Interview and Updates and I Promise Wheat is Next

For anyone waiting for Wheat Post 2, sorry—this isn’t it. But it’s coming! Pinky swear!


1. Killin’ la vida China Study. The fabulous Jimmy Moore recently invited me to be on The Livin’ La Vida Low Carb Show, which—if you’re not yet aware—is a podcast-goldmine not only for low carbers, but for anyone interested in health. You can listen to my interview with him here. Despite recording at 8 AM, it was a blast—thanks, Jimmy!

2. “The China Study” dies another death. Up until recently, my biggest beef with Campbell’s casein research was his attempt to extrapolate casein’s effects to all forms of animal protein, despite demonstrating that plant proteins can behave the same way. But now a bigger, stronger, beefier beef has hoofed its way into the picture. Sherlock Holmes Chris Masterjohn did some sleuthing and made some very interesting discoveries about what the casein research really showed. If you haven’t read this article yet, please do so. Now.

3. Campbell speaketh. If you’re going through Campbell withdrawal, fear not: He just published a new article over on The Huffington Post called “Low Fat Diets are Grossly Misrepresented.” You can probably guess what it’s about from the title.

I actually agree with one of the article’s implications, which is that not all “low fat” diets are actually low fat, especially in the case of clinical studies—kind of like we saw with that recent low-carb flapdoodle. A diet with 30% fat isn’t representative of Ornish any more than a diet with 30% carbohydrates is representative of Atkins, but the “low fat” label is often used by researchers to misleadingly describe a moderate fat intake.

Although my last blog post criticized the inaccurate titling of a not-very-low-carb study, the same could be said of many so-called low-fat studies. No matter what side of the diet fence you’re on, from a scientific standpoint, it’s important to be equally critical of all research and not automatically assume studies are well-designed just because their results sound good.

4. Ned Kock does heart disease. A couple weeks ago, Ned did some number-crunching on the China Study II data in relation to heart disease mortality, cholesterol, wheat, and rice. Check out his posts The China Study II: Cholesterol seems to protect against cardiovascular disease and The China Study II: Wheat flour, rice, and cardiovascular disease.

(Big apologies to those who left comments on the last briefly-existent post! I decided to delete some stuff I wrote about my “suspicious connection” to the Weston A. Price Foundation because it came off sounding snarkier than intended, but then I ended up trashing the whole thing so I could post this with a different URL.)

A more substantial wheat entry is comin’ up next.



    1. I think there are two snarkies:

      1. Good Snarky: used to illustrate a broader point and soften the monotony of technical subjects, and
      2. Annoying Snarky: used solely for the sake of snarkifying something that didn’t really matter to begin with.
      I try only to use #1. πŸ˜‰

  1. Hi Denise,

    I’m wondering what your current diet is? Has any of your China Study analysis changed anything you are eating and if not why? Is there anything you are looking for in these study anaylisis or do you strictly go on how you feel and react to food?

    (I understand you have been a vegan but now eat some fish)

    Thank you and take care.

    1. Hi Fred,

      Ironically, most of my own diet is plant foods (fruit and vegetables, no grains), but I do eat fish and eggs on a regular basis, sometimes bivalves like oysters, very very occasionally other types of meat like liver. The only type of plant fat I usually eat is coconut. I also eat raw cultured/fermented foods.

      The China Study analysis hasn’t really changed anything about my own diet, although it has made me more comfortable supporting higher intakes of animal products for those who want to eat that way. My body’s really temperamental, so at the end of the day I do go by how I react to stuff rather than trying to follow a hypothetically optimal diet.

      Hope that helps! I think a lot of different diets can make people healthy depending on individual circumstances, so I try not to promote a specific eating style as best.

      1. Denise,

        My grandmother used to eat raw liver, but I could never eat it. I never had a taste for plain raw meat. However, many years ago I used to enjoy Steak Tartare and Kibbeh Nayeh(Lamb). With all of the scare talk I stopped eating raw meat(beef & Lamb).

        I am curious what your view is on the scare talk about eating raw meat. The Government and news media has all of us paranoid about E coli, etc. Are there preperation secrets to reduce the chances of a problem. Have you found any ways to eat raw meat that make it more enjoyable?

