The Dublin doctor who is not beating cancer

2014-12-06_ent_5089562_I1

As I've said so many times before, this blog is my hobby. I write about what interests me for my own amusement. If it also interests you, that's awesome. Fortunately, I've found that several thousand people a day do like what I lay down on a daily basis, sometimes with occasional spikes to ridiculous levels of traffic (such as this Dr. Oz post, which for some reason broke all traffic records for this blog since the very beginning, and not by a little bit) and, more recently, this post about how the CDC did not apologize and "admit" that the flu vaccine this year doesn't work, which got quite a respectable spike, about 4-5 times normal daily traffic that took until today to drift back down to normal) but that's not the primary reason I write. I did this blog back when its readership was minuscule in the months after its beginning, and I continue to do it now that it gets quite respectable traffic for a medical/science blog with a single blogger.

That being said, none of this means that I won't on occasion take requests, particularly when more than one reader emails me about a topic. So it was that, over the last few days, I've had several of you send me a link to this book review, which appeared in the Irish press on Sunday, specifically Independent.ie. It's by the book editor (John Spain) and entitled The Dublin doctor who is beating cancer. It's subtitled John Spain on what is probably the most important book to be published here this year. The book is entitled Stop Feeding your Cancer, and it's by a Dublin GP named John Kelly. Spain characterizes it thusly:

It may seem an extraordinary statement to make, given the billions poured into cancer research by multinational pharma companies and medical research facilities. But a new book by a veteran GP on the northside of Dublin may well offer the first real proof that a way has been found to beat cancer.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. Depending on the cancer, there are already several ways to "beat cancer." If you have early stage breast cancer, for instance, surgery combined with radiation ± chemotherapy ± drugs that block estrogen can "beat" cancer. Heck, even if it's stage III cancer, patients have a reasonable chance of living 10 years. As long as the cancer hasn't spread beyond the lymph nodes under the arm, breast cancer is potentially "beatable." The same is true for other cancers. Lymphomas and leukemias can be cured with a combination of chemotherapy ± radiation (for lymphomas). Other solid tumors can be cured with a combination of surgery ± radiation therapy ± chemotherapy. This book review has thus started out with a breathtakingly ignorant statement. That does not bode well for the quality of the rest of the review or how well Spain understands cancer. Such is life.

Spain continues:

In Stop Feeding your Cancer, Dr John Kelly does not produce a "cure" for cancer. Instead he presents convincing evidence, based on the experience of his own patients, which shows that cancer can be stopped in its tracks and even reversed into a dormant state, allowing sufferers to regain good health and lead normal lives.

The core of this approach is the discovery a decade ago of a direct link between the consumption of animal protein and the development of cancer. Cancer cells need protein to divide and flourish. Cut off the supply of animal protein and you can stop the growth and spread of cancer cells. You can starve the cancer into submission.

So right off the bat we know that Kelly has not done anything resembling a clinical trial. As so many promoters of medical pseudoscience have done, he's collected anecdotes from his practice. As they say, when it comes to medicine, the plural of "anecdote" is usually not "data," and this sounds like an excellent example of this phenomenon. But first, why does Kelly think that cutting out animal protein will treat cancer? According to Spain, Kelly based this idea on the China Study.

I don't believe I've ever written about the China Study before, but Harriet Hall has, not just once but twice. It's an epidemiological study of diet and health conducted in villages throughout China by Colin Campbell of Cornell University. It was first published in the US in 2005 and has sold over a million copies, apparently. It's also a favorite of advocates of "raw food" and vegan diets as a panacea because the major claim made in the book is that we can prevent or cure nearly all diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, bone, kidney, eye and other diseases) if only we would give up meat and dairy products entirely, drastically decrease our protein intake, and eat a strictly plant-based diet. You can see why such a view would be attractive.

Unfortunately, Campbell's book, aside from being a book rather than a study subjected to the peer-reviewed scientific literature, has a lot of problems, as related by Harriet Hall: References whose conclusions are not as represented in the book and do not support Campbell's thesis, including a citation that touts the quackery that is the Gerson protocol; downplaying and even failing to mention research whose results do not agree with the China study; and finally shoddy research. Indeed, a reanalysis of the raw data of the China study by Denise Minger found many weaknesses and errors, including finding no direct correlation between animal protein intake and cancer and many others. Meanwhile, a lot of follow up research failed to validate the findings reported in the China study. Seriously, Spain (and Kelly) really need to read this roundup of science-based analyses and criticisms of the China study. Spain, for instance, is completely unskeptical of the claims made in the China study and swallows what Kelly says about it, who in turn swallowed what Campbell claimed.

So, basically, right off the bat, Kelly is proceeding from a flawed premise. It's just not as simple as Campbell or Kelly makes it out to be and there exists, either in the China study or elsewhere, strong evidence that a vegan diet can cure cancer. Unfortunately, Kelly's survey of his patients doesn't provide such evidence either, although you wouldn't know that from Spain's description of the book:

And the results, which he details in his book Stop Feeding your Cancer, are jaw dropping. As in any large GP practise in Ireland, a number of Kelly's patients develop cancer every year. He began to tell them about the link, gave them a copy of The China Study, and suggested they go on an animal protein free diet (no meat, no dairy produce). At the same time he continued to refer them on to cancer specialists in the normal way and did not try to dissuade them from having whatever surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy might be recommended.

What emerged is truly extraordinary. All of the patients who adopted the animal protein-free diet and stuck to it strictly found that their cancer stopped growing and spreading. The tumours became dormant, sometimes even reducing in size.

Since all of these patients were also having conventional cancer treatment, it was not possible to categorically say they had been saved by the diet alone. But conventional cancer treatment alone does not have this success rate and in many cases the specialists involved were amazed at the recovery of the patient. (Some of Kelly's patients had told their specialists they were on the diet, others did not. Invariably, the specialists put the recovery down to surgery or chemotherapy.)

Kelly gives the full details of over half a dozen cases in the book, including profiles of the patients and their lifestyles. The cases cover prostate, lung, colon, bowel, brain and other cancers. In some cases the patients stuck rigidly to the diet; in others they became complacent as they got better and could not resist going back to having steaks and fry-ups when their specialists gave them the all clear - whereupon their cancers came back.

Let's see. We have no inclusion criteria other than cancer and apparently no exclusion criteria. The patients were treated normally. Are there any statistics on these patients? What stages? What cancers? What treatments? Are these all detailed systematically? Was there approval from an ethics board, the Irish equivalent of institutional review boards (IRBs) in the US? After all, this "field trial run," as Kelly describes it, is basically a clinical trial. How do we know that this isn't simply a massive case of confirmation bias, very much like when the HomeFirst Clinic in Chicago, a practice that does not vaccinate, famously claimed that it had no autistic children in its practice. Mighty convenient—isn't it?—that the only patients who seemingly suffered progression of their cancer were ones who had "fallen off the wagon" as far as their vegan diet goes. Particularly telling is this passage:

The personal stories he gives are very human as patients try to stick with the diet, the disease comes and goes and the patients swing between despair and elation. Invasive treatments run alongside attempts to keep to the diet.

That sure sounds as though patients didn't uniformly do well on the diet and that their difficulties with the diet are being used as a blame-the-victim strategy. I don't think it's being done intentionally, but rather as a means of rationalizing why not every patient on the vegan diet did as well as Kelly apparently expected. All of this makes Spain's description of him as "scrupulously scientific" as doubtful at best, although the description of Kelly as "open-minded" brings to mind the crack about being so open-minded that your brains fall out.

Patients who didn't stick to the diet weren't the only patients who didn't do well. Not surprisingly, given its deadliness, patients with pancreatic cancer weren't miraculously cured by switching to a vegan diet. (Go figure.) Yet Kelly has an explanation for why patients with pancreatic cancer didn't do well. Unfortunately, it is an explanation that is neither convincing nor rooted in reality. When I read this review, I had a hard time believing that Kelly doesn't realize how physiologically nonsensical his explanation for why vegan diets won't cure pancreatic cancer is:

There is one exception to this, pancreatic cancer, the virulent form that killed Brian Lenihan and is usually fatal. But far from undermining the diet theory, Kelly, who has lost several patients to pancreatic cancer including his own brother, says this is actually an exception that proves the rule. The reason the animal protein free diet does not work against pancreatic cancer and some gastric cancers, he explains, is that the pancreas itself produces animal protein. The metabolising enzyme involved called Trypsin may hold the key to solving this problem and Kelly calls for research into anti-Trypsin drugs.

Huh? Trypsin is no more or less an "animal protein" than any other protein in the human body, given that human beings are animals and their proteins are very similar, in some cases close to identical, to the "animal proteins" in food. By Kelly's criterion, pretty much any enzyme in the body is an "animal protein." An interesting twist to this truly silly explanation is that Kelly thinks trypsin generates these "animal proteins." All trypsin does is to cleave proteins at specific amino acid residues. Specifically, trypsin cleaves proteins at amino acids lysine or arginine, except when either is followed by proline. That's all it does. It doesn't matter if the proteins are plant or animal proteins. Trypsin cleaves big proteins into little peptides that can be further broken down in the small intestine.

Even stranger, Kelly seems to think that antitrypsin drugs would somehow reverse this production of "animal protein" by trypsin. This is curiously the exact opposite of the quack Gonzalez protocol, which blames pancreatic cancer on a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes and claims to treat pancreatic cancer (in part) by replenishing those enzymes in many supplements. It's basically the opposite kind of cancer quackery as the Gonzalez protocol, but based on the same sorts of ideas: that pancreatic cancer is caused in part by dysfunction of pancreatic enzymes. It's also profoundly dumb to anyone with a basic knowledge of GI physiology. Kelly should be ashamed of himself as a physician for having so poor a grasp of basic pancreatic biochemistry and physiology.

So why did Kelly write such a wrong-headed book? Well, here:

In the book he calls for such research; in fact his main motivation for writing the book is the disinterest he has faced from consultants and oncology specialists in the past few years who are dismissive of the diet theory to the point of being insulting. They stick with their surgery and radiotherapy and chemotherapy even though in many cases it either does not work or offers only limited time. They regard a dietary solution as simplistic or as flaky alternative medicine. What would a mere GP know? After all, they are the experts.

Ah, yes, the Brave Maverick Doctor, shunned by physicians who actually understand the science of cancer because of his brilliance. Did it ever occur to Spain (or Kelly) that perhaps the reason that oncologists are dismissive of Kelly's ideas that animal protein is the cause of cancer and a vegan diet is the cure is because they are divorced from science. It's actually not unreasonable to hypothesize that a vegan might prevent cancer. It's a testable claim, although the existing evidence base is somewhat conflicting and the very tome upon which Kelly bases his hypothesis is shaky at best, biased and cherry picked at worst.

Unfortunately, Kelly did nothing substantive to test his claim. Single anecdotes are notoriously subject to all the fallacies of thinking to which the human brain is prone. Bundling a bunch of anecdotes together without pre-specifying inclusion and exclusion criteria and outcome measures (at least) does not constitute a case series. Spain wouldn't be expected to know that, but Kelly sure as hell should. If he was really interested in testing whether a vegan diet could cure cancer (or at least greatly slow its progression), he should have published his results in the peer-reviewed medical literature, not as a book.

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Hey, but look at the quantity of data, Kelly includes "over half a dozen cases", surely that's enough to prove this beyond doubt. Can I have Spain's phone number, I want to sell him a bridge...

Just keep eating and experimenting on captive, captured, misled and/or malnourished animals and see how far you go in life.

By Wesley Dodson (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Veganism is foolish, raw totalitarianism is foolish, juice fasting and other crash cleanses are foolish, Paleo is crock, carnivory is premature death, and industrial snacks are its dearest companion.

By Wesley Dodson (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

I'm not saying all cancer is fostered by a poor diet, but certainly a ton of it is.

By Wesley Dodson (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Wesley Dodson

I’m not saying all cancer is fostered by a poor diet, but certainly a ton of it is.

Not to necessarily disagree, but could you please say:
- how do you define "poor diet" in this context?
- which cancers are fostered by "a poor diet"?
- how you know this?

Thanks!

Just keep eating and experimenting on captive, captured, misled and/or malnourished animals and see how far you go in life.

Thanks again! I didn't know I needed your permission, but am grateful to have it.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

As a side note, I have never misled a large animal. However, I have pretended to throw a stick for dogs on many occasions. They frequently wise up.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Ah Wesley, those of your ilk need to take close notice of the Jessica Ainscoughs, the Kris Carrs, the Polly Nobles and Belle Gibsons of this world who spruik the food fights/reverses/prevents cancer miracle claims ( quite profitably thank you) while ALL still harboring advancing cancer. Only hiding it very well from their sycophantic ( wilfully ignorant perhaps) fans.

By janerella (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

This is nonsense on an evolutionary basis as well. Our ancestors may have been eating meat for almost 3 million years, which is plenty of time for the necessary adaptations to arise. So, if this is true, why are we hear at all?

By Michael Finfer,MD (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Coincidentally (hmm), the following clickbait popped up when I was reading a news article this morning:

http://naturalon.com/10-of-the-most-cancer-causing-foods/3/

The implication in some of this is that you'll avoid cancer by eating an organic diet (vegan isn't enough). Especially interesting was the part about how dangerous crops fertilized with composted human sewage sludge (not allowed in organic farming) are. Curiously though, it's been A-OK for such farms to use composted animal waste, including the output (urgh) of turkey and chicken farms, which are probably not all-natural operations:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/21/246386290/organic-farmers-b…

So I guess the best and only thing you can do to avoid or cure cancer is to become a breatharian. And if that doesn't work, you were probably cheating/doing it wrong.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

The only way to avoid cancer is to die of something else first.

Cancer cells need protein to divide and flourish.

The same is said of glucose/sugars, and resulted in the recent fad of sugar-free diets to prevent/cure cancer.
This can be said of any nutrient, actually. Including water. Without water, cancer cells die.
The only logical route from here is to stop eating and drinking anything.

A pity the normal cells of our body also needs all of these nutrients. That makes specifically depriving cancer cells without hurting healthy cells a bit tricky, to say the less.

