Open Mind

How to exercise your most important body part

Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not,
however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world.

Albert Einstein

There are many raw gurus these days. I see this phenomenon as a sign of the raw food diet increasing in its popularity around the world. Further, I see the raw food movement as a backlash against the processed-foods lifestyle that has been eroding the health of the society long enough for us to see its effects.

Raw food teachers promise you that with the change of your habits you can achieve a level of health never experienced before, and this claim is accompanied by photos of bodies with amazing radiance.  There is a lot of focus on the body image, which seems to be a major selling point. Raw food counseling is a growing business too. Raw gurus lecture you how to prepare foods, what to eat and how to exercise. However, do they ever encourage you to question them or doubt them? Why should this be of concern?

Becoming a raw foodist requires the abandonment of some incredibly strong stereotypes. Indeed, it can’t be denied that cooking our foods is a standard that can be very hard to imagine living without. Such a major change of lifestyle clearly cannot be achieved without having an open mind, which is a key prerequisite for a personal change. Is becoming a raw foodist therefore a guarantee that from then on we become stereotype free?

 

Will what led you here, help you stay here?

The ability to think critically, typically attributed to scientists whose creative minds produce novel ideas that change the world, is what one needs to cultivate in order to maintain an open mind. Is a raw food movement an environment that encourages a critical thought though? Raw food forums, the main means of communication, which usually occurs on line rather than in real world, practice censorship that goes well beyond the management of trolls.  This implies that the ideas are published there only if they adhere to a particular policy of a forum, which in turn is created by the forum owner, that is, the person who controls the virtual environment where people meet. This disallows for the teachings of the owner to be directly challenged on such forums, regardless of how flawed they might be, unless the owner is open to being challenged. Simultaneously, breakthrough ideas that defy the beliefs of the owner can be subject to moderation in the form of heavy censoring or complete deletion, unless the owner is open to evolving their way of thinking. As the result of these practices, there is no true atmosphere of support for critical thought and the evolution of ideas on forums that exercise a high level of control. Instead, such forums perpetuate the status quo of the owners who do not understand that progress necessitates asking questions that challenge that status quo. Are such raw gurus’ main investments in gaining notoriety rather than in evolving? Why would they be interested in changing what they see as working for them?

Intelligent challenges to raw veganism seem to be perceived by vegans as a serious threat that has to be eradicated. In recent times, the emergence of Denise Minger [1], whose inquisitive mind created a series of eloquent challenges to some stereotypes held within the raw food movement, prompted an engagement of an incredible amount of resources aimed at disputing her articles and at undermining her credibility. This was driven by the fear that her claims can have a huge destructive impact on raw veganism. However, her carefully constructed and well-thought-through challenges should be seen as a blessing to the raw vegan movement rather than as a threat, and as an opportunity to grow, for the following two compelling reasons. Firstly, her articles inspire raw vegans to get educated. Secondly, they inspire raw vegans to think critically. Lack of rigor is a serious disadvantage to the raw vegan movement and so Denise phenomenon is an opportunity to realize the value of critical thought.

Have you ever noticed that there are no discussions that would engage participants in an environment facilitating the growth of new ways of thinking as the result of deep studies of opposing ideas, neither on such forums nor elsewhere on line, within the virtual raw food movement? Have you ever observed a raw guru being challenged and subsequently admitting that they evolved their views? Have you ever observed representatives of the opposing streams of the raw food movement analyzing their ideas through a two-way communication and arriving at a common conclusion at the end of it, hence changing their prior thinking? What we seem to often observe instead, are debates and the wars of words in which one is focused on destroying the opponent and lacks the ability to see the merit of the other person’s views.

What happens to an environment from which the element of open curiosity is removed? Apart from leading to an intellectual abyss, could there be some other serious implications? One blogger lists a number of “some key questions for you to ask yourself, if you’re wondering whether or not a group you’re involved with is possibly a cult” [2]. Amongst them,

Are you taught that the cult’s belief system, as taught by the gurus, is 100% infallible and immune to criticism? Are those who question the belief system quickly put on alert by the henchmen that such things are not allowed, or perhaps the questioner’s account just disappears one day?

Note that it takes more than just a leader to create a cult-like environment. Are you a contributor to one?

