Forks Over Knives: The Latest Vegan Nonsense Dissected, Debunked and DestroyedAnthony Colpo | Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 | Comments Off
For those of you not familiar with Denise Minger, she’s an ex-vegan who last year took T. Colin Campbell’s atrocious and terribly misleading The China Study book and debunked the living daylights out of it. As with my (and Chris Masterjohn’s) critique of The China Study, the best Campbell could muster in response was to issue totally unfounded aspersions on her motives and to wank on and on about her allegedly inappropriate use of unadjusted correlations.
These were the very same unadjusted correlations, by the way, that Campbell was only too happy to cite in his book in support of his anti-animal food agenda. According to Campbell, the data from the China Study showed that: “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease . . . People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.”
They’re Campbell’s own words folks, not the words of Masterjohn, Denise, or myself. Needless to say, it’s extremely hypocritical for Campbell to gleefully cite unadjusted data in support of his own argument, but then get all hissy when others cite the very same data and show how it not only fails to support his argument but in many cases contradicts it.
I am the Almighty Guru, Kiss My Feet…or Kiss My Ass
Just what is it with these pompous old diet gurus? Is there a factory somewhere in the US Midwest pumping out aging jokers who earnestly seem to believe it’s their birthright to publish all manner of unsubstantiated dietary BS, yet remain totally beyond reproach? Do these automatons come equipped with a “defamatory hypocrite” option that automatically gets stuck in the “on” position every time they’re confronted with valid criticism they can’t factually refute?
It’s ironic that the low-carb/meat-based diet crowd and the low-fat/plant food crowd spend so much time sledging each other, because the undeniable reality is both are remarkably similar; they both specialize in peddling utter nonsense. Both sides swear they and only they abide by nothing but the highest standards of science – then both turn around and spew forth rivers of nonsense.
The plain truth is both sides are overpopulated by vehement dogmatists incurably addicted to pushing their own agendas, reason and logic be damned. They both distort the science, selectively cite studies, misinterpret study findings, ignore contradictory evidence, and when all else fails, attack their opponents personally. For some sterling examples of this idiocy in action, you can read my critique of Campbell’s The China Study here, and my destruction of the absurd claims of low-carb shill Dr Michael Eades here.
Anyways, back to Denise.
Unlike the smug, stale know-it-alls that inhabit Gurustan, this young lady is intelligent, unbiased, and really knows her stuff when it comes to picking apart hogwash dietary claims. Which is bad news for the creators of Forks over Knives, the vegan movement’s latest piece of propaganda. This film features well known vegan, uh, excuse me, “plant-based diet” stalwarts, including Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, and John McDougall. It also features countless scientifically untenable claims that Denise proceeds to sink her teeth into, letting go only when she’s completely ripped them to shreds.
Here are just a few highlights, along with some of my own observations added in for good measure:
One of Campbell’s pivotal arguments in The China Study, repeated in Forks Over Knives, was research showing that rodents administered aflatoxin were more likely to get cancer if they ate high-protein (20%) diets. According to Campbell, the furry little buggers fed low-protein (5%) diets were less likely to develop malignant tumours. The protein in these diets was derived from casein, one of the two main protein fractions of dairy (whey being the other).
Sounds like a pretty damning indictment of high-protein diets, doesn’t it? Well, at least if you’re dumb enough to overlook the fact that virtually no human derives all his/her protein from casein. And that no human is a rat…physiologically speaking, that is.
And there’s one other teeny weeny detail that Campbell conveniently neglected to mention: the low-protein rats died at an earlier age! No wonder they got less cancer – they didn’t long enough to develop malignant tumours!
And it doesn’t end there.
In the original Indian study that inspired Campbell to adopt his animal protein-hating ways (Important Warning: stay a mile away from any joker whose current dietary beliefs arose from a single “Aha!” moment involving a dodgey study or diet book…) and in Campbell’s own experiments, the doses of alflatoxin were absolutely ree-dee-que-less. The rats were administered super-duper-mega-massive doses of aflatoxin, the ingestion of which would literally be impossible in real live humans. Meaning that, regardless of protein intake, the experiments had essentially no real life relevance for us Homo sapiens. Except of course, for those capable of eating over 280,000 contaminated peanut butter sandwiches a day for four days straight. Heck, even Elvis in his dying days would have struggled to put away that much peanut butter.
When lower, more realistic doses of aflatoxin were given to monkeys eating either 5% or 20% casein, something interesting happened. Something that Campbell would probably prefer we didn’t know:
“Monkeys on low protein diet surviving for 90 weeks or more show foci of preneoplastic lesions, whereas those on high protein diet reveal no such alterations at the corresponding time interval…It appears that in the simian model used by us, the liver injury caused by [aflatoxin] is accentuated by simultaneous restriction of dietary protein and in animals on such combined regimen preneoplastic lesions appear around 90 weeks of experiment. These observations suggest a synergism between protein calorie malnutrition and aflatoxin induced hepatocarcinogenesis and may explain the higher incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in certain areas of the world where contamination of foods with aflatoxin and malnutrition are prevalent.”
Oops to the power of infinity.
Campbell gets his knickers in a right royal knot when his critics use unadjusted correlations to debunk his claims – but these are the same unadjusted correlations he himself used in the first instance to make his untenable claims! And as Denise points out, Campbell has a long history of using crude unadjusted data to support his case; he’s published numerous papers during his ‘distinguished’ career using – you guessed it – unadjusted data to form dodgey conclusions on everything from heart disease to colorectal cancer incidence.
Planet Earth to T. Colin Campbell: If you insist it’s poor science to arrive at conclusions based on crude unadjusted data, then here’s a revolutionary idea: Cease and desist with your longstanding practice of arriving at conclusions based on unadjusted data!
I Once Tried Adjusting My Data, and I Didn’t Like it
Thanks to her dogged detective work, Denise has uncovered a number of papers in which the China Study data was adjusted for a number of confounders. The reason Campbell has never discussed this adjusted data, even though he appears to harbour a rather strong albeit utterly self-contradictory disdain for unadjusted data?
Probably because it too fails to support his anti-animal food, anti-animal fat, anti-cholesterol, pro-plant food agenda. And unlike unadjusted data, adjusted data doesn’t lend itself to Campbell’s favored and convenient escape clause of “Oh, don’t be so silly, that’s the unadjusted data, my ignorant cutesie little meat and dairy industry-sponsored malevolents!”
Multiple regression analysis from this 1990 AJCN paper , co-authored by Campbell, showed:
“The consumption of wheat flour and salt … was positively correlated with all three diseases [cardiovascular disease, hypertensive heart disease, and stroke]“
Last time I checked, wheat was a plant, not an animal.
“Red blood cell total polyunsaturated fats, especially the n-6 fatty acids [you know, the ones found in abundance in plant food oils], were positively correlated with coronary heart disease and hypertensive heart disease”
“Within China neither plasma total cholesterol nor LDL cholesterol was associated with cardiovascular disease”
Yeah, real deadly stuff, that cholesterol.
This 1992 paper, co-authored by Campbell’s research partner Jun-Shi Chen, included multivariate anlyses that found: “Consumption of green vegetables, rice, meat, and fish was associated with reduced [stomach cancer] mortality“
This of course doesn’t fit too well with Campbell’s pivotal “animal protein increases cancer” pet theory, so I’m guessing it was quietly relegated to the “Round File” during the writing of The China Study.
The Round File: A hot favourite with low-fat and low-carb authors alike for storing those pesky non-supportive studies. Out of sight, out of mind, baby!