Incidentally, that's why chemotherapies based on nucleotide homologues or targeting the DNA have nasty side effects (like loss of hair). Cancer cells are not the only ones making new DNA.
These therapies are based on the idea that cancer cells are engaged in uncontrolled, rapid proliferation, compared to healthy cells, and due to to all the genetic mutations cancer cells accumulate, they will be less discriminating of what they are using to make new DNA. It's working, but it's a tight rope to walk.

Proposing that specifically stalling cancer is achievable by not eating something as basic and universal as amino-acids is beyond simplistic. Most healthy cells do not divide on a daily basis, and thus may have reduced needs for nucleotides, but they are making new proteins every second of each day.

I will need a bit more than a few anecdotes to be convinced.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

I see Dangerous Bacon already come to the conclusion we should go the breatharian way.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Altho' Campbell's book may be pooh-poohed by SBM advocates, it is Holy Writ to the woo-afflicted:
Campbell is cited as frequently as Tom Jefferson as an example of a scientist from the establishment who has seen the light. Material like his gives the woo-meisters a way to ensnare people who do look for evidence and research but are not able to understand how complicated these issues are.

As you may already know, Ireland has had a long history of veganism/ vegetarianism/ pescatarianism
however it wasn't exactly a fashionable lifestyle choice which they made of their own free will.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

It is amazing how many cancer quacks come to favor a "cleansing" diet. Especially since a low-calorie cleanse is demonstrably BAD for cancer patients, who need calories to resist the weight loss that cancer causes and get through chemo and surgery.

By Young CC Prof (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

The ethical value of veganism is independent of whether or not it could cure cancer, Wesley. Veganism can't make you fly, but that's not an argument for non-veganism (which can't make you fly either).

(Incidentally, I had a friend on chemo who had trouble eating most meats while on her treatment; the way the smell/taste/texture/digestion interacted with her chemo side effects made it unappetizing. I mention this as I imagine anyone on chemo is going to have trouble following a diet beyond 'what doesn't make me want to vomit'. )

By Becca Stareyes (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Cancer cells need protein to divide and flourish. Cut off the supply of animal protein and you can stop the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Which of course is why herbivores (e.g. cows and horses) never develop cancer.

Oh, wait...

None of these woo-people (that’s homo sapiens wooensis) ever explain to me why my neighbor (for example, I’m sure there are many others) who is 92, thrives on a diet of white bread, margarine, processed lunch meat, fake orange juice, loads of milk, canned soup, and cookies--and daily oatmeal. She does have some stents and a pacemaker, but still rakes her leaves, and always goes out to “tidy up” after the snow removal guys leave. The thing is, she has never been overweight and still weighs herself regularly as she can’t abide fatness. She now has some cognitive impairment, but she IS 92.
Something tells me it all has more to do with how MUCH you eat and your underlying genetic programming.

My wife adopted a vegan diet one year before being diagnosed with 3A BC. She also juiced. Four years on, metastasis to the liver, bone and lung and she was gone.

So much for Dr. Kelly'. In my eyes.

People are yearning for control in an uncontrollable world and shysters will cash in on that.

By Sullivanthepoop (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

At least he's recommending his patients still get real treatment for their cancer alongside his diet nonsense. How long that lasts, however, is another question. He may eventually slide further down the rabbit hole of woo and recommend his diet in lieu of real cancer treatment. The scary thing is that in the U.K., if a certain bill passes, doctors like Kelly will not be able to be sued for negligence if they opt for nonsense treatments.

The ethical value of veganism is independent of whether or not it could cure cancer, Wesley. Veganism can’t make you fly, but that’s not an argument for non-veganism (which can’t make you fly either).

(Incidentally, I had a friend on chemo who had trouble eating most meats while on her treatment; the way the smell/taste/texture/digestion interacted with her chemo side effects made it unappetizing. I mention this as I imagine anyone on chemo is going to have trouble following a diet beyond ‘what doesn’t make me want to vomit’. )

Absolutely. My stint on chemo had me eating tuna melt tuna helper, tomato soup, and persimmons because those were pretty much the only things I could eat. I remember being in the same house as my sister when she made boiled peanuts and the smell making me vomit.

The reason the animal protein free diet does not work against pancreatic cancer and some gastric cancers, he explains, is that the pancreas itself produces animal protein.

Well, yes, and our salivary glands add amylase to our diets... while our stomachs contribute some pepsin. To that extent, we are auto-cannibalistic so veganism is futile. But other than magical thinking, I can't see any specific link to pancreatic cancer.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Someone's got to say it. How do the amino acids know whether they came from animal protein or plant protein?

By justthestats (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

@justthestats

How do the amino acids know whether they came from animal protein or plant protein?

Homeopathy.

Isn't this a variant on Weston Price's nonsensical cult? And sugarbollocks woomeisters also make exactly the same claim to "starve cancer".

Vegans will of course be delighted to learn they cannot get cancer. Oh, wait...

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

ProgJohn wrote:
The only way to avoid cancer is to die of something else first.

Which is why a breatharian diet is far more effective than a vegan one.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Speaking as a vegan (out of ethical considerations), I have absolutely no expectations that my diet will either prevent or cure cancer.

By Dave Mitchell (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

@Todd W.
Ah, now it makes total sense.

By justthestats (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Veganism is foolish

So is not eating dogs. Quit whining and start actualizing.

Wesley Dodson,

I’m not saying all cancer is fostered by a poor diet, but certainly a ton of it is.

Eating more fruit and vegetables has a surprisingly small effect on cancer risk, apart from colorectal cancer. This study, a part of the EPIC study concludes that, "the available data suggest that general increases in fruit and vegetable intake would not have much effect on cancer rates, at least in well-nourished populations". Obesity certainly increases cancer risk, but you can become obese by eating too much 'healthy' food though perhaps not quite as easily or quickly as eating high calorie junk food.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

"As a side note, I have never misled a large animal. However, I have pretended to throw a stick for dogs on many occasions. They frequently wise up."

Yeah, our smart dog only falls for that once. Our dumb dog has trouble paying attention to the stick long enough to be misled.

Also, we do not malnourish our lab animals, and eating them is generally frowned upon. (Not that you could likely get much off of an inbred mouse.)

"Speaking as a vegan (out of ethical considerations), I have absolutely no expectations that my diet will either prevent or cure cancer."

Change that to vegetarian, and that's where I sit, too.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

So is not eating dogs.

I recently discovered that the Swiss, of all people, have a tradition of eating dogs and cats, though not foxes, thankfully. Protein is protein, cruelty is cruelty and sentiment is sentiment, I suppose.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Right, the next time I'm offered a heaping serving of Katzelstrudel I'll be sure to pass

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

The Daily Mirror (of all unexpected media) did some fact-checking on the Swiss petfood story and decided that the Swiss activist group was exaggerating the scale of consumption:

And we found government stats which show that even if the Swiss do eat household pets, they can’t be eating a huge number of them.
Just 240 tonnes of meat consumption for the entirety of Switzerland is ‘other’ (ie. meat that isn’t beef, veal, pork, sheep, goats, horses, poultry, rabbits, or game).

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

and eating them is generally frowned upon. (Not that you could likely get much off of an inbred mouse.)

Clearly you should switch to using lab capybaras.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Which animals people do and don't eat is one of the few things I'm a cultural relativist about. I remember some dumb outragey thing going around Facebook a while back about some store selling dog meat. I mean, yeah, dogs and cats are our friends, and we don't typically eat our friends, but, hey, some people have pet pigs. Pigs are at least as intelligent and sentient as dogs are, so why does it make any sense to be upset about people eating dogs (or cats) and not about people eating pigs?

and eating them is generally frowned upon.

My family has fond memories of lab rabbit stew from when my father was a medical student.

Just 240 tonnes of meat

Just?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Right, the next time I’m offered a heaping serving of Katzelstrudel I’ll be sure to pass

Avoid the Dogzelstrudel too - trust me.

For some reason I'm reminded of the Goodies classic, 'Mummy I don't like my meat'/a>.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

Krebiozen @41:
That was extremely entertaining. I'd never heard of the Goodies before...

I’d never heard of the Goodies before
That is perhaps the saddest thing I have read today. But no matter, you can still be redeemed.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

That is perhaps the saddest thing I have read today.

Heh.

Hey, I'm 26 years old, fer cryin' out loud. And now I have heard of The Goodies, so I'm not sad at all.

Hey, I’m 26 years old, fer cryin’ out loud. And now I have heard of The Goodies, so I’m not sad at all.

As it happens, there's a working (16.7 GB) torrent of the entire run.* Just sayin'.

* Although the guys at the Service Center inform me that at least one seeder only puts it up on request.

Yay! Oh, man, now my prospectus is never going to get finished.

Is that the same Ms. Minger who is an English Undergraduate and isn't one of Professor Campbell's peers?.

''A cancer epidemiologist who says she posted criticism of Minger's methods last week on Minger's blog complained in a posting on VegSource that her critical post first appeared and then was removed from the Comments area of Minger's blog. In fact, Minger herself posted on VegSource in response to this epidemeologist's complaint, and did not deny that the epidemeologist's critical comments had been yanked. After complaining on VegSource about the post disappearing, the epidemiologist's post apparently reappeared on Minger's blog. (Minger subsquently said something about a "spam filter" being at fault.)'' http://www.vegsource.com/talk/raw/messages/100021596.html http://www.vegsource.com/talk/raw/messages/100021592.html

Minger Critique http://nutritionstudies.org/minger-critique/

By James Peters (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

JP,

That was extremely entertaining. I’d never heard of the Goodies before…

I'm very glad to have introduced you to them. It looks like a kids show at first glance, but there's some vicious satire in there too. My favorite is probably 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk'.

IIRC there are a couple of extra lines at the end of the album version of the tragic song: "Mummy, I haven't seen Tiddles a while, and Mummy... where's Daddy?"

Narad,
Nice to see Bill Oddie is still getting crabbier as he gets older.

As it happens, there’s a working (16.7 GB) torrent of the entire run.* Just sayin’.

That's thanks to the popularity of the show in Australia and New Zealand - it has rarely been repeated in the UK for some reason.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

@Krebiozen

the reason apparently is Bill Oddie deciding he wanted to be taken seriously or sommit... me n mates walked round his tree at glastonbury when he visited the hippies one year singing 'funky gibbon' and he was well humourless about it :)

Yay! Oh, man, now my prospectus is never going to get finished.

When you've finished the Goodies, there is still 'Round the Horne' and "I'm Sorry I'll Read that Again". It's the thin edge of the slippery slope!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

On what animals we eat - until I raised chickens, I assumed they were unintelligent (bird-brain is never used as a compliment) eating/egg-laying creatures.

Then we got Maria (named for Sound of Music). She was as smart as a dog, and completely attached to me. She was something else... and made me realize chickens are smarter than we realize. They have 70+ separate vocalizations that mean different things - they communicate with each other (I have learned a little "chicken" over the years). When I would bring home deli sandwiches and try to eat them, she would run under the coffee table, grab the edge of the paper, and run, dropping the sandwich on the floor and eating it. If you had a plate with pizza or breadsticks, she would jump onto furniture (chickens aren't strong flyers) and launch herself past your plate, grabbing what she could on the way past.

She loved hamburgers. I miss her terribly

Studies are suggesting plants have some kind of awareness.

We have to eat. Whatever we eat usually has been alive. I choose to believe that we try to raise food ethically and kill it quickly.

@herr doktor bimler:
I'm always on the lookout for more procrastination fodder. Thanks!

@Mrs. Woo:
That is an adorable story; I'll have to rethink my position on chickens. My dad was a logger, but we had a little bit of a hobby farm while he was still alive - just pigs and cows, though. He had to take care of the chickens when he was a kid, apparently, and he always said that chickens were ba$tards and he wouldn't ever have any of his own.

Pigs, as far as I'm concerned, are adorable. They're really smart and funny, too.

@JP -

I have 20 to 40 chickens at any given time, both full sized and bantam breeds. None of my chickens are dangerous, and when our son ended up with a bad (attacked and flogged our grandad) rooster, they made him into dinner and called me for a replacement, because I gentle my roosters and only have take ones.

We added guinea fowl to our flocks four or five years ago (I have seen five of them chase off a very confused coyote) for their guardian abilities. Surprisingly, they accepted the boss rooster, Puff, as their leader. I suspect a younger roo would have taken over the flock by now, but the guineas act as his own enforcers - when a younger rooster tries to fight him the guinea fowl come running and drive the usurper away. Puff going to be six years old.

I realized chickens get a bad rap - they are as entertaining as many other pets and intelligent. They don't have the lifespan of a parrot , but are fairly inexpensive, even for show quality birds.

Mr Woo won't let me have another house chicken, though. Maria had a problem with recurring bronchial infections and died young. She grew quite popular on Facebook by then, and many of her fans want me to put a new spokesbird in her place to share more stories about our farm.

That autocorrected granddaughter to granddad for no apparent reason. Doggone rooster beat up a two-year-old.

Huh. I have a new, grudging respect for the creatures, I suppose. And sorry to hear about Maria the chicken. :(

The funny thing about my dad is that he was actually kicked multiple times and injured by a "blue" cow as a preschooler, but he didn't mind cows. He really hated chickens, though.

(My grandma and my dad both described the cow as blue. I only recently found out there actually is such an animal, though they look more grey than blue to me.)

@JP

I was forced to do chicken plucking when my stepmother's mother got rid of her chicken flock (to my childhood count, she had a hundred chickens, so there may have been 40?). An afternoon ripping hot, stinky, wet chicken feathers out of birds did absolutely nothing to make me plan to have chickens (like many women, it was the cute, peeping fluff balls in the feed store that needed someone to take care of them). When Mr Woo gave into my impulse, I told him egg layers only. I still refuse to ever, ever help with chicken butchery again.

My mother loathed chickens. And the Missouri Synod. The latter I was at least able to come up with a plausible (if vague) reason for, but I forgot to get the back story on the former while she was still alive.

@ Mrs. Woo
In the newspaper I read, there is one lady who often writes about her chickens, if she writes some recipe for the cooking column.
Your story reminded me on her pieces.

@ Helianthus
It's not proposed to not eat amino-acids, it's proposed to eat only amino-acids coming from plants. Building protein is a complex process. It could well be possible the ratio between different essential amino-acids in your intake determines the efficiency of this process in tumours. Why is it so unimaginable that lower intakes of some essential amino-acids (as is the case when you take your amino-acids exclusively from plant protein) could seriously slow tumour growth? I'm not saying there is conclusive evidence, but I find it interesting at least and if it could possibly help lower cancer suffering, it would be wise to give this thought a chance.

