the May of 1994 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

Intakes of 14 complex carbohydrate and fiber fractions were obtained in this study to determine whether particular fiber fractions were associated with particular diseases, especially cancers of the large bowel. … 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, which showed no correlation.

So here we have Campbell and his team using univariate correlations to look at the relationship between fiber and colorectal (large bowel) cancer. No adjustments made for potential confounding variables. And from these correlations, he concludes:

[T]here is evidence of a weak inverse relationship between cancer of the large bowel and the intake of multiple complex carbohydrate and dietary fiber fractions.

In other words, the fiber fractions seemed to protect against colorectal cancer across the board. But is this an accurate inference?

Had Campbell looked more closely at the data (instead of assuming the raw figures were accurate, as he seems fond of doing when it supports anti-disease properties of plants), he would’ve noticed something striking. The correlations between those 14 fiber fractions and colorectal cancer seem to mirror the correlations between the fiber fractions and schistosomiasis infection.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “What’s Denise blathering on about this time?” Let’s back up for a minute.

Schistosomiasis (also called bilharzia) is a parasitic disease known to raise risk of colorectal cancers. If you get infected with one of these lovely worms, they’ll lay eggs that travel to your liver, intestine, or bladder, where they can cause permanent damage and inflammation. How fun!

The link with colorectal cancers isn’t something I’m just pulling out of the air, by the way. It’s pretty well established. Some references:

With that in mind, it seems pretty obvious that Campbell would want to look at a schistosomiasis infection in relation to colon cancer occurrence, especially since 1) it’s pretty common in Asia and 2) it could be a confounding variable. In fact, schistosomiasis has a correlation of 0.89 with colorectal cancer mortality in the China Study data. (If you’re having a déjà vu moment, you’re not crazy: I wrote about this in the previous entry as well.)

So what does this have to do with fiber?

The fiber fractions Campbell cites as having a “weak inverse relationship” with “cancer of the large bowel” also have a somewhat stronger inverse relationship with schistosomiasis. In other words, fiber is already likely to be associated with less colorectal cancer simply because those who eat more of it tended to have less of another significant risk factor.

It might help to represent this visually, so here’s a graph plotting each fiber fraction’s correlation with schistosomiasis and colorectal cancer. These are the fiber fractions corresponding to the x-axis numbers:

  1. Total fiber
  2. Total neutral detergent fiber
  3. Hemi-cellulose fiber
  4. Cellulose fiber
  5. Lignins remaining after cutin removed
  6. Cutin
  7. Starch
  8. Pectin
  9. Rhamnose
  10. Fucose
  11. Arabinose
  12. Xylose
  13. Mannose
  14. Galactose

Bottom line: Is the inverse relationship between fiber and colorectal cancer legitimate, or is that correlation influenced by schistosomiasis rates? Given the relationship between these variables, shouldn’t Campbell have run a more thorough analysis on the data?

I sure think so. But he didn’t. Again, he seems to readily accept uncorrected correlations when they prove his theory.

So, what happens when we do adjust for confounding variables? Let’s look at another of Campbell’s peer-reviewed papers: “Erythrocyte fatty acids, plasma lipids, and cardiovascular disease in rural China” published in the December 1990 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here were their statistical methods:

To adjust for the effect of other factors in the relationship between two variables, ordinary least-squares multiple-regression analysis was used. Natural logarithmic transformations of the mortality rates (the dependent variable in the models) were used to obtain a normal distribution of the outcome variable for reliable statistical significance testing of the regression coefficients.

No uncorrected correlations here. And the results:

Within China neither plasma total cholesterol nor LDL cholesterol was associated with CVD [cardiovascular disease]. The results indicate that geographical differences in CVD mortality within China are caused primarily by factors other than dietary or plasma cholesterol.

Did you catch that? After adjusting for confounding variables, researchers found that cholesterol was not associated with cardiovascular disease in the China Study data. And that includes both blood cholesterol and cholesterol from food.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Nah, this is pretty big: Give it two moments.

Or three.

Now, let’s look at Campbell’s next point, which flows quite nicely from the last:

Diseases of affluence and diseases of poverty

Campbell: 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.

If you’re unfamiliar with Campbell’s disease-clustering strategy, you can read “From Diseases of Poverty to Diseases of Affluence” to get a feel for it (although be warned, the formatting is a little wonky). In essence, Campbell examined the China Study data and identified two distinct groups of diseases that were generally associated with each other—with one group representing diseases common to developing nations and the other representing “Western” afflictions.

In the article linked above, Campbell et al describe the first group:

As expected, diseases of poverty are associated more with agricultural than with industrial activity. Areas where these diseases are common are located further inland where mean elevation is higher and overall economic activity, literacy and population density are lower.

And the second group:

In contrast, diseases of affluence are found in the more densely populated rural areas nearer the seacoast where industrial activity and literacy rates are higher and more fish, eggs, soy sauce, beer and processed starch and sugar products are consumed.

More specifically, Campbell defines the “diseases of poverty” as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Intestinal obstructions
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Other digestive disorders
  • Nephritis
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Infectious diseases (other than schistosomiasis)
  • Eclampsia
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Metabolic and endocrine disease (other than diabetes)
  • Diseases of pregnancy and birth (other than eclampsia)

And “diseases of affluence” include:

  • Stomach cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Brain cancer (ages 0-14 years)

Again, the diseases in each cluster tend to associate positively with each other but inversely with the diseases in the opposite group.

It’s not a bad strategy, really. Campbell uses this two-group method to identify general factors (such as nutritional patterns) related to each disease cluster, taking a holistic view of disease rather than examining ailments through reductionism. This approach aligns with something I very much agree with: that diseases don’t happen in isolation, but that multiple forms of chronic disease can spring from the same cause (poor nutrition, processed foods, unhealthful living, and so forth).

But while I agree with this general method, it’s not without flaws—and the way Campbell employs it to study nutrition and disease requires a few leaps of faith.

First, some problems with the groups Campbell created:

  1. Not all of the “diseases of affluence” are actually common in affluent countries, raising questions about whether these disease clusters apply outside of China. For instance, the two most prevalent diseases of affluence in the China Study data are liver cancer and stomach cancer—but in the US, a decidedly affluent nation, these diseases make up less than 5% of all cancer deaths.
  2. Where’s “stroke” on either list? Nowhere to be found. Campbell had to create a third group called “Other” for a few diseases that didn’t fit cleanly into the other two clusters. According to the American Heart Association, stroke is currently the third leading cause of death in America. So what explains its lack of correlation with other diseases of affluence? Campbell offers no insights.

Perhaps more importantly, Campbell makes some excellent observations about the nutritional variables correlating with diseases of affluence, but then dismisses them without any satisfying or even logical explanation. He lists the following correlations between several foods and his affluent disease cluster:

  • Processed starch and sugar: 0.51
  • Fish (g/day): 0.56
  • Beer: 0.59
  • Eggs (times per year): 0.31

Since the industrialized areas with diseases of affluence tended to be near the coast, it’s not surprising fish consumption was high. But that’s a pretty hefty correlation with processed starch and sugar, too. Could those refined carbs contribute to diseases of affluence? Eh? Eh?

Apparently not. Campbell doesn’t consider them significant in the China Study data. He states that “beer and processed starch and sugar products are also consumed in much lower quantities [than in the US],” and therefore “consumption of these foods is probably more indicative of general economic conditions and other local circumstances than of biological relationships to disease.” And that’s the last we hear about ‘em.

That’s right, folks.

Here we have evidence that areas in China with the highest rates of Western-type diseases also eat the most processed starch and sugar. Maybe not in the grotesque amounts that Americans eat them, but then again, China’s “affluent disease” rates were also lower than America’s.

But instead of examining the relationship between processed carbohydrates and poor health, Campbell zeros in on another variable associated with industrialized nations and diseases of affluence. And if you’ve been paying attention to this post and the last, that variable won’t surprise you: It’s cholesterol.

By the way, the correlation between Campbell’s affluent diseases (in the aggregate) and cholesterol is 0.48, slightly less than the correlation with processed starch and sugar. And if you’ll recall, Campbell’s own analysis showed that cholesterol levels in the China Study data didn’t associate with cardiovascular disease, a major cause of “affluent” mortality. But I guess that doesn’t matter, because Campbell says so and Campbell has lots of credentials.

But back to Campbell’s response. His statement that a more appropriate method of analysis 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” is something I can at least partially agree with. Yet in examining Campbell’s own use of these disease groups, I smell another whiff of bias: He immediately implicates cholesterol (and, as a consequence, animal products) as causative of disease, when at least four other diet variables (most notably processed starch and sugar) are also heavily implicated with diseases of affluence.

Now, for something completely different:

The “Mysterious Tuoli” not so mysterious?

Campbell: [W]e 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.

I’m glad Campbell pointed this out (and I’ll be updating the Tuoli page to reflect it), but meat was not the component I found notable with the Tuoli diet: dairy was. Assuming the frequency questionnaire was more reliable than the three-day diet survey, the Tuoli still consumed dairy most days of the year and still consumed nearly no vegetables (twice per year), nearly no fruit (once per year), and ate wheat as their primary plant food. Not exactly a balanced diet—yet, compared to the rest of China, they remained in good health.

(By the way, a number of you have asked for help finding more information about the Tuoli. A Google search for “Tuoli” doesn’t reel in a whole lot of relevant hits, so you can try the alternative English spelling of “Toli,” or a search for a related group of people called “Uyghur” or “Uygur” in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China.)

However, Campbell’s statement about the unreliability of the diet survey for the Tuoli also calls into question the validity of the three-day diet survey as a whole—as well as the significant observations Campbell gleaned from it. For instance, on page 99 of “The China Study,” Campbell notes:

Average calorie intake, per kilogram of body weight, was 30% higher among the least active Chinese than among average Americans. Yet, body weight was 20% lower. How can it be that even the least active Chinese consume more calories yet have no overweight problems? What is their secret?

If Tuoli is any indication, there may not be a secret at all. Since Campbell drew his calorie data from the three-day diet survey, suppose multiple counties tried to impress researchers by “feasting” or otherwise altering their eating habits to reflect greater wealth, prosperity, or food abundance than they actually had. The result? Calorie intake during those three days would be higher than for the rest of the year, leading to an overestimated average calorie intake for the 65 counties studied.

Did Campbell consider this, especially given his awareness about the unreliable records for the Tuoli? Apparently not. On page 101, he states:

Chinese consume more calories both because they are more physically active and because their adoption of low-fat, low-protein diets shifts conversion of these calories away from body fat to body heat. This is true even for the least physically active Chinese.

Physical activity certain plays a role in higher calorie requirements, but eating a low fat, low protein diet may not increase thermogenesis as Campbell suggests—at least not based on the China Study data. Some counties may have simply been showing off by stuffing themselves silly, leading to high average calorie intakes. We’ve got Campbell’s assertion that at least one place did this: How do we know others didn’t as well?

Again, let me highlight what appears to be another link in a chain of bias: Campbell dismisses the low disease rates and high animal protein intake of the Tuoli because the three-day diet survey was inaccurate, yet doesn’t account for potential shortcomings in that diet survey when it helps score brownie points for plant foods.

Moving on.

Campbell: One final note: she repeatedly uses the ‘V’ words (vegan, vegetarian) in a way that disingenuously suggests that this was my main motive.

I understand—and respect—that Campbell was trying to avoid the ethical implications of the word “vegan,” since the term often conveys a complete lifestyle choice rather than just a diet. However, my intent was definitely not disingenuous, nor was I trying to peg a motive on Campbell. My own use of the term “vegan” was simply to describe a completely animal-product-free diet. I apologize if this wasn’t clear from my post.

Campbell: 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!).

I guess Campbell missed the 2,135 words I dedicated to his research on casein, including the problems with extrapolating its effects to all animal protein. And the citation of his own research showing it’s a full spectrum of amino acids, not just animal protein, that apparently spurs cancer in aflatoxin-exposed rats. And the insight that a vegan diet provides all amino acids (and thus complete protein) if you eat a variety of plant foods, thereby posing similar purported risks as omnivory in terms of cancer growth. And the question about the apparent unhealthfulness of breastfeeding and exposing young, delicate-bodied children to casein. And the glaring example of bias in Campbell’s treatment of animal versus plant protein in relation to body size and disease.

Easy oversight, I guess. It was a pretty formidable post. As is this one, apparently.

By the way, if anyone had trouble following my train of thought in the casein/wheat/lysine/complete protein section of the critique, Chris Masterjohn has written a more “digestible” article (pun definitely intended) expanding on this subject and probably explaining it better than I did. Yep, that’s the same Chris who wrote a well-known critique of “The China Study” five years ago.

Next up, a very serious and momentous subject:

Does Denise work for the meat and dairy industry/is Denise a cyborg/is Denise a figment of your imagination/is Denise actually Campbell’s employee, son, dog, long-lost daughter, or alter-ego?

Campbell: 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.

And:

Campbell: 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.

Then thank you for the compliment, Mr. Campbell! I’m definitely a singular person, so I’m glad to more-than-impress you.

Initially, I didn’t want to muddy this post with retorts to statements like this, but really. What’s so hard to believe about a 23-year-old Super Nerd deciding to tackle a project out of personal interest? What do I need to show to prove I’ve got a brain in this noggin? College transcripts? 4.0, three scholarships, dean’s list, top 1% of the class? I can say the alphabet backwards, too. That has to count for something.

In all seriousness, I can understand why Campbell would express skepticism that a young person would have the resources or repertoire of knowledge necessary to tackle this sort of project. And I think it may largely be a generational issue. When Campbell was a young’un, he didn’t have access to the internet or online books or PubMed or Google Scholar or any of the other self-educational tools most of us now take for granted. For him, education did necessitate sitting in a room with a teacher, pouring over textbooks, showing up to a physical classroom, and accumulating credentials to prove you’d survived the journey. These days, education can manifest in numerous other forms.

In other words, I’m more flattered than offended.

Other odds and ends

Several readers have raised an issue that probably deserves more attention than I’ve given it so far: the limitations of the China Study itself. Although I’ve focused on examining the errors and biases in Campbell’s conclusions, the fact of the matter is, this study itself is just a big ol’ epidemiological survey—and any analyses it produces, no matter how thorough, are inherently limited due to the nature of the data.

In fact, before Campbell’s “The China Study” was even released, Thomas Billings of Beyondveg.com wrote an excellent overview of the shortcomings of the study itself. I recommend reading this if you want a better understanding of what a study like the China Project can and cannot do.

A note on wheat

I know many of you are particularly interested in the correlation between wheat and heart disease. In my critique’s gargantuan cascade of words, the two little paragraphs about wheat pinged on many readers’ radar (or, perhaps, grain-dar). I’ve already seen the “correlation of 67″ statistic thrown around the ‘net as if it’s solid evidence. Holiest of molies, that spread fast!

Indeed, I feel the China Study may hold important clues—ones that research thus far has simply not explored—about the role of wheat or wheat flour in human health. However, we can’t jump the gun yet. I will be doing some more analysis of the China Study data regarding wheat and other grains, but even if this manages to paint our glutenous friends as the most malicious of dietary villains, it doesn’t prove a darn thing.

Bummer, right?

As someone who’s massively allergic to wheat, I’d love nothing more than to shove this grain in the corner with a dunce cap and revel in my victory. Karma’s a… female dog in heat. But I can’t do that. Not yet, anyway. Bottom line, this is epidemiological data we’re working with, and it can only show correlations—not causation. Not proof. Not irrefutable evidence.

What I do hope occurs—and feel free to cross your fingers with me—is that this information snags the eye of other nutritional researchers and leads to controlled experiments about the health effects of wheat.

At any rate, I have a couple more China-Study-related posts coming up (including one with the results of multiple variable regressions), and wheat will probably be the subject of the next one. Keep your eyes peeled if this is a subject that interests you.

Summary of this post

For those of you who skipped over everything above and scrolled directly to this part, well… I don’t blame you. However, there’s really only one thing you need to know about this whole ordeal, and this is it:

  1. Data sets are like people. If you torture them long enough, even when they’re innocent, you’ll eventually squeeze out a false confession.

Some final thoughts, for those who haven’t clicked the “back” button on their browser yet

Although the vast majority of the feedback I’ve received (both positive and negative) has been intelligent, respectful, and ultimately constructive, I’ve received a few very fiery emails that have made me realize what a deep nerve diet debates can strike. For those whose lives have been profoundly affected—for better or for worse—by food and nutrition, diet can become a personal issue inextricably bound with identity. And as someone who’s already run through a gamut of eating styles due to allergies, ethical goals, and the pursuit of vibrant health, I know how this goes. I’ve been there. In many ways, I’m still there. For this reason, I can wholly empathize with the emotional response my critique triggered in some readers, and I understand why a backlash is apt to occur.

By the same token, I think it’s important to look at what that impassioned response signifies. Are we trying to be healthy, or are we trying to be right? Are we trying to learn, or do rigid beliefs deafen our ears to new knowledge? Have the open minds that led us to search for the truth in nutrition suddenly slammed shut, clamping tight around an ideology that may or may not truly serve us?

Critical thinking isn’t a privilege reserved for the elite; it’s a birthright. My goal is not to tell people what to think, but to show them how to think. How to sift through the vast expanse of nutritional litter and pull out the gems. How to stop blindly following the advice of so-called authorities who may not have our best interest at heart. How to think independently.

To everyone who’s taken the time to plod through this post and the last, to read, to write, to comment, to think, or to reconsider any limiting beliefs you hold about diet, I extend my deepest gratitude and wish you nothing but health and happiness.

Thank you for reading.

Diet, Lifestyle, and the Etiology of
Coronary Artery Disease: The Cornell
China Study
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300 responses

17 07 2010
neisy

Addendum and grammatical disclaimer: I finished writing this very late tonight (currently 4:25 AM), and haven’t given it as thorough a proof-reading as I usually do with published work. I may make minor edits tomorrow if I see misspellings or orphaned commas. I decided to post it now instead of later because I haven’t gotten much shut-eye this week, and I fear I may sleep until doomsday once my head hits the pillow.

In other words: Sorry for typos.

G’night!

Denise

19 07 2010
Belinda

You “pour” milk over cereal (well, if you’re not grain-intolerant, you might)…you “pore” over data. That’s the only nitpicky typo thingy that jumped out at me, in the section where you discuss generational differences in education.

You are a truly remarkable young woman–not just in intellect and talent, but in character. I just spent several minutes discussing you with my 7-year-old daughter, who has a scientific “spark” I want to nurture.

17 07 2010
mrfreddy (www.beefandwhisky.com)

Denise, you are a rock star!

17 07 2010
Evgeny

“Data sets are like people. If you torture them long enough, even when they’re innocent, you’ll eventually squeeze out a false confession.”

Hi Denise,

I suggest you implement a ‘donate’ button on your blog ASAP.
I enjoyed your analysis of the China Study and I’m very impressed and would like to thank you for the effort you put into it.

I think I should that phrase above into my signature or something …

17 07 2010
Kevin Neilson

Hi Denise, I strongly encourage you NOT to include a “Donate” button. The work you’re doing and the information you’re providing is far too important a thing to court the appearance of impropriety. Indeed, I secretly wish that Stephan over at Whole Health Source would eliminate that accursed button. If you aren’t making money now, you will be later—and that will suffice, I promise you. In any event, please give the matter careful thought. Best regards, Kevin

18 07 2010
Tuck

I’ve actually donated to Stephen, and am happy to have done so. There’s an old saying, “Pay the grocer now, or the doctor later.” Stephen introduced me to the science behind this statement, and convinced me of its truth. The small payment I made to help him with his blog was a tiny insignificance given the difference that bit of knowledge has already made to my life.

There’s nothing wrong with “striking while the iron is hot.” There’s no assurance that you will make money later, aside from the one you’re giving Denise.

Denise, put the donate button up.

17 07 2010
Tuck

Thanks, Denise, for the update, and looking forward to your further posts.

One other service I think you’re providing to us is demonstrating what a fascinating work the China Study research was. Ignoring which biases of mine you reinforce or destroy, you do a wonderful job of demonstrating that this is a study that does deserve more interest, now that we know that Campbell’s take on the data was not definitive.

I think the most interesting thing about your previous post is that it demonstrates that there are a wide variety of “healthy” diets, diets that will produce similar outcomes, from near-vegan to near-carnivore. That’s an important thing to note, given the battles on the topic.

I think what’s also interesting are the possibilities that a few food types may have the most impact on your health, both positive and negative. This provides an indication that a pretty simple adjustment to diet may have a big impact on overall health.

Thanks again for undertaking this effort.

17 07 2010
Bushrat

Great job Denise.

17 07 2010
Russell

Bra-VO. This and the previous piece on The China Study are absolute winners. Applause and congratulations on two great efforts.

17 07 2010
Mike

Wickedly detailed, Denise. 23 y/o super nerd? Super HAWT.

Looking forward to your thoughts (dissections) on wheat.

17 07 2010
Josh Day

Denise,

“Critical thinking isn’t a privilege reserved for the elite; it’s a birthright. My goal is not to tell people what to think, but to show them how to think. How to sift through the vast expanse of nutritional litter and pull out the gems. How to stop blindly following the advice of so-called authorities who may not have our best interest at heart. How to think independently.”