A crucial component of the raw vegan ideology are the ethical issues. This explains why there exist such strong forces within the movement, perceived by some as a religion. It is a harsh reality that the human society is built upon the exploitation of animals and we all contribute to it in some way, whether we call ourselves vegan or not. The level of animal suffering is unimaginable [11], yet at the same time the systemic process that drives it is so well hidden from the eyes of the consumer who buys products without playing a direct role in it, that it is easy to ignore the ethics. What we don’t see, we don’t get. A cruel reasoning I once heard from the mouth of one human was that the animals have no consciousness, or at least no ability to organize themselves, and so it is OK to use them for our purpose. Animals do not have the power to change their predicament indeed, and so vegans become the intermediary for these beings without the voice. Vegan movement enables them to say that it is not OK.

How do we mix the ethics with the biology though? Can a nutritionally sound choice be made when we choose to follow compassion rather than hunger? Are your choices driven by peer-pressure of a raw vegan community? Are they associated with the feeling of guilt? What if it is necessary to consume animal products for purely biological reasons, in order to maintain our health? Is B12 deficiency [12] an inevitable outcome on a raw vegan diet? Are serious health problems on a fruitarian diet something that creeps up on people eventually? Is a raw paleo diet [14] or a primal blueprint diet [17] then a better choice than raw veganism? Do we have to eat meat [13] to stay healthy? The whole animal kingdom seems to be a system of processes in which one type of creatures exists because they consume another. How do we place an ethical measurement on something so inherently fundamental to what exists? Should we deny our nature? And what is our nature? Is it possible at all that it is fruitarianism? Could the assumption of the existence of the true nature be flawed? Although the common view of the modern literature is that in our distant evolutionary history we were frugivorous indeed [22],  recent discoveries seem to suggest that our origins may be far more complicated than we once thought, and modern times is not the first period in our history during which we exploited the animals. Recent analyses of our DNA indicate our connections with Neanderthals [15], whose diet, amongst other foods, is believed to include meat. A recent mega discovery by a team of Australian scientists suggests that the mysterious extinction of Australia’s once remarkable collection of megafauna has been caused by the arrival of early humans [16]. Nevertheless, our evolution is a process, not a locked state, and so what stops us from making a decision that feels right, that is our personal choice, rather than a result of a careful scientific analysis which cannot arrive at a definite conclusion? Is it our origins that dictate what we do today or is our current choice what determines who we become tomorrow? Who am I as an individual? Am I just a part of the evolutionary tree or do I have the power the change the history?

 

 The warped doors of perception

In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man
trying to
understand the mechanism of a closed watch.”
Albert Einstein

 Reading books and on line articles, as well as watching videos and listening to audios is a great way of learning. The Internet nowadays contains an impressive library of information on a vast number of different topics. However, it is a naive belief to think that one can rely on these sources as the foundation of a good education that somehow can replace rigorous studies, or that university is merely a place that produces useless degrees [3]. How deep is your curiosity?

When a material that you rely on as the sole basis of your learning, has not gone through a rigorous review process, what is the level of your confidence in your knowledge? When an author of a book, an on-line article or a youtube video quotes scientific references, does this mean that they are being rigorous and scientific, and that you can rely on their teachings? How accurate is their information? Do you ever check anyone’s claims? How far do you go? Have you got the time, an interest in and access to resources that would allow you to review the information?

In an October 2010 youtube video [4] David Vitalis reports that a conclusive evidence was reported in an August 2010 article in Nature, in the form of tool marks on the bones suggesting butchery from the hands of the Australopithecus. This is an interesting claim, as  Australopithecus has been widely accepted to be frugivorous, and to be our ancestor. However, if you follow this claim up by checking the literature on scientific databases, you will find that the “conclusive evidence” has been rejected in 2010 and 2011 papers by Domínguez-Rodrigo, M., Pickering, T.R., and Bunn, H.T. The marks have been explained as being the result of “trampling in coarse-grained sedimentary substrates” [5]. Although the claim by Vitalis is clearly false, the author has not made any attempts to rectify this error thus far.

Wikipedia, a vast database of articles, is treated by many as an on-line encyclopedia and used as a key reference for many topics. How accurate is the information there? Is it possible that some authors with an invested interest could be skewing the image of the scientific literature there, by withholding the information or quoting outdated research that fits their purpose?