You said nothing to prove the Dublin doctor's patients are not beating cancer. You simply complain about his analysis and approach without taking into consideration the results. That is like saying a football team with a 12-0 record sucks because the run the ball too much. Results are all that matter. This blindness to the truth and the big picture is what holds back many people from success.

By Fred Wilderbrandt (not verified) on 14 Dec 2014 #permalink

"Results are all that matter."

What results? Just post the PubMed links to the case studies that doctor has written about the patients he cured.

Now go back and read the article with more comprehension. Take note of this paragraph:

Let’s see. We have no inclusion criteria other than cancer and apparently no exclusion criteria. The patients were treated normally. Are there any statistics on these patients? What stages? What cancers? What treatments? Are these all detailed systematically? Was there approval from an ethics board, the Irish equivalent of institutional review boards (IRBs) in the US? After all, this “field trial run,” as Kelly describes it, is basically a clinical trial.

Then go and get the results of that "clinical trial" and make sure to answer all of the questions in that paragraph by filling in the large gaps of data.

"You simply complain about his analysis and approach without taking into consideration the results. That is like saying a football team with a 12-0 record sucks because the run the ball too much."

Nope. It's like the media reporting a team is 12-0 when it might actually be 0-12, and there's no good evidence that the team even exists. To carry the analogy further, it's like the coach saying the team scores at will using only the Statue of Liberty play, when statistical records and common sense indicate otherwise.

"You said nothing to prove the Dublin doctor’s patients are not beating cancer."

Here's how science works, Fred - them who makes the claims are required to produce the evidence. It's not up to others (in the absence of any real documentation by the claimant) to go out and prove that wild allegations are not true.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 14 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ Nafai

Why is it so unimaginable that lower intakes of some essential amino-acids (as is the case when you take your amino-acids exclusively from plant protein) could seriously slow tumour growth?

You missed my point.
Plenty of changes in the diet, or plenty of drugs, for that matter, can slow tumour growth.
The issue I'm concerned with is, does this change will afffect tumor cells more than it will affect the patient's healthy cells, or not?
There is not much point in curing the patient if you kill him/her at the same time.

I could accept the idea that my argument is out of ignorance.
Maybe there is a possibility that specific lacks of nutrients - amino-acids or otherwise - could hinder tumour cells more than it will harm the patient. By example, because tumour cells cannot synthesize these nutrients at the level they need, while healthy cells still can do it.

I can imagine plenty of ways something could help with cancer.
However, imagining it doesn't make it true.

In addition, I'm afraid the sort of metabolic deficits I'm hypothesizing would be very specific of certain types of cancers, maybe even patient-specific. Cancer is not a monolithic entity, tumour cells vary widely in function of their origin, their stage, and their surroundings. That would limit seriously the usefulness of such approaches.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 14 Dec 2014 #permalink

To Nafai in re comment 64:
This idea of diet moving cancer into remission relies entirely upon " It could well be possible..." and "Why is it so unimaginable...", with nothing else as a basis. It is up to the person making the hypothesis to actually follow up with hard facts, not just wild speculation. In this respect, Kelly and Campbell fail. They combine a bunch of anecdotes, or at best, case histories, but nothing resembling a real study to sift guesses from reality. This is neither good medicine nor good science. By the way, as a biochemist, I do not find your "It could well be possible..." at all plausible. I study proteins for a living. To my knowledge, there is more variation between individual proteins than there is between the set of proteins in different species, even plants versus animals.

That is like saying a football team with a 12-0 record sucks because the run the ball too much.

No, it's not, for the simple reason we don't know what his record is. In your analogy, he's a football coach talking up his 12 victories, without revealing how many total games his team has played.

@JGC

I'd add that in addition to not even knowing how many total games played, we also don't know how many of those wins were due to the other team forfeiting.

JGC: The Napoleon strategy, in other words. ;-) Trumpet your victories, hope nobody brings up your losses.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 15 Dec 2014 #permalink

@Helianthus

You missed my point.
Plenty of changes in the diet, or plenty of drugs, for that matter, can slow tumour growth.
The issue I’m concerned with is, does this change will afffect tumor cells more than it will affect the patient’s healthy cells, or not?
There is not much point in curing the patient if you kill him/her at the same time.

I didn't miss your point. I just assumed you would agree with me it is clear that vegans don't die of being a vegan for the reason of not getting enough amino-acids.

@Helianthus
@JerryA
Excuse my choice of words. I'll stop expressing my surprise of the apparent lack of interest for a new potential addition to bulldozering tumours chemically (or otherwise) with huge collateral damage. Any serious interest would result in more knowledge of existing science on the matter (see below), thus my assumption is that a lack of interest does exist. For me, the reason for this is still shrouded in darkness.

On with business:

There are two issues on hand.
1. There surely is a significant difference in amino-acid composition between species (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/59/5/1203S.full.pdf+html). Apparently this is a fact not known to all biochemists who work with protein. The fact that it may be bigger between individual proteins is not relevant because you don't extract certain proteins from the whole of a food when eating the food. Furthermore, the ratio between different amino acids seems to be a relevant biochemical variable (http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/4/1/24). For me, this is a reason to keep open the possibility that this could be a factor in explaning the relation between tumour behavior and the type of proteins fed to the tumour (see below).
2. When eating plant based, the total intake of protein will likely be lower (however sufficient) than this of the typical western omnivore. This is relevant in the citations below.

The reason for my surprise comes from the fact that nobody here is talking about or seems to know about the extreme differences in the effect on growth of tumours from different types of proteins. Campbell didn't just take his conclusions from the China Study! There is evidence from lab research that points in the same direction: there somehow is a major difference between different proteins when looking at influence on tumour growth.
Opposed in this respect are two of the most important proteins (important in the sense of consumed a lot by people): soy and dairy (casein). In short: in rats with liver cancer eating only soy protein can shut off tumour growth and eating only casein can switch on tumour growth.
This alone doesn't justify big scale extrapolations to humans, to different tumours or to 'plant' versus 'animal' but in my opinion it should excite phantasy and the wish for additional research much much more than it does now. I seriously wonder why it doesn't.

References for the statements above:
1. http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/9/1607.short
2. Unfortunately I have no access to this: Madhavan TV, Gopalan C. The effect of dietary protein on carcinogenesis of aflatoxin. Arch Pathol 1968;85:133–7.
3. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/6/1456.full

There is more, but time is limited.

“You said nothing to prove the Dublin doctor’s patients are not beating cancer.”
Fred Wilderbrandt seems to be missing the point that if 'patients are beating cancer' that's only relevant if the Dub-docs regimen is provably the reason that MORE of his patients 'beat cancer' (definition please) than those undergoing other treatments. You know correlation does not equal causality; post hoc and cum hoc fallacies, logic 010 (remedial level...)

The football reference is a face-palming sports Dunning-Kruger. Fred's analogy attributes the record of the team (patients) to the coach (doctor) and the game plan (running game~treatment plan). Perhaps Fred, being from Chicago, is a Superfan under the delusion that if the ghost of Mike Ditka had been coaching Da Bears this year instead of Marc Trestman they'd be in th playoffs, or something. Nope, Jay Cutler would still be Jay Cutler and the Bears D still wouldn't be able to stop even a third-rate NFL offense. Barry Switzer has a Super Bowl ring, but he was a shitty NFL coach. Michigan went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl under Brady Hoke in 2011, and Hoke would have to improve significantly to even suck as an NCAA power conference head football coach. More football ignorance: 12-0 is a collegiate season, and NO ONE would ever say a college team sucks because it runs the ball too much (straw man). If an NFL team goes 13-3 behind a running game without a decent passing attack (unlikely but possible) and the coach stays with that game plan in subsequent seasons, the coach does indeed suck because that doesn't work long term under the leagues rules on the field, under the salary cap, and so forth.

"Results are all that matter. "
Fred would make a very bad GM or AD. All that matters is why results are what they are. Reading results back to a single-factor presumed causality without evidence kills careers in big-time sports, but kills human beings in medicine.

@Helianthus

You missed my point.
Plenty of changes in the diet, or plenty of drugs, for that matter, can slow tumour growth.
The issue I’m concerned with is, does this change will afffect tumor cells more than it will affect the patient’s healthy cells, or not?
There is not much point in curing the patient if you kill him/her at the same time.

I didn't miss your point. I just assumed you would agree with me it is clear that vegans don't die of being a vegan for the reason of not getting enough amino-acids.

@Helianthus
@JerryA
There are two issues on hand.
1. There surely is a significant difference in amino-acid composition between species (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/59/5/1203S.full.pdf+html). Apparently this is a fact not known to all biochemists who work with protein. The fact that it may be bigger between individual proteins is not relevant because you don't extract certain proteins from the whole of a food when eating the food. Furthermore, the ratio between different amino acids seems to be a relevant biochemical variable (http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/4/1/24). For me, this is a reason to keep open the possibility that this could be a factor in explaning the relation between tumour behavior and the type of proteins fed to the tumour (see below).
2. When eating plant based, the total intake of protein will likely be lower (however sufficient) than this of the typical western omnivore. This is relevant in the citations below.

Why is nobody talking about or seems to know about the extreme differences in the effect on growth of tumours from different types of proteins. Campbell didn't just take his conclusions from the China Study! There are many studies (many done by his workers but surely not only) that point in the same direction: there somehow is a major difference between different proteins when looking at influence on tumour growth.
Opposed in this respect are two of the most important proteins (important in the sense of consumed a lot by people): soy and dairy (casein). In short: soy can shut off tumour growth and casein can switch on tumour growth.
This alone doesn't justify big scale extrapolations to humans, to different tumours or to 'plant' versus 'animal' but in my opinion it should excite phantasy and the wish for additional research much much more than it does now. I seriously wonder why it doesn't.

References for the statements above:
1. http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/9/1607.short
2. Unfortunately I have no access to this: Madhavan TV, Gopalan C. The effect of dietary protein on carcinogenesis of aflatoxin. Arch Pathol 1968;85:133–7.
3. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/6/1456.full
There is more, but time is limited.

@Nafai - When you say you don't miss Helianthus's point, you once again miss his point. While being vegan is not an automatic death sentence, where's the evidence that a healthy vegan diet has an anti-cancer action? If somehow you could eat your way to killing cancer, how do you know that it would not kill you as well?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Dec 2014 #permalink

@Mephistopheles O'Brien
And you didn't read the conversation well. Pity by the way that you found this the only important enough remark in my post to reply to, whereas it actually is the only insignificant part of my post (excuse the fact I started with it, but that was just chronological).

To explain the course of this discussion:

Nafai 1: Why is it so unimaginable that lower intakes of some essential amino-acids (as is the case when you take your amino-acids exclusively from plant protein) could seriously slow tumour growth?

Helianthes 1: You missed my point.
Plenty of changes in the diet, or plenty of drugs, for that matter, can slow tumour growth.
The issue I’m concerned with is, does this change will afffect tumor cells more than it will affect the patient’s healthy cells, or not?
There is not much point in curing the patient if you kill him/her at the same time.

Nafai reply now to Mephistopheles: so Helianthes is acknowledging that many changes in diet and drugs can slow tumour growth. His conclusion: there is not much point in curing the patient if you kill him/her at the same time.

Two questions here:
1. Is the diet killing the patient?
2. Is the diet slowing tumour growth.

1. No, it's not (gone the worries of Helianthes).
2. Not clear yet, but that's the question at hand.

So Helianthes is saying diet could well slow tumour growth, just let's hope this doesn't also negatively affect the growth of normal cells. Well, it doesn't, because there are loads of people eating like this and it doesn't kill them in the way we are here fearing it might kill them.

Side-note: let's drop 'vegan' and call it plant-based, whole food, as Campbell, we are discussing his claims after all and vegans are often not nearly whole foods. This is supposedly a big difference because of many reasons.

Nafai,

A large prospective study of almost half a million people (PMC3039795) has found little or no association between eating fruits and vegetables and risk of cancer, concluding:

For lung cancer, recent large prospective analyses with detailed adjustment for smoking have not shown a convincing association between fruit and vegetable intake and reduced risk. For other common cancers, including colorectal, breast and prostate cancer, epidemiological studies suggest little or no association between total fruit and vegetable consumption and risk.

Meat eaters may have slightly higher all cause mortality than non-meat eaters, though this association disappears when the data are corrected for measurement error. It looks likely that the association between meat-eating and cancer seen in some but not other studies may be because those who do not eat meat have a generally healthier lifestyle, e.g. smoking, alcohol, exercise.

Consumption of processed meats is undoubtedly associated with a number of cancers, but this is probably due to carcinogens in processed meats rather than amino acid content.

Since vegan and vegetarian diets have little effect on preventing most cancers, it seems to me extremely unlikely that they could cure cancer.

In this regard you might be interested in Dr. Peter Moran's website where he has looked at the claims of several clinics that use alternative treatments, and compared their published results to conventional treatments, with disappointing results. Many of those alternative treatments are based on variations on vegetarian diets along with various supplements. The bottom line is they don't work, as additionally evidenced by the disastrous results of the Gonzalez clinical trial which resulted in those on the alternative treatment surviving only a third as long as those on conventional treatment with a significantly lower quality of life.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ Nafai

To add to Krebiozen's post:

1 - a vegan diet, and plenty others of no-meat diets are not exactly hassle-free. You do have to tailor your food intake to include enough essential amino-acids and other nutrients.
The stronger your food limitations, the harder the adjustments to be made.
So, sorry: while it's true that on average, vegetarians aren't harmed by their diet, that's not a given.
(anecdotal alert: while I tend to be overweight, the vegetarian friends I have tend toward anorexic or, in one case, just the opposite, i.e. obese - so I'm not too convinced about vegetarian diets being harm-free)
I'm nitpicking, but I prefer to make it clear a vegetarian diet is to be started with some good recommendations.

2 - if a vegetarian diet (or whatever diet) is balanced, i.e. is keeping you well-fed, there is a good chance it will keep your cancer cells well-fed, too.
If your diet is lacking some essential nutrients - something you cannot synthesize, all your cells will miss them, not just your cancer cells (and the latter aren't know for fair-play - no way they will let healthy cells have first pick).
If you diet is lacking in something your healthy cells can synthesize themselves - like glucose or fructose, as an example, then either your cancer cells can synthesize it as well, or they will just live off the excess your healthy cells are producing and dropping in the blood circulation. In the latter case, that may slow them. Maybe. Until they adjust.

