I received the following question in the comments section:
Hey Robb, Have you ever looked at the work of T Colin Campbell at Cornell? He wrote a book called the China Study about how eating meat is bad for you. I don’t want to ask you to do extra work, just wondering if you had already looked at his research. Sabin Sabin-
Yes, I’m familiar with Campbells work. We sponsored a debate between Campbell and Loren Cordain a few years ago. I have much respect for the body of work Campbell has generated, but he put minimal effort into the project…I think it simply reflected a pay-day for him. His arguements were weak, he was totally outclassed and thus resorted to what many debators do when faced with immenent defeat: He went for personal attacks on Cordain, addressed none of the core issues and relegated the debate to the realm of metaphysics.
I tackled this in a post at the NorCal site. NorCal Nutrition: Are We Crazy?
If someone wants to deconstruct the paleo concept, there are ample opportuniteis to do so from the material in that post…but when we start talking facts, predictive value of theories etc. the nay-sayers can only find company with the likes of FlatEarthers and New-Earth proponents.
The notions that:
1-Vegetarianism is the best way for humans to eat.
2-the earth is flat.
3-the earth is 6,000years old
Share some interesting characteristics:
They do not reflect, research data, empirical findings, or offer any predictive value. Why? They are fantasies.
In the case of vegetarianism from the China Study perspective, we should see a simple dose response curve with meat intake and cancer. We do not. In fact, we only need ONE (1) example of a conflicting finding to completely discredit the hypothesis. The Inuit Paradox is just such an example. Now the vegetarians will start back-pedaling and yamering a bunch of bull-shit, but the fact is we have a well documented example of a society that consumes greater than 90% of it’s calories from MEAT yet suffers NO:cancer, diabetes, or heart disease until the introduction of neolithic foods. This fact is forgotten, ignored, dismissed…but it’s still a fact. The inuit, are BTW but one of hundreds of hunter gatherer cultures who represent this interesting “Paradox”.
I wrapped up the NorCal Nutrition post with Prof. Cordain’s opening piece from the Protein Debate. I’m going to re-post that here becasue it needs to be read, discussed and debated. If you are going to attack the merrits of a paleo nutritional approach then you need to attack the underpinnings of modern biology, genetics, and biochemistry. Good luck with that.
Although humanity has been interested in diet and health for thousands of years, the organized, scientific study of nutrition has a relatively recent past. For instance, the world’s first scientific journal devoted entirely to diet and nutrition, The Journal of Nutrition only began publication in 1928. Other well known nutrition journals have a more recent history still: The British Journal of Nutrition (1947), The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1954), and The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1988). The first vitamin was “discovered” in 1912 and the last vitamin (B12) was identified in 1948 (1). The scientific notion that omega 3 fatty acids have beneficial health effects dates back only to the late 1970’s (2), and the characterization of the glycemic index of foods only began in 1981 (3).
Nutritional science is not only a newly established discipline, but it is also a highly fractionated, contentious field with constantly changing viewpoints on both major and minor issues that impact public health. For example, in 1996 a task force of experts from the American Society for Clinical Nutrition (ASCN) and the American Institute of Nutrition (AIN) came out with an official position paper on trans fatty acids stating,
“We cannot conclude that the intake of trans fatty acids is a risk factor for coronary heart disease” (4).
Fast forward 6 short years to 2002 and the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine’s report on trans fatty acids (5) stating,
“Because there is a positive linear trend between trans fatty acid intake and total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol concentration, and therefore increased risk of cardiovascular heart disease, the Food and Nutrition Board recommends that trans fatty acid consumption be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet”.
These kinds of complete turnabouts and divergence of opinion regarding diet and health are commonplace in the scientific, governmental and medical communities. The official U.S. governmental recommendations for healthy eating are outlined in the “My Pyramid” program (6) which recently replaced the “Food Pyramid”, both of which have been loudly condemned for nutritional shortcomings by scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health (7). Dietary advice by the American Heart Association (AHA) to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) is to limit total fat intake to 30% of total energy, to limit saturated fat to <10% of energy and cholesterol to <300 mg/day while eating at least 2 servings of fish per week (8). Although similar recommendations are proffered in the USDA “My Pyramid”, weekly fish consumption is not recommended because the authors of these guidelines feel there is only “limited” information regarding the role of omega 3 fatty acids in preventing cardiovascular disease (6). Surprisingly, the personnel makeup of both scientific advisory boards is almost identical. At least 30 million Americans have followed Dr. Atkins advice to eat more fat and meat to lose weight (9). In utter contrast, Dean Ornish tells us fat and meat cause cancer, heart disease and obesity, and that we would all would be a lot healthier if we were strict vegetarians (10). Who’s right and who’s wrong? How in the world can anyone make any sense out of this apparent disarray of conflicting facts, opinions and ideas?
In mature and well-developed scientific disciplines there are universal paradigms that guide scientists to fruitful end points as they design their experiments and hypotheses. For instance, in cosmology (the study of the universe) the guiding paradigm is the “Big Bang” concept showing that the universe began with an enormous explosion and has been expanding ever since. In geology, the “Continental Drift” model established that all of the current continents at one time formed a continuous landmass that eventually drifted apart to form the present-day continents. These central concepts are not theories for each discipline, but rather are indisputable facts that serve as orientation points for all other inquiry within each discipline. Scientists do not know everything about the nature of the universe, but it is absolutely unquestionable that it has been and is expanding. This central knowledge then serves as a guiding template that allows scientists to make much more accurate and informed hypotheses about factors yet to be discovered.
The study of human nutrition remains an immature science because it lacks a universally acknowledged unifying paradigm (11). Without an overarching and guiding template, it is not surprising that there is such seeming chaos, disagreement and confusion in the discipline. The renowned Russian geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (12). Indeed, nothing in nutrition seems to make sense because most nutritionists have little or no formal training in evolutionary theory, much less human evolution. Nutritionists face the same problem as anyone who is not using an evolutionary model to evaluate biology: fragmented information and no coherent way to interpret the data.
All human nutritional requirements like those of all living organisms are ultimately genetically determined. Most nutritionists are aware of this basic concept; what they have little appreciation for is the process (natural selection) which uniquely shaped our species’ nutritional requirements. By carefully examining the ancient environment under which our genome arose, it is possible to gain insight into our present day nutritional requirements and the range of foods and diets to which we are genetically adapted via natural selection (13-16). This insight can then be employed as a template to organize and make sense out of experimental and epidemiological studies of human biology and nutrition (11).