Wonderful and cogent point. Your critique and your response to Campbell gives me hope that the scientific process is alive and well. Science is not a secret club where experts are some sort of priest who must translate the data to the unwashed masses, and real science is not emotional, dogmatic, or this bizarre idea which runs rampant among so-called skeptics that it’s some elect form of profession.

Carl Sagan in Cosmos said, “We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system, and the history of our study of the solar system shows clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.”

Denise not only have you shed light on the flaws in Campbell’s interpretation of the epidemiology you also show how real science doesn’t require several stuffy letters in an acronym after your last name and a Dawkins-like attitude of arrogance and contempt–two emotional traits that should NEVER be an aspect of science.

So from one lit major-who-dabbles-in-the-forbidden-“Sciences” to another… hell yeah. ;)

17 07 2010
kat

Wow, nicely done…you ARE a rock star! Thanks for the time and effort you put into all of this!

Kat

17 07 2010
AgingBoomersBlog.com » China Study Unmasked

[...] Second, on 16 July 2010 Minger posted a “must read” response to Campbell’s lame reply here. [...]

17 07 2010
Beth

Thank you very much for doing this.

WRT to the comment on how you find the time & knowledge to do this/are you some kind of a conspiracy … I agree that there isn’t anything too amazing about you having the ability to do this, but even if you were … the issue here isn’t about who is doing the work. It’s about the work itself, about showing the imperfections in the conclusions he draws from the data. He needs to address the criticisms of the data, not try to hide in his ivory tower and pull up the drawbridge!

But for the rest of us, who are potentially affected by what he has published, THANK YOU again for digging in here & pulling out a more sophisticated view of what the data is really telling us. I don’t think I can say that too often.

Beth

17 07 2010
Catherine Clark

Actually Campbell is wrong on all counts. Mother Earth News, while not an authority on anything, really, published an article on grass-fed beef that showed how it is actually healthy for the environment, and not just for the environment, but for people also. Grass fed, pastured animals, grown for food are actually pretty good for us. Husband was vegan, used the best of everything and still was not feeling up to scratch until he added some animal protein in the form of raw eggs to his tube blends (he is tube fed for the most part due to throat cancer and went vegan to prevent a future outbreak, along with alkalizing) and some raw meats also. He found that he had much more energy, which he just didn’t expect; he tried it as an experiment. I myself am a protein type and straight plant food put me to sleep and render me unable to function. I need protein for functioning, period. But I will not support factory farming, so I look for sources of grass fed, pastured beef and animals raised in a healthy and ecologically sound manner, not fed with soy (harmful unless it is fermented) or grains. I am also gluten intolerant, and chemically sensitive, so my options are limited in some ways. I choose to consume plants AND animals raised in a responsible, healthy manner, both for the animals health and my own health.

5 07 2012
Dennis

…and Catherine, then do you go out to your “happy” grass fed, pastured beef and..raised in a healthy and ecologically sound manner…and with a gun shoot that cow, and with a knife cut it’s throat, and chop those tasty cuts of meat out of it and toss it on the grill?

3 10 2013
Brandi

I have done so to a happy Chicken. I also Plan on raises some cows for meat and such, but I plan On leaving an animal that size to the professional mostly for the sake of humanity and not a weak inclination for the nature of killing. I totally would, plus in some states it is illegal to butcher your own animals. Way to go government, wish it would mind its own business so I could buy raw milk here in nevada. I will NOT touch the foul crap they remove from their terribly treated animals. Those massive feed lot Organizations are the monsters and those are the ones you should be attacking. If your not truly willing to help the problem then mind your own business.

3 10 2013
james

Way to go Brandi. They might eventually get it..if they are lucky that is. Or maybe I should say if we are lucky because they are destroying the planet with their grain based diets, with their grain and soybean fed cows. See also professor Peter Ballerstedt on grass based agriculture http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.ca/

14 12 2013
1ontherocks

If you can’t do the crime you don’t get to to do the time, or something. Personally I find it really difficult to dig out carrots, for I know that I kill little beings – like when I walk in boots or, god forbid, drive car, or a bus – and that I disrupt the nervous system of the earth that the trees appear to be maintaning and communicating through. The world is alive and consciousness is all over the place. How can it be OK to kill a tree or a lettuce, but not a cow? Is there a hierarchical order of things and beings I am unaware of? Or is it just a religious thing? That would make sense, I can understand that.

17 07 2010
grace

Denise,

Your efforts all VERY very appreciated!!! You totally ROCK THE SCIENCE WORLD, GRRRL!! I love your points that you’ve uncovered which support the evolutionary background of marine-based terrestials (high DHA, cholesterol, no wheat/grains, etc). Your story about your eye color lightening after ending the high grain/vegan lifestyle is especially enlightening as well. II might post your eye on my blog, fyi (hope ok?)…

Keep up the strong work and your acute STUNNING insights.

Thanks,
G

25 07 2010
ginger

my eye color lightened also…one eye at a time. wierd, eh? I’m an athlete and radically changed my diet after being sold by dr. eades and gary taubes.

17 07 2010
Ned Kock

I have seen some of the refutations of your critique on the grounds of “univariate” (a.k.a. bivariate, or between pairs of variables) statistics use. I think your response in this post is quite correct; you were not the one who started this. Still, when one does multivariate analyses, often strong bivariate correlations become stronger, and weak ones become weaker.

If you get your hands on some data, and want to analyze it using a software that takes nonlinearity into consideration when doing a multivariate analysis, here is a suggestion:

http://warppls.com

This software does a lot more than multiple regression. The underlying technique it automates is structural equation modeling, of which multiple regression is a special case. It is easy to use too!

It allows for the identification of relationships like the one at the bottom graph of the post below, between total cholesterol and cardiovascular disease:

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2009/12/total-cholesterol-and-cardiovascular.html

17 07 2010
Pallav

Super Hot for sure ;)

17 07 2010
Arlo

Of course, no matter how much evidence we pour Dr. Campbells way, he will take his China Study views to his grave. He’s build his life around this study. To admit later that it may have been wrong would be to invalidate a huge part of his life’s work.

Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing. See the book “Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me”.

17 07 2010
seand

Thank you for your efforts, Denise!

17 07 2010
Stephan

Well done Denise. As Louis Brandeis used to say, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

17 07 2010
Stephan

By the way, Campbell’s statement that the study yielded over 8,000 statistically significant correlations makes me skeptical of his methods right away. I have a hard time believing that he would have found 8,000 correlations if he had corrected for multiple comparisons. If the analysis isn’t corrected for multiple comparisons, it’s guaranteed to be full of statistically spurious associations. The bigger the data set, the more junk it will contain if you don’t do that correction. But it also makes it much more difficult to get statistical significance, which is why it often isn’t done. You can partially get around it by designating something as a “primary outcome” during the study’s design. But it only works if you declare that before doing the study, and certainly before looking at the data.

17 07 2010
Sue

Denise,
I see you’ve been invited to Costa Rica in 2011 to do a raw foods seminar. With your talents, I’m sure many more wonderful opportunities are headed your way. Congrats on some fantastic articles.

17 07 2010
Asclepius

All killer, no filler!

17 07 2010
chris

Great stuff Denise – this just gets better and better.

17 07 2010
Tipsy

Costa Rica? Moving deeper in the rabbit hole! :O

17 07 2010
Emily Deans, M.D.

Thank you, Denise. You are a graceful and erudite person!

17 07 2010
Catherine Clark

Raw foods are great! Raw milk and raw milk products are healthy alternatives to the nasty dead stuff the dairy industry would have us consume! I mix my diet with both raw and lightly cooked and some that are a little more cooked. Campbell indeed wanted to prove a plant based diet is best, but his conclusions are flawed. If you pay attention to your sources and get as local as possible, you can find excellent sources of both well raised meats (eaten in moderation) and organic fruits and veggies. Eat in season is key and try gardening! From our experience a well rounded diet will include many raw items and a few cooked items, including some well raised beef, chicken, pork, lamb, etc. I used chia seeds and we grow sprouts and have a garden in our city lot back yard. I am even growing purple and sweet potatoes in large garbage cans. It is amazing what you can grow if you just try.

18 07 2010
Sue

I agree with you and applaud you buying locally (like we all should). Have you read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver? It’s a great read.

17 07 2010
Minger Responds to Campbell | Health - Diet, Exercise and Natural Health Blog

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

17 07 2010
Moises

Denise (if that really is your name, and you are not a cabal of meat-industry PhDs spreading disinformation faster than bovine spongiform encephalopathy),

You really had me going for a minute with that girl English major story. Then I thought, yeah right! What kind of English major cares about statistical methodology? And would an English major really write such an awful pun about “grain-dar”?

I rest my case.

22 04 2011
Brian Posada

Well, right after high school I wanted to become an English major. I hated math so much I promised myself I wouldn’t take any math classes except the one I needed to graduate. I ended up in precredit math and then I jumped into College Algebra and Pre-calculus. I got fascinated with math partly because I had a huge crush with this girl and I ended up going all the way to Calculus III, one of the biggest accomplishments that made me cry. So yeah, I absolutely believe you can be an art major and be mathematically knowledgeable. I know tons of people who love statistics. I am barely taking it now and it is interesting to learn about all these tests and the unit normal curve, correlations, etc. So yeah Moises, I don’t find writing fun anymore, heck it got boring. I think how Denise keeps writing soo much is that she has that artistic/writer soul within her. So if you rest your case, you should really go back to college and know that people change majors all the time.

3 10 2013
Brandi

You make me laugh. So NO exceptionally smart person anywhere ever learned something or was ever interested in more than one thing. By the way the Grain-dar thing is a style, her writing style. I guess since you don’t have anything to critique on the grounds of her in depth data analysis all you have left is to attack her writing style or motives or whatever. We see right through you. If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem.

14 12 2013
1ontherocks

“I rest my case.”

————– pheew…..

17 07 2010
Jamie

Nice work Denise. Very gracious responses to TCC. I look forward to more of your work in the future!

BTW – the fact that you are only 23 and have dedicated so much time to this just simply blows me away! I feel I should be in the dunce-corner with the wheat!

17 07 2010
Darrin

Anyone else remember playing Punch-Out on NES back in the good ol’ days?

Denise, you are like the protagonist from that game, Little Mac. (Except a woman. And a blogger instead of a boxer, but that’s neither here nor there.) A million thanks for knocking out “Bald Bull” and making this info so readily available.

18 07 2010
Neet Ielasi

yo super nerd .haha i loved that comment.This is just an awesome reply girl,as usual so well thought out and an easy read,yup even for me who usually gets bored if a post is longer than 20 words haha…see you got my interest.well done babe :)

18 07 2010
Brant

This is incredible. I’m not gonna lie, I am a little skeptical that this is the work of one person.

Uh…wow.

18 07 2010
Barry

Great work Denise. It was only a matter of time before an investigator like yourself would comb through the data and examine his conclusions. Dr. Campbell should have been more thorough in his work, but I understand where he’s coming from and he jumped too quickly to validate his life’s work. He’s still an incredible man and I believe his heart is in the right place. Dr. Campbell has dedicated over forty years to nutritional research and he just got blown out of the water by a 23 year old english major. No one doubts that you’re an extremely gifted girl, but please remember the nutritional community is small and we’ve got to work together to reach the people. Both you and Dr. Campbell have much in common and I’m sure even you can learn much from him. You’re an amazing independent scholar and I’m looking forward to following your education and work in the world of nutrition and health.

18 07 2010
Martin Levac

Wheat, wheat, wheat. See this for insight into what wheat does to us:

http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Wheat

Especially look at the “in search of wheat” series of posts.

18 07 2010
Sue

Regardless of how many years Campbell has dedicated to nutrititional research he has to remain objective.

18 07 2010
Dave

Awesome.

Let me repeat my plug for Jaynes’ book “Probability Theory”. You’re right there in your method of thinking about scientific inference. Jaynes’ essentially codifies this mode of reasoning mathematically.

18 07 2010
kellgy

Well Denise, that article was too short. I was looking forward to spinning my thoughts deeper into the night. Surely there is a book here just waiting to spring.

Credentials are credentials but influence travels farther than birds. I dare venture to say that many of us (readers) hope to see this saga blossom into a springboard of substantial future endeavors.

Keep up the great works! You are truly a light in the murkiness of health and wellness. Stumbling upon your and Stephan’s blogs has broken a great deal of self imposed chains on my journey towards health causing me to take a critical eye with every step I take. Science is beauty, but it is the artist who makes it so.

18 07 2010
Jordan

I’m a math grad student, and I’ve paid my dues in stuffy lectures, but reading your blog I’m certain you’ve got a firmer grasp on statistics than me. You almost make the subject seem inherently interesting, as opposed to an unfortunate necessity. I’m impressed but not surprised by your self education on these subjects. Times are definitely changing, and formal education is the naked dinosaur in the room (if you’ll allow that mixed metaphor, I have no training in creative writing, I apologize =P)

Great work. Thanks for a fascinating read!

18 07 2010
meatnpotatoesforlife

My head hurts after reading this. Just tell me what to think;-) I expect a dissertation on Audrey Hepburn movies next.

18 07 2010
Minger Responds to Campbell | Ideal Health Care

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

18 07 2010
Kim

Thank you so much for your intelligent insight into the China study. Your conclusion was superb: Let’s be open to seeing the data for what it is instead of what we want it to be. It’s funny how Campbell was skeptical of your one-“girlness.” I would also take it as a compliment in general, except calling a 23-year-old woman a girl is quite insulting. Once again, he may be trying to manipulate the data to prove his point (e.g., this young girl couldn’t have done this alone, so she must be a front for the meat industry).

Well, I’m glad a bright, determined woman like you has taken the time to shed some light on Campbell’s study. And you have provided many readers with an important lesson in critical thinking and analysis.

By the way, I also like your comment about how almost everyone in our modern world has access to an abundance of information online; we are capable of educating ourselves. I read that with a big smile on my face, because we are a homeschooling family that uses a life learning/natural learning/unschooling approach.

18 07 2010
Valda Redfern

“Dr. Campbell should have been more thorough in his work, but … [h]e’s still an incredible man and I believe his heart is in the right place.”

How will Dr Campbell’s good intentions help the people who were misled by his unwarranted conclusions? His heart may be in the right place, but we should be asking where his brain is – and making sure we engage our own brains when looking at reports about the results of epidemiological studies.

18 07 2010
Xogenisis

Just another vote of appreciation for raising the bar in this area of human knowledge. Time for you to design some studies that will shed light instead of swamp draining. Very dedicated and expert swamp draining to be sure.

18 07 2010
el-bo

Not much ‘debunking’ going on over at 30bad….

I guess they just have to wait until someone who understands what Denise has written to raise some doubts so that they may, once again, cry ‘flawed’ :o)

This is not a fight between Minger and Campbell. It is about good science ).

Unless we are to believe Denise to be a liar, she has made a great case against the ‘charge’ of bias and agenda. This accusation coming from Campbell and the more vocal of the ethical vegans whose own bias/agenda, interestingly, seems happy to accept certain ‘imperfections’ in Campbell’s study if it means saving the lives of animals. As commendable as this is, it gets confusing when their leading spokeswoman (whose online persona has ‘vegan’ as part of her name) talks of ‘good science’, setting up the ‘textbook’ example of how these types of studies should be conducted. Denise may not have ticked all these boxes but has ticked more than was originally suspected. At the moment this is just a blog but there is no reason why, with some help, Denise can’t make this more ‘official’. It would be great for the lady in question to offer the help , promised, even if only to dispel all accusation of smokescreen and ‘hoops’

So do we want good science or do we just want to the results to ‘back’ our cause, be it veganism or meat-ism ?? I would suggest that if you don’t vote for ‘good science’, you may in fact be doing your respective causes more harm than good.

There is so much anecdotal testimony and science that support moving towards a vegan diet if one pays attention to covering the nutritional bases that even were it concluded that Campbell’s findings didn’t add up, it shouldn’t really make a difference to vegans (remember all the other studies that Campbell has referenced). There is still much in favour. But the moment you start to allow science to become slack (seemingly likely, in this case) you take away its credibility to be used to support you in other areas.

Not even the author of this article looks to have any intention of ditching her diet of 95% fruit and greens. In fact, given that Denise seems so open-minded and unhinged to any dogma, it isn’t impossible that she will eventually get to a point where that 5% of animal products becomes unnecessary. I could be wrong. It’s kinda irrelevant. This is about cold, soul-less science (someone else wrote that)

the biggest service that Denise has done is to prove the point of ‘access’, that we really can get hold of so much information (though not the ‘missing’ parts of the China study :o) to not have to rely, solely, on the work of the ‘stuffy’ and the ‘old-school’. Elitism and snobbery have no place here

I confess to not understanding much of the scientific/statistical ‘babble’ that is being presented here, but Denise has done a wonderful job of explaining it. Maybe it’s a bit ‘cute’ for an official peer-studied review but as a blog entry it straddles the line between between scientifically relevant and enjoyable to read. I’m sure, if this does progress to more ‘official’ review that Denis can do ‘cold’ and ‘soul-less’. What self-respecting creative writer couldn’t ??

peace

18 07 2010
kat

el-bo,

I’ve been checking out the 30bad forums as well, waiting to see the response. So far it’s the re-post of an earlier “she’s trying to confuse us” cry and “let’s see what Campbell has to say.” No independent thinking whatsoever. Others that had been active on those threads are silent. It will most likely come down to “we don’t care about the science, it’s about the animals,” or “it’s about how I feel” arguments, which I can totally respect but are cop-outs on the science front. If they attempt to attack Denise’s credentials again they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot, as it would basically invalidate any attempt to spread the word about research they’ve ever done on their own. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did, though; the cognitive dissonance (and passive-aggressiveness – YIKES) on those boards is awe-inspiring.

Kat

18 07 2010
CPM

30BaD people also apparently feel compelled to edit the China Study wikipedia entry as well even though they apparently have not even read either of Denise’s papers (or are utterly lacking in reading comprehenison skills). They are still parroting Campbell’s argument about Denise using univariate analysis and Campbell not doing so.

I realize many people feel daunted by any mention of math and statistics, but basic reading skills are a must. Denise has written two excellent papers basically saying “Campbell has used simple univariate analysis, and here are the problems with that.” 30Bad’s response, including the professional epidemiologist’s, has been “OMFG! You can’t use simple univariate analysis…shame on you Denise, bravo Professor Campbell.” It is not statistics; it is reading comprehension.

18 07 2010
kat

CPM,

Agreed. Judging by the inactivity of the thread (some of the ringleaders have clearly been active on other threads), the 30bad folks possessing any reading comprehension skills have read and understood Denise’s rebuttal.

Kat

18 07 2010
labrat

Nice job!

I suggest that all folks reading any epidemiological study keep in mind that “statistically significant” is vastly different than “clinically significant”.
One finds that on average whenever attempts are made to translate hypothesis on diet and heath generated by epidemiology into RCT’s they are a big fat bust.

18 07 2010
Perfect Health Diet » Update

[...] Denise Minger, who is only 23, continues to resemble a fine one. [...]

18 07 2010
Juan

You continue to amaze! Thank you, thank you for this. It is especially well done considering your brazen use of adjectives and other parts of speech. Campbell and his supporters are coming across as fools, whereas you are reasonable and clear. The accusations of meat-industry or WAPF complicity are bizarre at best and any substantive rebuttals I’ve read, simply aren’t. It is becoming rather more pathetic than before, and that was pretty darned pathetic. Keep fighting your good fight.

18 07 2010
Dave

@el-bo

Just a note – the peer review process isn’t that hot. It’s great when it works as it is supposed to. The problem is it rarely does. At its worst, peer-review tends to promote group-think: a reviewer will bounce a paper that does not agree with their views. The more common case, however, is that people simply don’t review a paper very carefully, because they don’t want to put in the time. So if it “sounds okay” (i.e. has no glaring violations of their beliefs), it slides on through.

Here’s a couple of personal examples:

My first peer-reviewed publication (as first author) met with some resistance. I won’t bore you with technical babble, but the bottom line was that I asserted that a system exhibiting perfectly reasonable classical dynamics could behave in an unpredictable way, due to the existence of a singularity in the equations of motion (oops, guess I lied about the babble :-). This got bounced on first submission with little more than the critique “This can’t be right, because Nature abhors a singularity”. In reply, I pointed out that discovering what Nature did/didn’t do was the point of science, and that one couldn’t draw inferences about the world based on ad hoc aphorisms. No dice. Sent to another journal, where it was accepted, conditional on my removal of lecturing about scientific method, why Nature didn’t necessarily abhor a singularity, etc. because no self-respecting scientist needed to be told that.

The second example was a paper written by a colleague. It was in my specialty at the time (statistical image reconstruction, more broadly non-parametric statistical estimation), so I had an interest in digging into the details. It quickly became apparent that things didn’t add up, and about two minutes of algebra showed that the paper contained a mathematical error. It was such a glaring error I was having a hard time believing the paper made it through peer-review. I asked a couple of other people to check the same math to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, and they came up with the same answer. So I wrote a letter to the editor, basically pointing out that the paper needed some errata (fixing the error actually improved the conclusions). The editor’s reply was basically that he wouldn’t do anything, since it “didn’t make any difference”. Note that this paper was about an analysis method, not its application, which means that anybody applying the method would be including the error. That seems like a significant “difference”.

