“Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique)

22 09 2011

Welcome to my “Forks Over Knives” analysis, AKA the longest movie review you’ll ever attempt to read. Thanks for stopping by! In case you aren’t yet convinced that I’ve made it my life’s mission to critique everything related to T. Colin Campbell, this should seal the deal.

As most of you probably know, a documentary called “Forks Over Knives” recently hit the theaters after months of private screenings. Vegans everywhere are swooning, giddy that their message is now animated, narrated, and on sale for $14.99. Proud meat-eaters are less enthused, sometimes hilariously so. The film’s producers call it a movie that “examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.” Roger Ebert calls it “a movie that could save your life.” I call it a movie that deftly blends fact and fiction, and has lots of pictures of vegetables. Read the rest of this entry »





One Year Later: The China Study, Revisited and Re-Bashed

31 07 2011

Lest this blog sink further into its eery two-month silence, I think it’s high time for an update!

First item of business: The Ancestral Health Symposium. Due to some serendipitous events, it turns out I’ll be presenting at this hyperventilation-inducingly-awesome event next week. My lecture is at 10:00 AM on August 6th in the Rolfe 1200 auditorium. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, I hope to see you there, and to verify my existence for anyone who still thinks I’m a meat industry puppet. Otherwise, unless PETA pops in and sets fire to UCLA, all the presentations should be available online for free shortly after the symposium is over. Woohoo!

Second item of business: Now that he’s outed the project himself, I feel safe in announcing that Mark Sisson is going to be publishing the book I mentioned working on in an earlier blog post, and that it’ll be released mid-2012. I’m super excited, and couldn’t ask for a better publisher to work with. Or one with more impressive abs (see link above). More details to come in the near future.

Now on to the real point of this post. Read the rest of this entry »





Heart Disease and the China Study, Post #1.5

9 10 2010

First of all: I’ve got some bad news, folks.

I just learned from a highly reliable source that I am not a “private blogger,” but rather, “very likely a large scale underground defamation campaign against Dr.Campbell.” As a result, all mention of my critique—AKA the Minger Scam—has been yanked from Wikipedia’s “The China Study” page by a vegan editor there. The rationale is as follows:

Just tell me, which “private fun blogger” is able, aside of her alleged full time work and study of “English literature”, to write 36 pages of scientific responses to a professor?!! And again and again??? Either “she” is some sort of very mighty – and very mad and crazy and hate filled – genius, which in itself would be something extremely rare and highly unlikely (really, why would a pretty young girl have so much reason for such a giant ordeal, fight, all that massive work, all that hate???) … Or “she” is in reality another underground [campaign].

Whoops—my bad! I forgot females aren’t supposed to think or write stuff; we’re here to take Home Ec and vacuum in stilettos and learn how to become Good Wives:

On behalf of Minger Scam, Inc., I apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused. ;)

Now onto business.

I’ve got graphs, graphs, graphs galore, but they aren’t really relevant to the upcoming wheat post, so I’m plopping them here instead. In my first China Study critique, I looked at some mortality differences between the five counties that ate the most animal foods and the five counties that ate the least. Here, I’m doing something similar—except this time I’ll be comparing the counties with the super-highest and ultra-lowest heart disease rates and seeing what they do differently in terms of diet.

One of the incredible things about China is the vast difference in heart disease mortality between regions. One county, Fusui, has only 1.5 per 100,000 deaths attributable to heart disease—whereas another county, Dunhuang, has a whoppin’ 184. That’s even more than the US’s figure of 106.

In case graphs freak you out, here’s a summary of what’s below:

  • The healthy-hearted regions almost universally had higher intakes of animal fat, animal protein, dietary cholesterol, and saturated fat than the heart-disease-prone regions.
  • The healthier regions generally had lower intakes of fiber, light-colored vegetables, plant protein, vegetable oil, and—big surprise—wheat flour.
  • Consumption of green vegetables didn’t differ significantly between the high and low heart disease regions. Neither did smoking rates, total cholesterol, or non-HDL cholesterol, although HDL cholesterol looks slightly higher in the regions with excellent heart health.

Does this “prove” anything about diet and heart disease? Nope—there’s the curse of epidemiology again. But we can make the observation that some regions in China exhibited astonishingly low rates of heart disease while eating more animal foods than the Chinese average. And the county with the absolute lowest consumption of animal foods, Longxian, had the second highest rate of heart disease mortality out of all the counties studied. (For the record, I used the China Study II data for this, all of which is available online.) Read the rest of this entry »





The China Study, Wheat, and Heart Disease; Oh My!

2 09 2010

(Not only is this woefully, frustratingly, absurdly belated, but it’s also not yet finished. But I hate being a blog tease, so here’s part one!)

If you’ve been following along with the previous China Study entries (and the wild drama that ensued), you know that I’ve been promising an entry on wheat for a while now, mostly because this little snippet snagged so many eyes:

Correlation between wheat flour and coronary heart disease: 0.67

That’s a value straight from the original China Study data. Could the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” have accidentally uncovered a link between the Western world’s leading cause of death and its favorite glutenous grain? Is the “staff of life” really the staff of death? Bwah ha ha.