If you read the page about Australopithecus at [6], you will notice that the image of their diet is presented in a way that subtly suggests that it was merely “theorized” that australopiths were frugivorous and that instead, 2009 analyses implied that they “ate more mechanically tough foods”, and moreover, 1992 and 1994 studies indicated “the possibility of animal consumption”. The paragraph links to Tom Billings’s site [7], who is well-known for having a personal interest in debunking the raw vegan diet. Are these claims correct, or could the paragraph at Wiki be a misrepresentation of the literature? If you follow this up, you will find a 2010 paper by Ungar, P.S., Scott, R.S., Grine, F.E., and Teaford, M.F. reporting that the 2009 claims of Australopithecus eating tough foods have been dismissed through the examination of “dental microwear textures of these hominins” [8]. Furthermore, the earlier mentioned 2010 study [5] reports “The earliest best evidence for hominin butchery thus remains at 2.6 to 2.5 Ma, presumably associated with more derived species than A. afarensis“, and hence dismisses the 1992 and 1994 findings. Additionally, according to a July 2010 literature review and a discussion at [10], a more recent paper by the authors of the 1994 study suggests that they took a step back from their former interpretations:

Significantly, the results of this 2000 study indicate no increase in the proportion of carbon-13 enriched foods in the diet of Homo ergaster relative to Australopithecus, providing no support for the hypothesis that the diet of Homo ergaster was any more meat-based than the diet of Australopithecus, thereby completely breaking a link in the idea that meat-eating is a distinctive attribute of Homo.

Lee-Thorp and Sponheimer worked together and with other coauthors on several subsequent papers exploring various aspects of this question in further detail. None of these studies resolves the issue in favor of an omnivorous Australopith hypothesis, but the trend is rather consistently in favor of a plant-based interpretation of the evidence.

In summary, the scientific literature as of 2007 (…) is substantially in support of a plant-based diet for Australopithecus, and possibly for early Homo as well.

So, after some moderate literature  checking, it is clear that the author of the paragraph at the Wikipedia presents an incorrect view of the scientific literature, by quoting selected references that were dismissed in the subsequent studies, by not mentioning that this occurred, and by not presenting the true image of the evolving views of the scientists. We can only guess that this is done in order to present a point of view desired to be true by the author. This is not an isolated incident. According to [9], “The views expressed by the biased editing of Wikipedia do not necessarily include accurate information about the world in general.

Scientific research is a common phrase used by authors of various books on nutrition. Note however that the activities that they often refer to as their research, have little to do with science. Reporting personal views on nutrition does not constitute research, and quoting some references does not equate to providing a scientific rigor. Therefore, although reading popular books is a great way of discovering new ideas and learning about alternative ways of looking at the world, one needs to be careful not to treat these sources as if they were scientific articles published in internationally-esteemed peer-reviewed journals.

In her book “Green for life”, Victoria Boutenko describes how she “went online and purchased $300 worth of books and DVDs about chimpanzees”, “wrote a letter with (her) questions to the Jane Goodall University”, “traveled to three big zoos” and educated herself on the diet of chimpanzees. She says that chimpanzees and humans are closely related, and so studying the chimpanzees is critical to our health. Her conclusions are that since greens compose almost half of the chimpanzee’s diet, humans are supposed to eat far more greens than she would have guessed. Victoria’s ideas are referred to as a “green revolution” within the raw food movement, which drives a notion that humans are supposed to eat large amounts of greens, often by blending them with fruit in smoothies, and including bitter, unpalatable, harsh greens. Victoria recommends that one should try to get used to eating these greens, despite their senses. However, a short excursion to scientific databases, which contains a considerable number of articles on the topic, reveals that there is a huge difference between the diet of chimpanzees and that of bonobo, our closest relative [23]. Specifically, chimpanzees eat a lot of tough, fibrous plant matter, while bonobo eat much gentler leaves. This seems to coincide with the natural hygiene [24] advice to eat soft, tender greens only, and only when these are desired [25]. Of course, one should not forget that humans are not bonobo, and so like in the case of the differences between the chimpanzees and bonobo, considerable differences between the diets of bonobo and humans are likely.

Douglas Graham, a doctor of chiropractic medicine and an author of a popular book for fruit-loving raw vegans, “The 80/10/10 diet”, which quotes 82 citations in the Endnotes in support of the author’s views, has been criticized for poor referencing and for making multiple claims not verified by the science.