So much for “peer review”. Not surprisingly, the biggest fans of peer-review tend to be the ones who come out on the “right” side of it. A colleague (one on the “right” side) once accused me of being bitter because I had trouble getting papers published. But that wasn’t true – I pretty quickly figured out the system, and once I did was able to slide things through regularly. For instance, putting enough math in an astrophysics paper almost guaranteed it would get published, because no astrophysicist wanted to work through a bunch of non-parametric statistics. But they also didn’t want to admit the paper was “too hard” for them to understand (or really, that they didn’t want to put in the effort). So after a few pro-forma revisions (like adding a reference or changing some wording), it would get published. Pointing this out to my colleague left him in a state of sputtering cognitive dissonance. We didn’t speak much after that.

The foundation of science is effective communication of information. You might discover the cure for cancer, but it doesn’t do any good if you can’t communicate your information and reasoning such that others can arrive at the same conclusions. Ms. Minger has done an outstanding job on this point. She further has far outdone most professional scientists in confining her conclusions within the limitations of her analytic methods. T. Colin Campbell is in excellent company in terms of making qualitative leaps in belief based on statistics like correlations. Such leaps are necessarily qualitative, because you can’t really connect the mathematical dots between a correlation and belief in a hypothesis without including some extra stuff (and a pretty major paradigm shift in how you think about scientific inference). We have a strange situation in science now, where people pound on data with a variety of detailed statistical analyses, but in the end wave their hands on the only point anyone really cares about, assessment of how the data (and other information) affect the relative belief in competing hypotheses.

It is this methodological gap that causes “controversy”. Scientists rarely carry quantitative analysis through to the last step, coming up with a number (the posterior odds ratio) that describes how much the included information supports their hypothesis over another one. It should be no surprise that even a highly esteemed scientist like Dr. Campbell can be led astray, since he has not applied which can quantitatively weigh the contributions of his data, his prior beliefs, etc.

18 07 2010
Dave

That last sentence should read “he has not applied an analysis which can…”

18 07 2010
el-bo

@Dave

how very interesting. especially your two examples….i lol’d, though obviously it’s a serious matter

–> “confining her conclusions within the limitations of her analytic methods”,–

nice

as for peer review…i couldn’t care less, personally….this, to me, seems cut and dry…Denise has raised some questions regarding TCC’s conclusions and that’s it…it’s everyone else who has made it what it is, including not accepting anything short of peer review to make it acceptable (even then???)…

for the record, i have no ‘beef’ with 30bad…just interesting, and amusing, to observe…..their motivation and intention is good but the handling ??? *sigh*…adjusting wiki pages while the debate is very much still alive ??…seriously ?? just laughable

18 07 2010
Rational Reader

Denise,

Most revealing to me about Campbell’s response to all of this was how he pejoratively calls you a “young girl”… Anyone who seriously thinks his argument is strengthened by calling out a critic for being young and female is profoundly, debilitatingly deluded.

According to Campbell, it seems, scientific thinking is not something we can trust “young girls” to do. He then slanders again by accusing you of being a pawn of the Westin A Price foundation.

If Campbell’s best attempt at defending his work is to attempt to slander and defame his critic without even reading the critique, then he appears to be in full retreat, hoping his dismissive tone will be contagious.

I am very close to concluding Campbell’s work officially debunked, however I am awaiting your analysis of multivariate correlations and also Campbell’s forthcoming blog response.

Campbell has shown a very ugly side of himself in this exchange. He must now prove that he is rational and honest enough to engage in this discussion without name calling and without below the belt attacks based on age and sex.

As someone who had previously had a lot of respect for Campbell, I feel very let down by his behavior. I am also no fan of people who throw their credentials in the faces of those who challenge them.

May the truth win,

RR

18 07 2010
David

I don’t know, I think Campbell makes a good point about the gender thing. Being female is definitely a liability when it comes to any kind of rigorous analysis, particularly of the quantitative sort. Women tend to rely too much on their emotions and don’t have the analytic abilities that men have, which is why their skills are usually best adapted to the kitchen, knitting, cleaning, raising children, and so forth

3 10 2013
Brandi

Are you being sarcastic, I hope you are because everything you just said was absolute bull. Its actually more accurate that women are more capable of relying on instinct and emotions than men, but can be as, if not more, analytical as men. Womens brains are capable of multi tasking, yet mens brains are not as capable in this feat. Plus of course this exceptionally intelligent lady proves you wrong, Also you should consider looking at all the women scientist out there that have now and in the past out done there male counterparts. Not trying to be the feminist here but what you said was damned sexist and rude.

21 07 2010
Greg

There is a thread on the Amazon.com discussion boards about low carb diets which Dr. Campbell participated in quite a bit half a year ago or so. Like in his discussion of Denise and five years earlier, Chris Masterjohn, his main way of dealing with critics was to discuss lack of credentials, invent motivations or spurious associations, etc. He made a point of defending a poster (posts since deleted) who repeatedly said incredibly crass and hurtful things about the overweight and how disgusting she found them, but who happened to agree that animal foods were bad. Dr. Atkins came up in discussion and T.C.C. went so far as to say that someone had once told him of working with Atkins and that Atkins had “refused” to show this person his medical license…and therefore now we should doubt whether Atkins had even been a doctor at all…based on nameless hearsay! I was rather shocked at his leaps and ad hominem-mania, but the more I read from him, the more I see it, and the less inclined I am to imagine that he could come at his research from an impartial place.

(Oh, also, in addition to “adjectives,” the use of the term “carb” is to him the center of a propaganda campaign of unprecedented size and nefariousness…I attempted to explain that “protein” and “fat” have two and one syllables respectively as compared to the four-syllable mouthful “carbohydrate” as a rational reason to shorten it if using it repeatedly in writing or conversation, but he wouldn’t be swayed.)

18 07 2010
Laurel

Wow, Denise, I am very impressed with your objectivity, stamina, level-headedness in the face of criticism, and passion for learning. You truly are teaching an important lesson about critical thinking to the many other young people out there who are reading this. I loved your point about how education has changed a LOT since our parents’ day. And I am floored by your ability to maintain the moral high ground by refusing to involve yourself in personal attacks that are meant to distract from the real issues. Campbell discredits himself in my eyes by calling your age and motives into question.

Keep up the awesome work!

18 07 2010
J

Great points, I agree with all of this. If Campbell said to me what he said to Denise he would have seen a knuckle sandwich. She stayed very poised.

18 07 2010
30bad spy

The people on 30 bananas a day wrote this and is trying to add it to wikipedia

“So, I added the following (in bold), I paraphrased from B’s summary from the earlier in this thread.

A detailed analysis of the raw data from the China Project by (self-taught) educator and freelance writer Denise Minger [41] suggests that Campbell failed to take into account other disease-causing variables (increased Hepatitis B and schistosomiasis infection and rates, industrial work hazards, etc.) that tend to cluster in higher-cholesterol counties in the China Study. Campbell also omitted data showing a higher correlation between wheat flour intake and many diseases (notably coronary heart disease, cervical cancer, hypertension and stroke) than with animal protein intake.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell promptly responded to Denise Minger’s critism of his work. In spite of being impressed that if Denise did everything in the critique on her own, according to Campbell the big flaw in her work is that she relies almost entirely univariate correlations (relations between two variables e.g. fat consumption and breast cancer) from the China Project data, which can be misleading when examining on their own since many other factors can come into play in such a huge pool of data. He suggests a better approach to working with this type and volume of data, and had written about these issues on interpreting the data for the China Project book but it was not included due to space constraints.

He writes that he made it clear in the book that the China Study does not constitute ‘proof’ that a plant based diet is the way to optimal health nor do all correlations in the data match perfectly with the message of the book, but rather suggests people to come to their own conclusions and attempt the diet, and see the results for themselves. A more detailed response critically analysing Minger’s aforementioned analysis is in progress and will be posted on his official website. [42]

I added the ‘(self-taught)’ in her introduction. I thought it was fair.”

They are really desperate over there! No one even read what you wrote!

18 07 2010
Steve

Hey, Denise, it’s great fun to visit your blog these days. I remember when this was a fascinating but very quiet place to visit. Now things are hopping!

The pursuit of optimal nutrition is an endless quest in search of slightly less hazy answers. The variables affecting diet are so extreme and our knowledge is so spotty that I sometimes feel I’m just spinning my mental wheels

Maybe it just comes down to learning to listen to our bodies. I think my body has felt the best when I was eating fairly strict primal, nothing but meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables. But that was only true when I made the effort to buy top quality grass fed meat. Once I started buying supermarket meat, because of laziness and cost, the health benefits seems to fade away.

Concerning your massive and impressive statistic study there’s one factor that I haven’t seen discussed. Genetic adaptation to a specific diet could play a large role in the health of a given population. This may be especially true in rural china where, at the time of the China Project, people tended to live and die in the same village over generations.

For example, the Tuoli, who do so well with dairy, probably descend from ancestors who lived in the same area and ate the same foods going back 1000 years or more. We can’t simply conclude that randomly selected westerners would do equally well on such a diet.

I remember reading about ancient Scandinavian tribes who essentially lost the gene for lactose intolerance over less that 800 years once they turned from hunting to a dairy heavy animal husbandry. It would be an error to look at the healthy modern descendants of those tribes and conclude that lots of dairy is a good thing for everybody.

But, of course, the essential message in your wonderful work is that Mr. Colin Campbell extracted some very false conclusions from this data. My personal feeling is that it’s simply not possible to draw ANY conclusions from such a broad based and uncontrolled set of data.

18 07 2010
Moving forward « The Red Pill

[...] 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 one.  However, I think a point [...]

18 07 2010
Yet another independent debunking of "The China Study" book

[...] responds to Campbell The China Study: My Response to Campbell Here's a link to what Campbell had to say to her original post. Notice how he has to bring up her [...]

18 07 2010
Maxwell

I still think it’s fairly likely TCC will vindicate himself.

But, he has his work cut out for him.

Advice to TCC:

Your only chance is to thoroughly explain the process you and your colleagues used to analyze the data. Take us through the nitty gritty of the analysis. Do this so thoroughly we feel like we’re in the room crunching the numbers with you.

If Denise has made valid points, admit it. If she’s mischaracterized your work, explain it.

Apologize for the offensive you’ve given to rational minds everywhere when instead of defending your life’s work with caring explanation, you invoked your critic’s age, gender, and hypothetical affiliations.

Don’t argue from authority or blather on about your experience and qualifications.

TCC, if you are in the right, defending your life’s work and shining a light on the good science you’ve spent your time (and taxpayer money) conducting–in front of an intelligent, curious audience–should be an enjoyable exercise.

Step into the spotlight and be the man. I’m rooting for you old buddy.

19 07 2010
David

Could you be any more of a patronizing little prick?

19 07 2010
anon

Doubtful.

That went to 11.

19 07 2010
Goliath

Thanks, David, for making the discussion mature.

19 07 2010
Martin Levac

There is no way to vindicate bad science. Campbell could save face with an apology but that’s about it.

Why did Campbell say that his editor told him there wasn’t enough space to explain the confounding variables which when taken into account refute his claims of a healthful all plant diet for humans? Is he trying to justify changing a claim based on an editorial decision? Oh, I didn’t say that to begin with, but my editor told me I couldn’t say that so I changed my mind and said something else instead. How retarded is that?

If Campbell’s job hung on his word and I was his boss, he’d be fired about now. Who would hire him after that?

19 07 2010
Maxwell

I am genuinely rooting for TCC. I think Denise is probably rooting for him too in a way.

19 07 2010
lorraine

At the very least Cornell should offer you a full scholarship to study whatever the heck you want. Great job.

19 07 2010
Eva

I love to see science the way it should be done and the scientific mind working the way it should work. Thank you so much-saves me a ton of work when others do it for me and in a way that is probably way better than I could have done even if I did have the time and wasn’t so lazy! It’s so rare these days, and seems usually to be performed by people who don’t actually have a dog in the race, grant money on the line, years of work to defend and/or tenure on the agenda.

Sadly, the way the system is currently set it up, it often rewards and promotes those who doggedly stick to their guns and shoot down everyone else with the most effective strategies, even if those strategies are insult, innuendo, and cheating instead of good science. I was involved in various research projects during my years of college so I have seen plenty of data mining in progress on many fronts. Many researchers will run many small test trials over and over again to they finally find a combo of elements that might produce statistically significance. Then they will run bigger trials over and over until one gives they results they want. This whole process totally undermines proper use of statistics but is often done anyway. In the end, most research that finally yields a supposed statistically significant result often does not yield a very impressively meaniful difference. That’s why every piece of research needs to be totally picked over. It can take many people and many hours to come up with even a good sampling of potential confounders and flaws.

On a side note, I am wondering if all the attention that the ‘bananas’ site has given to you might backfire on them to some extent. The end result is they will have sent a lot of people here to read and think about your analysis. A certain percentage of those people might even understand it and get to thinkin..

20 07 2010
healthycritique

and a number of YOU folks might actually contemplate good science and realize that the analysis presented here does not meet that standard.

20 07 2010
el-bo

at this point, it doesn’t have to be

it is still just a matter of a few blog entries, albeit much more impressive

it’s about questioning the ‘science’ used by others, not about setting itself up s a definitive analysis in its own right

20 07 2010
Bushrat

What standard? Denise’s analysis meets whatever standards (or lack thereof) that Campbell used. In fact, her analysis probably goes further. Whatever criticisms you have should be directed at Campbell’s original study. Denise is just pointing how Campbell’s analysis is not upto scratch.

3 10 2013
Brandi

I cant really say anything good about the banana people, the crazy guy who spearheads the movement or the people who run his Youtube page blocked me the moment I ask them to explain to me how a diabetic could safely eat 30 bananas a day like they suggest as an optimal way to lose weight. it was very much uncalled for, they are like little children throwing temper tantrums.

19 07 2010
Rönngrens Nutritionsblogg » Debatt om sifferfifflingen i “The China Study”

[...] har skrivit ett brev angående kritiken som riktats mot honom och Denise Minger har svarat på det, för er som är intresserade. Jag rekommenderar också alla att läsa “The Protein [...]

19 07 2010
zach

1. Campbell’s a hack. If he said a vegetarian diet is healthiest-fine. But saying an animal based or dairy based diet is bad contradicts clear anthropological evidence.

2. You will never convince an old man who has had these beliefs for decades. He will never admit it even if he knows he is wrong. I’m not saying he is especially evil, it’s just human nature.

19 07 2010
Eddie Vos

Denise: brilliant, brilliant! The response by Campbell was shameful. My experience is that researchers proud of their work WILL make the time to respond. Say no more. I had decided some time ago not to buy his book, but I did a Medline on his publications.

Epidemiologists not considering the known confounders [as you pointed out] will forever come up with nonsensical stuff.

My own conclusion about specifically heart and artery diseases is that they are mainly caused by life-long or long-term above minimal homocysteine [HCY], an intermediate product we all MAKE, and that is toxic to all of our proteins. Moreover, it is easy to measure in blood, and based on Colin Campbell’s Medline legacy, it was NOT in the Cornell China Study.

However, Campbell earlier about vitamin B2: “Approximately 90% of the survey subjects were found to be deficient by Western and Chinese reference standards ..” Now, there’s a clue. When low in this vitamin, likely the same problem exists with others, such as B6, folate [B9] and B12, ALL causally related (when low) to high HCY, an undisputed risk factor for heart disease, stroke, bone fractures and Alzheimer’s [need more diseases, it's over 100 so far?]. Reference Campbell: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/51/3/436.pdf

To study disease correlations WITHOUT measuring homocysteine means not considering THE one causal factor still standing. Also, HCY is our BEST marker for multiple B-vitamin deficiencies. My guess is that if Campbell et al had considered measuring homocysteine and using regression analysis we’d not be wasting so much time about nonsense.

Here’s my popularized take on homocysteine: http://www.health-heart.org/why.htm So, while HCY is a/the cause of age related decline, lowering it with a multivitamin pill will not be a quick cure. HCY may degrade an artery or bone or cause a neural tube defect, lowering it will not fix the lesion. The game is prevention. Yes, there is a cancer link also!

Again, Denise, congrats with a brilliant and needed critique. vos{at}health-heart.org

19 07 2010
Martin Levac

How do you know B deficiency and high HCY is not caused by something else? HCY doesn’t rise on its own. Nor does B deficiency develop on its own. We can look at both HCY and B deficiency all day long but it won’t tell us what causes both of those things. For that, we must poke and prod in the lab. Obviously, not eating enough B vitamins would cause a B deficiency. It’s still not the cause. But where does this B vitamins come from? If not from a pill, then from a food item. So, not eating enough of this food item will cause B deficiency. Can there be another cause? Yes, eating too much of food items that deplete B vitamins.

In other words, it’s not B deficiency that causes bad diet. Nor is it high HCY that causes bad diet. Nor does B deficiency cause high HCY or vice versa.

Don’t call it a cause when it’s in the middle of the chain of events. B deficiency is not a cause, it’s a consequence. High HCY is not a cause, it’s a consequence.

19 07 2010
Steve

I am not a numbers guy, but I do common sense very well.

First it is scientist’s job to defend his work. The fact Campbell says he has better things to do than answer criticism of his work is very telling.

Second, the fact he attacks Denise instead of Denise’s analysis of the China Study tells me, he has no good answers to Denise’s analysis of the China Study.

Well like I said you do not need to understand numbers to understand who won this argument.

Denise keep up the Good Work and Professionalism.

19 07 2010
mrfreddy

“You will never convince an old man who has had these beliefs for decades. ”

You’ll never convince the true believers either, you know, like the 30bad folks and their ilk. But I think Denise is making a pretty good case for everyone else!

19 07 2010
Confabulator

It’s interesting that Campbell refers to you (Denise) dismissively by calling your analysis “impressive” but within the context of your youth and absence of formal nutritional training:

“This analysis seems very impressive, especially given the writer’s young age with no training in nutritional science”

And that your analysis just isn’t worth his time:

“I don’t have time to review every comment but did quickly scan the text.”

And these quotes (above) are from his opening paragraph. A message if there ever was one.

It’s also clear how he compares himself to you with this:

“…my peer-reviewed 300+ scientific papers.”

So we have insight on how you have struck a nerve with him in that he wishes to position himself as above you in status rather than confine himself to the merits. By contrast your kindness and neutrality speak well of you personally in addition to your fine scientific pursuit of the matter at hand.

20 07 2010
r

denise,

i’m curious to know what variable you used for liver cancer mortality in your analysis under “claim #3.” there are two in the CH83M dataset (M030 for ages 0-34 and M031 for ages 35-69), neither of which come even close to resembling the rates you present in your original analysis. rather than accusing you of altering the data, i thought it best to ask you how exactly what variables you have used for this analysis. if your claims are going to hold up, it would be best to be as transparent as possible.

20 07 2010
neisy

Hi R,

I used the variable “0011 mLIVERCA–mortality” from page 118 of “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in Rural China.” If you’re looking at the files on the Oxford website, that includes the data from the China Study II, which recorded data from other counties and Taiwan on top of the original 65. Those numbers will differ from the one in the book.

20 07 2010
r

thanks, denise! i’m thinking the rates you presented are the cumulative rates, whereas the data on the oxford website are the age-standardized for purposes of comparison with other countries. :)

20 07 2010
r

sorry one more question – why did you use rates from one source, but values for hep B and cholesterol from the china II datasets? also, you might consider transforming some (or all) of these variables prior to multiple regression.

20 07 2010
neisy

All of the values I used came from “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China” — I didn’t use any of the data from the China Study II. Sorry if that wasn’t clear!

Also, you (and anyone else reading) might be interested in this regarding cholesterol, liver cancer, and hepatitis B. This is from Campbell’s paper “Fish consumption, blood docosahexaenoic acid and chronic diseases in Chinese rural populations,” which discusses the link between fish consumption and liver cancer (the only animal food with a significant [raw] correlation with liver cancer):

“Whilst we have no explanation for the positive correlation with diabetes [and fish], it is not difficult to visualise the reason for the link with liver cancer. The coastal, estuarine and lacustrine regions with the high fish and sea food intakes are also those with the highest humidities. Storage of food in regions of high humidity is known to encourage the spread and growth of hepatitis B virus and Aspergillus flavus which produces aflatoxin, both are major causes of primary carcinoma of the liver. The people living around Lake Victoria in Uganda, have a very high incidence of primary carcinoma of the liver ([Lopez and Crawford, 1967]). This unusual epidemiology was attributed to the use of groundnuts which in humid storage conditions are excellent substrates for the growth of A. flavus. This fungus produces aflatoxin which is one of the most potent liver carcinogens known.”

The reason this is relevant to cholesterol is that the coastal regions in China tended to have the highest cholesterol levels (along with the highest consumption of processed sugar/starch, fish, beer, and eggs). I didn’t look at cholesterol vs. liver cancer in terms of geography, but this might also be something relevant to analyze.

