An “I Promise I’m Not Dead” Update

As much as I hate posting entries that aren’t twelve pages long and jazzed up with graphs, I’m becoming plagued with blog-related nightmares about my chronic lack of updates—so here’s a peek at what to expect really soon. All may seem calm on the Raw Food SOS front, but three things are brewing behind the recent curtain of silence:

1. The “is wheat going to give you a heart attack?” post. I’m sure my delay-apologies are bordering on parody at this point, but here’s another one anyway: Sorry it’s taking so long! I’ve been trying to get in touch with some researchers who’ve done relevant wheat/gluten/WGA work, but it seems many of them take even longer to respond to emails than I do. (I have tasted my own medicine, and it is bitter.) Nonetheless, expect to see this sucker finally up by next weekend—I’ll post whatever I’ve finished, even if it needs to become a two-parter.

2. A ridiculously huge review of every single vegan study in existence (or close to it). Even though some prominent vegan nutritionists concede that “no one has shown that you must eat a 100 percent plant diet in order to be healthy,” the vegan-versus-omnivore debate is probably never going to die. (Which is kind of a good thing—what else would we have to argue about?) So I’m compiling an analysis of all the current vegan research, including reviews of study design and evaluations of how well confounders were accounted for. I think this is a worthwhile project because:

  • As Harriet Hall of Science-Based Medicine recently pointed out, some of the oft-cited studies supporting veganism for disease reversal are either uncontrolled (like Esselstyn) or tangled up with variables like exercise and stress reduction (like Ornish). And other studies sometimes credit veganism for health improvements despite having eliminated more than just animal foods—such as this one that concludes a “vegan diet had beneficial effects on fibromyalgia symptoms,” even though the diet in question was also devoid of grains, sugar, seed oils, and processed fare.
  • I want to see whether most vegan research is really looking at the effects of diet or if it’s reflecting other (unadjusted for) health behaviors. For instance, a recent Polish study took a hard look at the lifestyle differences between vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores, and the (not surprising) conclusion was that meat-avoiders “present a higher level of caring about their health” than standard omnivores—a reality that makes it difficult to separate the effects of diet versus other pro-health behaviors in research focused on vegans or vegetarians. According to this study, 75% of vegans abstain from alcohol (versus 8% of those on a traditional diet), and only 6% of vegans use tobacco products (versus 33% for standard omnis). Vegans and vegetarians are also significantly more likely to exercise and engage in other health-promoting behaviors than typical meat eaters—resulting in a multifaceted lifestyle shift that’s hard, if not impossible, to account for in diet studies.
  • This one’s my main impetus for this endeavor. As proof of the healthfulness of veganism, many folks are citing the opening paragraph of the conservative American Dietetic Association‘s most recent vegetarian position paper, which says:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.

That sounds pretty great. But if you trudge beyond the first paragraph and actually read the whole paper (available for download here), you’ll find a less-than-glowing description of the vegan literature—including sections indicating that vegans have higher homocysteine levels, lower DHA in their breast milk, more  frequent bone fractures, higher rates of vitamin D and iodine deficiency, and pregnancies that haven’t been studied enough to draw any conclusions. I already have some other issues with the ADA, but I probably don’t need to explain how I feel when data and the conclusions drawn from it don’t match up.

3. Top Secret China-Study-Related Mystery Thing: I’d love to spill the beans on this one, but they’re not done soaking and I’d hate to flood you guys with lectins. So for now, I’ll just say that I’m working on a thing with a person, and the person and I have the goal of getting the thing published in a well-known other thing, and if all goes as planned, the published thing should help combat the “but the China Study re-analysis isn’t peer reviewed!” argument. As soon as I can say more about the thing, you’ll be the first to know.

Last but not least, Mercola has a brand new interview up with the original China Study obliterator Chris Masterjohn—and it’s a must-listen for anyone still following “The China Study” debacle. Chris does a stellar job of explaining the most important gaps and distortions in Campbell’s best-selling book, including the problems with his casein research. If you had trouble trudging through my shamelessly verbose critique or didn’t have time to read articles addressing other misleading parts of “The China Study,” this interview will get you caught up to speed. (One warning: The date on Mercola’s article is December 11, 2010—currently six days into the future. Will linking to it right now destabilize the universe? I guess we’ll find out.)

More coming soon!

