• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


You Can't Debunk Everything: How To Avoid Being Baffled By Baloney

Caution: contains SCIENCE!

Anyone who makes a serious effort to understand the science behind nutrition will understand immediately that news items—most of which simply reprint the press release—are usually pure baloney. In order to learn anything interesting, we require access to the papers themselves.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the shenanigans. Abstracts and conclusions often misrepresent the data. Data is selectively reported to omit negatives (for example, statin trials trumpet a decrease in heart disease while intentionally failing to report all-cause mortality). And experiments are often designed in such a way as to guarantee the desired result.

Is there any way to deal rationally with the unending onslaught?

This approach, though satisfying, is discouraged by our legal system.

How To Get The Results You Want

First, I’ll walk through a few examples of studies carefully designed to produce a result opposite to what happens to all of us in the real world. Please note that I am not accusing anyone of scientific fraud! What I’m showing is that you can ‘prove’ anything you want if you set up your conditions and tests correctly, and choose the right data from your results.

Example 1: Quit While You’re Ahead

Public Health Nutrition: 7(1A), 123–146
Diet, nutrition and the prevention of excess weight gain and obesity
BA Swinburn, I Caterson, JC Seidell and WPT James

This paper, which purports to be an objective review of the evidence, claims with a straight face that “Foods high in fat are less satiating than foods high in carbohydrates.”

Wait, what?

The authors cite two sources. One is a book I don’t have access to. The other is:

Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995 Sep;49(9):675-90.
A satiety index of common foods.
Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, Farmakalidis E.

“Isoenergetic 1000 kJ (240 kcal) servings of 38 foods separated into six food categories (fruits, bakery products, snack foods, carbohydrate-rich foods, protein-rich foods, breakfast cereals) were fed to groups of 11-13 subjects. Satiety ratings were obtained every 15 min over 120 min after which subjects were free to eat ad libitum from a standard range of foods and drinks. A satiety index (SI) score was calculated by dividing the area under the satiety response curve (AUC)…”

Only the abstract is available online, but here’s the list of foods they tested, each with its measured ‘satiety index’—from which we find the surprising ‘facts’ that oranges and apples are more satiating than beef, oatmeal is more satiating than eggs, and boiled potatoes are 50% more satiating than any other food in the world!

This is obviously nonsense…but what’s going on here?

Upon reading the abstract, we can see the problem right away: they only measured satiety for two hours! Last I checked, it was more than two hours between breakfast and lunch, or between lunch and dinner. In fact, if you have any sort of commute, two hours doesn’t even get you to your morning coffee break! And given that a mixed meal of protein, carbohydrate, and fat hasn’t even left your stomach in two hours, we can see that this data does not support the breathtakingly bizarre conclusion drawn by Swinburn et. al.

In fact, it’s hard to see what conclusion this study supports beyond “when you don’t let people drink any water with their food, foods that are mostly water take up much more room in their stomach.” This is why oatmeal makes you feel so full…

…for about two hours, until the glucose is all absorbed and your sugar high wears off.

To see what happens when you track oatmeal vs. eggs for more than two hours, you can read the exhaustively-instrumented study in How “Heart-Healthy Whole Grains” Make Us Fat.

Example 2: Construct an Artificial Scenario

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 61, 960S-967S
Carbohydrates, fats, and satiety.
BJ Rolls

Fat, not carbohydrate, is the macronutrient associated with overeating and obesity…Although more data are required, currently the best dietary advice for weight maintenance and for controlling hunger is to consume a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet with a high fiber content.

Really? And what evidence are we supporting this with?

“The most direct way to assess how these differences in post-ingestive processing affect hunger, satiety, and food intake is to deliver the nutrients either intravenously on intragastrically. Such infusions ensure that taste and learned responses to foods will not influence the results. Thus, to examine in rnore detail the mechanisms involved in the effects of carbohydrate and fat on food intake, we infused pure nutrients either through intravenous or intragastric routes.”

And the author goes on to cite her own study to that effect, found here:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 61, 754-764
Accurate energy compensation for intragastric and oral nutrients in lean males.
DJ Shide, B Caballero, R Reidelberger and BJ Rolls

There’s only one problem with this theory: I don’t eat via intravenous or intragastric infusion, and neither do you.

Physiol Behav. 1999 Aug;67(2):299-306.
Comparison of the effects of a high-fat and high-carbohydrate soup delivered orally and intragastrically on gastric emptying, appetite, and eating behaviour.
Cecil JE, Francis J, Read NW.