So it's not very likely just changing your diet habits will starve your cancer cells. Unless you go for an unbalanced diet (i.e. not for a regular vegetarian diet)
As I speculated above, it's not impossible. I don't know everything. But I feel it's going to be of limited benefit for a high risk.

In short, I'm concerned that, for a diet to starve cancer cells, this diet will also have to starve the patient.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

OK, my grammar is slipping. Time for a nap.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ Krebiozen & Helianthus
You both either haven't read the China Study at all, knowing too little of the suggested life style by Campbell OR indeed lack sleep, causing you to divert way from the subject and ignoring the thoroughly explained reasons for his advice.

Again: not vegan, not vegetarian, but "whole foods, plant-based". A short Google on this gives loads of consistent doctors, with 90% science-based advice on food (see references below).
Nice thing about it: hardly any difficult rules for diet and the best of all: no limitations to the amount of food you eat

Meat eaters?? As opposed to whom? Dairy drinkers?
Vegetarians?? Those guys that drink 3 liters of milk a day and consider french fries their daily portion of vegetables? I guess those would be overweight.

Let's stick to the subject: Campbells advice is 99% consistent with the advice of Esselstyn and Ornish, all three of whom base their advice on their own and others peer-reviewed science. (Quick Google gives lists of publications: Esselstyn, Campbell, Ornish).
Their advice is really very different from vegans and other alternative loony's. The reason there aren't any big scale studies on this consistent advice (apart from Ornish's work), is that there are hardly any people to find that have followed this advice (again: 95% of vegans don't qualify, let alone fruitarians, raweaters, those all don't use science as the leading source of information for their choices).

@ Helianthus part 2
You are big time speculating here and you are sticking to the starvation model. First of all, starvation for a limited time period (mostly called fasting) has been proven scientifically to have many health benefits. Second: Campbell is advising never to eat less than what you feel like eating. Just choose the right stuff.

Really guys: if you are open minded: read the China Study, read Whole (also by Campbell), read some publications reffered to above, try this abundant choice of food for some time and judge for yourself if you feel healthy or not. Actually what Campbell is advising seems nothing more or less than that (sorry for diverting from the cancer a bit here, towards general health).
Unfortunately, I don't sense much willingness of scientifically educating ourselves a bit here on this subject. Too much Pavlov, it seems.

Just to add a small thought for informing you on the subject, just a few examples, taken from scientific literature:
- cancer is difficult, many varieties, long-term disease; therefore, not much cristal clear scientific results, except for a few: dairy is surely engraving colon and prostate cancer, not much debate about that
- heart disease: both Esselstyn and Ornish have produced 100% convincing science to back the claim that whole-foods plant-based is 99% preventing heart disease of any kind; even reversal is often succesfull
- up to 80% of diabetics can be cured of their disease within a matter of weeks to the point that they are medicine free: this is sure and backed up again by several great studies

The last two points alone could solve the money issue in health care in the complete Western world. And there is nothing exaggerated about that statement. Next debate: why doesn't it happen. My advice: read Whole by Campbell, he has thought about this question extensively and scientific nature of his reasoning makes his analysis very trustworthy.

Bird was late to the table: Greek writers (including Hippocrates) c. 400 BCE note individuals who experienced aggressive reactons to common foodstuffs including cheese, eggs, honey, shellfish, and nuts, leading to Lucretius in 50 BCE observing 'What is food to one person, may be bitter poison to others’.

Dang--wrong thread. Ignore that man behind the curtain...

Nafai,

You both either haven’t read the China Study at all, knowing too little of the suggested life style by Campbell OR indeed lack sleep, causing you to divert way from the subject and ignoring the thoroughly explained reasons for his advice.

How is pointing out that a very large prospective study finds basically no link between either fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer, or red meat consumption and cancer a diversion?

I have read 'The China Study', some years ago, and I have also read a great deal of discussion of it, and all the various debunkings of Campbell's work by Denise Minger, including the one cited by Orac above, and this collection of scientific papers that contradict Campbell's claims. I was left with the strong impression that Campbell's work is seriously flawed and that he started with a conclusion and cherry-picked or distorted data to fit it. For example, Minger asks:

Why does Campbell fail to mention that plant protein intake correlates positively with many of the “Western diseases” he blames cholesterol for—including +19 for colorectal cancers, +12 for cervix cancer, +15 for leukemia, +25 for myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease, +12 for diabetes, +1 for breast cancer, and +10 for stomach cancer?

I was a vegetarian eating no dairy either (though I occasionally ate prawns) for well over a decade, and health problems including weight loss prompted me to start eating meat again, resulting in a dramatic improvement in my overall health. These days I stick to as close to the Mediterranean diet as I can (though very rarely drink alcohol), as I believe this has the best evidence for general health.

Let’s stick to the subject: Campbells advice is 99% consistent with the advice of Esselstyn and Ornish, all three of whom base their advice on their own and others peer-reviewed science.

Stick to the subject? I thought we were discussing the possibility of successfully treating cancer with a plant-based diet. Esseltyn has little to say about cancer, as I recall, and Ornish's alliance with various woomeisters and championing of nonsense like acupuncture has been the subject of more than one of Orac's posts here. Incidentally, Ornish's diet appears to significantly increase telemorase activity, something that is associated with cancer, which is a bit concerning.

Unfortunately, I don’t sense much willingness of scientifically educating ourselves a bit here on this subject. Too much Pavlov, it seems.

I have scientifically educated myself more than a bit on this subject over the past few decades, and my conclusion is that Campbell's work is largely hyperbole. More generally I go along with whoever it was who wrote, "eat, not too much, mostly plants". I tend to take any claims over and above this with a very large pinch of salt.

You seem to have an ax to grind on this subject like many people who have read Campbell's non-peer-reviewed book without bothering to check any of his claims. Perhaps you should do some wider reading before you accuse others of ignorance.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

@Nafai

You are big time speculating here

Oh, I guess I was, in the absence of a chance to change my mind. Mirror, mirror...

Fine. No more speculating. You support the claim that changing one's diet could slow down cancer. OK. Practically, what evidence do you have (if only to start investigating in this direction), and what do you propose we should do to confirm/infirm it?
Actually, which direction? Whole foods, you said. I'm not American, I have no idea what you are talking about. Could you define it?

Vegetarians?? Those guys that drink 3 liters of milk a day and consider french fries their daily portion of vegetables?

Wrong on both accounts, although potatoes and deep-fried stuffs were certainly on her diet. The lady was Hindu.
No need to insult them, though. And my point stand. You can eat no meat and still have a deleterious diet.

up to 80% of diabetics [...]

If you are talking about diabetes type II, you are preaching to the choir, young grasshopper. Same about heart diseases. Get off you high horses.

I thought we were talking about slowing down cancer with diet.
Not preventing it, not curing another illness. Slowing. Cancer.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

Who is Denise Minger? Where are her scientific peer reviewed papers to make her an expert. Can YOU verify her claim? I can't. I just know that what she is 'debunking' is peer-reviewed by experts (see this list for many examples, look for 'China' and check them out: http://nutritionstudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/TCCampbell_CV.pdf). In which paper did she publish her debunking? Don't you know that scientists disagree sometimes and that in those cases they reply in preferably the same magazine. Miss Minger didn't, wonder why? How naïve are you to believe that what she is saying is disqualifying Campbell's peer reviewed statements?
Who is calling for science on cancer if the science we have is not good enough because somebody with no status is telling you differently. She picks out some things that don't support the overall picture and concludes the whole study is flawed. And you seem to buy it.

Two funny things from her page that you quote:
1. "I want to burst the Peer-Review Bubble of Perfection before we get much further." This is hilarious: peer-review is not perfect, really everybody knows that, but what also everybody knows is that something that is NOT peer-reviewed, but only published in a blog, is nothing more than common opinion or often worse: of low quality, erratic or even fake.
2. She is quoting from studies but doesn't give the whole stories, leaving out essential information and clearly missing necessary knowledge from other science. Most importantly, she doesn't know what she is doing because she has not received basic schooling in statistics. I draw this statement from this post on Mingers blog a few years ago. I had a statistician friend of a friend of mine look into her claims and he didn't need much time to see the following statement is fully accurate:
"Your analysis is completely OVER-SIMPLIFIED. Every good epidemiologist/statistician will tell you that a correlation does NOT equal an association. By running a series of correlations, you've merely pointed out linear, non-directional, and unadjusted relationships between two factors. I suggest you pick up a basic biostatistics book, download a free copy of "R" (an open-source statistical software program), and learn how to analyze data properly. I'm a PhD cancer epidemiologist, and would be happy to help you do this properly. While I'm impressed by your crude, and - at best - preliminary analyses, it is quite irresponsible of you to draw conclusions based on these results alone. At the very least, you need to model the data using regression analyses so that you can account for multiple factors at one time."

The China Study is a popularized summary of many peer-reviewed papers and additional data published in several scientific magazines (to start: see list referred to above). This once again shows that you have not dug into the subject yourself, but are taking for granted what miss Minger has to say.
Why didn't you look into the papers showing the fact that casein can turn on cancer and that soy protein cannot whatsoever? Who should do some wider reading?

Stick to the subject, yes, at the time being Campbell's advice on food. You (sorry to pile you up with Helianthus) were drifting away to millions of different food regimes but didn't seem to know what food regime Campbell is advocating.

My only axe is used on people that seem to stop at being prejudiced of otherwise blocked seriously making them believe unauthorized internetpublishers instead of reading the science there is for themselves.

@ Krebiozen
Forgot: not meant personal, but it couldn't be less relevant what your personal experience is in the light of scientific studies.

@ Helianthus
(I guess you are a professional.)

Fine. No more speculating. You support the claim that changing one’s diet could slow down cancer. OK. Practically, what evidence do you have (if only to start investigating in this direction), and what do you propose we should do to confirm/infirm it?
Actually, which direction? Whole foods, you said. I’m not American, I have no idea what you are talking about. Could you define it?

Sounds like you're messing with me, but I'll be serious. Anyway: now it's 100% sure you haven't read or understood the China Study book.

Whole-foods = eat all of a plant and not take out part of it and throw away the rest (which often contains a big part of the nutrition).
Example: brown rice can prevent diabetes type II.
Or: eat olives and not olive oil, eat apples and not vitamin C pills and so on.

Your point "You can eat no meat and still have a deleterious diet." is besides the point, because 'no meat' is not the subject here. The subject is 'nothing of an animal source' and 'nothing refined, meaning not-whole'.

Your vegetarian friend clearly belongs to the group of people who doesn't belong to the group of people that eat according to Campbell's advice. Fried food contains a high percentage of isolated fat. This causes weight gain. The high temperature of frying creates carcinogens. Your friend is at higher risk of cancer than she would have to be, since eating human-made carcinogens AND being overweight are both known risk factors of developing cancer. These would both not affect her if she would eat only whole-foods (the scientific peer-reviewed papers that show weightloss in overweight people after adopting a whole-foods plant-based diet are abundant).
So, if you eat whole-foods, I gave you two examples of ways in which you would already diminish your chance of cancer.

Then: plant-based: this discussion started off saying: "why is it so unimaginable that different proteins could have a different effect on tumour growth". The proof is clear and I have given it before. One example of many papers giving comparable results: http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/9/1607.short.

@ Helianthus
More proof:
Breast cancer is promoted by dietary fat. Whole-foods plant-based diets are without practical exception lower in fat than non-whole-foods diets including animal foods.

Liver cancer: low protein diets. WFPB (whole-foods plant-based) diets are typically lower in protein. It is impossible to design a WFPB diet with enough calories and too little protein. There is no scientific record of a diet too low in protein, except for extremes like malnourished children in Africa.

Colon cancer: total fiber protects against colon cancer. Fiber is found only in plants, not in animals.

Prostate cancer: total fiber protects. Fiber is found only in plants, not in animals.

Nafai, do I really have to point out it doesn't matter who Denise Minger? No one has offered an argument from authority, discounting Campbell's The China Study based on Minger's supposed expertise.

Instead they're citing Minger's published criticisms of The China Study, (e.g., found at http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/06/final-china-study-response-html/) which directly addresses the claims made in The China Study and demonstrates where they fail to achieve credibility.

In short, you're wasting your time (and ours) attacking Minger's supposed expertise, when what you would need to be address instead are the arguments presented and the evidence provided in their support.

Breast cancer is promoted by dietary fat. Whole-foods plant-based diets are without practical exception lower in fat than non-whole-foods diets including animal foods.

And your evidence that whole food plant-based diets reduce fat intake sufficiently to actually slow down breast cancer progression would be...what, exactly? Be specific.

Liver cancer: low protein diets. WFPB (whole-foods plant-based) diets are typically lower in protein.

And your evidence that whole food plant-based diets reduce protein intake sufficiently to actually slow down liver cancer progression would be...what, exactly? Be specific.

Colon cancer: total fiber protects against colon cancer. Fiber is found only in plants, not in animals.

And your evidence that whole food plant-based diets increase fiber intake sufficiently to actually slow down colon cancer progression would be...what, exactly? Be specific.

Prostate cancer: total fiber protects. Fiber is found only in plants, not in animals.

And your evidence that whole food plant-based diets increase fiber intake sufficiently to actually slow down prostate cancer progression would be...what, exactly? Be specific.

Nafai,

Who is Denise Minger? Where are her scientific peer reviewed papers to make her an expert. Can YOU verify her claim? I can’t.

Why does it matter who she is? I found it easy to verify everything she wrote either in Campbell's book or in peer-reviewed studies she cites.

I just know that what she is ‘debunking’ is peer-reviewed by experts (see this list for many examples, look for ‘China’ and check them out: [snip URL]

Yet there is a raft of peer-reviewed evidence that directly contradicts when Campbell claims, and close examination of the the China Study findings doesn't support his claims. You have to take a look at the bigger picture. There is so much conflicting evidence on nutrition that you can prove anything you want if you are selective in what evidence you present, which is what I think Campbell has done.

In which paper did she publish her debunking? Don’t you know that scientists disagree sometimes and that in those cases they reply in preferably the same magazine. Miss Minger didn’t, wonder why?