That low fat vegan diets may fail to provide adequate EFA intakes is demonstrated in Doug Graham’s The 80/10/10 Diet book; on p. 118 he gives a sample day’s menu that fails to meet a man’s AI for ALA, barely meets a woman’s AI for ALA, and provides only a small percentage (8.2-11%) of the AI for LA (Graham 2008). If we follow the recommendation to double the AI for ALA for vegetarians, Graham’s sample day-menu provides a mere 41% of recommended ALA levels for men and 59% for women. One wonders what risks are implied in insufficient EFA intake over the long term, especially in those who have poor conversion to EPA/DHA. Unfortunately, the current anti-fat phobia in the raw vegan community may actually discourage raw fooders from consuming adequate EFAs.” [28]

Graham makes numeric claims but provides no backing for those claims, e.g., the reference to meat “completely lacking in almost one million” nutrients. Graham’s unsupported claims (note the complete lack of references in his article) greatly diminish his credibility.” [29]

Don’t get me wrong, I love Doug and think his messages are great overall. But I think that with our increasing awareness of science and demand for evidence and references to support rationales, this sort of promotion of ideas will limit the interest in the ideas he is promoting from scientifically oriented and mainstream academic/medical/nutritional professionals. Especially with the increasing influence of the internet. In the future, I think we will expect  references to be a standard. And not the kind of referencing that we find in the 811 book. I think it is time to step up the game and start being rigorous in the way articles are written.” [27]

Does insufficient referencing mean  that we should dismiss such contributions altogether? Not necessarily. Popular books written in an accessible language can be a great way of presenting ideas to the everyday user and provide a useful bridge between the rigorous science and its applications. Nevertheless, think twice before you make the next book on nutrition your bible. If you desire a true education, you need to go a lot deeper than that. “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. ” – Richard Feynman

On-line forums, whose many members share their knowledge and experience, are a great place to acquire interesting bits of information, but they should not be confused with universities. Unlike forums, universities are a place of rigorous studies and research, and tenured positions of academics are intended to ensure that they can express their thoughts freely.

In order to participate effectively in a democracy, citizens must understand the nature of scientific claims that increasingly influence or even become matters of public debate.” [26]

 

The method

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler
Albert Einstein

If you truly desire to get familiar with the scientific literature, you need to go to the first-hand source and read it. There exist various electronic databases, accessible through university libraries, which provide the means to search for scientific peer-reviewed articles. My current favorite database is Scopus [30], as it provides many useful features which make the search a breeze.

When reading the articles, be mindful of the fact that they contain the current understanding of the world, not proofs, and that science evolves. Be ready to evolve too.

The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science.  Since, however, sense perception only gives information of this external world or of “physical reality” indirectly, we can only grasp the latter by speculative means.  It follows from this that our notions of physical reality can never be final.  We must always be ready to change these notions – that is to say, the axiomatic basis of physics – in order to do justice to perceived facts in the most perfect way.
Albert Einstein

How to recognize Good Science [26]:

  • Should be logical, based on facts and data, not just opinions.
  • Clear references are given so that you can look up data and check that statements are accurate.
  • Information has been published in peer reviewed (checked by other scientists before publication) journals.
  • Contrary information is given when it exists, not just information supporting an idea or theory.
  • What is not known is identified.
  • If a claim is extraordinary, it demands extraordinarily strong
    evidence.” – Carl Sagan
  • Anecdotal information, even if impressive, is not science!

Just knowing facts does not mean you understand” [26]. Make the science your tool, not your handicap. Familiarize yourself with a wide range of empirical evidence. Do not limit yourself to reading only stories of those who thrive on the diet. Study especially the stories of those well above the age of 40 [18-21, 36-37], when it is much harder to hide the effects of lifestyle. Keep in mind that although being healthy makes you look better, the best looking people are not necessarily the healthiest. Read carefully the cases of those who suffered considerable health problems after following the diet for more than a few months [12-13]. Note that, beyond the diet, there exist other factors that affect our health, including genetic factors that are outside our control [29, 31]. Study the alternatives and make an educated choice. Experiment with your lifestyle. Be bold to break the rules. “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein

 