“When soup was administered intragastrically (Experiment 1) both the high-fat and high-carbohydrate soup preloads suppressed appetite ratings from baseline, but there were no differences in ratings of hunger and fullness, food intake from the test meal, or rate of gastric emptying between the two soup preloads.”

That’s what the Rolls study above also found. Yet…

“When the same soups were ingested (Experiment 2), the high-fat soup suppressed hunger, induced fullness, and slowed gastric emptying more than the high-carbohydrate soup and also tended to be more effective at reducing energy intake from the test meal.

Oops! Apparently when you eat fat (as opposed to injecting it into your veins or stomach), it is indeed more satiating than carbohydrate. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

Example 3: Confound Your Variables

Am J Clin Nutr December 1987 vol. 46 no. 6 886-892
Dietary fat and the regulation of energy intake in human subjects.
Lauren Lissner, PhD; David A Levitsky, PhD; Barbara J Strupp, PhD;

“Twenty-four women each consumed a sequence of three 2-wk dietary treatments in which 15-20%, 30-35%, or 45-50% of the energy was derived from fat. These diets consisted of foods that were similar in appearance and palatability but differed in the amount of high-fat ingredients used. Relative to their energy consumption on the medium- fat diet, the subjects spontaneously consumed an 11.3% deficit on the low-fat diet and a 15.4% surfeit on the high-fat diet (p less than 0.0001), resulting in significant changes in body weight (p less than 0.001). A small amount of caloric compensation did occur (p less than 0.02), which was greatest in the leanest subjects (p less than 0.03). These results suggest that habitual, unrestricted consumption of low- fat diets may be an effective approach to weight control.

This study looks much more solid at first glance: test subjects were given prepared foods which theoretically differed only in fat content, and which were theoretically tested to have equal palatability. Let’s take that at face value for the moment, and ask ourselves: why were they eating more on the high-fat diet?

First, let’s look at what made the diet “high-fat”. They helpfully list the ingredients added to each meal to make it higher in fat in Table 1.

DFR Figure 1

Notice what’s been added in the right column? I see a lot of n-6 laden “vegetable oil” (store-bought mayonnaise is made with soybean oil) and margarine. Since this study was done back in 1987, the margarine would be absolutely loaded with trans fats, which we now know are strongly associated with obesity, heart disease, inflammation, and…disrupted insulin sensitivity. (Research review.)

So they’re testing what happens when carbohydrates are replaced primarily with seed oil and trans fats—which makes this study irrelevant to anyone considering a healthy diet.

Second, we have the problem that both breakfast and lunch were served in unitary portions.

“All foods, including those served as units (eg, muffins, sandwiches), could be consumed entirely or in part. … Sandwiches were available in whole or half units.”

Though the study doesn’t say explicitly, it’s probably a good assumption that the higher-fat versions contained far more calories, since the researchers tried to make them as similar as possible in appearance. It’s well-known that offering people larger portions causes them to eat more…especially since unlike breakfast and dinner (which were eaten in the laboratory), lunch was taken out. (If you take a sandwich with you, what are the odds you won’t finish it that afternoon, regardless of size?)

That’s not the worst part, though. The worst part is that their data is completely worthless because of interaction between the different diets!

Normally, controlled trials are done on separate, statistically matched groups of subjects, in order to make sure that effects from one treatment don’t bleed over into another.

However, in some cases, “crossover trials” are conducted, where each group is given each treatment in sequence—separated by a “washout period” that is supposed to let any effects of the previous treatment dissipate. This is less desirable (how do you know all the effects have ‘washed out’?), and is usually done because it allows the experimenters to screen and follow a smaller group.

However, Lissner et. al. didn’t even follow a crossover protocol. Instead, they employed a complicated “latin square” design, in which each test subject consumed a different meal type each day! A typical subject would consume a low-fat meal one day, a high-fat meal the next, a medium-fat meal the third day, and the sequence would repeat.

Can you imagine a drug trial where patients took one drug on odd days, and another drug on even days? How could you possibly disentangle the effects?

All of us have eaten a huge dinner and not been hungry the next morning…or gone to bed hungry and been ravenous when we awakened. In this insane design, each high-fat meal was guaranteed to be surrounded by two days of lower-fat meals. Yet in Figure 2, they graph energy intake for each day as if it were the same people eating each diet for two weeks!

In conclusion, this study is triply useless: first, due to using known industrial toxins for the “high-fat” diet, second, due to unequal portion size, and third, due to an intentionally broken design that commingles the effects of the three diets.