Another question that the China Study data itself won’t be able to answer is that, if there is a link between cholesterol and liver cancer, which is actually the causative agent? According to http://www.medicinenet.com/liver_cancer/page4.htm:

Another abnormal blood test, high serum cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), is seen in up to 10% of patients from Africa with liver cancer. The high cholesterol occurs because the liver cancer cells are not able to turn off (inhibit) their production of cholesterol. (Normal cells are able to turn off their production of cholesterol.)

20 07 2010
Dave Dixon

Hmmm, how many of Campbell’s “300+ peer-reviewed publications” are the result of shaky statistics applied to epidemiological data?

20 07 2010
Tony

I think that you should be on the editorial board of many of those peer-reviewed medical journals. The dirty secret of many those journals is that they often send copies of papers to members whose only qualification to review such papers is a willingness to do so on a timely manner, not whether they understand statistics, the subject or can dissect away the BS trying to mask shaky conclusions. Medical research papers often start with a hypothesis, and the writers do their best to present the data in order to provide positive proof for it and hide any result that doesn’t. The objective of the game is to pad your resume with as many published papers, which function as a form of advertising, when you start applying for positions in academic centers and hospitals.

20 07 2010
Tom Naughton

I’d consider your analyses brilliant even if you were 60. Coming from a 23-year-old, they’re doubly impressive. I suspect Campbell was dismissive because he’s embarrassed about getting his butt kicked by a girl … er, young lady … who trained for the fight in her spare time.

20 07 2010
Australian Health

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

Denise, I support your defence of your writing style. By making your writing more readable, more of your writing will be read.

We are all human beings, and to pretend that anyone is impartial in all of his/her observations and reports (as perhaps Campbell is alluding that we should be) misses the point and perhaps even keeps some people blind to their own inherent bias.

Even the best science is competing for attention in our new information age, so a little personality and marketing is almost essential in getting your message across.

20 07 2010
Dan

Good job Denise. Campbell didn’t present any evidence to refute what you wrote, but just tried to baffle us with BS. I can’t beleive that anyone would accuse you of drawing conclusions from mere associations, but I guess people will see what they want to see or they don’t read very carefully. Your exaustive and objective analysis presented in a colloquial style communicates well to regular people.

This is the first I’ve heard of your blog, but I’ll be checking in periodically. Keep up the good work.

20 07 2010
Eddie Vos

Note to Martin Levac This is hard basic biochemistry: when those B vitamins are low, homocysteine [HCY] goes up, and it is also certain that HCY will attack MOST of our proteins, including those of our structure, or prevent the remaking thereof. Simple cause and effect.

There is also no debate that vitamin B2 is very low in China and there is no debate that the intake thereof is often related to folate [B9] and B6 intakes [B12 may be different]. We know from Indian research that there the intake of the HCY level determining vitamins is say 10% of the minimum standard.

The ONLY way to lower HCY is with a good level multivitamin, that too is not debated; the more B-vitamins, the more HCY is reduced.

Debated is if such multivitamin is a CURE for existing heart disease and the science is strong that it is not, at least not rapidly so.

With all due respect, if you had first looked at the link I gave: http://www.health-heart.org/why.htm [or .pdf] you would have been better informed than most doctors and scientists about the topic rather than firing off the hip. You would not have stated: Nor does B deficiency cause high HCY or vice versa. Cheers, E.V.

21 07 2010
Martin Levac

No need to explain further the relationship between HCY and B vitamins: I understand. I just disagree with your use of the term cause when talking about HCY and B deficiency. In fact, it is precisely because I understand that I disagree with your use of the term cause. I mean, I would have to misunderstand in order to treat these things as causes, wouldn’t I?

20 07 2010
anand srivastava

EddieVos
I looked at the document. Recommendation of Refined oils when talking about whole foods does not gel. I couldn’t show that site to anybody without thinking that it will hurt more than it will help.

20 07 2010
Dave

Denise –

Maybe you mentioned this and I missed it – but is this data available in downloadable form for all to play with? It looks like you did your analyses in Excel. If it’s not too much trouble, it would be great if you could post your spreadsheet somewhere for download, or maybe even just the spreadsheet with the raw data. I’m sure others would have lots of fun with it.

Kind of funny that some Excel analyses could have led to such an uproar compared to results from a “professional” scientist. That’s not a knock on you, rather on the level of statistics knowledge exhibited by most scientists. And I guess I shouldn’t even knock them on this – scientists receive extremely poor training in the use of statistics, and basically none in rigorous hypothesis testing, which is pretty sad considering that testing hypotheses is the end-game of the scientific method.

Allow me to bore you with another story from my checkered past. I spent a lot of time analyzing data from one of NASA’s “great observatory” missions the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO). As is common, the principle investigator (PI) teams got first crack at the data. I think it was 18 months before the data was made “public” for “guest investigators”, albeit rather difficult to analyze. The tools provided where the same tools used by the PI teams to analyze the data, and as you might imagine it was unlikely a guest investigator would find anything new using these tools after the PI team had already pounded the same data with those tools for 18 months. So if you wanted to do any new science, it was going to require a new approach.

To their great credit, most of the CGRO scientists were actually very open to collaboration (I published with all four instrument teams). There was, however, one faction of one instrument team that was annoyingly exclusionary, and generally stonewalled guest investigators. I doubt they would have shared data had it not been required by NASA, and they certainly made it as difficult as possible to obtain and analyze. But I love a challenge :-)

This was at a point when I still suffered from the same lack of statistics education as most scientists. So I enlisted the help of a statistics professor who had done a little work with gamma-ray data. To start the discussion, he wanted to know what the “standard” analysis was. I explained the procedure to him, and he thought the whole thing was pretty humorous, as it wouldn’t even be considered a good approximation to what the scientists thought they were doing. Important lesson 1: I thought I (and my colleagues) had been properly trained in statistics. It turns out we were pretty much clueless, and had been routinely applying an incorrect analysis for DECADES (that was in 1997 – last time I checked they were still doing the same type of analysis).

So we modified the original technique proposed by the stats guy, and discovered some interesting new stuff. The essential difference from what came before was a clear framing of a specific question, and following through with the mathematics to answer that question. Important lesson 2: the answer you get from analyzing data depends on the question. Make sure you know the question, and make sure the analysis method answers THAT question, and not some other one (BTW, you’ve done an outstanding job of this). Computing correlations answers the question “what is the correlation between these variables”, not the question “Does variable 1 have a causal influence on variable 2″.

Anyway, the moral is that it is important to be transparent in science. Share the data, along with the tools used to analyze that data so others can verify the results. Further, by making the data easily accessible, you allow other scientists (whether in profession or in spirit) to ask other questions, and we all learn from the answers. Any “scientist” who does not jump all over the opportunity to learn from a different analysis of their data performed by another individual clearly has motivations that don’t involve learning about the world.

20 07 2010
Eddie Vos

About vitamin B12, it is ONLY obtained from animal sources. Therefore the poor in China not able to afford meat or animal products, and the vegetarian Indians, get awfully little B12 [no debate here]. Therefore their HCY will be very high since it takes folate + B12 to recycle HCY back into the essential amino acid methionine.

That having been said, minimally processed grain products are high in BETAINE, providing the only possible alternate pathway to remethylate HCY back into methionine, rescuing that vital pathway. The betaine [= TMG] winds up in the bran and germ of refined grains, not good. It also exists in some plant foods like spinach.

Nutritional, medical or epidemiological studies NOT adjusting for HCY status are bound to come up with fuzzy conclusions, missing that confounder.

20 07 2010
Alex

Eddie, have you seen this study that found a high animal-protein diet was positively associated with hyperhomocysteinemia? I’ve read before that vegetarians typically have higher levels of homocysteine due to low B-12, but this study seems to contradict that. What could explain that?

http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/140/7/1261

20 07 2010
Eddie Vos

Alex, no, but that is a brilliant link. I’ve asked the author for full text. HCY studies in Pakistain / Karachi are rare. Here’s the contradictory [[??]] story from New Delhi:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12083316?dopt=AbstractPlus where that vegetarian problem sticks out like a deficiency calamity.

Pakistan being Muslim has fewer vegetarians so other micro-nutrient factors play bigger roles, such as less B2, B6 and folate in the meat consumers … That could explain this finding. The authors propose folate that would be lower in meat eaters and it appears that in Pakistan B12 deficiency may be rarer than in India.

It’s been shown that a high animal protein diet [high methonine] in the West, against all expectations, did NOT increase HCY [AJCN but I'd have to find it].

20 07 2010
Eddie Vos

To Anand Srivastava, the ONLY mention there is to canola-rapeseed oil, the ONLY cheap mass produced oil with 10% omega-3, and the version [processed into margarine] that PREVENTED heart attacks and deaths [Lyon Diet Heart Study]. It may be processed but if it saves lives, I’m all for it!

By the way, a similar 10% omega-3 oil in India is mustardseed oil, about the only source of plant based omega-3 there, and also a life saver according to the Singh study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12433513?dopt=Abstract

I’d agree with you about processed omega-6 oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower or grapeseed oils: Evil.

No, my site is not about ‘whole foods’, it’s about prevention and micro and minor nutrients. Cheers, E.V.

21 07 2010
anand srivastava

Well, we eat the unrefined Mustard oil. Canola, et al wouldn’t be edible without refining.

The problem with canola is that compared to mustard it contains too much O6, 1:2 ratio. Mustard is 1:1.4. Total pufa is only at 23% while canola is 35%. I still recommend ghee to everybody.

The problem with studies is that they don’t compare with the real thing. Compared with Sunflower oil canola would be better. But compared to pastured ghee, it will be very inferior.

21 07 2010
anon

I’m not sure what Vos is going on about. An industrially-refined oil like rapeseed/”Canola” is anything but healthful.

21 07 2010
Eddie Vos

To Martin Levac, boy, you put things in a confusing way: so we agree that low B vitamin intakes CAUSE high HCY but you don’t agree that HCY is a, the, or a major cause of heart diseases, bone fractures, cancers and birth defects. It is hard to disagree with the about one dozen pathways that show it IS a risk factor in these conditions, but it is hard for me to prove that it is the CAUSE of any of them, it is just highly probable .. and cheap and easy to eliminate HCY as a risk factor by simply taking a decent multivitamin.

P.S. That Pakistan study showed that even the lowest quartiles there have HCY of 13 with averages of ~15 in ~32 year olds. That is high! The high meat protein diet was also linked to high trans-fat fried foods and low folate intakes.

To all: sorry to have side-tracked this discussion into homocysteine, it is just that it was a major confounder not measured and it should have been for a better analysis.

21 07 2010
Martin Levac

Eddie, it seems my point still has a hard time crossing the internet. I’ll try to be more explicit and more concise this time around.

A man dies of head injury. What’s the cause of death? A bullet to the head. That’s the cause. However, the coroner could very well say that the cause of death is a hole in the head, severed artery, brain tissue damage, CNS failure and finally heart failure, etc. So what caused this hole in the head and all the other things down the chain of events? A bullet. That’s the cause of death.

In the above story, the coroner’s “cause of death” is merely the outline of the chain of events which lead to death, i.e. this is how he died, not why he died. Why is the question that yields the cause. So why did he die? Because he got shot in the head, that’s why. That’s the cause.

On to B deficiency and high HCY. Is any of that the cause of disease? No, but it explains how this person is getting sick. So what’s the cause then? Why is this person getting sick? He’s getting sick because he’s not getting enough B vitamins from his diet or he’s getting something in his diet which depletes his B vitamins.

We can make a similar analogy with a virus or bacteria. What makes people sick? Is it the fever? No, the fever is a response to the infectious agent. Similarly, B deficiency and high HCY is a response to the causal agent.

So how is this relevant here? In epidemiology, it’s critical that we differentiate between cause and effect in order to avoid confusion when we formulate hypotheses based on your statistics. It’s even more critical when devising remedies to the problems we’re looking at. For example, if the problem if seen as “high HCY”, and the solution is seen as “we must reduce HCY any way possible”, and the practical solution is to administer a drug which reduces HCY directly without addressing the actual cause, then the problem won’t be solved and might even be worsened. But we reduced HCY and the problem got worse?!? Of course the problem got worse since the hypothesis was wrong, i.e. the cause was thought to be high HCY when in fact high HCY was merely an effect. This is why for instance the trials which tried to reduce HCY directly came up empty.

I understand that HCY is a better predictor of health but it is still not a cause of anything. HCY is merely an effect which is a good indicator of the cause. In other words, if HCY is a good predictor of disease/health and if there’s something that tracks with HCY then this something would probably be the cause. So the question is what tracks with HCY?

I’m more confused when I hear somebody says “cause” when he should say “effect” instead.

20 07 2010
Ron

Great response…

Keep up the great writing…I’ve learned more recently following this debate, than I have recently.

20 07 2010
Michael

Denise,

Strong work. I haven’t read the China Study but your analysis is most impressive. It is certainly still possible that Campbell is right but your analysis really undermines his rationale for making them.

Stay skeptical & continue to think critically.

Unfortunately most of the folks in on the Campbell bandwagon are probably less interested in science and analysis so rational argument to the contrary won’t sway them.

Thanks again for your wonderful work.

20 07 2010
neisy

Hey people,

I’m still woefully behind on my email-and-comment-replying efforts. Many apologies! I’m trying to sprout additional arms to speed up the process, but no luck so far.

To ‘R’ or anyone else interested in statistics, I saw the comment RE: schistosomiasis/colorectal cancer left under the previous blog entry. I’m working on a post on wheat right now and don’t have time to address all the steps, but in the meantime, I uploaded a file of the data (from China Study I, not China Study II) that I typed out a while back with some relevant variables. Feel free to run whatever analyses you feel appropriate on the numbers and report back what you find!

The first file is for Excell 2007; the second is for Excell ’97 – ’03. They’re identical except for file format.

http://s000.tinyupload.com/?file_id=73717130333721184991

http://s000.tinyupload.com/?file_id=00580094771459057500

These include the data for: colorectal cancer, schistosomiasis, total cholesterol, animal protein intake, and plant protein intake (from both the food composite and the diet survey).

Note that not all counties reported data for schistosomiasis (indicated by ‘ND’) so you may have to use 49 data points instead of the original 65, depending on which variables you’re analyzing.
:)

Denise

22 07 2010
Ned Kock

Thanks for this. I did a multivariate analysis with this data, and posted the results here:

http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2010/07/china-study-again-multivariate-analysis.html

21 07 2010
R

Thx. I hope you’ll present multivariable analyses soon!

21 07 2010
r

Btw the 1983 diet and pru data on the oxford site match you table under #3. Could save time manually setting up a data set.

21 07 2010
Steve P

Excellent set of articles. Reductio ad absurdum of the china study. Using Dr Campbells own statistical methods (as presented) to demonstrate contradiction and absurdity in his analysis of the data set.

Call for greater statistical rigor on your part miss the point, you’ve logical demonstrated Dr Campbells analysis is flawed.

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

I don’t know that I see any issue with the statistical rigor here. Statistics just “is what it is”, in terms of deriving numbers from data. People got all screwed up in the interpretation, but within the framework of classical statistics, there is no rigorous way to get from a correlation to the probability that a hypothesis is true, given available data and other information. Denise has done well to steer clear of these pitfalls, and point out the flaws in Campbell’s own non-rigorous use of statistics for inference.

21 07 2010
Eddie Vos

Dear Anand and anyone interested in what’s in food, the USDA has a brilliant data base: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

Mustard seed oil USDA # 04583: omega-3 6%, omega-6 15%, a good source, but chemically not really different from Canola-rapeseed.

Anhydrous butter USDA # 01003: omega-3 1.5%; omega-6 2.3% Balance like cow fat, safe but a poor source of omega-3 considering ISSFAL suggests about 2 grams/day as healthful.

Canola: USDA # 04582 omega-3 9.1%, omega-6 19% of which, in 4 analysis, averaged only 0.36% trans fat. Canola wins, and it has studies to its name finding less heart disease, processed.

To Anon you’re not alone: many people believe anything processed cannot possibly be healthful (even when the studies show differently). Why not have a look at the first section here: http://www.health-heart.org/comments.htm If your mind is made up: don’t bother.

21 07 2010
anon

Are you really incapable of comprehending that there is more to a substance than its ratio of Omega 3:Omega 6?

21 07 2010
Miki

It may be worth mentioning that Campbelle is a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). You wouldn’t know it from the name but this is a group of vegans who promote a vegan diet. Why would anybody choose such an inappropriate name for a vegan group is beyond me. In any case its misleading (or this have been the intent to begin with). Strong Ideologies have a tendencies of playing with words (1984).

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

How about the Center for Science in the Public Interest? Another group with a vegetarian agenda hiding behind a name.

BTW, I tried registering for 30BaD. They’re keeping me out. Something tells me they’re not open to evidence that disagree with their views.

21 07 2010
neisy

Campbell has written an 11-page response to my critique, although it appears he didn’t read this follow-up post, as many of the issues he raised have been addressed here. Ah well.

I’ll be writing another (hopefully briefer) response to his response. Probably up by tomorrow.

You can download his rebuttal on the front page of his site:

http://www.tcolincampbell.org/

(Just to defend my honor here: Campbell implies that I deleted a (critical) comment from my previous entry, which is untrue; it’s posted on the previous page. I’ve had to release a number of comments from the spam queue and waiting-for-approval box, so if anyone is concerned that their comments aren’t visible yet, that’s probably why. I welcome dissenting voices and won’t delete a doggone thing unless it’s super spammy.)
:)

Denise

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

11 pages? I thought Dr. Campbell didn’t “have time” to deal with your critique in detail. Guess he found some, eh?

Maybe I’m missing it, but I don’t see anywhere on Dr. Campbell’s website where one could discuss what he wrote. Please direct me there if I am mistaken. But if I’m not, it is indicative of a desire on the part of Dr. Campbell to be “in the driver’s seat”, pushing information as an “authority” while not giving stakeholders an opportunity to respond, ask questions, etc. It would be all the more ironic since he claimed that you deleted important comments in the discussion here.

This sort of two-way communication is crucial to the advancement of science, and “scientists” who do not embrace such clearly have other motives. If no such forum exists at tcolincampbell.org, I call on Dr. Campbell to remedy this, and participate in open discourse. I hope that Dr. Campbell does not share the exclusionary attitude of some of his supporters, like the 30BaD crew.

BTW, the response is posted as a Word .doc file, which is a no-no. He should put it up as HTML, so it can be more broadly read. I would have left a comment to this effect on his site, but…

21 07 2010
healthycritique

It is put up as HTML here: http://campbellcoalition.com/?page_id=134

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

@healthycritique,

Excellent, thanks. Here is the direct link:

http://campbellcoalition.com/?p=142

Note that comments are accepted here, Also better, though not terribly helpful unless T. Colin Campbell himself participates.

21 07 2010
Mark

Hey People,

I would not toss out Dr Campbell’s finding so fast just because you see someone writing so much energetically. Remember Denise is young and little more enthusiastic that Campbell who is little more mature. We all can witness this our daily lives. You often see some Green guy joining the work force and showing lot of energy and enthusiasm..doesn’t mean they are right. So you gotta keep maturity in mind. Also you don’t expect Campbell to get involved in back and forth just like kids do.

Independent of Campbell’s findings, if you look around there is lot of support for plant based, whole food diet with greens and vegetables.

21 07 2010
CPM

Hi Mark,

There is also plenty of science out there that says plants are not so great and that animals are not so bad (see the smattering below). Campbell is just some guy arguing his hypothesis. Maybe the science will become clearer at some point, but what Denise has done is point out the flaws in some of Campbell’s arguments. And she pointed out that Campbell had a more sophisticated study that showed no association between cholesterol and CVD, but he chose to go with more simple univariate correlations to make his case in his book.

This major study shows that fiber is not that beneficial in preventing polyp recurrence:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17855692

This study found just a very weak association of eating fruits and vegetables and cancer prevention:

http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/djq072

The link between cholesterol and saturated fat with cardiovascular disease has been a myth for over 50 years. You can read about the numerous studies and meta-analyses here:

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

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

@Mark,

Please cite evidence that specific replacement of unprocessed meat with plants leads to an improvement in any sort of hard observable endpoint (e.g. deaths from heart disease). The studies that I have seen are mostly observational. Observational studies provide weak evidence, and cannot distinguish amongst many competing hypotheses. The controlled studies that I am aware of have not shown any benefit of replacing calories from unprocessed animal foods with plant foods. If you know of any, please post them, as I would be extremely interested.

Generally speaking, just about any change to a diet high in refined foods to one less refined will have significant observable effects. Sugar and white flour are both “plant based”. Clearly “plant based” alone is not a sufficient criterion for equating food with health.

28 07 2010
j.f.smith

Mark,

I’m extremely troubled by your comments here.

For starters, you seem to be conflating age with maturity. There are plenty of folks out there who are both young and mature to varying degrees, along with folks who are much older, yet lack much maturity. Considering Mr. Campbell’s appeals to ageism and sexism in his original response, I’m not sure that he deserves any extra weight at all based on maturity. Since you’re merely making such appeals yourself here, I’m left questioning the level of your maturity.