        1. I think raw meat is good only if it is from pastured animals. The feedlot meat is dangerous to eat raw. But since we evolved to eat cooked food, there is not much trouble eating them cooked, if you are eating a lot of plant foods also.

          1. I trend toward strictly carnivore. I still do eat a few veggies and an occasional berry or two. I have dabbled in raw meat and eggs from numerous sources, and have no issues with getting sick. When your blood sugar is stable, and you have an active gut lining not debilitated by pharmaceuticals the likelihood of picking up food borne illness in my opinion is nil. I have a friend who dabbles in trying to contract various viruses who also dabbles in eating strictly fat and meat and he’s very unsuccessful in getting sick. I have a 2 and a half year old who spends his life sucking up other kids germs who stays amazingly illness free based on a fat and meat diet, with the occasional goldfish. Meat tastes a lot better cooked. Thats why I generally cook it. Illness wise, makes no matter.

      2. Denise, You don’t mention them as raw fruit and raw vegetables. You don’t cook right? Isn’t that one of the most critical factors in your thriving along with the added meat foods?

        People think that you are promoting cooked foods, including cooked vegeterian foods and thats wrong, isn’t it?

  2. Low-fat diets usually aren’t vegan or even vegetarian. You could eat a low-fat diet of lean meat, egg whites and skim milk as well as fruits, grains and veggies. Obviously Campbell doesn’t represent veganism or low-fat diets, but a particular faction, low-fat veganism. What if moderate fat is healthier than low-fat?

    If you look at wild game, and pastured animals, their meat is much leaner. Fish however does tend to be more fatty. Also a much more reliable source of Omega-3’s. Nuts and seeds have a long history of being eaten. Many studies have shown how beneficial walnuts are because of their high Omega 3 content.

    Have there been studies showing any differences in health between low-fat vegans who eat >25 g of fat a day and moderate fat vegans who eat nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and coconuts?

    1. I don’t think it is possible to be low fat. You have to get energy. If you don’t use up all the energy immediately after digestion, it must get stored. It can only get stored as fat. So your cells (except neurons) use majorly fat. If somehow they are not able to get fat, possibly due to high insulin then you have a lot of bad effects.

      The animals in the wild are not very high in fat, but that does not mean that we ate the whole carcass. It is a possibility that we ate the fatty portion and gave the meatier ones to the dogs. We have had dogs as companions for at least a million years. It is not a coincidence that they also can eat a lot of carbs.

      If you eat less fat, then you have eat a lot more carbs so that the body can make the required saturated fat.

  3. My comments on the Huffington Post about on the irony of Dr. ConfirmationBias’s whine about others being unfair were censored, even though I tried to be kind πŸ˜‰

    The claim of fat consumption not decreasing looked like Dr. CherryPicker might be at it again. I looked at the 30-year period from 1971-2000 using

    Per my computations, from 1971 to 2000, we see (in calories) carbs increasing 23%, fat decreasing 5%, and saturated fat decreasing 14%. Over the same period, obesity rates go from about 13% up to 31%. That undermines his it is still could be the fat since total fat calories is increasing argument.

    Maybe the HP did not like the suggestion that Dr. Campbell and Alan Greenspan go on a cognitive dissonance tour together.

    Oh, BTW, great interview on the Jimmy Moore show!

  4. I read the Huffington Post piece by Skeletor. He continues to claim:

    “I am referring to a whole foods, plant-based diet that avoids added fat and processed and animal-based foods. This diet contains about 10-12 percent fat, sometimes pejoratively referred to as “extremely low fat”. Call it what you will, but this diet (also low in total protein, about 8-10 percent) produces, by comparison [with WHAT? Over what time frame?], “extremely low” incidences of sickness and disease. In fact, it now has been shown not just to prevent these illnesses but to treat them…

    The health benefits that are now being reported for this dietary lifestyle are ****unmatched in scope and magnitude of effect.***”

    It might be fun to take a look at whatever non-China study data exists specifically on dietary interventions and disease prevention/reversal. Because, frankly, people like Skeletor, Ornish, Esselstyn are lying their asses off.

    Though I guess if it kills Bill Clinton…well, every cloud has a silver lining…
    (I apologize for the snark. On second thought…no I don’t)

    Oh…I join the parade of people pestering you to add a donate button.