Holding Back The Ocean

The purpose of this article—and of gnolls.org—isn’t to debunk silly press releases, misleading websites, or even misleading scientific papers. I’ve given you some useful debunking weapons for your arsenal, but they’re not enough—because trying to dodge every slice of baloney thrown at us on a daily basis is like trying to hold back the ocean with a blue tarp and some rebar.

The usual strategy is to find a belief we like and stick with it, regardless of the evidence—but that way lies zealotry. What we need is a higher level of understanding. We need knowledge that lets us rationally dismiss the baloney and junk science, while conserving our time and attention for the few nuggets of real, new, important information.

We need to understand how human bodies work.

In other words, we need to understand ourselves.

We need to understand the basics of human biology and chemistry, how it was shaped from ape and mammal biology and chemistry, and how much it shares with all Earth life. We need to understand our multi-million year evolutionary history as hunters and foragers, how we were selected for survival on the African savanna, and how that selection pressure turned little 80-pound apes into modern humans.

And once we’ve used this understanding to answer basic questions like "How is food digested?" and "How are nutrients converted into energy?", we can use those answers to dismiss the baloney and junk science, allowing us to spend our valuable time and attention on real information. Because while it’s blindingly obvious to anyone who’s tried both that eating eggs for breakfast is more satiating than eating a bagel, it’s important to know why.

Conclusion: There Is No Easy Way, But There Is A Better Way

“Here’s a study that says so” isn’t a reason: it’s just a set of observations. We need to know how our bodies work. Only then can we rationally judge the meaning of these observations.

There is no shortcut to this knowledge. If there were one, and I knew it, I would already have told you. The best I can do is to continue to hone my own understanding—and I’ll continue to share what I know (or think I know) with you.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


As this upcoming weekend is a holiday, I may not have time to write an article for next week.

In the meantime, you can occupy yourself with my “Elegantly terse”, “Utterly amazing, mind opening, and fantastically beautiful”, “Funny, provocative, entertaining, fun, insightful” novel, The Gnoll Credo. (More effusive praise here, and here.) It’s a trifling $10.95 US, it’s available worldwide, and you can read the first 20 pages here.

The world is a different place after you’ve read The Gnoll Credo. It will change your life. This is not hyperbole. Read the reviews.

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Permalink: You Can’t Debunk Everything: How To Avoid Being Baffled By Baloney
  • I see you are arming your tribe with some useful (intellectual) weapons here!

    I pretty much abandoned the science some time ago – I just don’t have time to study biology and metabolism, study design, and, then to pick apart individual studies.

    Instead, armed with a broad appreciation of paleo-anthropology and an understanding of what it means to ‘live close to the ground’, I found I could easily formulate and implement an approach to paleo that has proven to be reasonably consistent with the advice of most scientifically-savvy, paleo luminaries. More importantly, this approach has resulted in my improved health, strength and leaness.

    However, it is good to understand how to tackle some of the research thrust in our direction because no matter how defined your abs, how good your strength, or how flexible your metabolism, at some point you’ll get some (podgy) medical professional/nutritionist recommending you cut back on saturated fat and red meat, eat more complex carbohydrate and take up jogging based upon ‘study X’!

  • Elenor

    G’morning JS! Thanks! Great debunking (I’m astonished and dismayed that “scientists” {heavy on the sarcasm} would actually be that … stupid? malicious? careless? in their work. May I recommend very strongly Tom Naughton’s lecture/DVD called “Science For Smart People: Learn to tell good science from bad science … and laugh while you learn” (available at his site: http://www.fathead-movie.com). I am already well educated on the ins-and-outs of good (and bad) science, and still found some stuff in his talk that made me gasp.

    His example of how to divide up the folks in tests groups to result in the desired outcome was the clearest and best explanation I’ve ever seen! Very highly recommended! (And, by the way, his movie “Fat Head” can now be streamed on Hulu and Netflix for free. Scientifically accurate, well, well worth the time — and very funny: Tom was a stand-up comedian in an earlier life.) (I’m not related to him or anything — just LOVE his movie and lectures!) Very helpful for awakening those asleep on nutrition!