Read the rest of this entry »





The China Study: A Formal Analysis and Response

3 08 2010

Woefully belated. Endnoted up the wazoo. Marked lack of cutesy.

Click here for the HTML version, or head straight to the PDF:

“The China Study”: A Formal Analysis and Response

(Updated noon-ish PST on August 3rd with typo corrections)

If you haven’t done so yet, also read Campbell’s first response and Campbell’s second response, which this is in reply to.

I’ll see what I can do about getting this set up in blog-post form, but I really don’t have the mental capacity to work on it right now. Sorry. In the meantime, here’s the table of contents so you know what you’re getting yourself into:


Introduction

SECTION 1: Reiteration and Expansion of Criticisms

  1. Linkage of animal protein with cancer by way of cholesterol
  2. Misleading association of breast cancer with lipid intake and lipid intake with animal protein
  3. Supposition that plasma cholesterol increases liver cancer risk
  4. Misrepresentation of heart-protective effects of green vegetables, and the three-variable linkage between animal protein, apolipoprotein B, and cardiovascular disease
  5. Biased use of unadjusted univariate correlations to confer protective benefits of plant foods but not with animal foods
  6. Use of a three-variable chain to connect animal foods with “Western” diseases
  7. Unexplored role of blood glucose, insulin, and disease
  8. Dismissing relevant variables
  9. Errors in the extrapolation of casein to all animal protein

SECTION 2: Biological Models and Cited Papers

  1. Breast cancer
  2. Liver cancer
  3. Energy utilization
  4. Affluent-poverty diseases
  5. Summary

SECTION 3: Response to Points Raised by Campbell

  1. Wheat: confounded variable or legitimate concern?
  2. Selection of univariate correlations and confirmation bias
  3. Tuoli county and erroneous data
  4. Whole-food, plant-based diets versus whole-food diets with animal products
  5. Conclusion

And before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, listen up: Every time I employed a univariate correlation, it was because Campbell had done so first, under the same circumstances. Every. Time.

Also, this is sort of a pre-final version, and there may be typos (please point them out!) or orphaned punctuation (ditto). If I make any changes, I’ll post the updated version with a note.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend a very, very long time not staring at the computer screen, catching up on a couple weeks’ worth of sleep, and hopefully regrowing the little chunks of my soul that died while writing this. Adieu!





Data for the Number-Crunchers (Updated 7/31… It’s Coming!)

25 07 2010

Update #3 regarding upcoming response:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s now Saturday. Gotta love being a multiple-offense deadline breaker. (I tend to value thoroughness over timeliness–so anyone out there who was thinking of hiring me for any time-sensitive job, you’ve been duly warned.) I’m currently adding a final section on wheat to Campbell response #2, and then this puppy WILL be ready to post. Pinky swear! Thanks for bearing with me.

–(end update/start of older post)–

I’m excited to see quite a few people take interest in the China Study data (huzzah, numbers!), and even more excited that some of you are already posting the results of your analyses. To quote reader and blogger Ned Kock:

I hope more people will do their own analyses on the original data, like we have been doing. Then the discussion will move away from X or Y are saying this, to something more like “the data” is saying this.

Right on.

While I’m finishing a fairly laborious (you’ll see what I mean later) response  to Mr. Campbell, I thought I’d post some of the data I already have typed up for those of you who are gettin’ antsy. I’ll be updating this entry frequently as I upload more files, but here’s the first batch.

I’ll also use this post to link to anyone who has posted their results somewhere on the ‘net. Those will be right after the links to the data.

Also feel free to request any variable(s) you’re interested in analyzing, and I’ll type them up when I have a spare moment.

Enjoy!

Myocardial infarction/coronary heart disease:

(includes total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, green vegetable consumption, animal protein, plant protein, dairy variables, egg variables, meat variables, and fish variables)

(Note: included are the variables “amount of green vegetables consumed” and “frequency of green vegetables consumed” to illustrate the Green Veggie Paradox.)

Colorectal cancer:

(includes cholesterol, schistosomiasis, plant protein, and animal protein)

(A shout out to eds. Chen Junshi, T. Colin Campbell, Li Junyao, and Richard Peto for making this stuff available in book form.)

Reader links:

So far, we have two posts from Ned Kock:

  1. The China Study again: A multivariate analysis suggesting that schistosomiasis rules!
  2. The China Study one more time: Are raw plant foods giving people cancer? (This one’s particularly interesting: Ned used a nonlinear regression analysis on the data with no schistosomiasis infection, and uncovered a U-curve in the relationship between cholesterol and colorectal cancer. In other words, the counties with the lowest cholesterol and highest cholesterol had higher rates of colorectal cancer than the groups with more mid-range cholesterol, who appear the most protected. Ned offers a great hypothesis for this result in his post. Additionally, while animal protein consumption correlated strongly with total cholesterol, animal protein itself correlated inversely (beta = -0.31, p<0.10) with colorectal cancer, while plant protein correlated positively (beta = 0.47, p<0.01). Remember, of course, that correlation doesn’t equal causation, and this is just a sampling of the dizzying number of variables recorded in the China Study.)