She has had an extensive public correspondence with Campbell which I read at the time, and which you can read on her website and I came away with the strong impression that Minger was right.

How naïve are you to believe that what she is saying is disqualifying Campbell’s peer reviewed statements?

I don't think I'm naive, and 'The China Study' is not peer reviewed, it consists of Campbell speculating way beyond the data and ignoring anything that doesn't support his preformed conclusions, in my opinion. I trained, qualified and worked in clinical biochemistry for more than two decades and have been interested in nutrition for longer than that so I have read a great literature in this area, of which Campbell and Minger are a very small part. My opinions on the subject are based on that, not just on Minger's writings, though I do think she has done an excellent job debunking Campbell's claims.

Who is calling for science on cancer if the science we have is not good enough because somebody with no status is telling you differently. She picks out some things that don’t support the overall picture and concludes the whole study is flawed. And you seem to buy it.

The overall picture is not as Campbell paints it. Are you familiar with the literature on nutrition apart from Campbell's work? It doesn't appear so.

Two funny things from her page that you quote:
1. “I want to burst the Peer-Review Bubble of Perfection before we get much further.” This is hilarious: peer-review is not perfect, really everybody knows that, but what also everybody knows is that something that is NOT peer-reviewed, but only published in a blog, is nothing more than common opinion or often worse: of low quality, erratic or even fake.

What is really hilarious is that Campbell's book is not peer-reviewed. It is published by the same publisher as Harry Potter. I don't care where something is published if it is well-referenced, as Minger's work is. Original research should be peer-reviewed, a well referenced critique can rest on its merits, I think.

Most importantly, she doesn’t know what she is doing because she has not received basic schooling in statistics.

I have a good educational grounding in statistics and I don't see any evidence of a lack of understanding in her writings. Do you have any evidence for this?

“Your analysis is completely OVER-SIMPLIFIED. Every good epidemiologist/statistician will tell you that a correlation does NOT equal an association. By running a series of correlations, you’ve merely pointed out linear, non-directional, and unadjusted relationships between two factors. I suggest you pick up a basic biostatistics book, download a free copy of “R” (an open-source statistical software program), and learn how to analyze data properly. I’m a PhD cancer epidemiologist, and would be happy to help you do this properly. While I’m impressed by your crude, and – at best – preliminary analyses, it is quite irresponsible of you to draw conclusions based on these results alone. At the very least, you need to model the data using regression analyses so that you can account for multiple factors at one time.”

That's funny, because The China Study is almost entirely based on cherry-picked single correlations between the diets of people in China and various health outcomes, with little attempt at multivariate analyses. This is Minger's main complaint about the book! Campbell picks associations that support his hypothesis and ignores those that don't.

The China Study is a popularized summary of many peer-reviewed papers and additional data published in several scientific magazines (to start: see list referred to above). This once again shows that you have not dug into the subject yourself, but are taking for granted what miss Minger has to say.

As I have written before, I have read extensively on the subject over several decades; I'm not depending on what Minger has written at all. Campbell's findings are contradicted by a lot of epidemiological evidence and even by his own study's findings.

Why didn’t you look into the papers showing the fact that casein can turn on cancer and that soy protein cannot whatsoever? Who should do some wider reading?

I am familiar with the papers on casein and cancer in rats, and I know there is little evidence to support this in humans. Some studies have found that dairy products can reduce risk of some cancers such as colorectal cancer and breast cancer. A recent mta-analysis (PMID: 24586662) found no link between soy protein and breast cancer in western women. Overall I don't think the evidence supports Campbell.

My only axe is used on people that seem to stop at being prejudiced of otherwise blocked seriously making them believe unauthorized internetpublishers instead of reading the science there is for themselves.

Huh? I have trouble parsing that, but I don't believe I'm prejudiced about this subject. I have had an open mind about diet for a long time, and as I wrote before I'm not convinced that anything other than not eating too much and eating mostly plants has much compelling evidence to support it, and that includes Campbell's work.

You wrote, "try this abundant choice of food for some time and judge for yourself if you feel healthy or not". To which I replied explaining that I was on a vegetarian diet very similar to what Campbell advocates for several years but my health didn't improve until I started eating meat again. You replied:

Forgot: not meant personal, but it couldn’t be less relevant what your personal experience is in the light of scientific studies.

I only mentioned my experience because of what you suggested. It seems you are really only interested in me judging for myself if I agree with you. If I don't agree my experience is irrelevant. Interesting.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ JGC: open the links in my last post and see for yourself. My text is not the evidence. You need me to translate the science?
Gee, why are you guys so stubborn: read the science for yourself!

About Minger: my argument is solid as a rock! Why didn't she publish an official reply to Campbell's statements? Because her case would be in the bin after any statistician would have read the first page. Why is that? Because she knows almost nothing about statistics. Ask any statistician and they will confirm. Please do. Just for once, take the effort.

@ Krebiozen
Joking about The China Study not being peer-reviewed, I guess. Campbell's book itself is not peer-reviewed, but it contains many hundreds of references to peer-reviewed articles to support his statements. A lot of it is his own work and a lot is the work of others.

Or: eat olives and not olive oil
I find the pits to be too chewy, but throwing them away is a violation of the whole-foods ethos.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

Thanks for your answer, Nafai

OK, wall-o-text coming up.

1st, a mea culpa, I did commit the fallacy of personal incredulity in this thread - reacting out of ignorance rather than considering facts.
To my defense, a few months ago, another thread was about someone promoting sugar-free diet to cure cancer, and a proponent showed up and kept asserting that going for a keto diet would make blood sugar drop to zero. Which goes contrary to all I have learned in biology classes. He eventually posted a link to a study in rats put on a keto diet. Their blood sugar level did indeed drop as a result, by about 1/3 - but then went back to about normal in about two weeks, as predicted per classic homeostasis.
So I learned a little something about keto diets (they do reduce the blood sugar level, only if a little), but I was also comforted in my mistrust of miracle diets.
When I first read this thread's post (very quickly, I admit), I thought it was just a repeat of the same, with proteins instead of sugars.
(replace every "amino-acids" by "sugar" in my posts, you will see it)

So I just spent some time this evening reading some of the material you linked to.

In term of preventing/reducing risks of cancer, some of these articles are indeed interesting. However, first reaction out, from my amateur point-of-view, I'm wondering if some confounding factors are not at play.
When I saw your mention of casein vs soy proteins, I remembered something I read recently about soybeans: this plant is producing a number of funny molecules, some of which mimic estrogens (see here, as an example). So my reaction was, is it the soy protein, or is it the hormone look-a-likes coming along? (Or some other plant component?) Hormones are known to favorise or limit the growth of tumoral cells.
Note that, if the effect was indeed due to these hormone mimetics, it doesn't necessarily invalid soy as a good food choice; it would just mean that animal proteins are not guilty of putting you at a higher risk for cancer. It's also important to know where the anti-cancer effect is coming from: again, if it's these molecules, better keep them, but also better be sure an excess of them doesn't have detrimental effects. I'm sorry to bring back one of my first points, but something acting on your cancer cells may at some point be bad for your healthy cells,

Thus I am not fully convinced that whole foods will prevent, and even less cure various ailments. Let me be more precise: I fully agree that switching from a meat/fat heavy diet to a diet with a lot more greens is beneficial, and will result in less risks of some health issues. There is also a good consensus on these lines among nutritionists.
I'm just uncomfortable going from "brown rice is better than white rice" to "brown rice prevents diabetes type II", as you said.
It may be just semantics, but I feel there is a distinction. The first sentence talks about good dietary choices, i.e. avoid food with nasty effects like blood sugar spikes; the second sentence seems to imply that this food is actively protecting you. Most articles you linked to do talk about "lower risks", not about "protecting".
That's not to say it doesn't happen. Indeed, speaking of diabetes type II, a change of lifestyle, including diet, is usually the first step in managing it, from what I gathered.

I just need a bit more evidence about foods protecting from cancer. Heck, let's be more precise, that I 'm really skeptical about is food curing, or at least slowing down cancer.
But I won't stop anyone setting up trials to figure things out. I just wish these expensive trials will be based on more than a book and a vague appeal to the naturalness of veggies.

One more reason I'm not sold on whole foods diet is because a number of diets, and the most successful ones, tend to boil down to "eat less animal meat, eat less processed food, eat more greens". In other words, I don't contest that the whole food diet is good, but rather that it is the only one. There was a book on this topic featured some time ago on the blog "Science-base medicine", The Diet Fix.
Hey, the other day, a colleague came back from a conference about raising insects for food. He brought back samples. I couldn't go past the yuck factor of eating maggots, but once the insects are rendered into something else, I don't mind at all. I doubt insects are part of a whole food diet, and they are not exactly standard animal-part diet. Yet my colleague is persuaded that insects are a potentially perfectly healthy diet. All of this to say there may be other healthy diets than .

eating human-made carcinogens

Eating non-human-made carcinogens is not better, you know.

Or: eat olives and not olive oil, eat apples and not vitamin C pills and so on.

As a French, I resent the suggestion that I could prefer swallowing pills instead of eating apples or other fruits :-)
Similarly, when I left North America to go back to Europe, I believe I cut my meat consumption by half. Sadly, it didn't improve my health much: my troubles are with cookies (and the like), not meat.

I guess you are a professional

If you mean a scientist, an engineer, a physician, or a mix of these categories, you will find quite a few of them around these parts. Lecturing us on how science works may be dangerous :-)

It forced me to reassess my position (actually, "Pavlov" did), but some others may take notice of being told that their written opinion on scientific articles is irrelevant.
Because I fell for the fallacy of ignorance doesn't mean you should go for the fallacy of appeal to authority.
An online criticism of a scientific article may well be relevant if the debunker is stating valid points or concerns. A few of us believe it's part of the scientific process: first, the results have to pass scrutiny from a panel of experts and be published (peer-review). And then, these results can be dissected by the scientific community at large. Or even by the whole human community. A 9-year old girl can as much as anyone else spot a fatal flaw in a process and point it out to everybody.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

Following "than", about midway, before the carcinogen part, was supposed to be a Pratchett shout-out, namely:

[insert favorite diet here]

Too bad I used html quotes. Let's try again.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

The high temperature of frying creates carcinogens.

I guess baking is even worse, then.

Nafai,

Gee, why are you guys so stubborn: read the science for yourself!

Has it occurred to you that you might have only read bits of the science that were selected specifically to convince people that Campbell is right? That some of us might have looked at other studies and have a wider more accurate view of the subject? Did you even read Orac's post? The articles by Harriet Hall he links to?

Ask any statistician and they will confirm. Please do. Just for once, take the effort.

I assume you have read The China Study, so surely you can see that Minger is challenging Campbell in his own arena. The book is a monument to mistaking correlation for causation. For example, blood cholesterol and animal protein consumption correlate with western diseases, therefore they cause western diseases, yet I see no attempt to correct for confounders like tobacco and alcohol use, physical activity or obesity.

I don't have access to the full original study, but the abstract does not mention multivariate analysis. A search of the ebook doesn't find "multivariate" (except in a reference) nor "confounder" or "corrected for". As Minger points out, Campbell certainly misses some confounders, like fish-eaters (consumers of animal protein in Cambell's book) probably having a higher risk of liver cancer because of schistosomiasis rather than because fish protein causes cancer.

I suggest you ask your statistician friend to take a look at The China Study itself; I think s/he will understand why Minger took the approach she did and might even agree with her criticisms.

I got hold of a copy of Campbell's 'Whole' as you suggested and found the first chapter full of irritatingly familiar canards. Here are some of the things I noticed:

1. He wrote, "children in the Philippines who ate the highest-protein diets were the ones most likely to get liver cancer—even though the children with high-protein diets were significantly wealthier and had better access to all the things we typically associate with childhood health, like medical care and clean water". Aren't there possible confounding factors that might explain why the wealthiest children had a higher risk of liver cancer? Why pick on protein?

2. He rails against conventional medicine, claiming that, "We 'race for the cure' by pouring billions of dollars into dangerous and ineffective treatments. We seek new genes, as if the ones we’ve evolved over millions of years are insufficient for our needs. We medicate ourselves with toxic concoctions, a small number of which treat the disease, while the rest treat the harmful side effects of the primary drugs". That all sounds depressingly familiar to anyone who reads this blog regularly.

3. He writes, " 'adverse effects of medications' (from drugs that were correctly prescribed and taken) kill 106,000 people per year", and complains that the CDC covers this up, not including it in their list of the most common causes of death. This claim has been discussed here several times. Closer examination find that it is based on a review of studies (Lazarou), many from the 60s and 70s, and that (if memory serves) ignores any that report no fatal adverse effects of drugs, and then extrapolates to the entire US hospital population of 1988. It is almost certain to be badly wrong. Other estimates are far lower. He also ignores the fact that the vast majority of deaths from prescription drugs are in people who would undoubtedly have died without treatment. This paints a picture of relatively healthy people being poisoned with drugs when a bit of veg and some nuts would have saved their lives; perhaps they would have 40 years previously. These are mostly elderly patients with multiple health problems who have already had their lives extended by conventional medicine. If you look at the figures, life expectancy is still creeping up. and so is active life expectancy, meaning people are living active lives for longer than ever before. If the US is being poisoned to death by meat and drugs, how is this possible?

4. He makes these claims for his diet:

Prevents 95 percent of all cancers, including those “caused” by environmental toxins
Prevents nearly all heart attacks and strokes
Reverses even severe heart disease
Prevents and reverses Type 2 diabetes so quickly and profoundly that, after three days on this drug, it’s dangerous for users to continue to use insulin

Now I can maybe possibly believe the last three, at a stretch, though I think Campbell exaggerates. A diet like Campbell's is certainly low in calories, and with some diets you can spend more energy chewing your food than you extract from it. A diet like this will result in weight loss in many people, which improves cardiovascular health. That's why conventional doctors prescribe lifestyle changes for patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Weight loss through diet that includes plenty of vegetables and moderate exercise can dramatically reduce cardiovascular risk, and also reduce cancer risk, but by 95%? I doubt it. We have seen evidence recently that metabolic syndrome and even type 2 diabetes can be reversed by lifestyle changes. However, I'm not convinced that Campbell's diet will reduce either cardiovascular risk or cancer risk any more than the lifestyle changes my GP suggested when my cholesterol was a little elevated.