  • eddie

    i agree with the naughton stuff, although being from england many i have introduced to his work found the accent and use of the word baloney hard to overcome.
    (no baloney in uk….so not a reference that means anything here)
    but i’ve seen you recommend his stuff before yourself so i’m sure you’ve seen it all before.

    that said lent the fathead to my sister and her partner who found it hard going to watch the film, on my version i have big fat fiasco too which they’re going to watch next. i actually think that there may be a difference between americans and english(or maybe just my view or family/friendship circle?) in that english prefer facts and that made the film less useful but the presentation in fiasco more useful.
    of course i know no americans personally so maybe i’m entirely off there 🙂

    great post, i always look forward to your updates

  • JansSushiBar

    Tom’s from the midwest – I sometimes have a hard time with his accent and I adore his work (I’m from Texas).

    JS, your novel is not available on the Kindle, which is the only thing that has kept me from ordering it. However, in the absence of one of your excellent articles next week, I will purchase the actual, physical book. 🙂

  • Bodhi

    I think “they” count on that most of us are too busy, attention deficit, and stupid. To actually read, study, and understand “their” studies. Thank you and other bloggers for taking the time to do the research and then shine the light on the fallacies.

  • Sandy Soto

    Great stuff. These studies will say whatever those funding it want it to say. Don’t know if any of you remember the recent article by Fox News’ John Stossel, in which an “expert,” Jude Capper, claimed that grass-fed beef being more healthy & sustainable was a myth, and that CAFO grain-fed beef was superior. I wanted to know who this Jude Capper person was so I googled the name and came upon a study conducted by her. Not surprisingly, guess whose name was listed right at the top as having funded it? None other than Monsanto.

    Where there’s smoke…

  • eddie:

    I prefer “Big Fat Fiasco” too: Fat Head moves a bit slowly for me.  But Fat Head is a movie, i.e. entertainment…you can't get away with showing people Powerpoint slides. 

    Do you have any suggestions for alternate terms?  Bull**** is universal, but I'd rather not use it.  “Rubbish” is great, but it's strongly British, just as “baloney” is American — and the term “junk science” has been partially hijacked by Steven Milloy to advance his transparently pro-corporate agenda (he's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from Philip Morris, and even the Cato Institute won't sponsor him anymore).


    Much appreciated!  I can't guarantee you won't be shocked…but it won't leave you unscathed, that's for sure.  And printed copies have a way of disappearing.  I've had several people tell me they've purchased multiple copies to give to friends.


    “They” count on us trusting authority figures.  Seriously: livestrong.com?  Really?  

    I'm trying to move us beyond the mindset of debunking individual studies (fun as that is, it's a Sisyphean task) and towards a greater understanding of human biology and metabolism that allows us to dismiss them a priori.  For instance, once you understand how fats and cholesterol are packaged and transported throughout the body, it's easy to ignore statements like “saturated fat clogs your arteries”.


    Absolutely!  I wrote an article debunking the Stossel/Capper rubbish months ago: you can find it here.

    The polite term is “industry consultant”: the impolite term is “shill”.


  • We all have an inbuilt “bullshit detector”, but it is as neutered as our taste buds after years of conventional wisdom, often compounded by parents trying to do the right thing for us while we grow up.

    Honing our “bullshit detector” is yet another thing for us paleos to really get to grips with and this article gives us the goods in the way that JS does – no lengthy crib sheet, just a small number of principles we can remember and apply with ease. One really simple principle is, “follow the money” (which has been a central tenet of a recent entry). Who are the people presenting the “facts” working for?

    Not as hard-hitting as some of your recent articles, but a more thought provoking one perhaps; one which we can savour and keep coming back to.

  • Asclepius:

    “…a broad appreciation of paleo-anthropology and an understanding of what it means to ‘live close to the ground’” is absolutely relevant to what I'm advocating: “understanding how human bodies work”.  That is how we can avoid getting dragged into the details of each individual study.


    Scientists have bills to pay and children to feed.  When (as Naughton pointed out in Fat Head and Big Fat Fiasco) your career can be destroyed by opposing the prevailing orthodoxy, you'll find a way to support it.

    I've watched all his other stuff — but I haven't seen “Science for Smart People” yet, so I'll definitely make time for that one.


    In a way, I'm trying to give people back their bullshit detector by providing a fact-based basis for it: human biochemistry, informed by evolutionary context.  

    The debunkings in the middle aren't really the point of the article: they're examples of how to create counterfactual conclusions that we should be able to simply dismiss out of hand.  But without a fact-based “bullshit detector”, we're vulnerable to the continued onslaught of bad advice, and stuck in the muddle of details.  

    None of us, including me, have time for that.

    It's like someone in the modern age bringing up phrenology: we don't have to find a controlled study to know that it's baloney.  Human biology does that for us.  And it's the same for the “clogged drain” model of heart disease: once we understand how fat transport and metabolism actually works, we can dismiss it as silly without having to refer to the medical literature.

