my last post on the anti-China-Study Mercola newsletter

Related to questions received from yesterday’s post—

I don’t know if anyone has critiqued the China Study who isn’t associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation. All the criticism I have read has been. I’m not sure who financed Denise Minger, a 23-year old college student and “professional sock puppeteer” who is paid to write nutrition/health articles, according to her facebook profile.

Again, my friends, I trust Oxford and Cornell’s research (I grilled Campbell about his funding sources)   a bit more than a college student and will be interested to read the Johns Hopkins epidemiologists’ and Campbell’s rebuttals to her arguments.

What else might be to blame for a vegan diet making people feel unwell? There are many answers to that, but the problem is that over and over, comments reveal that

People think I am advocating for a vegan diet.

I’m not.

What I advocate for is eating far more plant food. Period. It’s up to you to decide where animal protein belongs in your life, if it does.

Can anyone really disagree with eating far more whole plant foods, in the face of America’s average of 1-2 servings daily, half of that being in the form of fried potatoes? In the face of now THOUSANDS of studies (even if you leave the China Study out of it?) telling us that myriad compounds in raw plant food heal us and prevent degenerative disease?

I believe when we’ve been eating a certain way (i.e., 20% animal protein, a U.S. average), we often experience a reaction that isn’t entirely pleasant when we shift that balance. Just like when you try to change patterns in a relationship, the other person often doesn’t like or understand it and chaos ensues until a new equilibrium is achieved. If you eat meat for dinner every night for 50 years, and one night you eat a vegetarian meal and you don’t feel the same afterward, does that mean that vegetables and brown rice aren’t good for you personally?

I purposefully leave you to your own personal experimentation to find what works for you. I don’t say there’s a “one size fits all” approach. I’m not into “typing,” until I see some major data backing it up. My interest is primarily in practical ways to actually DO what others’ research has already documented very well. I would like to see us return to eating whole foods. (However, my own research published in The Green Smoothies Diet is a slam-dunk that when we eat more green foods, we feel better–almost 96% of us do, anyway.)

If some want to ignore SEVERAL THOUSAND statistically significant pieces of data in the China Study, that is their prerogative. (Statistically significant means the findings fall outside the margin of error.)

I maintain my own prerogative to point out some problems underpinning Mercola’s wholesale rejection of those thousands of data points, as he sells his nutritional typing and related animal-protein products.

Mercola says he has THREE specific eating plans and about 33% of the Western population fits in each one. He says those ratios are different in other countries. I would like to see the data behind that, peer reviewed in a scientific journal. Because if there isn’t any, it’s a grand assertion with big, potentially dangerous, ramifications for people following those recommendations.

Dr. Mercola attacks the China Study: clash of the titans

When Joe Mercola contradicts the basics of nutrition taught on GreenSmoothieGirl.com and in my books, we get hundreds of emails.

Mercola’s newsletter yesterday supposedly exposes the “DARK SIDE” of the China Study. I’m not going to link to it and therefore give it a higher page rank. It doesn’t deserve it.

Before undertaking to explain what’s radically wrong with this article, let me say this: I agree with Mercola on some macro issues:

  1. That prevention and natural remedies are the best first-line treatments, rather than drug/surgery medical interventions.
  2. That far too much of our data comes from research that drug companies and agribusiness paid for.
  3. That sugar and processed foods are killing us. (Mercola implies, with the “false dilemma” logical fallacy, in yesterday’s newsletter that either animal proteins are killing us, or processed foods are, as if they are mutually exclusive.)

But we must use critical thinking skills to expose fatal flaws in his comments about Dr. T. Colin Campbell and the China Study.

(When you put yourself in the public domain, you invite dissent. Juxtaposition of ideas creates a climate for the truth to emerge.)

As I strongly disagree with Mercola here, I will invariably get some angry email. Most readers will appreciate that my only motive is to learn and then explain the truth (or as close as I can get to it) in this world of nutrition that has so many competing voices.

My own 12 Steps to Whole Foods is a compendium of the best nutrition practices. It advocates for eating much more plant food (especially raw food) than the average American gets and is a practical HOW-TO guide, more than a philosophical debate or meta-review of research. It purposefully doesn’t advocate for vegetarianism or veganism, although I am supportive of others who choose to wear those labels. My own family, except for two vegetarian daughters, eats a bit of homemade kefir, and occasional animal products when we are away from home.

Mercola attempts to discredit the joint effort of Oxford and Cornell Universities by calling theirs an “observational” study, which he infers is somehow inferior to having once had a medical practice.

The Oxford/Cornell China study is a very sound, huge, comprehensive study spanning over 25 years. My own advanced degree, background in research, and understanding of research principles, lead me to say this:

I am thankful, finally, for a vast piece of research in epidemiology that was not funded or influenced by the drug companies or agribusiness (which primarily hawks refined corn/wheat/soy products and processed and refined and GMO foods). I see no conflicts of interest in the Oxford/Cornell research. I see one of the purest voices in nutrition in Campbell and his team.