The real problem is patient compliance. I spent several years working with a doctor who ran a weekly lipid clinic in a deprived part of east London in the UK. Many of her patients were at high cardiovascular risk and she would always attempt lifestyle changes first, before moving onto drugs like statin and fibrates. She told me that it was very rare that her patients would make the necessary changes, lose weight, quit smoking, and/or cut down on the booze. In most cases she would eventually have to reach for the prescription pad, refer them to cardiology or both.

Campbell rails about the increasing rate of obesity in America as if that's the fault of the medical profession. It isn't, it's partly that humans are hard-wired to like sweet and fatty foods, and partly that far too many people in the developed world are miserable, and self-medicate with food among other things, and live a sedentary lifestyle. That's not a medical problem as such, it's a societal problem. It's all very well telling people they should live on salads, brown rice and steamed broccoli, but a large number of people just aren't going to do it, even if they know that they will die young otherwise. Have you seen the price of salads and vegetables these days?

I'm not sure I will continue reading 'Whole' as it reads like a hundred other fad diet books I have thumbed through, and contains some very annoying half-truths, like the iatrogenic death rate I mentioned.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

JGC: open the links in my last post and see for yourself. My text is not the evidence.

But your links don't provide evidence in support of your claim that adopting a whole foods low fat, or low protein, or high fiber diet is clinically effective as a treatment for cancers, resulting in reduced rates of tumore progression following diagnosis.

In fact, rather than support the premise that adopting a whole food plant-based diet reduces fat intake sufficiently to actually slow down breast cancer progression it actually states instead it does not support the premise that such a diet would reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place ("Although the result is consistent with a positive association between lipid intake and breast cancer risk, the observed association is weaker than the association previously observed. This finding provides only modest support for the possibility of a diet-breast cancer link."

The link re: colon cancer similarly doesn't provide evidence of clinical efficacy in humans at slowing tumor progression, nor does the linked liver cancer article or the linked prostate cancer article: both instead suggest high diet can reduce one's risk of developing cancer--not that adopting a particular whole foods diet represents an effective treatment for cancers once they've arisen. The same is true with respect to the link addressing prostate cancer.

And that is after all what Dr. Kelly has claimed: not that diet can reduce the risk of developing cancer, but that he's successfully utilized dietary changes to cure cancer.

(I'll note that's also the claim you leaped in to support ("Why is it so unimaginable that lower intakes of some essential amino-acids (as is the case when you take your amino-acids exclusively from plant protein) could seriously slow tumour growth?") Let's leave the goal posts where they were first established, please,

About Minger: my argument is solid as a rock!

No: it's not: it represents nothing other than a classic ad hominem rhetorical fallacy. You haven't addressed Minger's criticisms of Campbell's book nor the evidence she provides to rebut his claims and are instead simply trying to invalidate her criticism by suggesting that she's unqualified to evaluate Campbell's publication or that the forum in which she's chosen to publish renders her rebuttal invalid in and of itself.

Because her case would be in the bin after any statistician would have read the first page

What errors in statistical analysis has she made on the first page of her criticism? Be specific.

Because she knows almost nothing about statistics. Ask any statistician and they will confirm. Please do. Just for once, take the effort.

I'm asking you, as you're the one who has made the claim. (Surely you'll agree it's not my responsibility to go hunting for evidence to support a claim you've made.) Can I expect a substantive reply anytime soon?

Nafai: Thank you

By Sr_Canine (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

I'm still a little irritated by Nafai's attack on Minger ("she doesn’t know what she is doing because she has not received basic schooling in statistics") for using univariate correlations to criticize Campbell's use of univariate correlations, and pointing out that:
a) they don't always say what he claimed and
b) he didn't address some obvious confounders.

Minger has addressed this criticism herself here. She also replies to Campbell's response to her critique, for example:

Campbell: As far as her substantive comments are concerned, almost all are based on her citing univariate correlations in the China project.

Actually, they’re based on the univariate correlations that Campbell cited first.

If you read my critique, you’ll see that Campbell’s claims align with the raw and uncorrected data, which—as I tried to illustrate—can be misleading due to the influence of other variables implicated with disease.

Minger goes on to provide some examples of this, and also writes something I think is very apposite:

To those who approach this discussion already believing animal foods are generally unhealthy, this bias is subtle and might not be obvious. But to those who approach this discussion from a place of neutrality, the bias is unmistakable.

So often we see this type of bias. Campbell makes even more hyperbolic claims for his diet in 'Whole':

Since The China Study’s publication, I have heard from readers about other illnesses, mostly nonfatal, that have also been alleviated or resolved by a WFPB diet—illnesses like headaches (including migraines), intestinal distresses, eye and ear disorders, stress disorders, colds and flu, acne, erectile dysfunction, and chronic pain.

There's confirmation bias in a nutshell. How many people tried this diet and found it didn't help, or made their health worse? Campbell admits that these claims are:

based more on anecdotal evidence than on empirical, peer-reviewed, and published evidence.

So how does he know they are true? How does he know that his diet is any better than the current recommendations by the USDA?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 17 Dec 2014 #permalink

"Whole-foods = eat all of a plant and not take out part of it and throw away the rest."

So, no more O.J. Gotta have the seeds, rind, stems, leaves, branches, trunk, bark, roots... Could Nafai be pimping for a new tech process that links an industrial strength wood-chipper to additional machine stages that grind the output ever more fine leading to a full-orchard smoothie? Or would that be a dustie?

The whole-foods school of Woo is old enough for Sellars and Yeatman to parody it in 1932:

"Man's natural foods (such as raw roots, red rugs, black berets, and Grade A Tuberculin-free cokernuts) are all intended by nature to be eaten whole and, of course, raw, the vitamins which they contain being mostly concentrated in the hair which grows on the outer surface, or rind.
Take the typical example of TANGERINES. The really valuable part is the skin, and, of course, the silver paper; while most beneficial of all is, perhaps, the splendid natural ungranulated crate itself. And yet there are thousands of people who quite casually hack off all this invaluable casein and throw it away!"

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Dec 2014 #permalink

This discussion seems to have gone off into the weeds... : -)

Scientists specialize, which, it seems, can lead them to reflecting the parable of the blind men describing an elephant. But the natural world IS an elephant metaphorically — and in that sense there is only one project of science overall, and unless all the specialties are congruent with each other's findings, it would seem we have a problem.

Specifically, my lay person's mind is wondering how the alleged benefits of a 'whole-plant' diet could be squared with evolutionary biology. Granted, several millennia of civilization could have thrown human diets out of whack, and a couple hundred years of industrial society could have added more whack than the entire previous history of civilization. But human civilization is but a blink in evolutionary time, yes?

Before homo sapiens developed complex social organization of any kind, we were still the product of billions of years of natural selection, going back through the evolution of antecedent species. If a whole-plant diet had any meaningful effect on survival — not just via longevity, but due to a healthier organism having a better chance to escape predators and distribute genes to the next generation — how did not just homo sapiens but so many related species along our evolutionary branch evolve as omnivores?

Humans may eat dumb (no doubt many of us do), but I have a hard time imagining other mammals have the same problem. I have the feeling our love of domestic pets is such that "Science Diet" feeds may be based in actual science. On the other hand, if you force-fed a housecat a whole-plant diet I doubt that would be good for the cat (not to mention the cost of the feeder's medical bills stemming from kitty's displays of displeasure).

If anything, natural selection seems to have given humans a good deal of flexibility in generating a healthy diet. The Inuit eat a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet, as there is not much plant-based nutrition to be had in the Arctic, yet they're perfectly healthy, thrive in the harshest of climates — their lower-than-average longevity far more likely attributable to a lack of medical services than to diet, given their general states of health.

But let's get back to the issues Real Americans really care about: Winning Football! There is no greater dietary scrutiny, no more careful nutritional research, than that the informs the training tables of big-time college football teams. Of course, the linemen are fed to bulk up to undoubtedly unhealthy levels of mass, but the 'skill position' players must be strong, fast, efficient, capable of an endurance that enables repeated bursts of all-out exertion over a three-hour period. A physical skill set, I'd imagine, not unlike the tools to survive on the veldt.

Do the QBs, RBs, WRs, and DBs survive on whole-plant smoothies, or are they getting your basic traditional balanced diet with a bit less fat and a bit more protein? I'm only joking a little. If a whole-plant diet actually could make a better baller, you could all but guarantee Nick Saban or Urban Meyer would be on top of that. Peyton pimps pizza for big bucks, but if the Manning family had Papa John's on the dinner table when he was a kid, I'll eat my shoe>.

I’ll eat my shoe.
The important thing is NOT TO COOK IT. And don't throw away the laces, they contain fibre.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Dec 2014 #permalink

I believe famed whole-foods nutritionist Charles S. Chaplin was the first to realize this, demonstrating the proper method to consume one's shoe to ensure you get all the benefits of its available nutrients, in the 1925 documentary film The Gold Rush.

Nafai @90

Whole-foods = eat all of a plant and not take out part of it and throw away the rest (which often contains a big part of the nutrition).

I wonder if Nafai would recommend eating rhubarb whole and uncooked, including the leaves?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb

@Helianthus
Classy to admit a misinterpretation/jumping to conclusions on a blog like this.

Soy - Casein: it's been done for wheat protein as well: same effect as soy. Conclusion: only casein turned on cancer to make it grow. Look at http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/81/16/1241.short to see what they did: low quality protein (plant protein, because low in lysine, contrarily to human and animal protein). They used wheat protein to inhibit the growth of tumour foci. Once lysine was added, it grows again. Same effect as they saw by adding casein to the food. No conclusive result, but stunning and deserving serious consideration. Previously a completely unknown phenomenon in nature.

You say you find it relevant to know the cause of the anti-cancer effect of soy in this study (if you could call it that). Well, I disagree. It has been proven by millions of people that eating soy is harmless and fits in a long and healthy life.
If you think it might be an option to extract soyprotein and feed that to patients, or something like that. This is surely not suggested and would possibly be unwise, for the reason you gave.

I’m just uncomfortable going from “brown rice is better than white rice” to “brown rice prevents diabetes type II”, as you said.

I didn't 'say' that. That statement was a link to a reference in which this was confirmed in a cohort study of 40000. Unless you oppose the precise words used. I should have said "lowers the risk" instead of prevents.

the second sentence seems to imply that this food is actively protecting you

Agreed. We are talking nutrition and humans. This automatically means you talk about lowering risks.
To continue a bit about this because you might find it interesting (and in the process taking a side step from cancer): the 'various ailments' you talk about are actually many ailments and the level of certainty about and the quantity of the lower risk may surprise you. Speaking about doctors using this 'diet' with no limitation to quantities of food: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-13-99.pdf. In 7 days time being on this diet, almost 90% of 1615 participants did not need to use any more medication against high blood pressure and diabetes.
You may be doubtful about the curing part, but for these ailments, it can be called 'cured'. For heart disease it can be called 'stop progress and stabilize so that no medication or surgery is needed in many cases'. My personal interpretation of this is 'cure', although it doesn't mean 'erase, wipe out tracks' because those will stay after for example arteries are damaged.

Thank you for your mild reprimand on my complaints about miss Minger. I plead guilty. Nonetheless, it is crystal clear for me her analysis does almost nothing to diminish the importance of Campbell's message. Mostly because it is about only a small part of his and other's work. I shouldn't tell anybody how science works, but I would like people to not forget the broader perspective instead of focusing on details. That is a big sin of modern day science.

@ JGC

But your links don’t provide evidence in support of your claim that adopting a whole foods low fat, or low protein, or high fiber diet is clinically effective as a treatment for cancers, resulting in reduced rates of tumore progression following diagnosis.

True. Plead guilty again. I have said from the beginning: "I’m not saying there is conclusive evidence [for Kelly's proposition], but I find it interesting at least and if it could possibly help lower cancer suffering, it would be wise to give this thought a chance." This was because the whole idea of aiding cancer treatment (not replacing) with food was rather vigorously dismissed. This is disappointing for me.
You are right that this blog probably is the wrong place for this.

About Minger: I am not able to write something like that. The reaction of Campbell and the confirmation of two statisticians that her analysis is not complete and therefore invalid are enough for me to not be impressed. More importantly: the big picture is what counts, not some details from a minor part of The China Study (which is a book only in part dealing with the China survey that Minger is mainly addressing). If you find this important, then I'm doubting you have your priorities straight.

@ Krebiozen
Sorry to cause irritation. My apology applies to you as well.

That’s funny, because The China Study is almost entirely based on cherry-picked single correlations between the diets of people in China and various health outcomes, with little attempt at multivariate analyses. This is Minger’s main complaint about the book! Campbell picks associations that support his hypothesis and ignores those that don’t.

Here is where you go wrong: in the cases he ignores some, he explains why. It's statistically justified, even necessary to ignore.
She is also stating that sometimes he is presenting results that contradict other results: yes, that's what he does, because he publishes all that is relevant, not only that what's in his favour. And still... the whole, the big picture.....

Sorry to skip some part about your comments to Whole: it's a book. Interpret like you want, pick details that don't hold up, it's about the big picture. It's a book, so remarks about anecdotes are relevant for laymen that this book is written for. It's not meant to be a scientific work, although it is 90% based on science.

Your last part is interesting: we find each other in not understanding how he supports his statements on cancer (95%). BUT we seem to be on the same line about a lot of other stuff: these three in your number 4. that you can accept: they are chrystal clear, even clinically, not only epidemiologically.
Is this alone not enough to honour Campbell and others in opening a perspective to huge improvement of western health?

The real problem is patient compliance.

You already think about implementing this. That is a big step that I appaud. I fully agree. But the first step would be to acknowledge that what is fact (to date excluding cancer as far as I'm concerned). If everybody here would acknowledge that this diet is the cure to the aforementioned ailments and that it is different from all other diets in that there is no limitation to the amount of food that can be eaten, this would open new possibilities. If medical practitioners would join efforts, the % of compliant patients would go up. Once results would be visible for neighbors, familiy and friends, this % would go up again. This has only benefits and the list is long.
You put the finger on the sore spot and Campbell points out some others in Whole.
Please don't let your annoyance of details get in the way of opening up to this. The big picture is what counts.
This leaves me very curious as to what caused your personal disappointment. I wouldn't be surprised if your diet at that time (no dairy vegetarian) could be upgraded with small adjustments that would take away the negative consequences you experienced (but this remark is of course not supported by anything other than my knowledge of the supposedly subtle but crucial differences between the diets of many (not necessarily you) vegetarians and vegans as opposed to this suggested by Campbell et al). Of course it's also possible that you are an unlucky victim of statistics.