    It may seem like a subtle point, but it's not.


  • Honora Renwick

    My experience of the wonderful satiety of meat was when I ate leftover stir-fried steak/vegies on a mountaineering course for breakfast. We were very busy on our course and didn’t get a chance to stop and eat until 2pm. Fortunately, the stir-fry kept me going until then. I was very impressed.

  • JS: Indeed, it is not. Often, the simplest of points have the deepest of ramifications when duly considered.

    I must say, I've had to look up “N=1” since it's not native to our language here in the UK, but as you've said in another article … as you've said, it's not about N=1; it's not “whatever works for you” … we have biochemistry to SHOW us what works and what does not.

    The difficulty is, we have “biochemists” telling us one thing over here … and another set of “biochemists” telling us something else over there. Having a small bunch of principles to hold up against anything we read will hone our BS detector. Your “predator principle” is simple – it explains paleo without a 12 point manifesto!

    Your examples can be converted into simple principles to hone our BS detectors.

    They key thing is to be able to think for ourselves. Prior to paleo, I guess I was a “JERF” (I've just learned that phrase). Paleo helped me to refine my diet to a state of purity and the transition was simple. I could understand the concepts and could follow the science … when it was layed out before me. I could also google for oppositional articles and evidence, but they did not quite smell right. Others might not smell it until they've stepped in it!

    Principles enable us to keep out feet (and stomachs) clean of BS! This article could have your usual punch with a couple of bold bullet points at the end distilling the examples into principles.

    I get it, but then I can think for myself. You get it … well, you wrote it. A “baloney principle”, like you have the “predator principle” would pack the knockout punch for this article Wink

  • Honora:

    It's much better than instant oatmeal, isn't it?


    Sometimes those punchy little summaries come directly to mind, sometimes they don't.  The creative process hasn't yet been domesticated.  But if I figure out a way to distill it down to a couple punchy bullet points, I'll certainly update!


  • Txomin

    Thank you for this post, Stanton.

    There is an unjustified notion, a myth really, that peer-reviewed literature is credible by default. It is crucial that those of us that work with academic material (and are, therefore, professionally experienced in these matters) continue to let it be known that no matter the manner in which a piece of information lands in one’s hands, it MUST be read critically.

    Please, please, folks, learn to distinguish between what you believe and what you understand.

  • Txomin

    And, yes, that includes Wikipedia.

  • Txomin:

    I agree!  It would be nice to say “Just use common sense”, but that doesn't work either, because “common sense” is mostly cultural bias.

    I'm trying to think of a snappier way to conclude this essay, but “understanding how human bodies and metabolism work” is the best I can do for now.

    Thanks for joining the gnolls!  Do stick around.


  • Hi Txomin! Good to see you here.

  • Txomin

    The reply and welcome is appreciated.

    There is a folk saying that I will now… muddle. “It is surprisingly easy to make people believe a lie, no matter how fantastic it might be. Yet it is excruciatingly difficult to make people understand a notion, no matter how simple it might be”.

    It think it is also very important to dispel the myth that this implies any form of intellectual elitism. Getting to understand anything is exclusively a matter of work and, oftentimes, very hard work.

    Good to see you here too. I wouldn’t be surprised if we both frequent many of the same top quality blogs on the net.

  • Txomin:

    Intellectualism is powerful enough that it can be easily used to create plausible-sounding justifications for utter baloney.  In fact, that's pretty much what elitism is…an attempt to obscure the path to understanding so that others can't follow it.


  • Weeding the Yard | C

    […] Here, Jay Stanton from gnolls.org addresses a few and how he approaches “weeding.” […]

  • Another Halocene Hum

    Thank you for this post. Nutrition research seems to be especially rife with this sort of nonsense, and the shame of it is, nothing’s stopping these clowns from running their experimental plan past an expert with slightly different credentials, such as a biochemistry PhD or an MD clinician, for a basic sanity check.

    Study – prior plausibility = waste of time and money


  • AHH:

    Research is driven by funding for research.  Once you've got someone willing to fund an experiment, the last thing you want is someone to tell you why it's a silly idea.  And you're likely to design the experiment in order to get the results that your funders wanted.


  • Jayne

    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.

  • 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.


  • ONE change for the a

    […] […]

  • pam


    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.


    (catching up on all your older articles)

  • 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.


  • Steven


    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?

  • 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.