    And if you ever wish to create an _Ask Denise_ column, I have many many questions…

  5. You have to love Campbell’s reasoning in that article. He cites one study, hollers how it might look like it undermines all of his claims but isn’t truly applicable, and then goes on the make all his health assertions without any kind of citations or studies at all. “Believe me, I am smart and have a Ph.D, so you don’t need proof!”

  6. Hey Denise, have you seen this “refutation” of your “refutation” of TCS?

    I’m certain that this blogger has misrepresented your work on the subject and is simply attempting to salvage his “religion”. I apologize if this has been brought to your attention already.

    Thanks for your efforts and it was good to hear you on Livin La Vida Low Carb w/ Jimmy Moore!

  7. Hi Denise

    First of all, I am an ethical vegan but I also have interest in science and the correct representation of it.

    I have been following your debate with Bryn with interest and was interested if he was correct that Colin used China study 2 data in the book, or if you were correct that he only used China study 1.

    I emailed Colin this morning and he responded, that he did use only China Study 1. He wrote, “We used China Study 1 because the China Study II, partly a replication of China Study I six years later. There are two groups quite active working with those data. One group, I believe, is using the same data we used (China Study I). As I have emphasized elsewhere, there is far more to this overall data interpretation than these data alone.”

    “”Fifth, the China Study I and China Study II data sets are partly consistent and partly inconsistent. That is, most of the counties used in China Study I were also used in China II, with new counties added in II. We did China Study II primarily to see how much change may have occurred in that 6-year period and partly to compare Taiwan and Mainland data sets, given their differing degrees of industrialization.

    Sixth, one of the groups–the most vocal one–have made it clear that they are passionate about consuming a meat based diet and seem to be doing everything possible to discredit our conclusions. They extend this criticism to our basic studies, as well, making really serious errors and very subjective judgments.””

    Thank you for your commitment to science and not launching personal attacks on people. I am not taking sides at this point yours or Bryns, but I am interested to see how the discussion between the two of you plays out and I hope this information can be useful


  8. Count me among your admirers, Denise; I think it is amazing how you took the paleolithic nutrition world by storm and have already become such an influential figure. I suspect that your head is probably still reeling from the speed of your rising popularity. πŸ™‚ Were you surprised when the paleo community embraced you so eagerly?

    You constantly come across as highly intelligent, perhaps even precociously so, if you’ll forgive me for saying it; the sparkling clarity of your scientific discourse is something that I generally associate with people who are much older and more experienced. But, I suppose you have had plenty of experience already in your life to lead you to where you’re at today.

    I just hope that you will be around in the health community for a long time. We definitely need people like you and I feel like this is just the beginning for you. Perhaps you are one of those rare folks who was destined to become a star sooner or later.

    Keep it up!

  9. Hi Denise,

    I really love your blog and what you are talking about. I myself went vegan about 3 years ago for a period of a year. I lost a lot of muscle mass and I ended up being “skinny fat” which I still am and am trying to recover from even now.

    An interesting thing I found was that Vegans only gave (and knew) one side of the argument. So people would say things like “the China study proves that living without anmal products is good for you” and you just dont question this. Also, there tended to be exaggerated claims (in my opinion) about the suffering that animals go through.

    I think its because it sounds so good and wholesome to be able to thrive as a people without the need to kill anything else. It definately is a cult mentality as some of the Vegans I knew used to break animals out of scientific labs! Crazy.

    Anway keep up the great work, love to read it

    Andy x

  10. GREAT interview, thanks for linking my article, and of course kudos for having the objectivity and fairness to give Campbell credit for making a good point.

    Most of the studies supporting the usefulness of these extremely low-fat diets are plagued by methodological problems, especially Esselstyn’s, but virtually everyone overlooks the fact that because Americans consume a huge excess of linoleic acid from vegetable oils, extreme reductions in fat intake can be beneficial just by getting rid of this noxious excess. Ironically, an extremely low-fat diet will lead to the generation of copious amounts of saturated and monounsaturated fat within the body, and differs from a diet containing butter, coconut oil, olive oil, tallow, macadamia nut oil and the like primarily in micronutrient content. Fats usually don’t provide a whole lot of micronutrients, but they have other benefits, and one can simply adjust the other foods to maximize nutrient density. Just like the dichotomy of “animal versus plant” is simplistic, so is the dichotomy of “high-fat versus low-fat.”