If I may, I would like to finish with a final remarks on Whole: there is one difference between possibly all other diet books and this book: it is based on many hundreds of peer-reviewed articles that are cited in the book and the other has performed a lot of the research himself. Conclusive results or not, clinically tested or not, it's another league.

@ sadner
You're a funny lad. My language is not precise enough for you people. Every mistake is pointed out, even if everybody knows what you mean. Funny reply nonetheless.

No, Nafal, I at least do not know "exactly what you mean." I do know that you're claiming that whole olives are inherently better than olive oil; I could guess from that claim that you think processing something in lye doesn't change its essential nature, but I don't actually know that.

I certainly can't tell whether you think cassava bread counts as a whole food, or whether you think the processing required to make cassava nutritious rather than harmful means it's not food.

But I do know that soy is not inherently harmless: it's a fairly common allergen, and researchers are still trying to figure out whether soy increases the risk of breast cancer recurrence, decreases it, or neither.

I'm not anti-soy. I've got tofu and soy sauce in the refrigerator, and edamame in the freezer right now; my kitchen also contains chocolate, milk, eggs, and peanut butter. None of those is "inherently harmless" for everyone.

Classy to admit a misinterpretation/jumping to conclusions on a blog like this.

Beg pardon?

@ Vicky
I didn't say 'exactly'. If I would have, it would still be silly to give me a list of exceptions and point to the possible problems in these cases.
You could have asked me: "I understand what generally is meant when people speak of 'whole foods', but how do you think Campbell et al. are looking at these exceptional (parts of) plants that need a certain processing to make (parts of them) edible.
You talk about not changing essential nature??? This sounds vague. Whole just means: don't take out stuff that contains fiber, minerals, vitamins etc... so that you are left with for example only fat/protein/carbohydrate. No objection to 'changing the essential nature' of food. I would be changing it upon chewing anyway.
99% of potentially edible parts of plants need no processing other than cooking in water.
Whole doesn't necessarily mean: do nothing with it before eating. It means: don't take out more then necessary to make edible.

So don't change your apple into juice and throw away the rest.
1. Phenolics in apple: "crude apple extract from waste, rich in phenolic compounds, beneficially influences key stages of carcinogenesis in colon cells in vitro": http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691507000208
2. Whole apples contain 5 times more Phenolics than juice: http://www.insad.pl/files/journal_pdf/Suppl_2_2006/Suppl_2_full_12_2006…

Another example: see link about brown and white rice in earlier post.

Another obviousness that I may have to specify, regarding your last sentence: in nutrition and medicine the concept of everyone/100%/all or nothing has no occurence.
None of the foods you mentioned is inherently harmless for everyone, unfortunately at least one of them is inherentlly harmfull for most (milk).

@ Narad
No insult intended. Just saying this is a public place where I don't see many apologies exchanged (maybe should look better?).

Just saying this is a public place where I don’t see many apologies exchanged (maybe should look better?).

I'd say so. If you had, you'd have known that an observation such as this is utterly superfluous:

So don’t change your apple into juice and throw away the rest.

@Nafai

I don't know if anyone would mind you suggesting a topic for study would be whole food vs typical vs other diets, but in your apologetic post you suggest that it is a given that a whole food diet prevents/inhibits almost all major diseases.

As someone with an illness with few treatments, I have seen several people go into whole foods or no animal products lifestyles. It has been fascinating to watch. Maybe fifty percent announce a dramatic drop in symptoms and feeling much improvement. Others don't, but I can't be sure if they quit because they find compliance too difficult, or if they cheated.

However, the ones who experience the miracle usually end up with symptoms returning somewhere between nine months and a year. It is like our disease finally adapts to the rigidly controlled diet and begins its attack anew.

No one here will disagree with a statement that suggests dietary choices influence health, but an absolute statement about whole foods preventing or stalling cancer seems a bit presumptuous.

Then again, I admit that I am uneducated. Perhaps I just don't know enough about disease and the human body.

sadmar #107--I've read about what happens to cats when their owners are ignorant vegans wanting to impose it on their cats--the cats die because they are obligate carnivores. And yes, there are vegans who have tried it.

By brewandferment (not verified) on 17 Dec 2014 #permalink

JGC @102

But your links don’t provide evidence in support of your claim

That could be a mantra in these parts.

Just when it looked like APV had TOTY in the bag along comes Nafai.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ Narad
Two people here told me they didn't know what 'whole' means, so I explained.

@ Mrs Woo
If you read #111 you will see I exclude cancer.
I have referred to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, to name some. Although there are more, I have not and will not state whole plant-based foods are a holy grail to everything.
I would state that the West would get dramatically healthier on average if everybody would adopt this diet. And stay healthy, for that matter. Only thing needed: guidance and support from doctors.

Two people here told me they didn’t know what ‘whole’ means, so I explained.

Not in anything resembling a coherent fashion, mind you:

Whole-foods = eat all of a plant and not take out part of it and throw away the rest

@ Sadmar

But human civilization is but a blink in evolutionary time, yes?

This one is a bit complicated, actually.
With roughly one new human generation every 15-20 years, evolution indeed needs a bit of time to alter us, especially since we are cheating (by healing/supporting the "weak*" among us).
But maybe not that much time.

Lactose tolerance (yes, without the "in-") has been developed by humans who raised cattle for their milk - so, obviously, this evolutionary event happened after our ancestors went from roaming hunter-gatherers to settled cattle breeders.
Other mammals lose their ability to digest the lactose in milk as they reach adulthood - they don't need it anymore. So on top of all this, lactose tolerance is evolution backtracking (so much for evolution going "forward and up", a common misconception - it's all about the right skill at the right time and place).
Still, we are talking about a time laps of a few millenia.

On the other hand, a very silly argument from opponents to GMO food is that "natural" food and us co-evolved along millions of years. Well, that's not true.
Potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, eggplants, hot pepper, cucumber... All staples of today's westerner diet, but completely unknown to the European people before their importation from far-away lands, in some case as little as five centuries ago.
(see this wikipedia article (in French) for a longer list)
Our distant non-Homo sapiens ancestors from Africa may have known about some African-borne veggies, but not from other lands, and once we split between Asia, America and Europa, we were all on our own anyway...
So either we adapt very quickly to a new food (and from a cultural standpoint, that's true - well, "adopt" would be a better description than "adapt", I guess), or, as you said, our basic genetic package as an omnivore is quite versatile and resilient to changes in diet.
Either way, arguing that some new food is not good for us because we didn't evolve together is a bit weak.
You could argue that an abundance of food is not good for us because our ancestors evolved to survive with a scarcity of food. That would be a very valid point.

* "weak" being a very subjective connotation for a tool-using animal society. A frail but smart individual who knows how to use a lever has potentially more societal value than someone with the strength and the brain of an ox (which is not to say a muscular citizen is without value - it all depends on the task at hand). Mr Colt was right in calling his little tools "the equalizer" : with the right tool, strength (or even intelligence) is not a critical factor.

tl;dr: humans may need a few millenia to evolve new traits, but maybe not too many of them.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 17 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ Narad
You're right, I was very uncareful in my formulation. I assumed people here all read The China Study which, of course, is a silly assumption.

Nafai,

dairy is surely engraving colon and prostate cancer, not much debate about that

Really? What about this pooled analysis of 10 cohort studies that concluded:

Milk intake was related to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Compared with the lowest category of intake (<70 g/day), relative risks of colorectal cancer for increasing categories (70–174, 175–249, and ≥250 g/day) of milk intake were 0.94 (95% CI = 0.86 to 1.02), 0.88 (95% CI = 0.81 to 0.96), and 0.85 (95% CI = 0.78 to 0.94), respectively (Ptrend<.001).

That's a 15% reduction in risk for those drinking the most milk.
As for prostate cancer, this systematic review and meta-analysis found a barely statistically significant association, with a 7% increase in risk of prostate cancer per 400 grams of dairy products per day and a 9% increase in risk per 50 grams of cheese eaten every day.
Personally I suspect unidentified confounders in both cases, and I wonder if they are of any clinical significance. My point is that these associations are not as clear as you claim. There is still a lot of debate.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Dec 2014 #permalink

Nafai,

If everybody here would acknowledge that this diet is the cure to the aforementioned ailments and that it is different from all other diets in that there is no limitation to the amount of food that can be eaten, this would open new possibilities. If medical practitioners would join efforts, the % of compliant patients would go up.

I am by no means convinced that this diet is "different from all other diets", except that it is physically difficult to eat too much whole plants food, especially if it's raw. I strongly suspect that the health benefits of Campbell's diet are due to a reduction in calories leading to weight loss, a reduction in insulin spikes and hence insulin resistance and other changes that are just as attainable with a diet containing a limited amount of animal proteins.
If people have trouble sticking to the USDA recommended dietary guidleines, why would they be any more likely to stick to Campbell's? How much does it cost to eat this diet as opposed to the SAD? Cost and convenience are major factors in compliance. Sorry, but I remain unconvinced that this is the answer to the problems we face in the developed world.
I recently watched a UK TV program called 'Trust Me I'm a Doctor' which had two eminent professors of nutrition who had come to opposite views on the health effects of saturated fats and dairy products. When experts disagree like this I have a rule of thumb that the effects they are arguing about are not large enough for me to worry too much about. Here's an article written by Michael Mosley who presents the program, which outlines some of the debate, for example:

Scientists from Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, amongst others, examined the links between eating saturated fat and heart disease. Despite looking at the results of nearly 80 studies involving more than a half million people they were unable to find convincing evidence that eating saturated fats leads to greater risk of heart disease.
In fact, when they looked at blood results, they found that higher levels of some saturated fats, in particular a type of saturated fat you get in milk and dairy products called margaric acid, were associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Also of interest in that article, with regard to compliance, is this:

By contrast, in another study, published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine where 7,500 men and women were randomly allocated to either a low-fat diet or a much higher fat Mediterranean diet, the high-fat group clearly came out tops. On the Med diet, along with fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, the volunteers were encouraged to eat oily nuts, olive oil and have a glass of wine with their meal.
Not surprisingly the drop-out rate was much lower for those on the Mediterranean diet than those on the low-fat diet (4.9% versus 11.3%) and they also had much better health outcomes. There were fewer strokes and a 30% lower risk of having a heart attack.

As I wrote before, I will stick to the maxim, "eat, not too much, mostly plants" until there is convincing evidence to the contrary.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Dec 2014 #permalink

I do wish Wordpress would put a gap between paragraphs.
I sometimes forget to put two line breaks in and end up with a wall of text.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Dec 2014 #permalink

“I’m not saying there is conclusive evidence [for Kelly’s proposition], but I find it interesting at least and if it could possibly help lower cancer suffering, it would be wise to give this thought a chance.”

But this thought has been given that chance--all sorts of chances, actually-- hasn't it? Multiple studies, by multiple independent researchers and puboic health agencies around the globe have looked extenseively and systematically at the possible benefits of dietary changes/supplementation on tumor prevention and progression. None of these studies support a conclusion that eating the right diet can prevent all or specific cancers from occurring, or that they can cure or significantly impact the progression of cancer once it has arisen.

About Minger: I am not able to write something like that. The reaction of Campbell and the confirmation of two statisticians that her analysis is not complete and therefore invalid are enough for me to not be impressed.

Well, if you are unwilling to accept Minger's criticism on the basis of her not being sufficiently qualified in nutrition/statistical analysis, perhaps you're more open to the same criticisms when offered by someone with a PhD in Nutritional Sciences (who, BTW< characterizes Minger's critique of Campbell's book as "excellent"):

http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/China-Study.html

Just a question: did anybody here actually read Kelly's book?

@ JGC
The Weston A. Price foundation? This guy is supporting the SAD. Enough said about that. Enough evidence against that (i.e.: fly to the US and open your eyes).

Epidemiology is a difficult thing, I agree. Nothing more than that has been done. Like I said before, cancer is a difficult thing because it's long term, invisible, shows itself potentially all over the body and unpredictable, unlike heart disease. People don't want to miss out on any chance they have to get cured so testing the lifestyle as a factor on cancer is just difficult.

@ Krebiozen

I am by no means convinced that this diet is “different from all other diets”, except that it is physically difficult to eat too much whole plants food, especially if it’s raw.

I object to the suggestion that 'raw' has got anything to do with it. But, let's go with you, even if it's difficult to physically eat too much (whatever that means), then isn't that indeed different than any other diet: you don't feel hungry after eating and if you do, you eat more. I mean, talking about the fad diet books you referred to before.
But better even: it's not about hunger, it's about wanting to eat or feeling satisfied. It was said before that modern food is addictive. Yes, it is and it makes you want more. Whole plant-based foods have the beautiful characteristic that after eating your feeling of wanting to eat more is gone, you are satisfied, always. Isn't that how it should be? And this is always before the point that will make you gain weight (which is, I think we DO agree on that, the single most dangerous thing after smoking).

I strongly suspect that the health benefits of Campbell’s diet are due to a reduction in calories leading to weight loss, a reduction in insulin spikes and hence insulin resistance and other changes that are just as attainable with a diet containing a limited amount of animal proteins.

I think this is an important factor, true. Campbell agrees by the way, that there is no evidence that a limited amount of animal foods is different from no animal foods whatsoever (just like our ancestors, who used to eat a little animal food, the guys before the milk drinkers I mean).

@Mrs Woo:
Is your condition one that is easy to placebo out for nine months?

By justthestats (not verified) on 18 Dec 2014 #permalink

The Weston A. Price foundation? This guy is supporting the SAD. Enough said about that.

Enough sad? But you've sad nothing whatsoever regarding his analysis and criticism of Campbell's China Study claims, Nafai.

Would you like to try again, and this time actually address the points made in article I linkedto, rather than offer nothing more than a classic rhetorical fallacy (poisoning the well)?

Nafai,

I'm late replying, but anyway....

Epidemiology is a difficult thing, I agree. Nothing more than that has been done.