Additionally, I must echo Dave Dixon’s comment on the necessity of effective communication for scientific advancement. Your comment about not expecting Campbell to get involved in such communication reeks of anti-intellectualism, not to mention more ageism (“just like kids do”). Actually, it’s just like scientists, and other intellectuals do, unless they have some sort of ulterior motive. Plenty of intellectuals engage in such back and forth all the time (and not just with each other, but with laypeople as well), for the sake of clarification, cross-pollination of ideas, and intellectual advancement generally. Perhaps you’re not interested in such things.

3 10 2013
Brandi

Age and maturity do not go hand in hand, I find that she is far more mature the Mr. Campbell. I have found no evidence to support a plant based diet. A whole food diet yes, but plant based not so much. In fact I do better with a fat based diet, but each to their own.

21 07 2010
Mark

Hey People,

I would not toss out Dr Campbell’s finding so fast just because you see someone writing so much energetically. Remember Denise is young and little more enthusiastic than Campbell who is little more mature. We all can witness this our daily lives. You often see some Green guy joining the work force and showing lot of energy and enthusiasm..doesn’t mean they are right. So you gotta keep maturity in mind. Also you don’t expect Campbell to get involved in back and forth just like kids do.

Independent of Campbell’s findings, if you look around there is lot of support for plant based, whole food diet with greens and vegetables.

21 07 2010
anon

It kills me that people like you are permitted to vote.

21 07 2010
Martin Levac

@Mark

When the evidence says I’m wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?

21 07 2010
kat

Um. Not only did he not read this post, but clearly he didn’t bother to thoroughly read the one he responded to. Twice. Nice how he accuses you of deleting criticisms and once again brings WAPF into the discussion. Classy guy.

21 07 2010
John

Denise,

Dr Campbell responded in detail a very convicting story to your critique. You can not expect Dr Campbell to respond in such a detail to each and every critique of yours and others. I’m staying with Dr Campbell for right now. There is more to Science than few numbers and Graphs.

For e.g. you made a statement that perhaps there is link between wheat and Heart Di ease. Dr Campbell could come up with the same critique as you did. What does that tell you? The golden rule is, if you want to knit pick anyone can do that. Always.

21 07 2010
kat

John,

Too bad all that detail didn’t apply to what Denise actually said. Reading comprehension, people…if I were a Campbell supporter I’d be worried about his lack of it.

Kat

21 07 2010
neisy

Hi John,

I agree that I (and other critics) can’t expect Campbell to respond in detail to every point we raise — and for that reason, I’m beyond thrilled that Campbell has taken so much time to consider my review of his work and to respond at length. This was much, much, much more than I expected or even hoped for, and Campbell’s willingness to entertain a discussion is fantastic. That’s the only way we can all keep learning and improving our understanding of health and nutrition!

Unfortunately, this new response, while longer, still evades a number of issues I raised (most notably the flaws in his conclusions about casein). It appears he didn’t see my follow-up post, in which I explain — hopefully more clearly than in the first — that I’m not using univariate correlations to draw my own conclusions; I’m showing how his use of such correlations is misleading, particularly regarding the lack of adjustment for confounding variables.

Regarding wheat and heart disease: In a (peer-reviewed) paper Campbell co-authored called “Diet, Lifestyle, and the Etiology of Coronary Artery Disease: The Cornell China Study”, he concluded after looking at wheat and confounding variables that:

“Nonetheless, the wheat-flour effect appears to be independent of meat consumption, so enhancement of coronary artery disease risk by wheat consumption may be a possibility.”

I’ve been careful to avoid indicting any food as causative of disease (at least from epidemiological data), but Campbell himself is aware of the link between wheat and heart disease, and unless he’s conceding that his peer-reviewed paper is flawed, believes the link may prevail even when accounting for other factors.

I’ll elaborate on this more in my upcoming response.

Thanks for writing, John. I certainly agree with you that there’s more to science than numbers and graphs (although both of those things can be pretty useful).

Denise

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

@John,

I think you missed a good chunk of Denise’s point, which is that correlations don’t tell you anything more than this: two sets of numbers are correlated. Extrapolating those correlations to specific hypotheses of cause and effect is generally nonsense, unless you obtain further information that can distinguish amongst the various hypotheses which imply correlation in your data (for the data set under discussion, is an enormous set). The “nitpicking” here is on the point of unjustified qualitative interpretation.

Since you are “staying with Dr. Campbell”, perhaps you could relay my invitation to participate in a public scientific discussion on these topics? I’m sure it would be educational for all interested parties. Such free exchange of information is at the root of scientific progress, and if Dr. Campbell believes such progress and dissemination of information is important, I expect he’d jump at the chance to demonstrate once and for all the scientific basis for why his hypotheses on nutrition and health should be given greater weight than competing hypotheses.

21 07 2010
John

Since you are “staying with Dr. Campbell”, perhaps you could relay my invitation to participate in a public scientific discussion on these topics?

Dave,

That would be nice if Dr Campbell can engage in a scientific discussion on these topics. This is what he has been doing through his writings. Isn’t it? So I don’t know how face to face or debates in public will be of any use. All of us have made our mind anyway.

In the mean time, Denise too can publish her findings in peer reviewed journal instead of flexing her muscle in front of a crowd which may look at impressive writing and get swayed : ) -

21 07 2010
Martin Levac

As far as I know, Denise’s critique is of Campbell’s book and his conclusions therein, not of his papers. His book is not peer-reviewed, it is editorialized. In other words, his book and his conclusions therein are open to critique coming from any and all with brain enough to grasp its content. Do you grasp its content? If so then you are sufficiently qualified to do your own critique and publish it for the world to see.

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

@John

“All of us have made our mind anyway. ”

Does that include Dr. Campbell? I would agree, if this were the case, that such a discussion would be pointless. Hopefully Dr. Campbell still has the sort of open and inquisitive mind required for a scientist. My own mind is certainly not made up, and I while I generally disagree with Dr. Campbell, I am the first to admit that he likely has information that I do not (and vice versa). I am not suggesting a face-to-face debate, but rather a discussion, conducted over the Internet, in a forum such as this. His writings are one way streets – how do I ask him questions on his latest response to Denise? As she has done, he should post this on the web (instead of as a Word file) in a place where others can come ask questions, levy criticisms, etc.

“In the mean time, Denise too can publish her findings in peer reviewed journal instead of flexing her muscle in front of a crowd which may look at impressive writing and get swayed”

You (and Dr. Campbell) might want to be careful what you wish for. Suppose Denise did get this published in a peer-reviewed journal – would that sway Dr. Campbell’s position? (I would hope not, since peer review is worse than meaningless).

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

Come to think of it, it seems strange that Dr. Campbell would not just respond here, directly to Denise. It would be far more appropriate than posting a document on his own website, and certainly more in the spirit of scientific discourse.

21 07 2010
Martin Levac

It’s not so strange once we realize Campbell’s intent. And that is easy enough to figure out.

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

@Martin Levac

Maybe – though now that I have explicitly placed the challenge to respond here to Dr. Campbell’s house guest, I will reserve judgment until we see how this plays out. Dr. Campbell may simply have certain habits formed from his considerable tenure as an academic scientist, and it perhaps did not occur to him that engaging in the discussion here would provide him considerably greater credibility.

Of course, if he fails to engage here (or at least somewhere that facilitates the exchange of information, rather than just pushing it at us), then it certainly calls his motives into question. I’m willing to give him a chance, though.

21 07 2010
Dave Dixon

Over at campbellcoalition.com, I got the following response:

“Dr. Campbell said he will be able to post comments now and then, although he cannot respond to every question.”

This is an excellent opportunity to engage Dr. Campbell. Let’s keep it civilized, and not descend into 30BaD-like behavior.

21 07 2010
healthycritique

You said: “All of the values I used came from “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China” — I didn’t use any of the data from the China Study II. Sorry if that wasn’t clear!”

Someone may have already mentioned this but the data in “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China” are also on the Oxford site (the 1983 data). China Study II data (1989 data) are also posted.

22 07 2010
neisy

I glanced through the website data and much of the ’83 data doesn’t match up with “Diet, Life-style and Mortality in China” — particularly the mortality variables. In the book, they’re organized as rates for people aged <15 and for people aged <65, but age groups are broken down differently in the website files.

There are also some mortality variables in the book that are completely absent from the website data, and some in the website that are absent from the book (like epilepsy).

Just a heads up for anyone embarking on an analysis.

21 07 2010
Sue

Yes, it would be good if we could comment on Campbell’s post. Regarding him commenting – Campbell has posted a lot over at Amazon.

21 07 2010
Jacob

You can comment on Dr. Campbell’s post here: http://campbellcoalition.com/?p=142

21 07 2010
kat

Whoa, anyone read “The Challenge of Telling the Truth” on the Campbell coalition blog? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Did this group just start? Denise’s critique must have really struck a nerve; “Ms. Minger Reply” is a main link at the top of the page!

22 07 2010
The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? « Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet

[...] 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 [...]

22 07 2010
Martin Levac

Yes, Campbellcoalition.com is done by his son, Nelson. And that post “The Challenge of Telling the Truth” seems to be in direct opposition to Minger’s critique #1 and Ms Minger herself. As if attacking her character would further his father’s cause. It’s just doing more damage. In fact, the entire website seems to have been created in response to Minger’s critique. She’s just a little girl with no credentials and look at the big guns the Campbell gang brought to the fight.

That post is just another appeal to your feelings on the matter. “Don’t attack my dad, he’s my dad and he’s human too.” “And if you attack him then you’re mean mean mean.” “And whatever you say is just not true.”

Denise, I think you’ve done a bang up job of exposing the flaws in Campbell’s claims. It’s just a shame that Campbell’s rebuttals don’t give justice to your critique.

22 07 2010
anon

Yes, campbellcoalition.com appears to be a site created wholly in response to Denise. Denise’s first China Study post was on 5/25/2010, and a week later the “campbellcoalition” site was created.

So long before his first “written in haste” response, Campbell seems to have instigated a site to pose as a grass-roots uprising? Why the back-channel maneuvering? Is he that sure that his science isn’t enough?

This is the CampbellCoalition registration info (public information):

Registrar: FastDomain Inc.
Provider Name….: HostMonster.Com
Provider Whois…: whois.hostmonster.com
Provider Homepage: http://www.hostmonster.com/

Domain Name: CAMPBELLCOALITION.COM

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22 07 2010
Miki

I may be mistaken but I haven’t seen a reference in the posts or the comments to “The protein Debate”. Thia is a written academic style debate between Prof. Loren Cordain and Prof. Campbell. Cordains initial position paper is called “The Evolutionary Basis for the Therapeutic Effects of High Protein Diets” and is backed up by referencing 134 papers. Campbell initial paper is called “How Much Protein is Needed?” and is backed up by 0 (zero) papers. Then there is a rebuttal by each professor, Cordain’s with additional 30 papers and Campbell backed up by none. Infact, Campbell make the point that Science as it is practiced today is irrelevant to nutrition research. Google “the protein debate” and you will find it easily.

22 07 2010
Dave Dixon

The Protein Debate is a great read. Worth reading just to see the difference between what most people consider “science”, and whatever it is that Campbell thinks he’s doing.

22 07 2010
anon

Sheeple nothing but sad misguided and misinformed sheeple.

22 07 2010
Just Wondering

Hi Denise. You seem to have created quite a stir with this discussion. I have a couple of questions for you. Firstly, could you describe your typical daily diet? I would like to know what you consume in a day.

I’m assuming you’ve chosen a raw diet because of health and moral issues. Have you ever considered the historical evolution of the human diet? Have you ever read “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” by Richard Wrangham? Also, have you ever considered the environmental impact of a raw diet? Living in North America we don’t readily have local year round access to many of the fruits and vegetables that I assume you eat in large amounts daily. Given this fact, have you ever wondered about the amount of fossil fuel used to grow these foods and transport them to you for your daily consumption? Have you ever considered the rationalization of eating foods that are available locally and seasonally? Have you ever justified to yourself that a meal made in a blender is more natural than one prepared with heat?

Furthermore, have you ever sat down and thoroughly examined the thought patterns and decisions you made to come to a raw diet? Or, thought about the possible “obsessive” or “control” issues one may have when choosing such a diet or blogging about it?

Just wondering…

22 07 2010
kat

Hey Just Wondering,

Go to “about” under the “categories” heading at the top right of the home page to find out about her diet journey.

p.s. Judgmental much?

22 07 2010
Dave Dixon

@Just Wondering,

“Furthermore, have you ever sat down and thoroughly examined the thought patterns and decisions you made to come to a raw diet? Or, thought about the possible “obsessive” or “control” issues one may have when choosing such a diet or blogging about it?”

Have YOU thought about these issues for YOURSELF?

A little off-topic, don’t you think?

22 07 2010
Eddie Vos

@Just Wondering may I suggest it matters not if Denise eats like an Inuit, Polynesian or somewhere in the geographical middle, for example, in McDonald Land. What matters is her interpretation of the science, in this case the conclusions drawn about best nutrition by Dr. Campbell.

Regarding Dr. Campbell, I just realized from his response that I just ordered a book about the China Study with only one [1] single chapter about that Chinese work .. while I have an allergy to rodent studies.

About Campbell, it is clear from his published record that he/they established deficiencies and associations in very important nutrients in the Chinese population and that his data base is one of the better [and rare] examples of such resource. I believe that he contributed in a positive way by his important work in nutrition. His interpretation of SOME of these findings merits the current debate.

23 07 2010
dylan

hi great post, and thanks for keeping back from a kneejerk reaction to the insults in his retort, tempting as it may be..
I wonder if you have tried using freshly ground wheat flour and then making sourdough? and if this still would give a bad reaction to wheat?

24 07 2010
Bex

You might want to keep an eye on the Wikipedia page for the China Study. At present, the section regarding your critique reads as if both Campbell and an unnamed epidemiologist both ripped you a new one and you had no response. I quote:

“Campbell personally responded to Minger’s criticism showing Minger, who has no scientific background, has little understanding of scientific methods and made multiple serious errors in her analysis.[43] An epidemiologist also weighed in on Minger’s analysis, stating Minger was “incredibly naive in her crude analysis of [Campbell's] raw data.” The epidemiologist further stated Minger’s “analysis was crude at best and completely wrong at worst. No card-carrying epidemiologist would EVER be able to publish her results and draw the conclusions that she does.”

25 07 2010
Bex

There was a footnote for the epidemiologist’s comment but I accidentally snipped it when pasting (not content my typo count was complete with writing “both” an extra time.) It led to a posting on a veggie forum by someone posting the remarks on the unamed Ph.D’s behalf… peculiar way to cite such a scientific opinion.

25 07 2010
Bex

Oh, I see you already are in contact with the epidemiologist. Anyway, thought you might be interested in the Wiki. I will now stop clogging your blog comments by replying to myself.

I’m very impressed by the work you did Denise. Keep it up!

25 07 2010
kat

Whoa. They really believe quoting an unnamed epidemiologist posting on (obviously biased) forums counts for something. That’s fairly ridiculous.

25 07 2010
Vivek Rau

Minger Response — China study

I’d like to begin with thanks and an apology. Thanks to Denise Minger for her hard work and passion and thanks to all the participants here for a fascinating discussion as well as for forcing me to read The China Study (book, not research data) again with much greater care. Profuse apologies to all for the length of this comment. Feel free to skip if your eyes glaze over.

In reading Dr.Campbell’s response, the interesting points he raised about statistics and research methodology appear to be [1] Dynamic range [2] Confounding factors [3] Biological mechanisms [4] Clinical interventions [5] Nutritional knowledge. I’ll add one more of my own [6] Optimal thresholds, and try to explain here how these concepts apply to various points raised by Denise.

Campbell expanded on the first 5 concepts in his response, and by “Optimal thresholds” I mean the simple fact that any nutrient of biomarker such as cholesterol, omega-3 fats, vitamins, animal protein will only have its harmful or helpful effect above a certain minimum level and below a certain maximum level. For example, blood levels of vitamin A need to be above 20 μg/dL (serum retinol), below which the patient is considered deficient, but this essential vitamin is highly toxic above some maximum level. Blood sugar needs to be between the thresholds of 70 mg/dL and 100 mg/dL (fasting) and is increasingly harmful the higher it goes above the maximum threshold. I’m sorry if I’m belaboring the obvious, but the concept does seem to have been overlooked in some of the discussion.

* Breastfeeding and casein: This is an example of the “optimal threshold” concept as well as “nutritional knowledge”. Denise has brought up both in her original post and her later response to Campbell “the apparent unhealthfulness of breastfeeding and exposing young, delicate-bodied children to casein”. In her eyes, the presence of casein in human milk seriously undermines Campbell’s credibility (he’s been known to call casein a “chemical carcinogen”) and makes her question the relevance of his studies of casein’s impact on liver cancer in rats, covered in the book. But note that Campbell takes pains to explain there that casein was shown to do harm only above 10% of calorie intake, with a graph showing a nice dose-response relationship above that [chart 3.6, p57]. Rats fed 5% of calories from casein were absolutely fine. It’s not the mere presence of casein that harms, it’s the amount!

With regard to breastfeeding then, here’s where some academic background in nutrition would really raise the level of debate (I wish I knew more than just the basics of nutrition myself). Nutritionists are presumably well aware already that human milk has only 6-7% of calories from total protein. Casein is only a third of that total protein. If anyone finds this figure shockingly low or unbelievable, they should just look up “human milk” in the Wikipedia or elsewhere. Now consider this remarkable fact: at the one time in its life when the human animal is entirely dependent on animal foods, biology has ensured that the entire protein content of that food is just 6-7% (by calories), while the casein content is an even smaller fraction of the alleged danger threshold of 10%. Does this seem entirely consistent with Campbell’s findings and recommendations, or does it undermine them? Consider also that cow’s milk (whole) is about 20% total protein, with 87% of that protein being casein. Do you understand better now why Campbell so strongly opposes dairy foods? Could he hold his beliefs quite sincerely and reasonably, without bias, distortion, or malfeasance? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is a resounding Yes. All right, let’s move on.

* Heart disease: This is an example of the “dynamic range” concept as well as “nutritional background”. Campbell has explained that a statistical correlation (or lack thereof) is interesting only if *both* the variables in question vary over a wide enough range. But an additional point he implies (not in these words) is that in order to judge whether a range is “wide enough” you just have to know much more than the numbers from a single study. No amount of statistical sophistication will generate that kind of judgment. For example I see Denise call out more than once the apparent lack of correlation between cholesterol levels and heart attacks, calling into question whether high cholesterol is really a risk factor of any kind. I mean, look at the mortality charts: in Wenjiang there was only 1 heart attack death per thousand, and in Jiexu there were 14. To a pure statistician examining only this one study maybe that looks like a huge variation, and any correlation coming out of that has got to be interesting. But let’s look deeper. (Nitpick: Denise stated that the mortality rate charts in her article are “per 1000 people”, whereas they have got to be per 1000 *deaths*, otherwise those rural Chinese had a staggeringly high death rate and would have been dropping like flies). OK, so what the charts say is that for every 1000 deaths in rural China, between 1 and 14 were heart attacks depending on where people lived. Now contrast that with the US where more than 200 (!) of every 1000 deaths result from heart attacks. Knowing that, which I assume most nutrition researchers do, a range of 1 to 14 doesn’t look so wide now, does it? When a target variable in a study varies from “almost zero” to “almost zero”, relatively speaking, no interesting correlation will be found. Furthemore, any apparent correlations are just noise.

To clarify that further, let’s also think about why the heart attack rate may have been so low. The average cholesterol level these Chinese provinces was 127 mg/dL, with a regional low of around 90 mg/dL and a regional high of around 170 mg/dL [p78]. Many research studies in other countries, of which the Framingham trial is just one example, have shown that once total cholesterol is below around 150, your risk of heart attacks drops drastically. When cardiologists put people on regimens of statin drugs, their goal is to get cholesterol below 150 mg/dL for maximum protection. As you can see, the vast majority of these rural Chinese in the 1980s never needed statins (today’s Chinese are a different story), and their remarkable freedom from heart attacks then was only to be expected.

Similar “dynamic range” arguments may apply to many of the other variables studied, and without a proper background in nutritional research or at least some days of studying published papers, neither I nor many of you can draw well-formed conclusions from apparent correlations, because we don’t know what reasonable ranges look like. For example the average animal protein intake in rural China was 7.1g/day [p80], vs a U.S. average today of 70g/day or higher. With barely 1% of their daily calories coming from animal protein, I speculate that the range of variation *may* have been a bit too small to draw interesting correlations about animal protein vs disease. If true, that provides a clue about why Campbell and team were forced to use blood cholesterol as a key variable instead. At least cholesterol varied a lot along with many target variables other than heart disease rates.

I think I should stop here because this comment is *way* too long. I could go on for a while about clinical interventions, larger context, etc. but I don’t want to torture you all. I’ll close by saying that in the realm of “confounding factors”, I think Denise has brought up an excellent point about schistosomiasis infections confounding the apparent correlation of animal protein with colorectal cancer, and I hope Campbell will respond to that some day. Great stuff, people, keep it coming.