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25 comments

  1. damn, someone beat me to it!
    In lieu: Mad kudos and super props; soaking and fermentation are good things, and I’m sure it’ll make the dose easier for those with digestive disorder to absorb.

  2. “I’m working on a thing with a person, and the person and I have the goal of getting the thing published in a well-known other thing,”

    Fingers crossed!

  3. Great to hear that you are not satisfied with just destroying the China Study, you have to obliterate it such that it never gets talked about. Unfortunately the minds of the Vegans are not so sane, hopefully some will find the paper, and see the light. We will do our best to advertise.

  4. Hi Denise.

    You may want to take a look at Chris’s recent posts on choline, if you have not done already. The most recent:

    http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2010/12/meeting-choline-requirement-eggs-organs.html

    There is a possibility of an interaction effect between consumption of wheat and consumption of foods rich in choline.

    An interaction effect is essentially an effect of a variable on a link between two other variables.

    The final variable affected may be one that is associated with fatty liver disease. There are quite a few candidates here among the variables related to the diseases of civilization.

  5. Boy, do I ever love your posts……For some reason, your style really works for me. I read all the other guys too but it’s yours that really has me agog…..

  6. Getting to the bottom of the wheat correlations is important work and I really hope you get it published … and if it’s published in your style, that will really make my day.

  7. The “here” link to the ADA paper mentioned in your comment:

    >>That sounds pretty great. But if you trudge beyond the first paragraph
    >> and actually read the whole paper (available for download here),

    is totally borked. Looks like some text was cut+paste instead of the URL.

  8. There more and more I read, the more and more I get confused. I now just eat real food and if anyone asks me why I’m doing this, I refuse to say anything. I’ve given up any attempt to justify what I’m doing. All I know is that it works.

    1. We’ve had 50 years or more of disinformation about what is real, whole, or natural and now its a vast uphill battle of reeducation. The “steaks” are high. I practice in my spare time how to tell people in 30 seconds or less what this blog, wapf, paleo and the rest is about. Its rewarding and something you might want to try.

  9. Denise,

    About whether wheat is going to give you a heart attack. I’ve been trying to find out how toxic the antinutrients are. I found something surprising:

    ‘Indeed, experimental work carried out in vivo has shown that within a huge range of concentrations WGA is non-toxic, its toxicity for the normal gastrointestinal tract occurring at doses much higher (7 g WGA/kg bodyweight over a 10-day period) than those ingested in a regular human diet ([Pusztai et al., 1993] and [Dalla Pellegrina et al., 2005]).’

    ‘Effect of wheat germ agglutinin on human gastrointestinal epithelium: insights from an experimental model of immune/epithelial cell interactions’, Dalla Pellegrina et al 2009, Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 237:146.

  10. Mrs. Minger, you mention the “conservative American Dietetic Association‘s most recent vegetarian position paper, which says:

    It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle”

    Well first of all I really think we should leave politics out of food and diets and I mean completely. I think it undermines their credibility totaly that they advertise themselves as consevative because a lot of us aren’t but we still eat food. Most of my guy friends are gay, Perry who does my hair is gay and I think they should all be able to marry and serve in the military if they want to even though I dont want them too and I am agaist wars. Second of all, I am confused by what you wrote above about going vegan curing smoking and drinking. I don’t smoke because it stinks and I want to smell good but I do drink esp shots of Jägermeister with friends when were doing kariokee. Are you saying that the evidence suggests that if I eat too many vegetables or don’t eat enough meat I’ll stop drinking? Because I like drinking, I only get drunk in moderation and I really don;t want to cut down even though sometimes I like vegetables like salads.

  11. Thanks for the update, Denise. Looking forward to it.

    Chris Masterjohn’s interview by Mercola was terriffic; thanks for providing the link. Mercola thanked Chris at the end for his hard work on behalf of those who don’t have the foundation for drawing scientifically sound conclusions about such things as the China Study. I certainly agree, and of course we all thank you for all you have done and are doing. As someone said on another blog, thank God for the internet.

  12. Awesome Site, my first encounter. I am a big fan of Nourishing Traditions, but also of fruitarianism and I have a passion for making/selling/eating naturally leavened bread. Hence my dilemma. The google search “Sally Fallon Forks over Knives” landed me squarely in your lap(5th result actually).
    What a breath of fresh air you are!! Much fun reading your bio and pretty much everything else. Must sleep now. I’ll be #2,893

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