I interviewed him by phone as I wrote this, and he said, “I feel personally responsible to Americans to tell them what we did with their money,” because taxpayers funded the China study, not profit-motivated industries.

The research was the next natural step from methodical and rigorous animal studies. It’s   a remarkable piece of research examining 6,500 adults in 130 villages of rural China where some populations eat lots of animal protein, and others eat very little. The book The China Study represents the totality of Campbell’s experiences. Those include his many years of work in the Philippines studying malnourished children, to his experimental lab research funded by the National Institutes of Health, to the human studies project in China.

Mercola refers to Campbell “forcing” everyone into vegetarianism. This makes no sense on two levels beyond the unilateral emotionalism of the word.

First, the two diets Campbell studied were 20% animal protein (which correlates to the Standard American Diet) and 5% animal protein. Neither groups studied were vegetarian. The 5% group correlates to a low-animal-protein diet, similar to Daniel’s Biblical diet, as well as the scriptural “Word of Wisdom” counsel to eat meat “sparingly, only in times of winter/famine/cold.”

Second, Campbell takes the tone of scientist. He reports and interprets the data. He doesn’t “force” or even recommend any specific diet. He allows the reader to infer from the data whatever diet they choose to follow. He isn’t an internet maven selling a philosophy; he’s a researcher who found the opposite of what he expected to. He grew up on a dairy cattle farm and thought, well into adulthood, that a high-protein diet was ideal. Like John Robbins, son of the Baskin Robbins founder, only data convinced him otherwise. I personally am thankful for honest and pure truth seekers, willing to turn another way, when data challenges popular culture and custom.

Mercola attempts to downgrade the massive China project as “an observational study,” which he says does not “prove causation.” This is puzzling to me based on a three logic flaws.

First, Campbell is a scientist and would never say his study “proves causation.” No scientist would. I’m not a scientist but know enough about it to be aware you never achieve or claim “proof of causation.” Mercola gives a two-sentence primer on how the scientific process works: initial study, hypothesis, controlled trial. Which is precisely what Campbell and the research team did:

For the rest of this report, click here.

I just interviewed T. Colin Campbell

Normally I blog in the morning. Not this morning, because I got Mercola’s newsletter lambasting T. Colin Campbell, PhD, of Cornell University, and his massive study known as the Oxford/Cornell China Project.

I threw everything on my schedule to the wind today and have spent hours writing a response to the Mercola newsletter. We will invariably deal with hundreds of emails about it so I want to respond to it immediately. I hope to have that blog entry and newsletter ready to go out by morning.

In my research, I spoke at length with Dr. Campbell on the phone.   Apart from the details and questions we discussed, all of which will be reflected in my report tomorrow, I learned something interesting.

A venerable Hollywood group with very prestigious directors has produced a movie called Forks Over Knives, about the careers and research and lives of Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., and Colin Campbell, PhD. Both were raised with meat-intensive diets on farms, and their long and lettered careers intersected early on.

The pre-screenings have been sold out. I would fly to a screening if given a chance! It comes out in theaters next March. If we haven’t all been able to see it, maybe I can arrange a screening at the GreenSmoothieGirl retreat April 21-23.

gift ideas

An email I got this month that I appreciate and want to share:

Robyn,

I wanted to share a Mother’s Day gift idea I came up with using your recipe books.

My husband and I are watching our finances right now and we were trying to come up with a way to do something special for our mothers. One lives an 8-hour drive away, the other lives a 22-hour drive away, so it’s difficult to find inexpensive ways to celebrate the day. In addition, my father’s birthday is coming just a week after Mother’s Day! Talk about expensive!

So, with some creativity and your GreenSmoothie.com resources, I put together some fun gifts. I made the “Gooey Chewy Caramel Corn,” “Chia Snowballs” and “Candy Bar Fudge.” I put them in tupperware containers, wrote out the respective recipes on purple index cards and taped them to the containers, put a bow around the containers, included a nice card and a $5 book I purchased for each person. I shipped them yesterday (USPS flat-rate boxes made this affordable–the fudge is HEAVY!) and cannot wait to hear how they like them. For three gifts, we spent a total of $60, including shipping!

Thanks to your wonderful Holiday Favorites recipe book, my mother, mother-in-law and father will be receiving gifts they will actually like, be exposed to healthy food that tastes GREAT … and my husband and I got away with spending very little!

I also wanted to make a quick comment regarding this whole Mercola debate. I have been following Mercola for about 9 years. He’s opened my eyes to many things and I trust him as a valuable health resource. If I have questions as to whether something is truly healthy, I check his site. However, when I read his site and emails, I get nervous, anxious, and a “there’s no way I can do this” feeling. The frustrated perfectionist in me can’t handle hearing about the 101 things I need to change on a daily basis. I’m sorry, but I cannot invest a few hundred dollars in changing out my doorknobs so they hold on to less germs!

Your program, website and emails, on the other hand, give instruction that is do-able and affordable. I actually get motivated and encouraged just looking at your website (rather than anxious and depressed!).