Example – The China Study

“The China Study”, a bestseller in nutrition, co-authored by Thomas Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus at the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition at Cornell University, and his son Thomas M. Campbell II, is considered to be a key reference for raw vegans. The significance of this book lies in the authors’ conclusion that “people with a high consumption of animal-based foods were more likely to suffer chronic disease, while those who ate a plant-based diet were the least likely“. However, the basis of this conclusion has been put into question. According to a critical review by Tom Billings, a holder of a B.S. in mathematics, an M.A. in economics and an M.S. in mathematical statistics, whose website was criticized to be “an excellent study of the dangerous, false, misology of the nonscientist who, having no significant understanding of biochemistry or general science, uses scientific-sounding words and misinterpretations of scientific data to support false conceptual paradigms” [35],

The original China Study is an ecological study (an epidemiological study in which the unit of analysis is a population rather than an individual). Such studies may generate hypotheses but they prove nothing. The China Study report lists only six statistically significant correlations between meat eating and disease mortality. Further, four of those correlations are negative, which indicates that the mortality rate for that disease decreased as meat consumption increased. The direct evidence of the study is hardly the condemnation of meat consumption that vegan advocates may claim it to be.” [32]

Further, according to the rebuttal by Denise Minger, a community college English major, a Catholic school teacher, and a blogger who has been criticized for removing “comments on her blog from scientific researchers who point out the flaws in her reasoning and in her understanding of accepted research methods” [34],

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

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

It’s no surprise “The China Study” has been so widely embraced within the vegan and vegetarian community: It says point-blank what any vegan wants to hear—that there’s scientific rationale for avoiding all animal foods. That even small amounts of animal protein are harmful. That an ethical ideal can be completely wed with health. These are exciting things to hear for anyone trying to justify a plant-only diet, and it’s for this reason I believe “The China Study” has not received as much critical analysis as it deserves, especially from some of the great thinkers in the vegetarian world. Hopefully this critique has shed some light on the book’s problems and will lead others to examine the data for themselves.” [33]

The criticism contains some interesting and sharp points. Indeed, one does not need a PhD to be a critical thinker. Instead, critical thinkers are often attracted to pursuing the rigor of university studies and hence end up with a degree as the result of this. The tendency is that what we love doing, we are really good at it. Hence we often observe that those with a PhD are likely to have been a very curious child who would ask questions well beyond the stereotypical thinking. Rigorous studies and research help to improve those skills, but if an interest in critical thinking wasn’t there at a strong level in the first place, it won’t somehow magically appear as the result of studies.

In his response to Minger, Campbell points out some rudimentary errors in her statistical analysis, also noted by another scientist, and comments:

I should conclude by noting the suggestion of the professional epidemiologist, cited above, who suggested that ultimately Denise may wish to publish her findings in a peer-reviewed journal but who presently felt strongly that the current version would not be accepted. I concur.” [34]

Minger responds to this at [38].

Neither the book nor the cited on-line articles went through a peer-review process however, so how to judge this? Let’s make this task a lot more efficient than if we tried to study the voluminous pages of on-line discussions on the topic, of which the rigor is uncertain. After a visit to Scopus and locating T. Colin Campbell there, we find a relevant lead in the form of the following article on his list of publications, which reports the study on the exact topic of interest:

Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: The Cornell China Study
Campbell, T.C., Parpia, B., Chen, J.
American Journal of Cardiology 82 (10 B), pp. 18T-21T, 1998.

Abstract
Investigators collected and analyzed mortality data for >50 diseases, including 7 different cancers, from 65 counties and 130 villages in rural mainland China. Blood, urine, food samples, and detailed dietary data were collected from 50 adults in each village and analyzed for a variety of nutritional, viral, hormonal, and toxic chemical factors. In rural China, fat intake was less than half that in the United States, and fiber intake was 3 times higher. Animal protein intake was very low, only about 10% of the US intake. Mean serum total cholesterol was 127 mg/dL in rural China versus 203 mg/dL for adults aged 20-74 years in the United States. Coronary artery disease mortality was 16.7-fold greater for US men and 5.6-fold greater for US women than for their Chinese counterparts. The combined coronary artery disease mortality rates for both genders in rural China were inversely associated with the frequency of intake of green vegetables and plasma erythrocyte monounsaturated fatty acids, but positively associated with a combined index of salt intake plus urinary sodium and plasma apolipoprotein B. These apolipoproteins, in turn, are positively associated with animal protein intake and the frequency of meat intake and inversely associated with plant protein, legume, and light-colored vegetable intake. Rates of other diseases were also correlated with dietary factors. There was no evidence of a threshold beyond which further benefits did not accrue with increasing proportions of plant-based foods in the diet.

