Month: July 2010

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

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.


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)

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, where it’s available for download as a Word document, and
  2. On, 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, 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

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. (more…)

The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?

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.)