About me: I’m not a researcher or a nutritionist, and my day job is in the software industry. I find this discussion fascinating and addictive and have been totally geeking out on it over the last few days, while so far finding insufficient data to sway me from Camp Campbell. My diet is largely vegan and free of added oil, sweeteners, or refined flour, with relatively rare animal foods on social occasions such as desserts, cheese, eggs, etc. I believe this diet to be quite consistent with the China Study recommendations.

Disclaimers: I have not looked at the raw data from the study, so all my inferences are drawn from the paperback and those portions of the raw data that have been exposed in Denise’s articles. There may be egregious errors in my writing, which as a rank amateur I will be happy to have pointed out. I don’t know Dr.Campbell other than through his published writings and some video recordings of a few public lectures and I have never corresponded with him, though I’m sure I’d enjoy meeting him if the opportunity arose. I have extrapolated generously from his written response, and may have greatly misinterpreted or misrepresented his actual intent. That said, I have stuck to concepts I think of as “obvious” (still not a guarantee of correctness).

25 07 2010
MA

Vivek –

Just to hit a few points –

Casein – part of the criticism involved Campbell using this particular protein to indict all animal protein. He also used casein in an isolated state, and there seems to be some indication that casein found in its natural state (combined with whey and other dairy components) does not cause the same problems or to the same degree. He was reaching to use isolated casein to indict all animal protein.

Heart Disease – part of the criticism involved the fact that Campbell had performed multivariate regression, found no correlation between cholesterol and heart disease, published this in a scientific paper, and then when he wrote his book he did not bring this up and instead tried to find other ways to indict animal protein / cholesterol.

Denise is not really trying to draw conclusions; she is just showing where Campbell’s arguments are potentially flawed and biased.

BTW, Kurt’s current blog entry at PaNu has an interesting discussion of statins and heart disease if you are interested.

28 07 2010
MA

Just saw this new article by Colin at the Campbell Coalition:

http://campbellcoalition.com/?p=127

Apparently the criticism and all the discussion of complete and incomplete proteins and the unnatural isolation of casein didn’t mean much to him. He sure is adamant that his one little rodent study with casein proves that all animal protein is carcinogenic and all plant protein is not. It seems like he has made this the cornerstone for his whole hypothesis.

Just one little flawed rodent study condemns all animal protein for all time. I get lost – is this reductionism or anti-reductionism? To me it just sounds like “crazy talk.”

2 08 2010
Lola

I appreciate your point about Campbell using casein isolate. On a similar note (and coming from the “vegan side”) many of the studies which seem to demonstrate the evils of soy use soy protein isolate, so there are similar issues (tofu is not the same thing as soy protein isolate just as milk is not the same thing as casien protein isolate).

26 07 2010
Maxwell

Vivek,

Thanks for your thoughtful post. I really enjoyed your perspective. The debate continues to grow more fascinating.

Looking forward to Denise’s next post which promises to be a great one.

I’m hoping if folks like you and Ned are able to continue to elevate the level of discourse we might see Mr. Campbell return to shed some more light.

Denise is a very different person than past critics of Campbell’s work (no disrespect intended). She’s about as smart and unbiased as human beings come.

While I’m still very much in the camp that expects Campbell will have sound, reasonable explanations for most if not all of the objections Denise raises, I do feel I’ve benefitted greatly from the challenge she has posed to some of my own beliefs.

Maxwell

26 07 2010
Jon

You just cannot use plasma cholesterol as a substitute for meat consumption without better justification. For example, smoking elevates cholesterol levels. So how do you know if you are using cholesterol as a marker for meat consumption or for smoking? I think in the end cholesterol is affected by so many behaviors and conditions that it is not really possible to use it effectively in the manner you describe (or without a whole bunch of statistical analysis that Campbell did not perform). Most cardiologists have moved on anyways and look at HDL and LDL levels instead of total cholesterol, and many look at very specific types of LDL.

Denise’s critics would have been all over her had she suggested something like this without better statistical justification. Even with all the statistical analysis that Ned has performed showing that schistosomiasis is an important factor that Campbell should have at least mentioned, some people are still saying that Campbell is fine in ignoring this because the statistical evidence is just not formal enough.

27 07 2010
neisy

Heads up:

For those of you waiting for Campbell Response #2, it’ll be up sometime tomorrow (Wednesday), both as a PDF (due to length/awkwardness of blog formatting) and regular HTML. Thanks for your patience!

28 07 2010
neisy

Okay… “sometime Wednesday” is looking more like “midnight PST,” which will be Thursday for lots of you. Sorry! It’s 30 pages and counting! Aye!

2 08 2010
Lola

I enjoyed reading your critique. I am vegan for ethical reasons rather than health reasons, and I don’t appreciate it when other vegans use sketchy science to support this lifestyle. It makes us all look bad. It’s so hard and impractical to do controlled, systematic studies in human beings… unfortunately, I feel like like there are immediate and glaring flaws in most nutritional studies, and it’s difficult to find anything useful or conclusive.

That said, I do like discussing and thinking about nutrition, and I had one question/idea about the lysine/wheat issue. While vegetarian foods do contain lysine, I believe it is usually in lower amounts than in animal products. I’ve done a (very small!) amount of reading on this because I used to suffer from cold sores. Here’s a site that lists foods rich in lysine and low in arginine and conversely foods that are low in lysine and rich in arginine: http://www.herpes-coldsores.com/diet_and_nutrition_with_herpes.htm.

Most animal sources of protein (meat, milk, eggs, and dairy) fall into the high lysine category, whereas most plant sources of protein (beans, nuts, and grains, and seeds) fall into the low lysine category. Various fruits and vegetable fall into the other two categories, but these would have lesser amounts of protein in general and so (maybe?) less of an effect on the overall amino acid profile of a person’s diet.

So while it’s true that a vegetarian diet can easily provide the minimum required amounts of all the amino acids humans need, I think the ratio of lysine to other amino acids would still be relatively low (compared to a diet high in animal products). Unless one is supplementing with lysine for cold sores or some other reason.

Food for thought. Please everyone don’t hate me for being vegan. Cheers.

2 08 2010
K Johnson

Denise, you say that your “self-marketing skills are pretty dismal.” On the contrary, your facility for self-promotion is the one feature of your blog that no one could take issue with. While your scientific understanding and statistical abilities are, in fact, “pretty dismal” and your writing skills are mediocre (I say this as a book editor and college writing teacher of 20+ years), you are truly a master at the art of selling yourself.

First, there’s your self-deprecating persona, richly illustrated by the opening paragraph of this rebuttal. Using words like “nerdy” and “weird,” you cast yourself as an “aw shucks,” reluctant hero who’s really just too plain and uninteresting to bother with. This, of course, endears you to all of the genuinely nerdy, weird folks out there who truly believe that they can’t get taken seriously in a world dominated by the slick and the beautiful.

This technique also staves off criticism from those who believe that you’re dabbling in science with absolutely zero credentials.

Then there’s the official blog author’s photo: lovely young woman with ballet-necked shirt strategically pulled down to one side to show the merest hint of shoulder. And the neck scarf highlighting a style debt to Audrey Hepburn — a personal favorite, evidently.

But you reserve the real fire power for your “About Me” section. This is where we learn that you were a child prodigy, a precocious autodidact who self-treated at age 12 and entered college at 16. Despite your youth, you come across as a world-weary, “been there, done that” kind of authority.

And, finally, there are the photos.

I suppose that no young woman with a healthy ego and a beautiful face would hesitate to post such an array of photos of herself if she had some — unless, of course, she was endeavoring to establish some scholarly credentials, in which case pimping her face in the service of (or in place of) academic rigor would be singularly inappropriate.

The variety! There are the well-scrubbed and healthy shots, the sultry and mysterious shots, even the up-close-and-personal shots (i.e., the magical, color-changing eye). All of these photos contribute to the overall image of a beautiful, brainy young woman who also happens to be a crackerjack guerilla investigator.

Denise, your carefully crafted Web persona is magnificently successful at reeling in those susceptible to your online techniques. (Is it an accident that most of the posters here have male names?) So modesty in regard to your gift for self-promotion is completely unnecessary.

Would that you had some of that modesty in regard to your “scholarship.”

2 08 2010
neisy

K Johnson, you’re absolutely right. I should immediately remove my pictures so that people can start accusing me (again) of not existing/being TC Campbell/lying about my identity/being a 400-pound Polynesian man/etc.

Then I should return my woefully undeserved English degree to my alma mater and exchange it for a newer, shinier BA in Web Persona Crafting, which is clearly my only talent in life.

Then I should strip every modicum of background information from my website so that visitors can never learn who I am or why I’m interested in health — a wonderful way to fuel more conspiracy theories about my linkage to the Meat and Dairy Industry.

I see the error of my ways! Thank you for your kind and respectful observations.

Best wishes,
Denise

24 09 2010
James

Love it!

2 08 2010
a female

K Johnson, if you want to see someone using their looks instead of their brains, check out “Freelee” who spammed all the blogs with the same comment trying to refute Denise’s work. Her entire gig is posing half naked with fruit dangling between her breasts, in order to attract attention. Why not go insult her instead? Oh, that’s right, you just can’t comprehend that someone can be both good-looking and intelligent enough to write a critique of a book, so you have to belittle them. Hmm. Sounds like maybe YOU’RE campbell.

2 08 2010
mrfreddy

K Johnson,
Would that you had found something in the substance of Denise’s arguments that you could take issue with. Instead you lob potshots at her style, her supposedly “carefully crafted web persona” blah blah blah. Here’s the thing, Denise would never have gotten all this attention if her analysis had not been startlingly dead-on.

9 08 2010
Sue

K Johnson,
I hope you’re not still teaching college writing. Instead of responding to the merits of Denise’s stunning writing skills, you focus on how she markets herself. I hope you don’t subject your students to this kind of ridicule. If you do, you don’t belong in a college classroom.

10 08 2010
Gabriel

Sue, please try to understand that Mr. / Ms. Johnson already has it all figured out – to just stand there and nonchalantly assert this elaborate premise about another’s state of mind (e.g., their intentions, dreams, and schemes) requires profound insight (surpassing even that of the most accomplished philosophers/competent psychologists) and unparalleled erudition (hence, the eloquence) – I’m sure he/she is just patiently waiting for the rest of us to “get it”, for the sole purpose of… hmm, see, it’s beyond me!

As I am not enlightened (whereas Mr. / Ms. Johnson’s level of brightness could perhaps illuminate a small town), had I written the above unfathomable critique (not to be confused with an ad hominem, mind you, don’t ask me why), it would not have been a critique at all, but merely a resentful jibe – of unwarranted jealousy – disguised as an (unsolicited) clever appraisal meant to disparage genuine merit… and for the sake of avoiding any further (self-imposed) feelings of inferiority/inadequacy that may already be wreaking havoc in quite a few areas of my (unexamined) life.

Would that I had some of Mr. / Ms. Johnson’s moral high ground, if only to experience what it’s like to have high standards for others, while performing morally suspect behavior myself, and somehow manage to be OK with it.

Anyways, the important thing is to have a nice day.

2 08 2010
kat

Hmm. From “A Primer on Statistics” on the Campbell Coalition site:

“As a researcher primarily experienced in biology, as opposed to statistics, I have mostly relied on statistician colleagues to do the statistics while I, in turn, have relied more on my understanding of the biological explanations (i.e., plausibility) of diet and health relationships.”

If I were a cynical person, I might think someone is about to throw his statisticians under the bus.

2 08 2010
Dave Dixon

Hi Kat. Where is this “Primer on Statistics”? Sounds like some fun to be had there.

2 08 2010
kat

Sorry forgot to post a link. Here you go…fun indeed.

http://www.campbellcoalition.org/?page_id=203

2 08 2010
MA

From that same article, this passage seems to summarize his scientific approach very well:

“In summary, I agree that using univariate correlations of population databases should not be used to infer causality, when one adheres to the reductionist philosophy of nutritional biology and/or when one ignores or does not have prior evidence of biological plausibility beforehand. In this case, these correlations can only be used to generate hypotheses for further investigation, that is, to establish biological plausibility. If in contrast, we start with explanatory models that represent the inherent complexity of nutrition and is accompanied by biological plausibility, then it is fair to look for supportive evidence among a collection of correlations, especially when we examine these correlations from multiple biological perspectives.”

In other words, his science is superior to everyone else’s so he can use the univariate correlations any damn well way he pleases. One cannot question his use of the correlations because one cannot possibly understand the model he is using that says it is okay to use the univariate correlations any damn well way he pleases.

If you try to bring up confounding factors or his use of surrogates or his neglecting his own multivariate analyses, then obviously you just don’t understand his model (sometimes referred to as “The Truth”.) And possibly you work for the Weston Price Foundation.

3 08 2010
kat

MA,

His post is a steaming heap of bullshit. For other people, univariate correlations can only be used to generate hypothesis, but he can support his hypothesis using univariate correlations…? Life in his world must be awesome.

7 08 2010
Dave Dixon

Finally got around to reading this. I have to say, Dr. Campbell has plenty of company in this way of thinking. Most scientists haven’t elucidated their own internal methodology to this extent, probably because most people would realize it is intrinsically unscientific. But make no mistake – most scientists think they have special insights that others do not share. This becomes clear when you press them on *why* they believe their own pet hypotheses. Keep peeling this onion, and sooner or later you wind up at “because I said so.”

The “unscientific” issue is clearly illustrated in this quote:

“I am well aware that there may be those researchers who would not do this, for fear that they might be leading from a personally biased position. I agree with this assessment if the investigator is being influenced by personal hunches and preferences. However, it is different when one begins with an hypothesized model of causation based on documented biological plausibility, as we did with our China database.”

But how does one assess “biological plausibility” without being biased by “personal hunches and preferences”? More to the point, how do you assess it in such a way that another can repeat that analysis and arrive at the same “plausibility”? I actually agree with the principle here: build models and directly test them against the data, rather than just fiddling correlations (which are computed from the data alone, and include no information about hypothetical mechanisms by which the observed data may have come about). Nutrition research is particularly bad on this point. Most discussions in nutrition publications seem to go something like this: complicated statistical analysis, followed by hand-waving rationalization, leading to “conclusions” which are stated as having considerably greater confidence than implied by the data and subsequent hand-waving. The limiting factor here will always be the rationalization bit, since it adds information not contained in the data, but does not account for our confidence that said information is true. Conversely, you’ll never get your money’s worth out of your data if you throw in some hand-waving BS to connect it with your hypothesis.

The real irony here is that the mathematical fundamentals for reasoning as Dr. Campbell suggests have been around for more than two centuries, starting with the work of Laplace and culminating with that of Jaynes. This is the field of Probability Theory (often misleadingly called “Bayesian Statistics”, which is incorrect and confusing for a number of reasons, not the least being that the term is used in reference to more than one methodology). Instead of using vague notions of “biological plausibility” as evaluated inside of someone’s head, we can instead apply rigorous quantitative analysis, following the rules of logic an internal consistency, to arrive at a numerical result for how much the data AND our prior information support a given hypothesis. The “prior information” is important, and indeed may include personal judgments of the scientist. The point is to quantify this in a manner which is explicit and transparent. Otherwise discussions of competing hypotheses become little more than “I’m right because I’m smarter than you” (which, as it turns out, is almost always what occurs).

One final note: check out this quote:

“And finally, we had to know for each variable whether the distribution of values across the range of counties was reasonably bell-shaped, and not skewed to concentrate at one end of their range.”

Validating your data against a specific statistical model is like putting the cart before the horse, watching it roll down a hill, hit a tree, and then killing the horse because your cart is smashed. What would you do if it turned out the data was not “reasonably bell-shaped”, pack up and go home? A proper analysis leads you to the posterior distribution without having to make limiting a priori assumptions about its shape. You need no such assumptions when performing inference via Probability Theory (though such approximations may be useful in terms of simplifying the math).

3 08 2010
Joakim

Why was the huge amount of data generated by the study interpreted by someone biased? Even if he says he isn’t he probably has an agenda he subconsciously enforces by the study, with a study this big the mind can project almost any pattern for it to seem just the way you want it too

3 08 2010
Dave Dixon

People are always going to be biased in their interpretations. That’s just human nature, and why it is important to 1) have many eyes on the data, and 2) be transparent and quantitative in terms of the assumptions and inferential process used to draw conclusions. This is rarely done. The example at hand is just particularly bad.

5 08 2010
Jeremy

I think that both you and Campbell are equally terrible writers, however Campbell does organize his thoughts better then you. If you want to improve your article, I suggest you copy his structure and organize your sentences better, at least to compete with him in an argument. You get and “A” for effort, but have failed to sway my vote on the subject. My personal suggestion, is that you run a mile or two, get all of that excess energy out of your system and then sit down relax and organize your thoughts, chill out a little…the world will be all be okay while your gone.

If you would like some more practice at writing, I recommend that you leave the elderly in peace “Poor Dr. Campbell” and start writing about the hypocritical Raw Food guru’s that actually deserve to be punished by your horrible ways. For example, ‘I love examples’ you should research what these guy’s actually do for a living, how many of them still eat 100% raw food, how many of them still live in America or pay their taxes. Do your readers a favor and stop all the confusion around the Raw Food Diet. You can expose the lies and pyramid schemes, you have the tools now use the noggin!

5 08 2010
Jon

Your own writing is not very persuasive when you start off with crazy talk about Denise being a terrible writer and that you have been more swayed by Campbell’s arguments. Whatever comes after that might as well be talk of Weston Price boogeymen.

6 08 2010
Final China Study Response (HTML Version) « Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

14 08 2010
K Johnson

Denise,

The tone of your response (8/2/10) to my comments suggests that I touched a few nerves.

Good. Hope I’ve given you something to think about.

You’ve got a lot of growing up to do.

14 08 2010
kat

Really? I’d say the tone of her response suggests she thinks you’re an idiot.

14 08 2010
Gabriel

Ha, a legend in your own mind, Mr. / Ms. Johnson; and frankly, methinks the nerve touching is going on elsewhere.

Misplaced hope, and confusing cynicism with maturity, will not a happy person make of you (nor one restrained by ‘modesty’, for that matter)… perhaps you would care to reevaluate what motivates an otherwise intelligent person to type such condescending words?

Just a suggestion.

23 08 2010
neisy

Hey K (Kim?),

Part of the reason I started this blog was so that people (including me) could openly air their opinions and experiences without worrying about getting censored/banned/gunned down by the Diet Groupthink Police. But I think freedom of speech should apply to more than just health topics, so it’s A-OK by me if you wanna post whatever the heck you want here.

You’re welcome to vehemently dislike me. You’re welcome to believe you’d flunk me if I ever set foot in your English class. You’re welcome to prefer I’d post totally unflattering pictures of myself (IE, first thing in the morning when I look like the lovechild of Cousin It and the Swamp Thing) instead of pictures where I’m smiley and not doing weird things with my face. You’re welcome to piece together some slapdash interpretation of me through my blog posts and comments without ever getting to know me one-on-one to see if your perceptions are accurate. And above all else, you’re welcome to let the whole world know how you feel through anonymous internet comments. Yeehaw!

However, please understand that unless you point out specific problems with what I’ve written, I won’t be able to offer much in return. Personality criticisms are fine and dandy, but they don’t add a whole lot to a discussion on the China Study, y’know?

As a dear friend of mine likes to say: “Peace be with you.” ;)

Denise

24 09 2010
James

Keep it up! or maybe not.. it’s not really worth it. Me thinks you got better things to do

10 02 2011
James

Touchy, touchy.. must be pretty lonely there in the back room with but boring texts to edit. But I must admit you do a great job of conveying envy. That is however always a bad task master. Grow up honey.

15 08 2010
K Johnson

Don’t you folks get tired of being the loyal fan club?

Don’t you get tired of all that self-referential prose that’s just so darned clever and cute?

It’s a measure of the depths to which our collective discretion has fallen that so many of you find Ms Minger’s writing impressive and her intellectual gifts awe-inspiring.

15 08 2010
Martin Levac

K Johnson, you presume too much. Few of us are cultivated enough to appreciate fine writing. But I can promise you that most of us are smart enough to spot a pompous ass when we see one.

24 09 2010
James

you got it!

15 08 2010
Jon

Hey K Johnson,

Campbell has been totally discredited as a pseudoscientist scumbag liar. Anybody with a rational mind sees that. What kind of people keeps coming here attacking Denise thinking that this somehow bolsters Campbell’s totally destroyed reputation?

If you can’t figure it on your own and don’t believe anybody here, about here:

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=6092

Denise showed where Campbell’s science was flawed and biased, but Campbell’s own words have shown that he is an ardent pseudoscience advocate. I realize that many of Campbell’s supporters are not the best at reading comprehension, but really concentrate and work your way through this one little paragraph that in Campbell’s own words he justifies his approach to his new ‘holistic’ kind of science:

“In summary, I agree that using univariate correlations of population databases should not be used to infer causality, when one adheres to the reductionist philosophy of nutritional biology and/or when one ignores or does not have prior evidence of biological plausibility beforehand. In this case, these correlations can only be used to generate hypotheses for further investigation, that is, to establish biological plausibility. If in contrast, we start with explanatory models that represent the inherent complexity of nutrition and is accompanied by biological plausibility, then it is fair to look for supportive evidence among a collection of correlations…”

This also describes “Creation Science”. You start with a hypothesis you really like, then you pick your “evidence” and disregard anything contradictory.