There have been a number of prospective studies, such as the ongoing EPIC study I have referred to before, though not for Campbell's diet specifically as far as I know. EPIC has found surprisingly little effect of meat (apart from processed meats), fruit and vegetable and fat consumption on cancer incidence. If Campbell's claim that his diet could prevent 95% of cancer, surely that would have shown up in this study.

Like I said before, cancer is a difficult thing because it’s long term, invisible, shows itself potentially all over the body and unpredictable, unlike heart disease. People don’t want to miss out on any chance they have to get cured so testing the lifestyle as a factor on cancer is just difficult.

Testing lifestyle as a treatment for cancer is difficult, I agree, but surely if it can successfully treat cancer it should be much better at preventing it, since it would treat any cancers that arose immediately, long before they were even detectable.

I suspect your response will be that you have to combine a no animal protein diet with no added fat, sugar and salt, the 'True Campbell Diet' as it were, but even the protective effects of these factors separately should show up clearly in studies like EPIC that use multivariate analysis, shouldn't they? I still don't really understand why animal and plant proteins would have qualitatively different effects, given they are made up of the same amino acids.

I object to the suggestion that ‘raw’ has got anything to do with it.

In 'Whole' Campbell recommends eating raw nuts and seeds and processing food as little as possible, which I took to include cooking. From 'The China Study Cookbook':

The closer foods are to their native states--prepared with minimal cooking, salting, and processing-the greater the long-term health benefits will be.

But that's not really important.

But, let’s go with you, even if it’s difficult to physically eat too much (whatever that means),

I mean the calorific content of steamed broccoli and brown rice (picked at random) is much lower gram for gram than that of steak and french fries (also picked randomly). According to the USDA nutrient database cooked broccoli provides 35 kcal per 100 grams, brown rice 111 kcal, an average of 73 kcal//100 grams, while steak provides 200 kcal and french fries 323 kcal per 100 grams, an average of 261 kcal per 100 grams. So you would have to eat 3.6 times as much broccoli and brown rice as steak and fries to get the same calories, that's at least 3.6 times as much chewing, and 3.6 times as much volume in the stomach (or thereabouts, depending on food density). That's what I mean by "difficult to physically eat too much".

then isn’t that indeed different than any other diet: you don’t feel hungry after eating and if you do, you eat more.

Personally I don't feel hungry after eating a meat-based meal. I don't think people overeat because they are hungry, I think they do it because they are unhappy and are self-medicating, as with any addiction really.

Those of us that don't use food as medication or self-reward (which may be a minority of us in the developed world) can doubtless get to love this diet with a bit of persistence. However, I would suggest that anyone who has the fortitude to stick to Campbell's diet has the fortitude to limit their red meat, fat and sugar intake anyway. Anyway, "it's very filling" doesn't fill me with joy at the prospect of following Campbell's diet.

But better even: it’s not about hunger, it’s about wanting to eat or feeling satisfied. It was said before that modern food is addictive. Yes, it is and it makes you want more.

That may be true, but I enjoy eating meat and dairy, and I think it's possible to eat a perfectly healthy diet that includes both. There are ethical factors to consider, which is why I personally only eat free range chicken, eggs and meat, but I digress.

Whole plant-based foods have the beautiful characteristic that after eating your feeling of wanting to eat more is gone, you are satisfied, always. Isn’t that how it should be?

Perhaps, but the same goes for sawdust.

And this is always before the point that will make you gain weight (which is, I think we DO agree on that, the single most dangerous thing after smoking).

Is it impossible to gain weight on Campbell's diet? Difficult, perhaps, but impossible? I'm skeptical.

Anyway, genetic factors i.e. having a family history of cancer, CVD or another inherited disease are probably the worst risk factors for our health, but these are obviously not in our control. Various infections, like hepatitis B and HPV, exposure to ionizing radiation and immunosuppressive drugs are much more strongly associated with cancer than diet. Estimates of how much our cancer risk is modifiable through our lifestyle vary wildly, though 30% is one estimate that I have seen from reputable sources. It would be interesting to see a prospective study of people following Campbell's recommendations for five or ten years. I suspect it would show his 95% reduction in cancer risk would not be confirmed, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.

I meant to mention before that in 'Whole' Campbell rails against preventative breast surgery in women at high risk of breast cancer:

Genetic research has led to nightmarish anti-privacy scenarios, as well as tragic misunderstandings in which mothers are having their young daughters’ breasts chopped off just because some geneticist pricked their daughters’ fingers, tested their DNA, and scared them half to death with predictions of possible future breast cancer.

Yet he provides no evidence that his diet would protect these women from cancer. The evidence for any role of diet in breast cancer,even fats, is slim at best. Claiming that a plant-based diet can protect women at risk seems very irresponsible to me.

Campbell agrees by the way, that there is no evidence that a limited amount of animal foods is different from no animal foods whatsoever (just like our ancestors, who used to eat a little animal food, the guys before the milk drinkers I mean).

I think that in The China Study he says that the Chinese eat very little animal protein, but the less they eat the healthier they are, right down to zero animal protein, which he says is, therefore, healthiest.

Incidentally, to be pedantic, the 'milk drinkers' were a small group of humanity as a whole, though I know most of us in the developed world as descended from them, as evidence by the distribution of lactose tolerance which is mostly present in those of Northern European descent.

Some of the palaeo crowd claim that our ancestors ate large amounts of meat, while the plant eaters claim they ate only a little. Both these views seem to be assumptions based on their prejudices, since there is very little fossil evidence from pre-agricultural times, and we have no way of knowing what proportions of animal and plant foods they ate, apart from looking at present day hunter gatherers and making some large assumptions.

These assumptions include the idea that whatever humans ate pre-agriculture is the optimum diet for humans today, but I don't think that necessarily follows, since our lifestyles today are so different. Living on roots and berries for weeks, running after a mammoth for a few days and then gorging on meat for a few more days might have been the typical lifestyle of palaeolithic humans, so the optimum diet for the 21st century may be very different.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 20 Dec 2014 #permalink

@justthestats:

No, it isn't. It is autoimmune in nature and tends to be comorbid with diseases like Lupus, arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome.

@Mrs Woo:
That's super weird, especial since you'd expect that anything that made autoimmune symptoms go away would be immunosuppressive in general.

By justthestats (not verified) on 20 Dec 2014 #permalink

Whole plant-based foods have the beautiful characteristic that after eating your feeling of wanting to eat more is gone, you are satisfied, always.

Dream on. You betray a fundamental lack of understanding of gastronomy, as do most food zealots: there's a difference between feeling full and feeling satisfied.

if you are unwilling to accept Minger’s criticism on the basis of her not being sufficiently qualified in nutrition/statistical analysis

The original complaint was that Minger was of insufficiently high status to criticise.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 20 Dec 2014 #permalink

There are so many variables involved with any cancer diagnosis that it seems a bit crazy to suggest one answer for something so complex and varied. A lot of the time those variables determine whether or not you live or die, just like your genetic makeup more than likely determined your incidence of cancer. In my case, I had a lot of lymph node involvement, fortunately the surgery, chemo/radio, herb/vitamins, a well-balanced diet, and absolutely NO EMOTIONAL stress appears to be working for me. As a former BC patient, twenty-one years cancer free, I cannot imagine dealing with cancer in these times of religious kooks, greedy docs, big pharma, and self-proclaimed health coaches and healers. The first five-to-eight years after chemo and radio I couldn't stand to hear the "new" studies, cures, etc. that the media marches out every spring (after the big cancer research symposium).

I had a pretty strict diet, but nothing insane. The body needs all kinds of rest, which is essentially what a lighter diet is supposed to do. I have friends who follow all kinds of crazy new diets and fads, but I keep it simple, predominantly vegetarian with seafood or chicken when desired. I do juice, but I have drank a fruit smoothie for breakfast for thirty years or so.

The main thing to change with a diagnosis of cancer...keep the stress down and get rid of the ANYONE who makes you crazy.

Start here: [Kitten Kong]

I had certain qualms upon first reading this. "The Goodies and the Beanstalk" was somewhat worrisome, as (IIRC) it's what led off the US syndication run on public television.

I revisit this by virtue of a certain turn of events, which I kind of set off, over the past 24 hours that has led to the sudden lack of his having a dining-room table. A check back later promptly called to mind "The End" (I spy, etc.).

If the question is one episode to start with, I'm going for "Snooze."

^ "the sudden lack of my neighbor's"

@ Krebiozen

These assumptions include the idea that whatever humans ate pre-agriculture is the optimum diet for humans today

There is another underlying assumption, that the pre-agriculture diet was optimum for the humans at that time. Which is far from certain.

I'm not sure, but I was under the feeling that the fossil bones of our distant ancestors weren't free of signs of undernourishment, like stunted growth.
This isn't even taking into account the vast disparities of diets between the ones living in mountains and those staying by the seashore.

Of course, if one was taking the French bande déssinée Rahan as a documentary...
(feeling nostalgic with the end of the year drawing close)

By Helianthus (not verified) on 20 Dec 2014 #permalink

Ah, broken link.

Let's try again. Rahan

By Helianthus (not verified) on 20 Dec 2014 #permalink

Of course, if one was taking the French bande déssinée Rahan as a documentary…

You know, I was this close to not doing this.

Michael Finfer, MD
This is nonsense on an evolutionary basis as well. Our ancestors may have been eating meat for almost 3 million years, which is plenty of time for the necessary adaptations to arise. So, if this is true, why are we hear at all?

First of all, it's 'here' not 'hear'!

Secondly, the necessary adaptations will never arise to deal with the quantity/quality of meat that is consumed in Western society these days.

Thousands of years ago, meat was a luxury and eaten possibly once or twice a week. Not 2 or 3 times a day with most of it processed beyond recognition.

By Janet McGowan (not verified) on 04 Jan 2015 #permalink

http://www.drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=310350#p310350

From the above: "The first study was actually done by both the Pritikin and Ornish groups, and, as he describes, was 8x better than the SAD [Standard American Diet] in fighting prostate cancer cells (9% vs 70%)
...
He then moves on to breast cancer to show the power of a plant based diet in just 2 weeks in its ability to both slow down the growth rate of several types of breast cancer cells and also to actually kill breast cancer cells.
...
In the third Pritikin study, he looks at the effect of exercise and a plant based diet on cancer cells. In this study, they compared the control group (sedentary SAD) to those on the SAD for 14 years who exercised heavily and to those who were on the plant based diet with moderate exercise for 14 years. The Pritikin diet was 2x as powerful. "

The anti-science bias presented in this blog report is appalling. To ignore possible evidence, even in light of a handful of patients, would be enough to have Pasteur screaming from the grave. This blog is not for me or any of the scientific community, in light of its wanton ignorance of scientific perspective and openness.

By Michael Stuart (not verified) on 08 Mar 2015 #permalink

The anti-science bias presented in this blog report is appalling.

Perhaps you'd like to explain how cancer cells know the source of their "protein."

"To ignore possible evidence, even in light of a handful of patients, would be enough to have Pasteur screaming from the grave."

Actually, he's recanting from the grave.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 08 Mar 2015 #permalink

The insolence from the "medical science" community is insulting. I am 110% on the side of science but there is too much evidence that modern medical science is seriously skewed towards how certain organizations want the results to be. There is no way an intelligent person can't question the findings.
First of all, the food supply has changed dramatically over the the last couple of centuries, so the meat eaten by our ancestors is not the same as it is today.
Second, we know that just because you eat something and are full has nothing to do with nourishment. My father passed away last year from stomach cancer and the oncologist told him to "eat whatever he wants". Really??!! My grandmother wouldn't dish out such a dumb comment.
I think in the end, people want a solution that doesn't interfere with their lifestyle and has quick results. If someone was told to believe, follow the strict Budwig diet and in three months the odds were good that they could be better, most would not do it.

I think the problem comes down sometimes to can you even get the patient to eat anything at all.

Some cancer patients (either from the cancer or the treatment) lose their appetite and so sometimes allowing them to eat what they like so they get some calories and nutrients in is better than putting them on a demanding diet.

"If someone was told to believe, follow the strict Budwig diet and in three months the odds were good that they could be better, most would not do it."

That's because the odds of improvement on the Budwig diet are lousy.

"We evaluated the following diets: raw vegetables and fruits, alkaline diet, macrobiotics, Gerson's regime, Budwig's and low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet. We did not find clinical evidence supporting any of the diets."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24403443

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 08 Mar 2015 #permalink

@Narad (#140):

I see that song has been a theme lately. I quite liked it. My dad really liked CSN&Y, although I never got into them as much as I did some of his other records. (The Beatles and various classic country-western singers in particular. As a kid, I played Abbey Road until the grooves wore down.) I might have to go back and listen to them some more, and from what I've listened to of the covering band, I like them quite a bit.

Speaking of Chicago, while I was there, I had Malört, and I liked it.

Very probably. I am half Norwegian, which is not the same as Swedish, but the odd taste in liquor seems to be a shared characteristic.

Oh, Danish. Close enough.

^While listening to CSN&Y's Deja Vu, the song Helpless specifically, I had a strong stroke of memory of being little and hearing the line "big birds flying across the sky" as "Big Bird's flying across the sky," with associated mental images.

Is your argument really that if your grandmother would have disagreed with a doctor, the doctor must be wrong? Even if your grandmother was herself a doctor--which I doubt or you'd have mentioned it--being related to you wouldn't make her a better doctor than the person who was treating your father.

By the time your father had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, it was too late to prevent it. That's even if the cause of the cancer had anything to do with his diet.

The human body needs energy to function. Cancer often interferes with people's appetites: if the only thing a person can convince themselves to swallow is milkshakes, they should have milkshakes, because there's some nourishment there. (That would also be true if all someone would swallow was chicken soup or carrot juice, but few people would try to take away a cancer patient's carrot juice.)

A good friend of mine had a wife long ago (San Francisco, late '60s) who died of brain cancer tragically young. The doctors encouraged him to let her drink wine, since it was at least a source of calories, and something she enjoyed.

(Incidentally, he and I met when he was in his 50s and I was maybe 14. He used to say I reminded him of his first wife.)

Speaking of Chicago, while I was there, I had Malört, and I liked it.

Tha's good sippin' liquor.

The insolence from the “medical science” community is insulting. I am 110% on the side of science....

Try harder.