This is a significant paper, as evidenced by the fact that it was cited 54 times by other papers since its publication. Let us examine these citations. Do any of them dismiss the paper’s findings as completely flawed? Are there any studies amongst them that bring more evidence to back up the suggestion that eating plant-based diet might be a good idea? What is the discussion on the issue amongst the scientists? Are the opinions divided? Is there some prevailing way of thinking? Additional interesting question is whether the literature contains any insights into whether a completely plant-based diet is better than a diet that includes small amounts of animal products. A full analysis is beyond the scope of this article and so we will point just a few directions with the hope that this will inspire you to read a little more on this topic.

Which citations out of the 54 should we be checking? Let’s look at these that study the relevant topic of plant-based diets, let’s include the older papers that have a considerable number of citations as well as the newer papers, which are likely to reference the recent discoveries and have bibliography that includes the most relevant papers. So here is my small selection of the papers, with some brief quotes from them:

Was Dr Atkins Right?
Ornish, D.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104 (4) , pp. 537-542 , 2004

A wide body of scientific evidence links the consumption of animal protein, saturated fat, and cholesterol with CVD, cancer, and other chronic illnesses (47-51). Highprotein diets may cause loss of calcium and decreased levels of urinary citrate, leading to osteoporosis and kidney stones (52). Urinary excretions of calcium and acids are correlated positively with intakes of animal and nondairy animal protein but are correlated negatively with plant-protein intake (53).
(http://www.preventivecare.com/shared/OrnishvsAtkins.pdf)

Prevalence of cardiovascular disease and risk factors in a rural district of Beijing, China: A population-based survey of 58,308 residents
He, L., Tang, X., Song, Y., Li, N., Li, J., Zhang, Z., Liu, J., (…), Hu, Y.
BMC Public Health 12 (1) , art. no. 34 , 2012

High prevalence of CVD and probably changed epidemic pattern in rural communities of Beijing, together with the prevalent cardiovascular risk factors and population aging, might cause public health challenges in rural Chinese population. (…) Through this comparison, CVD risk factors were found to be more common in rural Beijing, and the remarkable overweight/obesity prevalence probably has a close relationship with nutritional transition in Chinese as previous study indicated [27].“  (Note: [27] is a reference to the paper by Campbell, T.C., Parpia, B., Chen, J..)

Vegetables against Meat, Traditional Chinese Dietetics and Yang
Schmidt, J.G.
Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur GanzheitsMedizin 23 (6) , pp. 349-355 , 2011

Deficiency-an Analysis of Bias and Statistical Fallacies in a Dietary Study In the autumn of 2010, a publisher of Chinese medicine advertised a book based on a dietary study conducted in China pretending to prove that meat is unhealthy and leads to cardiac infarction and cancer whereas vegetables protect against these diseases. In Ancient Chinese medicine, however, meat is a basic component of nutrition and constitutes the most important source of Yang which enables a person to resist diseases. The analysis of the scientific evidence of this study indeed reveals well-known statistical fallacies and biases that may confound the alleged findings. In Ancient Chinese medicine, symptoms of false heat are considered to be the result of Yang deficiency, as in the case of menopause disorders. If false heat is treated with Yin medicines, Yang declines and, thus, the occurrence of diseases may rather increase. Yin tonification by the use of estrogens, as has in fact been shown, leads to an increase of total mortality in postmenopausal women. Similarly, treatment with antioxidant vitamins also compromises Yang and can lead to an increase of diseases. A compromised Yang means an added susceptibility to diseases. Meat is an important dietary source of Yang, and therefore people with Yang deficiency may well tend to eat more meat. As a result, people with a weak Yang may suffer more from diseases not because, but in spite of the consumption of meat.