15 08 2010
kat

K Johnson,

Don’t you get tired of missing the point? If you have a valid criticism of the analysis of Campbell’s work, please share. I do enjoy Denise’s writing style, but that’s not what has kept me here; the information she has presented is the star of the show. Besides, you didn’t point out any actual issues about either her writing or her “intellectual gifts,” just that she was brazen enough to put personal information and pictures on her PERSONAL BLOG. Until you have something pertinent to say about the science, all we see is a bitter person lashing out. Lighten up.

15 08 2010
Gabriel

Please allow me to rephrase your (loaded*) questions, plus a non sequitur, in a manner that may be more relevant to you:

Why do I concern myself with folks that apparently do not get tired of being, what appears to me as, the loyal fan club?

Why do I get tired of all that self-referential prose that’s just so darned clever and cute?

Why do I measure the depths to which our collective discretion has fallen? Moreover…

…what prompts me to do so via how so many of you find Ms Minger’s writing?

You are a curious person, Mr. / Ms. Johnson, alas, not a person curious about Mr. / Ms. Johnson, it appears (hence your myopic focus on Ms. Minger and on how she is perceived) … it would therefore behoove you to contemplate on whether our “collective discretion” would…um…rise, if others were to emulate your…uh… individual discretion, eh?

*) For example, do you still beat your wife? Yes, or No? (Not really fair is it?)

10 02 2011
James

@Katy/Kim?
Touchy, touchy.. must be pretty lonely there in the back room with but boring texts to edit. But I must admit you do a great job of conveying envy. That is however always a bad task master. Grow up honey.

23 08 2010
John Smith

Good stuff. Here’s to tackling interesting personal projects in one’s spare time (raising my bottle of water).

31 08 2010
moksha

holy cow – been a bit obsessed by this whole fascinating exchange and been dashing around the internet and (to my immense chagrin) wandered onto a vegan-rag comment site.

jeeeeeze – are these people zealots or what? as one less-than-congenial commenter put it “the fox news of vegetarians” –

so glad for stimulating civil discussion here of this issue (and including witty repartee) —

it seems to me that Mike Eades has couched this whole tempest very well by pointing out that this is an “observational study” based on raw data and NOT any kind of designed, tested hypothesis – as such, Campbell is right in his right to “play the data”, but clearly “wrong” in his conclusions (or at least highly questionable) under the closer scrutiny of intelligent analysis of his playing – and seriously folks – the fox advising on the henhouse of data? of course he will find what he wants to find – face it – we all do it, some of us just do it better (more intelligently, logically, critically) than others.

I appreciate Denise’s approach as it is pretty devoid of philosophy, dogma and emotion – what good science and analysis should be but very rarely is.

keep on keeping on…

9 09 2010
Minger Responds to Campbell | healthyonline.co.cc

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

9 09 2010
Blog-watch: the China Study

[...] attack on Denise Minger) which was posted on Dr Campbell’s website, but in the meantime Denise responded to Dr Campbell’s original response and also some comments from readers.  I particularly like her very abridged summary of her [...]

12 09 2010
seigea

Exciting:)
Keep it up!

14 09 2010
Minger Responds to Campbell

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

17 09 2010
Fred Hahn

Excellent Denise, excellent. Did I say excellent?

22 09 2010
Dave

Wow Denise, fantastic work!

23 09 2010
Patness

“Thank you for reading”

HAH! Thank you for -writing-! That was, undoubtedly, far more time than I ever invested in a single research project, myself. Your analysis was also a stern reminder that I really need a solid mastery of basic statistics to parse data, effectively. This is especially true, when considering the scale of the data you worked with.

… which, I think, explains why I bounced from several websites, blogs and opinion articles for dietary planning while I (slowly) experiment with vegetarian cooking – only to realise I needed to get a few texts under my belt before I had a whiff of doing this right.

Again, very impressive – thanks for your efforts.

24 09 2010
James

I am really curious where the wheat thing is going to take you. You may very well go underground if you ever are going to publish all that you may uncover. Just mentioning lectins and phytates opens up a whole can of worms.
Hon, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

29 09 2010
Ben

That was awesome. Verbal beatdown sequence iniated

29 09 2010
Ben

^^^^^^^

spelling fail :(

17 10 2010
anon

two words, darling: blinding

you typed the data in. then you analysed it. then i suspect you discarded any ‘boring’ results. ok, you found some interesting correlations, but this is *not* science.

to deride someone’s life’s work on such a flimsy basis is kinda unimpressive. please go on to do better things, your effort shows great promise, but your attitude is trite. danke schon.

17 10 2010
anon

two words, darling: blinding, and, well, blinding. you know what it means.

you typed the data in. then you analysed it (whimsically). then i suspect you discarded any ‘boring’ results. ok, you found some interesting correlations, but this is *not* science.

those who don’t know what i’m talking about need not apply — look up some basic statistical analysis theory or leave this blog and anything like it because you will hurt yourselves more than you will gain otherwise in reading (trying to read) scientific discourse (or something passed off as such) and draw conclusions from it, without a clue as to what the scientific method is.

to deride someone’s life’s work on such a flimsy basis is kinda unimpressive. please go on to do better things, your effort shows great promise, but your attitude is trite. danke schon.

17 10 2010
James

Apparently never read the study. Your attitude is trite(?) Bitte sehr!
I ploughed through quite a bit but found it careless and -may I dare say it- biased. As a former researcher I am pretty disappointed with Campbell’s fare. Actually the more I think about it the more I am beginning to have dark suspicions of a secret agenda. We have been there before with Keyes and Stare. Harvard is still under that cloud no matter how hard Willett is trying.
You my friend have to learn some decency in social interactions

17 10 2010
CPM

Hey anon, two words: Reading Comprehension

“you typed the data in. then you analysed it. then i suspect you discarded any ‘boring’ results. ok, you found some interesting correlations, but this is *not* science.”

So you agree then that Campbell is a scientific fraud…

Not only did Campbell do this with the The China Study data (as Denise so clearly showed with hard numbers), he has even came out and said that using cherry-picked univariate correlations to prove hypotheses is a superior, holistic way of doing science. He proudly proclaims this in his “Correlation vs Causation” article on the front page of his website.

If you had actually bothered to read any of Denise’s work you would have realized that this was one of Denise’s key critiques of Campbell’s work (lying about casein was kind of big too.)

19 10 2010
9 11 2010
15 11 2010
Jon

A cogent, informative, and at times amusing review. It’s nice to see genuine critical thinking, a sorely lacking human commodity in this day and age of pre-digested information. Job well done, and thank you!

26 12 2010
The Vegan Menace: Much Reflection | Free The Animal

[...] The T. Colin Campbell Smackdown, an Addendum [...]

26 01 2011
Bad Advice

[...] [...]

3 02 2011
DrD

Great rebuttal. I would add that the unfortunate thing about nutrition research is that variables unrelated to dietary content are also important. Many of those in Eastern cultures likely use a squatting position when emptying the bowel, as did most of our ancestors, which leads to better evacuation. This has obvious implications in colorectal disease, but probably has importance in the prevention of other conditions as well–including functional problems. Blood types of subjects respond differently to diet composition. In turn, diet composition modifies genetic expression. Some conclusions rely on correlation as if it were the same as causation. Campbell seems to be too highly invested in his conclusions. He sets out to “prove”, rather than “discover”. Research has its limitations because of the variables and some researchers are more comprehensive in their consideration of uncontrolled variables than others. Too many bad recommendations have come from the Conclusions section of research because impatience rules the day and the researcher is often given a pass on design. Conclusions are only as valid as the insight of the interpreter to accurately account for variables.

10 02 2011
Roms

Ah denise likes to rubish the china study by mr cambell because she can do simple maths, and cannot tolerate Mr campbells thoughts on her writing skills etc,

10 02 2011
James

Aahhh, this great democracy of ours. Even the silliest are allowed to vent their “thoughts”. I take it that reading the China “study” is too much. Maybe even reading Denise’s critique is too much.
Campbell and consorts have been in hiding for a bit. Just leave them in peace, they don’t want to be reminded over and over again of the uncovering of their cover-up. The truth will always be victorious in the end. Sadly it comes too often at too great a price and too many people are still paying the price today because of criminal behavior of biased scientists who concocted a Food pyramid that is still costing us billions in unnecessary healthcare costs.

10 02 2011
Roms

And you believe people with any lifestyle disease will run to refer Ms Denise rather that Mr Cambell!

10 02 2011
James

@Roms. You don’t get the point, which by the way has been made here several times over: it is not about converting anybody to anything, this is all about good science, unbiased, with confounders acknowledged and accounted for.

18 02 2011
Denise Minger’s Refutation of Campbell’s "China Study" Generates Continued Debate | Mother Nature Obeyed

[...] recent critical review of Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study has elicited a response from Dr. Campbell himself.  Minger made a brilliant response that can be found here.  I highly recommend reading it if you [...]

12 05 2011
Civil Eats » Blog Archive » The Antidote To Our Health Crisis Is Spinach

[...] posted a thorough review of The China Study on her blog, as well as a more formal analysis and exchange with Campbell. Marion Nestle reports that “mainstream scientists find some of [Campbell’s] arguments credible [...]

12 05 2011
Health » Blog Archive » Civil Eats » Blog Archive » The Antidote To Our Health Crisis Is …

[...] a consummate examination of The China Study on her blog, as good as a more grave analysis and exchange with Campbell. Marion Nestle reports that “mainstream scientists find some of [Campbell’s] arguments [...]

15 05 2011
Forks Over Knives Review | Ready State Fitness

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell (My lengthy response to Campbell’s less-lengthy response to my aforementioned lengthy critique.) [...]

19 05 2011
Misadventures in Travel – China Edition | Nerd Fitness

[...] this blogger’s fascinating analysis of The China Study, the author’s rebuttal, and then blogger’s rebuttal…along with the 500+ comments in each article took up about six hours of my time in the Hong [...]

19 05 2011
Misadventures in Travel: China Edition | Nerd Fitness

[...] this blogger’s fascinating analysis of The China Study, the author’s rebuttal, and then blogger’s rebuttal…along with the 500+ comments in each article took up about six hours of my time in the Hong [...]

3 07 2011
Minger Responds to Campbell | Health Wiki information

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

3 10 2011
Jerod

Maybe there are many flaws in this study but what we eat has a profound effect on our well being/lifespan. I’m on the Dr Dean Ornish diet for reversing heart disease and this is a peer reviewed, scientifically proven way to reverse heart disease ( actually the only way without pills, but I’m sure you already know this ) and follows closely to many of the conclusions that the China study has revealed. When it comes to food there will be endless points of view but looking at the current health of the industrialized world I see little benefit in endlessly protecting the status quo, so anyone that can help us to look at our present habits and make changes will potentially save countless others.
I think more important than looking at flaws is looking at potential ways to better the health of everyone.

4 10 2011
equiwolf

I’m very impressed, Denise, and grateful for your original post and response to Campbell. I’ll be visiting your blog again. Thank you.

13 10 2011
Echo

HI there. You are undoubtedly an engaging writer, and as I’m coming to this post quite late in the game while doing personal research on the China Study rebuttals on both sides, I’d like to give my two cents.

Firstly- admit it. You are biased and it shows through in those little turns of phrase to which Campbell referred. It’s ok that you are- it does make for more interesting reading, but at least admit that. Additionally, I would have like the tone to have been more dispassionate and less- I don’t know- accusatory.

That said, I have found myself a bit on the fence as to what the best way of eating is, in large part because I personally read the China Study several years ago, became a vegan (for 8 months- I am no longer remotely vegan although i don’t eat red meat). However, before the China Study, I read one of the Atkins books, lost 70 pounds, and have kept it off, with one slip up that I fixed. So as you can see, I’ve done both, whole-heartedly. I will say that on a high carb vegan diet, I personally could never get “cut” or gain any muscle. And I was soft. If wasn’t until going back to a low carb, high protein diet that I began to see the bodyfat drop and the lean mass increase. (I’m a woman, by the way.)

However, ever since I read the China study it has always been in the back of my head that perhaps being a vegetarian is really the safest diet for longevity, and that I was experimenting with myself in the wrong direction by eating lots of animal protein. The interesting thing is that if you read the China Study it is very convincing towards a vegan lifestyle, and if you read any books about a so-called paleo diet, or any long articles etc, they are also very convincing as to how our bodies react poorly to grains and sugars, especially.

I’m a personal trainer, and I always recommend a lower carb diet for my clients, because it works. And I know I feel better when I am not on the carb swings myself. BUT- when I finished the China Study I wondered if he actually meant for us to eat ONLY fruits, vegetables, and nuts? He makes a note at the end, if I recall correctly, to not turn into junk food vegetarians. I think by that he meant to limit processed food intake, which many, if not most vegetarians comprise their diets of.

In the end, the two points of view are both highly convincing, and I would just like for science to get to the point where it unravels this mystery- it seems that we have so, so much to learn with regards to our bodies, our hormones, and how they interact with food. I am now eating mostly a balanced diet, but I have never liked pasta or rice that much. I’m going to see if you have anything further in your blog about this, but I would ask that you approach this as more of an agnostic- not *all* of the science agrees one way or the other, and we can only go on the best evidence we have at hand. To me this currently points towards a lower carbohydrate diet, but who knows? In a hundred years we may have figured out that we should only live on oreos and milk. :)

Keep up the good writing and researching, and remember to stay humble, we don’t know it all yet- (this advice goes to me too!)

13 10 2011
James

At his retirement speech, earlier this year Prof Martijn Katan admitted that with regards to nutrition we really don’t know much at all. And this was after all these years lecturing all the students at Wageningen University about the benefits of a high carb diet. I guess it was his way of “eating crow”. No pun intended. Michael Eades called him the lipophoob of the Katanic verses.
Further to this discussion, it would help if you could enlighten us with some examples of Denise’s bias.
With regards to the stylistic, syntactical and other errors, if you are really so concerned you should use a word processor and copy and paste.
English is my second language so should I feel really embarrassed now?

13 10 2011
Echo

If she’s a writer, she should know what I mean. It’s the whole tone of the article. That’s why I addressed it to her. And you’re right, I should have used an editor, thank you.

But here are three examples:
“Had Campbell tried…”

“Could those refined carbs contribute to diseases of affluence? Eh? Eh? Apparently not. Campbell doesn’t….”

“Had Campbell looked more closely at the data (instead of assuming the raw figures were accurate, as he seems fond of doing…”

The problem here is that while she *does* attack the data, she pulls Campbell in as well. It sounds like she very much has a beef with him as a person and scientist, and not just with his interpretation of the data. The thing is, I’d love to read a rebuttal which is another interpretation of the same data! It doesn’t have to attack him as well. You could prove his methods were flawed and let that speak for itself. Yet she doesn’t. The thing is, he is not evil and has no evil motivations. He is really standing behind what he firmly believes to be the best way of eating. And whether he is wrong or not, he doesn’t need to be attacked as such.

You use Katan as an example of someone who makes the (true) admission that we don’t know everything, and then imply that *you* know enough to be assured (by Eades) that he was wrong. If professors can make mistakes, surely your average person can also be mistaken? Also, I think you completely missed my point- that on the whole I tend to think that she is correct and that a high carb diet is wrong. I just get tired of everyone being so impassioned and dogmatically convinced of their correctness. Because there is still much to learn, and we do not know with 100% certainty either way. I’d like to see more impartial debate, more evidence. It’s frustrating that the science can be used to point in both directions.

Thanks for your response but you missed the mark of what I was getting at, and I don’t want my post to be defined by your interpretation. I’m glad I could further clarify.

13 10 2011
James

I may have “missed the mark”, whatever the “mark” may have purported to be, but I am afraid you have no appropriate sense of the gravity of the situation. It is because of frauds like Ancel Keyes and Fredrick Stare and many others that people have lost their loved ones and see other struggling with ill health because all their lives they did the “right” thing. They changed from butter to “wholesome” margarine, started baking with all sorts of vegetable oils loaded with Omega 6, ate whole wheat bread and every morning they dug into their oatmeal porridge. It is because of this history of financial gain over personal and communal health that people here are rather passionate. Your “civilized” response and your concern about the correct grammar etc. misses – as far as I am concerned – completely the mark.
I think you have defined your position quite clearly, I couldn’t have possibly put you on the spot even better.

13 10 2011
Echo

So you are delighted that you “put me on the spot,” as you think you did. Ok, that’s far more antagonistic that I am being in this.

Also, I agree that all of the things you write that people were recommended to use was wrong- but I am simply saying that someone at some point thought they were right. And you’re right, the stakes are high- which is why I was looking for dispassionate, concrete evidence, and not rhetoric.

13 10 2011
Echo

Ugh! I wish I could edit that comment. Grammatical, syntactical, and stylistic errors all over the place, egads! i swear I can write. How embarrassing. Carry on.

13 10 2011
Victor

This analysis is fantastic. I just want to say that I am extremely impressed by, not only your methods, but your passion for your work. I’ll be the jerk – Campbell is a joke. Any “scientist” who desperately clings to his sorry excuse for research as tightly as he has, has no business claiming anything scientific. Science is exhaustive. Science is repeatable. Science is all encompassing. That’s the only way science can hold merit. That’s why how we figured out the world was not flat. That we were not the center of the universe. Campbell’s methods would have us in a scientific dark age where further research is unnecessary and conflicting finds are dismissed. I’m glad you’re out there, Denise. Keep up the good work.

28 11 2011
‘The China Study’ and ‘Forks over Knives’, links to critiques | Julianne's Paleo & Zone Nutrition Blog

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell (My response to Campbell’s first reply to my critique.) [...]

2 12 2011
Hulmy

I’ve only recently embarked upon my journey to true health after having discovered the work of Dr.Tim O’Shea, but having read a few of your posts today (when I have so many other things to do – eek!) I have now enshrined another health hero into my consciousness. Keep up the excellent work Denise! I love your writing style :)

Steve

16 12 2011
EatYoVegetables

Great! Now all of us who were led astray by this nut job can all get back on track, fire up the grills boys! Thanks go out to Denise for so accurately illustrating how Dr. Campbell was “carefully choosing data”, and “excluding relevant information” in his book. Who would have guessed all the provided data and lists of references were BIASED?! One would have to assume that he intentionally misdirected his fellow countrymen to push his own agenda. I wonder what sinister agenda that could be?

Could it be, money? Wait, he’s an old doctor who’s already loaded, and if that was his motivation why didn’t he just write another sure-to-be-best-seller diet book. I don’t think so.

Maybe he’s just some animal protecting Jesus freak on a crusade to keep the 4-leggers from being grinded up? Oh wait, he grew up on a farm where if they wanted some red, Pops handed the boy a hammer and an ice pick and said, ‘get’r done, son’. Don’t think so.

Or maybe he is just some malicious conspirator trying to stick it to the world, or maybe…. just maybe… after 30+ years of research and seeing his Dad die at an early age courtesy of heart disease, he is trying to share the data publicly in an open and honest way. He’s done the research, has produced volumes of works, a film documentary, and still goes about delivering lectures today. Seems he’s pretty confident and passionate about his conclusions to me. But thanks to your “quite long post”, we can now deduce the fallacy that is his life work.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, there are great forces and constant efforts being made to oppose his findings – particularly in the government and medical sectors (if you still quantify those as separate branches). Dr. Campbell cites several of which cases in his book. There are great motivating factors to obscure and discredit his findings by certain powerful corporations (i.e. meat and dairy industries). As if this resistance was not enough, he also deals with self anointed experts, like you, that come along and try to identify any semblance of low-level conflicting data, and then use it to disprove his ultimate point (i.e. plant-based diet is best for your health).

I know it’s difficult for a life-long meat eater to accept this view, and cut the meat cold-turkey (no pun intended). No, it’s much easier to decrypt the subject matter by questioning all of it’s common held assumptions. Particularly on a topic of little understanding and widespread opinions such as health and diet. I speed read over 1200 wpm and could carve up several of the points you make on the first go. For example, In your summary and conclusions, you mentioned him resorting to “scientific reductionism” by isolating animal protein as a promoter of cancers and disease. By this argument he is also resorting to reductionism when he is promoting plants as a (single) cure. Using this same logic, if one suggests that you quit smoking based on the carbon monoxide present in smoke (and in not recognizing the other 4,000+ chemicals present in smoke), they are also resorting to reductionism. Because “carbon monoxide is damaging you should avoid smoking products”, is effectively the same as saying “because animal protein is damaging you should avoid animal products”. I think you can fit “reductionism” into almost any drawn conclusion under this logic. I would argue that Dr. Campbell was using “scientific reductionism” in the context of isolating and studying a fraction of chemical processes, and their cause and effects, rather than the seen post-effects of smoking. The reality is if Dr. Campbell is correct in his research, present day marketing is the equivalent of “smoking does a body good”. So we can spend tax dollars on scoping 4,000 chemicals and advertise “healthy cigarettes”, or you can just study a group of people (maybe rats even) that smoke 2-packs a day, and chart and document post effects.