  11. Chris, wouldn’t you agree that the more we learn about nutrition, the more hopelessly complex it all seems? Every attempt at reductionism ultimately fails miserably. The more we learn, the more questions we encounter.

    I suppose that is the true value of the “paleolithic principle:” by using evolutionary biology as a guide, we can be reasonably sure that we are eating and living in a way that is appropriate for us, without having to know exactly what is going on in every instance, because it may be a long time before we can truly claim that.

    Or perhaps nutritional science ought to be influenced by the philosophy of model-dependent realism that Stephen Hawking recently espoused in his latest book on cosmology; the idea that we should stop wondering what is “really, objectively true” and focus only on creating consistent models with strong predictive value. What really causes heart disease? If your theory’s predictions are just as accurate as mine, perhaps we are both “correct.”

    I may be off on a tangent now, but I find it interesting. Also, while I’m wrapping this up, I just want to say that Denise Minger is a Scientist with a capital “S” in my book. As our country seemingly heads into a new Dark Age, I appreciate those who champion intellectually honest, transparent science above all else, as I believe Denise does.

    1. Hi Nathaniel,

      I agree that the more we learn about nutrition (and most other areas), the more we realize how little we know, although I do not think the complexity is hopeless. Reductionism, when used in the proper context, is usually successful — it fails when one uses it improperly to make inappropriate “holistic” conclusions from it.

      I agree that we need some paradigm beyond the experimental evidence in order to interpret the vast amount of uncertainty that exists and that “paleo” has some value in this respect, but I think there are other legitimate frames of reference such as observing disease-free cultures in the here and now, and both of these paradigms have their own inherent uncertainty. Consider for example the disagreements between Katherine Milton and Loren Cordain about what paleolithic man ate — none of us were there, and it will always remain a speculative hypothesis.

      Make that “S” 36-point, bold font. πŸ˜‰


      1. Hi Chris; thanks for taking the time to respond.

        I suppose the word “hopeless” is too strong, as long as there are people like you and Denise around. No amount of complexity appears to be hopeless for Denise Minger! Human physiology is staggeringly complex but I suppose we will figure it out eventually as long as there are people who are willing to sift through the mountains of data and try to make sense of it all.

        About the “paleo” heuristic, I agree that it doesn’t tell us what to eat with certainty, but you can’t deny that it provides a strong indication of what we can do without. By applying the paleolithic principle, we can almost certainly rule out certain foods (meat) as the causes of modern disease, and narrow down the suspects a bit.

        Of course, as you mentioned, observing some of the more unique cultures in today’s world can have a similar effect.

        Sometimes I wish I were a nutrition researcher, just because there are so many important questions that need to be asked, and so many enlightening studies yet to be done.

        1. Hi Nathaniel,

          You’re welcome. Thanks also for your time.

          I agree that the paleolithic principle can help identify suspects, but I’m not sure it can rule out much definitively. Certainly, it would suggest that the concept that the consumption of meat per se contributes to disease is pretty ridiculous, but we really don’t know *how much* meat paleolithic humans ate and as Campbell himself pointed out in “The Great Protein Debate,” a diet that carried paleolithic humans to reproduction might not necessarily bestow longevity upon modern humans. So it is certainly a possibility that there is such a thing as “too much meat” despite the paleolithic principle. And the Inuit have some experience with that (rabbit starvation).

          Where are you in your career? You can always switch camps. Heck I have a degree in history and next year will have a PhD in nutrition. πŸ™‚


      2. How about we have an innate ability to “know” what we need at any given moment because of the infinitely complex feedback systems that we have developed over millions of years.

        By simply staying away from anything manufactured these inbuilt systems are used and not abused. Strict paleo goes a long way to fix this but that just covers the materials and not the method. Even then “paleo” is debated. So the next step is breaking away from dietary customs, eating habits, and social taboos and eating instinctively.

        I mean, walking down the produce section of a store and instinctively grabbing a stalk of celery and eating it or jogging and picking up some wild dandelion to munch on will get you some uncomfortable stares. So what. In my opinion if you can eat this way 80% of the time you cover all the basics that everyone from either side is yelling about. Your inherently low carb, you have the proper ratio of omega 6 and 3, protein and fat intake are automatically regulated (relish that fat), your caloric input drops dramatically and I.F. becomes an automatic part of your life.

