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You Can't Debunk Everything: How To Avoid Being Baffled By Baloney
sp_BlogLink Read the original blog post
August 26, 2011
4:19 am
Jayne
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Since most of the science is done to sell expensive and unnecessary drugs and/or supposedly healthy processed foods, I take it with a pinch of salt.

August 26, 2011
2:39 pm
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Jayne:

Exactly.  Just because something passed peer review doesn't mean it isn't carefully designed to produce the result its funders wanted.  And plenty of bunk still passes peer review.

JS

August 27, 2011
10:25 am
ONE change for the a
Guest

[...] [...]

March 9, 2012
7:45 pm
pam
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wow.

i'm a physicist; most physicists take great pleasure from "grilling" others in conferences, esp. in high energy. (that's just our culture LOL)

i'm aware that in life science, research don't go thru the same scrutiny as in our "trade"

but this "Latin square" feeding has to win the price.

do you know who funded the
research? i'd shudder if it was funded by our tax.

thanks.

(catching up on all your older articles)

March 10, 2012
3:39 pm
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Pam:

I've heard that from other physicists: you get credibility from proving something wrong, not just from proving it right.

"Supported by NIH grant #R01-AM-35896-01" appears on the first page, so yes, it was at least partially tax-supported.  Unfortunately this sort of foolishness is extremely common in the nutritional science field, for several reasons -- the most important being that the government is far more likely to finance studies designed to confirm the government's pre-existing nutritional recommendations, and far more likely to finance researchers whose studies continue to "prove" these recommendations correct.

Gary Taubes recounts the history of what happened to pro-fat, anti-sugar researchers during the ascendance of Ancel Keys and the McGovern Committee in "Good Calories, Bad Calories".  It wasn't pretty.

Welcome to gnolls.org!  Do stick around.

JS

April 16, 2012
3:53 pm
Steven
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Hello.

I entered "Forks and Knives" in the search box, as well as "China study," but it looks like these have not been discussed on this site, and it led to this article. Assuming it is not discussed elsewhere, I would like to direct our attention to several significant correlations.

I am cognizant that correlation is not causation. However, convincing correlations cannot be dismissed out of hand either. There are two events which I think raise questions about the safety of red meat and dairy. When the Nazis invaded Norway they deprived the population of beef and dairy, and the cancer and heart attack deaths plumetted; conversely, when these were restored, these maladies returned to previous, high levels. Secondly, in China, vast research correlated cancers with diets and I guess other factors (I have not read the research in Norway or China studies). Other studies have found direct correlation between cancer growth and diet, using casein, a milk protein. That was a causal study, varying one factor and measuring a dependent variable.

Given just the Norway correlation, doesn't this give one pause to consider? While I buy a lot of the argument for meat, with regard to certain factors, I now worry that cancer may be stimulated by animal products. We cannot use the argument that Neanderthals did not have high cancer, since this is impossible to know and besides, they died long before most cancers would have been evidenced. How would others explain the Norway phenomemon?

April 16, 2012
6:13 pm
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Steven:

Denise Minger is your go-to for debunking the misleading and outright false claims made in "Forks Over Knives" and "The China Study".  I couldn't possibly do a better job than she's already done.

Forks Over Knives: Is The Science Legit? handily debunks the Norway/war claim from all angles, including by showing that animal product consumption actually increased during the first two years of the war, while mortality was decreasing!  (And there's much more to it than that.)

She also destroys the purported casein/cancer connection, among others.

You'll probably be angry after reading her long, exhaustively-researched debunking, because you'll realize how badly you've been misled by FoN -- and how many other people are being bamboozled into bad decisions by it!

Meanwhile, The China Study: A Formal Analysis and Response neatly eviscerates Campbell's blatantly false misrepresentations of the data contained in the actual China Study.

Anyone who believes that FoN or TCS are anything but empty propaganda, full of misleading and outright false statements masquerading as science, should read both articles in their entirety.

JS

April 19, 2012
3:36 pm
Steven
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Good God!! I have never in my life seen such a gargantuan critique, of anything!

April 19, 2012
6:02 pm
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Steven:

Denise is nothing if not thorough!  

She's also charming and very personable -- solid proof that science isn't the exclusive province of grumpy old men in lab coats.

JS

April 22, 2012
12:59 pm
Steven
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Based on the Norway information it looks like it can be concluded that lowering meat and full-fat dairy and increasing fish is the take-home message, assuming that cardio mortality decreased over this period.

We may not know which of the two, less meat or more fish, was more important, but it seems safe to just apply both. The figures show that fat intake went down, but skim milk went up, and fish was doubled. It seems to be a great argument for fish, and not such a great day for red meat, in my interpretation.

I didn't know that Norwegians ate practically cheese, by the way (see graph). then, what are all those thin crackers for, huh?

April 22, 2012
1:00 pm
Steven
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"ate practically no cheese," meant to say.

April 23, 2012
4:24 pm
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Steven:

No, you're still misreading the data.  Note which foods were rationed initially, some combination of which could have caused the drop:

"During the first year [starting in spring of 1940] the rationing included all imported foods, bread, fats, sugar, coffee, cocoa, syrup, and coffee substitute."

Continuing...

"In the second year [starting in late 1941] all kinds of meat and pork, eggs, milk and dairy products were rationed…"

Animal foods didn’t really dwindle from Norwegian kitchens until the end of 1941. Even if we ignore the fact that changes in mortality would naturally lag behind changes in diet, it’s hard to blame the 1941 drop in cardiovascular disease on something that mostly happened in 1942!"