  • Steven

    Good God!! I have never in my life seen such a gargantuan critique, of anything!

  • 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.


  • Steven

    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?

  • Steven

    “ate practically no cheese,” meant to say.

  • 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.


    “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.)


  • Steven


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

  • 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!


  • Steven


    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.

  • Steven:

    Michael Gurven and Hillard Kaplan

    Longevity Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination



    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).


  • Steven

    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.

  • 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.”


  • Steven

    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.

  • Daniel Taylor


    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.

  • Steven:

    If you’re listening to Dr. Oz for diet advice, you’re going to be sold a lot of useless supplements and straight-up quackery.  Consider: if he could actually cure obesity, his audience wouldn’t need him anymore!  It’s much more profitable to lead them in circles, always chasing the next “miracle food” or diet plan.  There’s a reason Oprah is still fat.

    However, in this case there may be a grain of truth.  DT linked Paul Jaminet’s excellent post on the issue (thanks, DT).  However, it is the case that quite a few people have perfectly reasonable thyroid function on VLC diets, so it stands to reason that capabilities differ in that area.  And though I don’t want to open the door to a discussion of the people involved, it is absolutely true that cold exposure dramatically increases T3 levels.  So does exercise up to the anaerobic threshold.  There’s more than one way to skin that particular cat besides “eat more sugar or you’re going to die”.


  • Steven

    Thanks, Dan and J.S. that’s a long discussion on the link. J.S., can you expand a bit on the anaerbic aspect of this? Practical wisdom, like how much and what type of exercise to try to stimulate thyroid? I have no choice but to limit carbs, so it’s almost moot, but I don’t even know how much carbs are needed anyway. I am not clear on the cold exposure idea either. Still eating red meat daily and freaking people out doing so.

  • Steven:

    If your energy levels are good and you have no obvious symptoms of hypothyroidism, I wouldn't worry about it.  When you want to start thinking about potential thyroid issues is if you're feeling listless and low on energy despite a reasonable caloric intake, good sleep, good nutrition, etc.  

    Remember, no one in the nutrition business, whether Dr. Oz or paleo, makes a profit off of anyone who is healthy and doesn't need anything but food.  First you have to convince people there's something wrong with them…then you can sell them a solution, even if the problem doesn't exist.


  • scott

    Just finished reading “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis, MD, -preventive cardiologist.
    I was already on a no processed carb diet when I recieved his book as a gift from my Dr. of Chiropractic Son, who then directed me to your web site. Great info and you seem to be on the wavelength as Dr. Davis.
    I have been on a “paleo wheat belly” diet for 3 weeks – an interesting and very positive experience so far!
    The ensuing discussions gen include the question: What are J. Stanton’s credentials/ qualifications ? Please help me out here.

  • scott:

    While I believe Dr. Davis overstates certain parts of the anti-wheat case, I agree that it's not a food anyone should eat.  There are no upsides to wheat consumption, and a raft of downsides — the severity of which will depend on your genetic background.  I'm glad you're seeing success!

    I have no special sets of letters after my name, if that's what you mean by “qualifications”.  However, I've spoken at the last two Ancestral Health Symposia (here's a video of my talk at Harvard), so the academic community apparently finds my work credible and valuable.  Note that, unlike many online gurus (including many academics), I both link and quote my references, so that you can verify for yourself that I'm properly representing the science. 

    Meanwhile, it might surprise you that having an MD doesn't mean you've received any nutritional training at all!  In fact, the average MD receives just 23 hours of nutrition training before receiving their degree (Adams 2005), with most receiving less — and what they get is of extremely low quality.  (Example, from an actual MD.)  I guarantee Dr. Davis didn't write Wheat Belly based on classes he took in school!

    It's also instructive to remember that the paleo movement hasn't been around long enough to have a formal academic or training path.  (There's no degree in “paleo”.)  Everyone writing about Paleo and Primal, from Eaton and Cordain to Wolf, Sisson, Jaminet, Kresser, and the Hartwigs, to myself, has had to do their own research, on their own time.  In my case, this involved years of reading very dry academic papers and attempting to put them together into some sort of logical and rational framework.  I have over a dozen browser tabs open to Pubmed and academic journals at this very moment, with titles like “Subjects with early-onset type 2 diabetes show defective activation of the skeletal muscle PGC-1{alpha}/Mitofusin-2 regulatory pathway in response to physical activity.”

    In short, my qualifications are that I've spent the years of time and research required to understand the subject and communicate it to others.  The quality of my work speaks for itself.


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