        So while non of us were there we do carry with us what they painstakingly learned from millions of years trial and error. πŸ™‚

        1. Hi Monte,

          Uncomfortalbe stares can be kind of fun sometimes. I get mine by eating raw egg yolks in public. I think your method of eating celery might get me kicked out of a few stores though. πŸ˜‰

          I do believe it is critically important to “listen to your body,” but it isn’t fool proof. Many people with food intolerances crave what’s killing them, and lots of people have intolerances to paleo foods. Salicylate intolerance, for example. Eating instinctively without having a stash of food at home isn’t very practical for most people either. But I agree that we need to pay a lot more attention to what our bodies are telling us rather than using theory alone to guide us.


  12. I tried to reply to a comment on the giveittomeraw site, but there’s an undefined waiting period before you are accepted and can post.

    The point I wanted to make is that there is a greater issue here which is taboo to consider. Americans do not have a normal, healthy relationship with food. For most Americans, their diet is a combination of an expression of eating disorders, cult-like religion faith, or both.

    Meat-eaters or vegetarians (and all combinations thereof), most people consider the fact that others eat a diet different from theirs (and are doing okay, too!) to be an attack on their personal values and the value system from which it is derived. They in fact know little about food or diet in general. Most of what they believe is wrong.

    So a meat-eater whose diet is composed of mostly coffee, beer, pizza, and french fries will attack someone who says they eat fruit and vegetables every day, and proposed that others do, too.

    For over a century American business and government have tried to break people of the normal cycle of eating, which is:

    Acquire food ingredients
    Get hungry
    Prepare food
    Eat it

    Even back 100 years ago people were being lectured by “scientists” and “home economists” that eating that way is not scientific, practical, or economical, and that we are finding that nature was actually wrong in many or even most cases.

    Most people have given up any hope of being able to consume a healthy diet, having been swamped in conflicting sound bites. They believe that only someone with a PHD in nutrition who had unlimited time to analyze and plan could succeed. So they don’t bother.

    Or they have based their diets on the myriad of pseudoscientific articles and books talking about things like “superfoods we must eat daily to prevent cancer”, “how you must eat a fat-free plant foods-based diet”, and other such drivel.

    1. Indeed I like that site Give It To Me Raw and I’d love to post in their discussions but alas I have also been waiting to be approved for a very long time 😦

  13. Denise, are you going to do a post on soy? covering the health claims , the health warnings, non-fermented vs. fermented.

    though I think soy sauce would have to be excluded as a confounding factor since it is so high in sodium and we know how unhealthy high levels of sodium can be.

    1. Hi Stancel,

      I may do something like this in the future. I think the problems associated with non-fermented forms are pretty unambiguous at this point, but soy still has that niggly “health food” connotation — if I can help strip that away somehow, I’ll be happy to do my part. πŸ˜‰

      1. If you talk about soy, there is one thing that has always bothered me.

        If non-fermented soy is so bad then why don’t the Japanese have more health problems? The Japanese are big consumers of non-fermented soy like tofu bean curd. However, I believe they have good health and longevity. I realize that there may be other positive factors that offset the Soy, but Soy must not be such a big deal.

    1. Thanks David. Pretty interesting. The abstract, however, is extremely short on details. Without seeing the data and how it was analyzed, it’d be a bit odd to worry about the association. For instance, it may be that their high-protein quartile had a high consumption of fast food burgers, or charred meats from the grill, or bacon, or animal proteins that typically go along with oxidized fats or omega 6 contents. In my experience, people who eat high protein diets are also chowing down on a lot of wheat (and we are somewhat familiar with the strong correlations that the China Study unearthed between wheat and markers of ill health). Or perhaps people who eat a lot of meat in the US are less health-conscious, gluttons, obese, etc. I imagine the researchers took some or all of these factors, and others, into account, but it’d be nice to see the data.

  14. Most people with an allergy to milk have symptoms which appear when they are infants and outgrow them as they get older. However, some people do not outgrow these symptoms and continue to be allergic as adults. It is unusual to develop an allergy to milk proteins later in life. Lactose intolerance can appear later in life with symptoms including bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea or gastroesophageal reflux. Lactose intolerance is not an allergy but an intolerance, where individuals are unable to digest the sugar lactose in milk. But that inability does not result in potentially life threatening reactions.;

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