16 12 2011
EatYoVegetables

Denise ─ You have a really good following here in this little forum and I see that to the delight of many you were able to so discredit the China Study. So now I’m wondering what was the main point of your post? That the China Study is a fictitious work, backed by fictitious research? That we should all just disregard Dr. Campbell (and his colleagues) documented research and provided studies, charts, and references based on your “crunching numbers”? Protect our current system and keep “the machine” turning Denise! Animal proteins are so healthy as evidenced by the current state of American health. How can one believe Dr Campbell and all his colleagues in their “junk science” when we have Denise to show us the truth? Thanks to you we can all avoid their big insidious trap! He tried to condense a vast sea of data within a 400 page book, but Denise was able to trump it all in a “quite long post”.

You ARE part of the problem, Denise. Our current system in place and the vast amounts of (poor quality) meat and the tax dollars that feed it is an abysmal failure. The large majority of comments posted here in your support leave me with little hope things will change anytime soon. It’s sad to see how many brains are not at work here.

16 12 2011
mrfreddy

“It’s sad to see how many brains are not at work here.”

Ah, there it is, zealotry in motion!

20 12 2011
Texan

I like how on this post, you leave out (www.beefandwhisky.com) on your name…..didnt want to seem like a hypocrite calling someone else a zealot? This whole blog is crap and is an obvious attack at Campbell and his work. And if its not, then wheres the parts about where he was right about this or that, or where others were wrong? Never have I seen a forum where SOOO many people are so quick to agree and praise someones opinion. Oh yeah thats right….she deletes posts that point out where shes wrong and blames it on some spam filter. And to try to make Campbell out to be someone trying to hide something simply because he wont go “fetch” all his work hes done over the past 40yrs, or 300+ research papers is ridiculous, hes a busy man and unlike “Denise” he doesnt have hours upon hours of free time all day, every day. Why should he bother anyways? Because some internet blogger requests them? Why doesnt she just go find them herself, she obviously has the time to? Thanks for reaffirming that people are so hell bent on gorging themselves with animal protein that they will go to whatever measures to discredit those speaking out against it and find ways to make themselves feel better about the decisions they have already made. Ive never heard of a Dr. telling someone they eat to many veggies, but meat?…Oh yeah! Thats evidence enough for me….Denise, I have to agree with Mr.Vegetables here, people like YOU and all your little followers are the problem! You have no interest in helping people or shedding light on facts just instigating confusion and finding fault in a brilliant mans life work. How juvenille.

17 12 2011
EatYoVegetables

Oh sorry…. Excellent work Denise! Did I say EXCELLENT??? Fantastic! You’re awesome Denise! you’re the greatest! Is that better mrfreddy? Now can I join the rest of you sheeple too or am I still a zealot?

Maybe D.E.N.I.S.E. can move onto the malicious works of Plato after they’re done scrutinizing the China Study. Oh, it’s so interesting I’m going to go crunch some numbers! hahaha isn’t this fun guys I’m such a nerd. LaWLL… oh, and stand by for the 20-page report with graphs, quotes, and site references after I pull an all nighter popping boners over The China Study.

30 01 2012
cortesdiddy

as they say on the internet these days,

ahem,

U MAD

20 12 2011
Minger Responds to Campbell « Mojume

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

30 12 2011
Sharon Burress

I know the China Study was flawed and you are correct in your analysis, but Campbell was right in stating that your use of adjectives and, yes, adverbs demonstrated something other than simply reporting facts and refuting conclusions. The use of these modifiers revealed attitude, if not bias. As an English major, I am pretty sure you know that is right. Facts don’t need modifiers, generally speaking, and their use, while making for better readability, dilutes the starkness of the facts. I do agree with your analysis of his work, however.

31 12 2011
База жителей СНГ онлайн

База жителей СНГ онлайн…

[...]The China Study: My Response to Campbell « Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet[...]…

1 01 2012
T. Colin Campbell | who-they-are

[...] Minger’s response to Campbell. [...]

8 01 2012
Minger Responds to Campbell | General Diseases | All Medical Information

[...] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

8 01 2012
Ed

Denise was not born in 1987. She mentions “…first thing in the morning when I look like the lovechild of Cousin It and the Swamp Thing)

Do you know anyone younger than 30 that even knows who cousin It or Swamp thing is?

Fishy.

30 01 2012
cortesdiddy

You’re not being serious, are you?

30 01 2012
cortesdiddy

As if I needed another example of Wikipedia editors destroying all the foundations[dubious-discuss] and principles [which?] which that site allegedly works under[NPOV!!!]

Thank you for your work, Denise. I appreciate it.

6 03 2012
haf

So Denise, after all the criticism, what conclusions do YOU draw from the data?

30 03 2012
Raw food dietRawGosia

[...] [38] The China Study: My Response to Campbell [...]

7 04 2012
butchberry

Nice try Denise, but you failed. Also, Thomas Billings of Beyondveg.com overview of the shortcomings of the study itself was countered by Dr. Campbell and Mr. Billings has yet to reply to that response, so it looks like Dr. Campbell shows the shortcomings of Billings overview. Might want to look that up. Here is also Dr Campbells response to many critics from other sites like amazon. http://www.vegsource.com/articles2/campbell_china_response.htm

11 04 2012
omsatcitananda

Two words only – You rock! I’m thoroughly impressed.

13 04 2012
Anon

Dr. Campbell said numerous times that he wasn’t going to specifically address every critics questions in detail:

“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.”

Yet in your ‘response’ you still flamed him over being too vague or not taking the time to peruse over his journals just to provide you with additional data.

Additionally, you quoted what he had said about Tuoli, and criticized him for not including any data dairy on dairy consumption:

“I’m glad Campbell pointed this out (and I’ll be updating the Tuoli page to reflect it), but meat was not the component I found notable with the Tuoli diet: dairy was.”

When literally right above the Tuoli meat statement he addressed the dairy issue:

“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,”

It’s dishonest and misleading to openly criticize someone for not addressing something that they clearly addressed literally a sentence before the quote you posted on Tuoli’s meat consumption and use that to suggest that he’s somehow being deceitful. You even take it further by implying that since the Tuoli consume dairy on a regular basis and are healthy that Campbell’s methods are questionable, when this is blatantly ignoring his response. The dairy consumption in Tuoli is drastically different than here in the states, and is therefore statistically irrelevant (and is why it wasn’t included).

I agree with Dr. Campbell that it is puzzling that someone with no formal education on the subject can somehow find enough “spare time” to collect, tabulate, and analyze over 20 years of research (yes, the China study was conducted over a span of 20 years) and tout that his research findings were false. Even for a self-proclaimed “super-nerd”, it’s a bit of a stretch that someone who “bounced around between science majors” so you could “feed your brain” (from your “about me” section) before settling on an English major could have taken enough upper-division science courses to challenge the research methods of a post-doc researcher with 40+ years under his belt. Especially considering you’re only 23. I live in AZ, and NAU programs aren’t that rigorous, if you had taken a significant amount of science courses or participated in scientific research then you would’ve at least walked away with a minor.

In your blog you discuss your thoughts on formal education as largely “unnecessary” for someone with the drive/initiative to learn on their own; unless they’re learning dentistry, or surgery since it’s more “hands on”. Scientific research falls into this category, in order to know what you’re doing you need to spend some time doing hands-on research. Simply taking honors math and majoring in English doesn’t mean you’re qualified to analyze and interpret scientific research findings.

Having a silver tongue and a proficiency in mathematics doesn’t equate to being a scientist. This is something I wish the general public understood, and explains why so many people jump on the bandwagon of “scientists are stupid hurr, they have no proof! Qualitative research is meaningless! blah blah blah”

Evolutionary evidence for example, isn’t just quantitative; it’s largely qualitative, and began as being ONLY qualitative. Yet this is one of the most fundamental truths of our existence. Like Dr. Campbell stated in his response, by focusing on nit-picking every little inconsistency to disprove a claim you miss over-arching themes and messages. This is the mark of the inexperienced, and it shows when you limit your criticism to being solely on mathematical inconsistencies.

13 04 2012
M.

Anon, she’s not doing research science. She is debunking a pop diet book. Learn to read. Someone with a sophomore level of math and science should be able to follow her arguments fairly easily.

Campbell used simple univariate correlations to justify his arguments while ignoring simple univariate correlations and more advanced analyses that disputed his arguments. In the past he claimed it was because he was using “corrected” or “adjusted” correlations while claiming that his critics did not. Campbell’s defenders claimed he used more advanced multivariate analyses than his critics. Denise went through and showed that his “corrected” correlations were the just the same simple univariate correlations.

It turns out of course, Campbell invented a whole new “holistic” science that enables him to cherry-pick the simple univariate correlations he likes and disregard the ones he doesn’t. He published these arguments in a book because he could not make these same arguments in a peer-reviewed science journal. He in fact has lamented the fact that modern “reductionist” science doesn’t appreciate his new holistic science.

This is from Campbell’s “Primer on Statistics” where he details how his new ‘holistic science’ works:

“In summary, I agree that using univariate correlations of population databases should not be used to infer causality, when one adheres to the reductionist philosophy of nutritional biology and/or when one ignores or does not have prior evidence of biological plausibility beforehand. In this case, these correlations can only be used to generate hypotheses for further investigation, that is, to establish biological plausibility. If in contrast, we start with explanatory models that represent the inherent complexity of nutrition and is accompanied by biological plausibility, then it is fair to look for supportive evidence among a collection of correlations…”

He is saying because “meat is bad” sounds like a groovy idea to his scientifically trained brain, then he is free to pick all the simple univariate correlations he likes as evidence while disregarding the ones he doesn’t like. Apparently even when the ones he doesn’t like include more advance multivariate analyses and confounder analysis.

This just doesn’t fly in real science journals. Does it fly with you, Anon?

So Campbell published a book, and Denise pointed out the flaws in this book. Then everybody in the world that has bug up their ass about meat all of a sudden starts talking about Campbell’s scientific credentials. Why don’t we talk about Campbell’s new holistic science instead?

8 05 2012
The diabetes, heart disease, and the lipid hypothesis | Exploring Optimal Nutrition

[...] studies are showing that there is no clear relationship between cholesterol and heart disease. T. Colin Campbell could not find one in his extensive study of the Chinese, and he very much would have liked to [...]

12 06 2012
Letha

I encourage you to check out Dr. Doug McGuff’s writings, SuperSlow materials, and Drew Baye’s blog for a taste of some ingredients you might find tempting to use in cooking the work of Kenneth Cooper/The Cooper Institute, the American College of Sports Medicine, the Amercian Society of Exercise Physiologists, etc. That would be *epically awesome* in a quest to rescue good health from bad science. ijs

28 06 2012
no more anxiety attacks

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13 07 2012
Doctor FAIL: Garth Davis, Bariatric Surgeon (and China Study Balderdash) | Free The Animal

[...] in summary, this multivariate analysis vindicates pretty much everything that Denise said in her July 16, 2010 post. It even supports Denise’s warning about jumping to conclusions too early regarding the possible [...]

17 07 2012
Gregory

“Are we trying to be healthy, or are we trying to be right? Are we trying to learn, or do rigid beliefs deafen our ears to new knowledge? ”

In your last paragraph you made the above statement. I think this is so important. I am in the “china study camp”, so to speak. I am a doctor and have seen, anecdotally amazing results and will continue to recommend a whole foods plant based diet. My interpretation of the data is, basically agreeing with you, is that a plant based diet does not cause cancer! Whether it protects is a fun thought and tantalizing from the china data. I think that most data says that it does not cause disease makes it a good diet to recommend because , very simply, if you are eating only whole food plant based with no oil, there is no junk food available to you! More than the diet being protective, I just find in my practice that the junk food is so very destructive.

I appreciate your statement so much because some people in my “camp” have seem to shut off their ears. We complain of the arrogance in the medical community but have similar blinders. Its frustrating. We must always keep our minds open to encounter new researcher.

I think that your comments are intelligent and well researched. As a person with an advanced degree, I think it is so unfair that people would belittle you for trying to simply seek truth. I saw a comment which criticized where you went to school, which I thought was super silly . When someone starts doing that it instantly signifies that they don’t have anything to say. If you were an english major, would you belittle an MD for writing a work of literary fiction saying that he does not have the appropriate degree.?

Anyway. long winded for short message. Lets attempt seek the truth .

23 09 2012
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3 10 2012
Henry Patent

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Aug07/SoilsKochian.kr.html <–
Follow the patents it is the road to enlightment
Who went to Cornell? If monsanto isn't behind this I do not know what is.

19 10 2012
clenbuterol and alcohol clenbuterol effects

Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images
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29 10 2012
Alexandre Rodrigue's shop

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20 12 2012
Movie film archives

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20 12 2012
James

Please try to learn a bit more English before you foul up the blog here. Or maybe run it through Google Translate once more?

8 02 2013
Headache

I’d like to read the information but Denise comes across as such an insufferable cutesy know-it-all.

15 05 2013
Joe Schmoe

Did anyone consider how accurate the data in the China study is? After all, most studies done in China during that time have a political context associated with the data.

23 05 2013
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6 06 2013
random lawyer

these studies more up your alley?

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9 06 2013
Denise Minger’s Refutation of Campbell’s “China Study” Generates Continued Debate | Mother Nature Obeyed - Weston A Price Foundation

[…] recent critical review of Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study has elicited a response from Dr. Campbell himself.  Minger made a brilliant response that can be found here.  I highly recommend reading it if you […]

13 12 2013
1ontherocks

Reblogged this on paleonto|illogical and commented:
This is well worth a read and some commentary from these quarters is in the making, because there is more to be said about the Gentleman Scientist perspective that what concerns bias and bad science. Domination rears its ugly head in the text and between its lines is a narrative of colonial proportions. For now, enjoy this:

16 01 2014
Languid Lawl

This remarkably weak response to Campbell’s total obliteration of your earlier effort just emphasises that you’re a charlatan. Thanks for the laffs homie

16 01 2014
james

Care to elaborate a bit on “remarkably weak”, where the whole scientific community was quite impressed with the depth of analysis. I am quite hesitant to ask about how Campbell totally obliterated the critique, afraid you might embarrass yourself even further.

16 01 2014
Mr. Jackson

6 02 2014
Oliver Loten

I realize I’m kind of late jumping into this, but having been confined to bed with a flu bug, and accidentally stumbling on this blog, I’ve ended up having one of the most entertaining sick days ever! I’ve had time to read Denise’s posts, Campbell’s replies, follow various links, and rummage through the comments – and enough bed rest for a reply to ruminate, so here goes (and if it’s too long, just skip over it – freedom is just a click away).

First off – what a tour-de-force of writing! Anyone who can turn statistics into a page-turner deserves some sort of writing award. I loved the buffoonish comment from the self-described “writing professor” who “failed” Denise’s writing (insert gob-smacked emoticon here). If anyone told me they intended to write a rip-snort’n Internet bog on the topic of “misapplied univariate correlations in a Chinese diet study”, I’d be lighting a candle to Saint Jude (Google it) but she pulled it off and, even if she’s wrong in her analysis, still deserves top marks; however, the question remains – is she wrong? I had hoped the comments and replies to her posts would help, one way or the other, by pointing out specific errors or misunderstanding in her analysis. Unfortunately most, if not all, were ad hominem – either “yah Denise” or “boo vile blasphemer” – lots about her character and almost nothing about her content. Odd (or sadly, perhaps not) for what should be a scientific discussion. After reading over most of the reactions to her posts, some themes did emerge and are worth exploring.

“Denise is too young and has no formal scientific training. She has no business commenting on this important topic.” This theme came up in a number of comments. There is, of course, ample precedent for the uninitiated to make important contributions to the scientific dialog. Almost all the great scientists of the Enlightenment were, by today’s standards, rank amateurs. Emily Rosa, a nine-year-old with no evidence of any advanced scientific training (or puberty for that matter) developed an elegant experiment debunking Therapeutic Touch, a technique taught at several well-known academic institutions. And let’s not forget the 1970s, when a number of physicists, PhD anointed attendants to the Queen of Science herself, accepted at face-value the spoon-bending antics Uri Geller and his like. It was stage magicians, academic sans-culottes if there ever were, who provided the debunking. The physicists donned their academic robes, bristled their beards, and waggled their peer-reviewed papers to no avail – the guys with the theater capes and sparky-assistants were right.

“Campbell is an academic Big Boy with real credentials, years of experience and lots of published papers – he can’t be wrong.” Unfortunately the history of science (and pseudoscience) is rife with acclaimed researchers who either strayed down the wrong path or let their passions get the better of them – just consider Lord Kelvin. Lord Kelvin isn’t just an academic Big Boy, he’s a veritable academic zeppelin. Yet, at the end of his career, he championed a young earth theory. Kelvin was a strong Christian and, with the complex mathematical gymnastics only he was capable of, ‘proved’ the earth was young. He was, of course, wrong. This doesn’t invalidate all his other work, just that in this, he was wrong. Having published 300+ papers doesn’t automatically make your 301st correct.

“Denise isn’t a person, she is a sockpuppet for big meat.” It shouldn’t matter if Denise’s work was the result of a thousand dairy cows typing on a thousand keyboards for a thousand years – are her findings accurate or not? I find the idea that we can ignore dissenting voices because they come from a source we don’t like disturbing. If Monsanto said “two plus two is four”, do we dismiss it on the grounds that Monsanto always lies? Don’t tell me they must be wrong, show me where they are wrong. Too often these discussions become an echo chamber because we dismiss dissenting voices. We need to listen and study the view of our harshest opponents and demonstrate where they are wrong or, if they prove right, accept our mistakes and adjust accordingly. This is how science is supposed to work, otherwise, it becomes an unending exercise in confirmation bias.

“Campbell’s response settles the issue.” It did for me – it convinced me he had something to hide. I spent some time reading his comments here and elsewhere, and while I might not be able to spot a correlated coefficient, I can certainly detect obfuscation when I read it, although his comments here: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/385/ (see comment #63 by Campbell) sealed the deal. If, as Orwell said, obfuscation is like a cuttlefish squirting ink, then Campbell shows what a giant squid can do when he sets his mind to it (as if his son’s med school grades really have any to do with the matter at hand). Nowhere does he ever provide what I needed: detail answers to the specific issues raised in the review. At first, he trivializes the issue by claiming he is too busy to reply (too busy doing with what? Isn’t the China Study one of his major accomplishments?), elsewhere he hints at Dark Forces at work (but what a strange way for these Dark Forces to operate – hire a bunch of top-notch researchers to do a detail critique of his study, and then use an unknown English major’s obscure blog as a front). When he does finally descend from Mount Olympus with a more detailed reply, it’s just more ink. He alludes to all sorts of better data that he didn’t have time or space to publish (we only put the questionable stuff in the book, the good stuff is on the top shelf behind the cookie jar. I can’t reach it now, but trust me, it’s really good stuff). He misrepresents Denise’s criticisms (she uses univariate correlations – odd, I thought that what she accuses him of doing), damns with faint praise (she writes well for someone with no experience or training) and resorts to much self-puffery (did I mention my 300+ articles and many awards, why don’t I list them again just in case you missed the first several times I alluded to them). He finally leaves the scientific world altogether and resorts to a sort of magical thinking in which univariate correlations are a bad idea for most people but OK when he uses them because he is special enough to know when they are correct. At the end, he simply resorts to exhortation (try it – you will see that it works) which is simply the clarion cry of the quack.

The only conclusion I can draw from all this is a reaffirmation of the scientific process. We must be ever-watchful of the tendency we all have to bend reality to meet our deeply held beliefs. And we must be open to dissenting voices in whatever odd form they may take.

7 02 2014
james

And now you have Death by Food Pyramid to keep it all handy bedside.

18 07 2014
Claire stewart

You meat eaters have too much fat clogging your brains. This lady is full of it. What she claims is T.Colin Camp else response is nothing of the sort. Learn how to use your brain and read something for yourself. All she’s saying is she doesn’t agree with the methods and admits she doesn’t understand them and he could clear all this up if he would just post them, then the rest of the paper she assumes she knows his methodology. Listen to an Internet major blogger instead of thousands of doctors and 30 years worth of research. Hilarious. Wake up. Click the linka. It’s not Campbell’s writings she is talking about. Don’t just listen to some scientific sounding person without even checking up on her claims. Cause newsflash, when you do that you’re just believing lies to make yourself especially feel better about your meat and dairy addictions. Another thing, how in the world does she pretend to call Campbell out for his biases and act like as an ex vegan, she herself has none. Making yourselves look really dumb with this one. Again click the link and check this research. She is NOT even using Campbell’s writings like she lies and claims she is!

9 09 2014
J.

Also, there is no such thing as an “Ex-Vegan”. If you are truly vegan, there is no going back. Vegan doesn’t mean plant based diet as this person is attacking. She doesn’t even know the real definition of vegan and she has a following? This blogger is a moron who likes to internet fight and have a bunch of brainless zombie like humans following him/her. I agree with you Claire.

5 09 2014
Matt Brunson

Some detractors suggest that Ms. Minger has no scientific “degree” . Im my opinion as a medical doctor , she certainly sounds and writes in a very well educated and articulate fashion. In my expreience interest usually trumps initials any day. For those who sound offended that she even consider to question what Doctor Camp states it would re-inforce my observatoin that we can convince ourselves of almost anything if we desire. Questioning thins is fundamental to the scientific method.

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