Super-Quick China Study Update (Changed 7/22)

22 07 2010

Alert, alert! Breaking news for anyone following the China Study Saga!

Update 7/22: Reader Ned Kock of “Health Correlator” performed a multivariate analysis on the data for colorectal cancer, animal protein, cholesterol, plant protein, and schistosomiasis from the China Study. Check his blog to read what he discovered. (Any other readers who’ve done something similar, please post and let us know what you’ve found as well.)

In other news:

If you haven’t seen it yet, Campbell has expanded his original response to my critique and posted it in two places:

  1. On his website TColinCampbell.org, where it’s available for download as a Word document, and
  2. On CampbellCoalition.com, where it’s in HTML format and you can contribute comments and questions.

Word has it that Campbell himself will be replying to at least some of the comments on Campbell Coalition, so this would be a wonderful opportunity for anyone with questions for him to engage in dialogue. Correction 7/22: Campbell has closed this discussion to comments with the following remark:

Based on the response received thus far, we have determined that our prior idea of a reasoned and civil discourse, with participation by Dr. Campbell, is not feasible and have decided to discontinue this discussion thread.

Bummer. Well, if you want to carry a non-reasoned and un-civil discourse, feel free to do it here. First Amendment FTW!

If you submitted comments that weren’t accepted on the Campbell Coalition website, Dave Dixon has created a special entry on his blog “Spark of Reason” where you can post them and still get your voice heard.

Campbell’s longer rebuttal has also been featured on Vegsource.com, in which the editors kindly wrote:

Previously we at VegSource had looked at some of Ms. Minger’s anti-Campbell rhetoric.  One thing we were struck by early on was the fact that Ms. Minger apparently removes comments on her blog from scientific researchers who point out the flaws in her reasoning and in her understanding of accepted research methods.

Huh. All scientific researchers who had their comments removed, please say “aye.” The one and only comment I’ve deleted thus far was one I wrote, although (as I’ve mentioned several times now) some comments do get snagged in the spam or “awaiting approval'” queue, especially if they have links–in which case they don’t show up right away.  I apologize if this has happened to you, but you’re welcome to comment here even if you disagree. Dissenting voices FTW!

Update 7/22: Looks like they edited the above to be marginally nicer but still woefully inaccurate. And, as per tradition, they took a moment to lambaste the Weston A. Price Foundation—’cause really, what China Study article would be complete without randomly evoking something completely irrelevant to the discussion? Non-sequiturs FTW!

I have (another) response to Campbell underway, so for those of you waiting for the wheat post, it just got pushed back farther in the waiting line. Many apologies. Contrary to some circulating hypotheses, I really am just one person, with limited capacity to type and crank out blog entries. When I finish rearing my army of bovine ninja babies, I’ll enslave them and outsource my research and data entry tasks, but that’s a ways off yet.

Carry on.





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. Read the rest of this entry »





The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?

7 07 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »





Tuoli: China’s Mysterious Milk Drinkers

23 06 2010

Important disclaimer: In light of new information, this post needs to be taken with a really whoppin’ huge grain of salt. It turns out Tuoli was “feasting” on the day the survey crew came for China Study I, so they were likely eating more calories, more wheat, more dairy, and so forth than they typically do the rest of the year. We can’t be completely sure what their normal diet did look at the time, but the questionnaire data (which is supposedly more reliable than the diet survey data) still suggests they were eating a lot of animal products and very little in the way of fruits or vegetables.

At any rate, I recommend not quoting this post or citing it as “evidence” for anything simply because of the uncertainty surrounding the Tuoli data in the China Study. Please see the following posts for more information on the issue of Tuoli’s accuracy:

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

http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/16/the-china-study-my-response-to-campbell/


 

As I mentioned in the previous post on dairy consumption and disease in China, there’s a fascinating little county by the name of “Tuoli” situated in northwest China—a place quite worthy of nutritional study, due to their unique diet.

They live here:

Which looks like this:

Where they eat a lot of this:

But not a lot of this:

The Tuoli diet is so abnormal for China, in fact, that T. Colin Campbell et al omitted this county from analysis in several China Study papers—such as “Vitamin A and cartenoid status in rural China,” published in the British Journal of Nutrition:

One county (Tuoli County in Xinjiang Autonomous Region), composed primarily of an ethnic minority population of herdspeople, had disproportionately high values for retinol, lipid and protein intake due to an exceptionally high intake of animal foods. This ‘outlier’ was not included in the analysis, to characterize more accurately the average intakes of the rural Chinese population and to avoid the undue influence of one data point on the results.

Given the prevailing beliefs about nutrition and health—such as saturated fat and cholesterol as a cause of heart disease, the necessity of fiber for colon health, the immunity-boosting properties of fruits and vegetables, and the dangers of a diet high in animal fat—it would seem the Tuoli should showcase the health woes that come from breaking every rule in the diet book.

But is that the case? Read the rest of this entry »








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