Reduced cancer risk in vegetarians: An analysis of recent reports
Lanou, A.J., Svenson, B.
Cancer Management and Research 3 (1) , pp. 1-8 , 2011

This report reviews current evidence regarding the relationship between vegetarian eating patterns and cancer risk. Although plant-based diets including vegetarian and vegan diets are generally considered to be cancer protective, very few studies have directly addressed this question. Most large prospective observational studies show that vegetarian diets are at least modestly cancer protective (10%–12% reduction in overall cancer risk) although results for specific cancers are less clear. No long-term randomized clinical trials have been conducted to address this relationship. However, a broad body of evidence links specific plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, plant constituents such as fiber, antioxidants and other phytochemicals, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight to reduced risk of cancer diagnosis and recurrence. Also, research links the consumption of meat, especially red and processed meats, to increased risk of several types of cancer. Vegetarian and vegan diets increase beneficial plant foods and plant constituents, eliminate the intake of red and processed meat, and aid in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The direct and indirect evidence taken together suggests that vegetarian diets are a useful strategy for reducing risk of cancer.

Effects of Plant-Based Diets on Plasma Lipids
Kottler, B.M., Ferdowsian, H.R., Barnard, N.D.
American Journal of Cardiology 104 (7) , pp. 947-956 , 2009

Dyslipidemia is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, and stroke. Current guidelines recommend diet as first-line therapy for patients with elevated plasma cholesterol concentrations. However, what constitutes an optimal dietary regimen remains a matter of controversy. Large prospective trials have demonstrated that populations following plant-based diets, particularly vegetarian and vegan diets, are at lower risk for ischemic heart disease mortality. The investigators therefore reviewed the published scientific research to determine the effectiveness of plant-based diets in modifying plasma lipid concentrations. Twenty-seven randomized controlled and observational trials were included. Of the 4 types of plant-based diets considered, interventions testing a combination diet (a vegetarian or vegan diet combined with nuts, soy, and/or fiber) demonstrated the greatest effects (up to 35% plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol reduction), followed by vegan and ovolactovegetarian diets. Interventions allowing small amounts of lean meat demonstrated less dramatic reductions in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels. In conclusion, plant-based dietary interventions are effective in lowering plasma cholesterol concentrations.

Effects of exercise and diet on chronic disease
Roberts, C.K., Barnard, R.J.
Journal of Applied Physiology 98 (1) , pp. 3-30 , 2005
(cited 136 times)

This review will provide evidence that when daily physical activity of 1 h is performed in combination with a natural food diet, high in fiber-containing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and naturally low in fat, containing abundant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, the vast majority of chronic disease may be prevented. (…) Overwhelming evidence from a variety of sources, including epidemiological, prospective cohort, and intervention studies, links most chronic diseases seen in the world today to physical inactivity and inappropriate diet consumption. (…) Diet has been known for years to play a key role as a risk factor for chronic diseases. — Traditional, largely plant-based diets have been replaced by high-fat, energy-dense diets with a substantial content of animal foods. (…) Importantly, there was no evidence of a threshold beyond which further benefits did not accrue with increasing proportions of plant-based foods in the diet (63). Migration studies have also provided compelling evidence for the relation between saturated fat intake and CAD (184). These early data have been confirmed by the more recent cohort studies. (…) For example, consumption of red meat is associated with cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate, as charbroiling and frying meats at high temperatures forms heterocyclic amines, which are potent carcinogens (362, 408) (…) Increased fruits and vegetables are also protective against colon cancer (360). A protective effect of vegetable intake was noted in a cohort study of over 760,000 adults, which documented a 40% decrease in women and a 20% decrease in men in the highest vs. lowest quintile of vegetable intake (374).

Resolving the coronary artery disease epidemic through plant-based nutrition
Esselstyn C.B., Jr.
Preventive Cardiology 4 (4) , pp. 171-177 , 2001

In contrast, compelling data from nutritional studies, population surveys, and interventional studies support the effectiveness of a plant-based diet and aggressive lipid lowering to arrest, prevent, and selectively reverse heart disease. In essence, this is an offensive strategy. The single biggest step toward adopting this strategy would be to have United States dietary guidelines support a plant-based diet. An expert committee purged of industrial and political influence is required to assure that science is the basis for dietary recommendations

Diets and clinical coronary events: The truth is out there
Yancy Jr., W.S., Westman, E.C., French, P.A., Califf, R.M.
Circulation 107 (1) , pp. 10-16 , 2003

The Indian Heart Study randomized 505 patients 24 to 48 hours after MI to usual care or a reduced-fat diet with increased intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and grains, and replacement of saturated fats with monounsaturated fats and [alpha]-linolenic acid. 31 At 1 year, patients assigned to the plant-rich diet showed greater reductions from baseline in weight and cholesterol levels compared with patients eating typical diets. More importantly, those eating the plant-rich diet had significantly fewer cardiac events (25% versus 41%) and significantly lower overall mortality (10.2% versus 18.8%). These event rates are very high by usual standards, however, raising questions about the representativeness of this cohort.