(Note also that sugar and fruit consumption dropped by the same amount that (non-fish) meat consumption dropped later.)

 

Therefore, it's clear that the drop in mortality had something to do with the initial list: "all imported foods, bread, fats, sugar, coffee, cocoa, syrup, and coffee substitute" -- and, even more likely, the 20% drop in total calories consumed.  (Calorie restriction is well-known to increase lifespan.)

JS

April 25, 2012
3:44 pm
Steven
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JS:

Perhaps people simply lost weight, and this reduced coronary incidents? Caloric restriction would take place over a longer duration, don't you think?

April 27, 2012
12:13 am
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Steven:

It's impossible to disentangle the effects of so many different occurrences, dietary and otherwise.  (To understate the matter, diet was not the only change in people's lives when World War II started.)  And, in fact, mortality took a few years to bottom out, so it's probable that these changes took a while to establish themselves in mortality patterns.

However, Denise's point stands: when the precipitous drop in mortality precedes the drop in meat consumption, it's nonsensical to claim that eating less meat caused the drop.

Besides, our ancestors have been eating red meat for at least 3.4 million years -- far longer than we've been eating fish.  After 3.4 million years, we ought to be reasonably well-adapted to the whole red meat thing...especially since human fat has very similar composition to the fat of the animals we eat.  If eating red meat is unhealthy, then so is losing weight -- because it involves eating our own fat!

JS

April 28, 2012
9:16 am
Steven
Guest

JS:

It is indeed hard to deny Denise's point about mortality dropping before the decrease in meat consumption. I find the fish issue more compelling though, in that it did double and omega 3s are heart-protective, we know. Further, I have not found a convincing rebuttal to the fact that our ancestors didn't exactly live that long, and may have expired prior to the negative effects of red meat, to which I refer to many cancer studies linking it to prostate and colon cancers, for example. Two friends recently died of cancer, so I am extremely worried about cancers. I am fairly convinced on eating it anyhow now as carbs are my greater concern, so I have little choice, except for fish, which seem less problematic. How many studies have you ever seen warning about negative effects of kosher fish (other than via pollution)? by the way, I read all the comments on Minger and it was a great read. Thanks for directing me to her.

April 30, 2012
11:10 pm
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Steven:

Michael Gurven and Hillard Kaplan

Longevity Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination

POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT REVIEW 33(2): 321–365 (JUNE 2007)

 

Also, vegetarians have more colon cancer than meat-eaters:

Am J Clin Nutr May 2009 vol. 89 no. 5 1620S-1626S

Cancer incidence in vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford)

Timothy J Key, Paul N Appleby, Elizabeth A Spencer, Ruth C Travis, Andrew W Roddam, and Naomi E Allen

The incidence rate ratio for colorectal cancer in vegetarians compared with meat eaters was 1.39 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.91).

Go here for more information: Carnosine, Colons, and Cancer

 

The only negative effects I know of from fish are from smoked fish, which is weakly carcinogenic over the long term (as are most smoked foods AFAIK).

JS

May 2, 2012
6:41 pm
Steven
Guest

Thanks. I am going to look into these references. For the moment, I have to say that one of those ingredients you recently wrote about...I saw it on a Hershey's chocolate bar! It was four letters, maybe RPGR or something, suggestive of some type of protein isolate. I forget the article this was in, but this is something I never saw before, referring to ingredients of food in letter form! No one knows what in hell that is, but it's disheartening on something so pseudo-wholesome as an American Hershey bar. The more I learn the more I see that meat is truly the simple way to go, as opposed to vegetarianism, which, the more you know, the more complex it is, especially the meat substitutes and other creations. Meat is meat, fish is fish, for the most part. I never thought I would see something so secretive, so obscure on a good ole chocolate bar, but I am sure it MUST be good for ya, since it's OK with the FDA and our friends over in Hershey.

May 3, 2012
12:42 am
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Steven:

Since my article on hydrolyzed protein has been so popular, I might do some more on other mysterious food additives, like PGPR.  My first reaction was the same as yours: "I don't know what PGPR is -- but I'm pretty sure it doesn't need to be in chocolate."

Meat, root starches, vegetables, and fruit are the simple path to health.  As I said elsewhere, "Food doesn't have ingredients: food is an ingredient."

JS

May 20, 2012
8:00 am
Steven
Guest

Hi, everyone.
Dr. Oz made an argument on the Piers Morgan show for the importance of carbohydrates, the only one I ever heard that might make sense. He said the thyroid slows down metabolism if not enough carbs. This would mean that low-carb (how low?) diets would harm the thyroid, or at least interfere with its proper metabolic functions. The paleo diet is not far from a low carb diet, it seems to me. Is Dr. Oz's observation scientifically valid, i.e., does the thyroid need carbs to keep up the optimal metabolism or is protein and fat sufficient? Thanks. I have written to Dr. Bernstein as well on this; he is a strong proponent of extremely low-carb diets.

May 20, 2012
9:39 am
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Cameron, Tx
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Steven:

You should check out PHD's post on this here. Good post, lots of links. There is plenty of contention around the paleosphere on this topic...

 

Dr. Oz is questionable at best. What most people fail to realize is that anything to do with health must be looked at within context.

 

Ex: A low activity person could  have a lower overall requirement for glucose (carbs) relative to a higher activity person. You would have to tweak from there.

 

There are many in's and out's to to consider. What is most important is the biochemistry. And while we all have different lifestyle and individual bio-variables (new word?) to consider, we are all humans and share a basic BIOCHEMICAL BACKDROP.

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