This short random walk through the literature seems quite educational. Of course, this is just a start.

 

Conclusions

The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
Albert Einstein

It is easier when we are told what to think, but giving the reader the freedom of drawing their own conclusions is the preferred option here.

Ask questions, especially those that defy the status quo of the society as well as the rules of the forums. Let your curiosity free. Encourage the curiosity of others. It is better to be a free thinker than a conformist. Be passionately curious.

 

 

References

[1] http://rawfoodsos.com/

[2] http://30bananasadaysucks.com

[3] How to get a good education

[4] Daniel Vitalis on the Raw Vegan Diet #671

[5] Domínguez-Rodrigo, M., Pickering, T.R., Bunn, H.T.
Configurational approach to identifying the earliest hominin butchers
(2010) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107 (49), pp. 20929-20934

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus

[7] http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-3b.shtml

[8] Ungar, P.S., Scott, R.S., Grine, F.E., Teaford, M.F.
Molar microwear textures and the diets of Australopithecus anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis
2010 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 365 (1556), pp. 3345-3354

[9] http://www.wikipedia-is-wrong.com/

[10] https://vegetarianmythmyth.wordpress.com/tag/sponheimer-and-lee-thorp/

[11] Earthlings

[12] Update On My Diet & Vitamin B12 Deficiency, Ep336

[13] Let them eat meat

[14] Raw Paleo Diet forum

[15] Neanderthals, Humans Interbred—First Solid DNA Evidence

[16] Mega discovery solves extinction puzzle

[17] Primal Blueprint Diet

[18] Ageless woman

[19] Raw food diet and weight loss PART1- Lilou interviews Karyn Calabrese

[20] Mimi Kirk (World’s Sexiest Vegan) 71-year old talking about her RAW FOOD DIET

[21] Heal Yourself 101- never get sick again

[22] [7] Milton K, Nutrition, Nutritional characteristics of wild primate foods: do the diets of our closest living relatives have lessons for us?, Nutrition 15(6):488-498, 1999.

[23] Parry CM, Erkner A, le Coutre J, Divergence of T2R chemosensory receptor families in humans, bonobos, and chimpanzees, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101 (41): 14830-14834 OCT 12 2004.

[24] International Natural Hygiene Society

[25] A Food Chart/Guide to Which Raw Foods Are Best

[26] A successful strategy for teaching students to think more critically and scientifically

[27] no references at foodnsport?

[28] Is a Strict, 100% Vegan Diet Optimal (for Everyone)?

[29] Is 100% raw vegan our optimal diet?

[30] Scopus

[31] Discovered reason for my failure to thrive on LFRV: Genetic disorder affecting B12, Folate, & Protein Metabolism

[32] The Cornell China Project: Authoritative Proof, or Misinterpretation by Dietary Advocates?

[33] Campbell T.C., Parpia B., Chen J. Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: The Cornell China Study (1998) American Journal of Cardiology, 82 (10 B).

[34] China Study author Colin Campbell slaps down critic

[35] Tom Billings and beyondveg.com

[36] Beautiful on raw

[37] Fruitarianism Eating with Anne Osborne

[38] The China Study: My Response to Campbell

 

Discussion Links

Raw Food Support

Give it to me Raw

Raw Vegan Talk

Holey Lettuce

Another Long-Time Alternative Health Person Calls Out the Gurus

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4 thoughts on “How to exercise your most important body part

  1. Pingback: Raw Food DietRawGosia

  2. Pingback: Anecdotal evidence, false logic and other delights // 30 Bananas a Day… Sucks!

  3. Ben Piper

    Hi Gos,

    You may have been shirking on your physical training, but you have been a busy bee.
    I enjoyed the show.
    Be well.

  4. Cassandra

    Another excellent article Gosia,worth the read.
    You have answered my question I asked about how much water to drink!
    If I eat a couple of oranges and feel like a glass of water I will drink it.
    If tomorrow I eat a couple of oranges and need no water so be it.
    I will listen to my body and do my own research.
    The link 30 bananasaday sucks is an eye opener.
    Thanks.

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