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for providing the service and information you do. I continue to spread the word about your site and program.

Thank you!
Melodie

more thoughts about agave

As if we haven’t done this subject to death.

From the consensus of many people commenting on my blog about Mercola coming out against agave, it looks to be about 50/50. People who’ve had a positive experience with that product, versus people who’ve had a negative experience. The only ways I can explain this are (a) we are all individuals, with varying reactions to the same foods, and (b) wide variability in sources.

I went to visit my friend Francine last week and grilled her more. She owns a thriving female hormone clinic called Wellnique in Orem, Utah, specializing in bio-identical hormones. (This keeps women off synthetics like Cytomel and Synthroid, which is a very good thing.) She is a licensed nurse practitioner (requiring an M.S.) and nutritionist. Here is the gist of our conversation:

Robyn: “Francine, you’ve told me that you have Type II diabetics in remission from making no other changes in diet besides switching from sugar to agave. You know there’s a lot of debate right now about various types of agave, and inferior suppliers, and whether agave really has less blood sugar impact.”

Francine: “I absolutely have had amazing results with GOOD agave. When my patients have used the cheap stuff, they gain weight. But with the Xagave brand, which is raw and organic, and they are very involved in their sourcing, I have had tremendous success.

“I often read studies about various things and try them in my clinical practice. If I don’t get the results in my patients that studies guarantee, I’m not going to use it.

“For instance, some studies show that alpha lipoic acid supplementation combats visceral (belly) fat. But I have yet to see any evidence of that in my patients. So I don’t recommend it any more. I want the science AND the positive results in my patients.”

Let me be clear here (Robyn writing): sugars impact your blood sugar, period. Organic and raw from a reputable company like Madhava, GloryBee, Xagave are the ONLY forms of agave I would suggest, and use them sparingly. Let greens and vegetables be the staples of your diet.

Use fruits/dates for the most part when you want sweets. Consider the concentrated sweeteners if you choose not to give up “treats” that remind you of your comfort foods–and not every day. I eat a treat only on occasion after a very healthy (raw or mostly raw, often probiotic-rich) meal.

Joe Mercola and GreenSmoothieGirl on agave

In the natural health space, Joe Mercola is very much a Goliath, and I’m very much a David. Today’s topic: my affinities and differences with his philosophies.

Dr. Mercola responded to my blog posting and newsletter of a week ago, about agave.

I stand firm that drawing fear-based parallels between raw, organic agave from a reputable company and tequila or HFCS is “ridiculous” as I said before.

A raw agave plant is to agave is to HFCS—as an orange is to orange juice is to Tang.

I disagree with Joe Mercola on a variety of issues, including his promoting and selling whey protein, beef, tanning beds, and his metabolic typing theory with no real basis in science.

This whole agave controversy reminds me of something I remember from when my kids were little. There was a group of parents who were furious with the Barney show. The parents decided to form a coalition to fight the producers because they’d decided Barney was really the devil in a big purple suit, teaching kids about séances and witchcraft. The lawsuit, as I recall, referred to Barney the Dinosaur as promoting Satanism.

As a young mother, I remember reading about it in the paper and laughing out loud.

There are so many true evils in the world hurting children. Sweat shots, kiddie porn. Too-heavy backpacks full of textbooks. Let’s not forget McDonald’s products and marketing program. Just to name a few.

Why spend precious energy creating fear about a harmless TV show that has the dinosaur imagining things and disappearing?

That’s how I feel about the agave controversy. Again, I disagree with People Magazine calling it a “superfood” as much as I disagree that it’s going to hurt us when used in moderation.

I have interviewed experts as well. I feel confident that predicting nutritional catastrophe because someone adds a bit of agave to her green smoothie takes away from the real, more meaningful debate.

Let’s attack the true villains gaining traction in the food world: Monsanto; modern practices in raising beef/poultry; corn/soy products taking over the food supply; processed foods; fast foods; GMO foods; pasteurized and irradiated foods.

There’s plenty of evil without attacking the little bit of maple syrup, honey, agave, or stevia we whole-foods advocates use. (Each of those has pluses and minuses. Agave’s pluses are lower blood sugar impact as well as availability in raw/organic form.)

The whole debate takes away from the basic premise I reiterate here over and over:

Plant foods are good preventive medicine. We alter them to our detriment. We have to get back to our roots. Less processed is better, less concentrated sweeteners is better, more natural is better. Whole is good; fractionated and refined is bad.

And I want to say this about Joe Mercola. Some of the things he promotes seem oversold or a bit paranoid to me, and others are counter to what I teach on this site, like an incredibly expensive tanning bed being a good way to get Vita D. However, I respect him tremendously for being one of the first on the internet to start educating people about natural healing. He is smart and educated, and I believe he has good motives.

He and I have the same goal of educating people, empowering them, to eat natural foods and live a lifestyle that avoids reliance on medical solutions such as drugs and surgery.

I agree with Mercola about far more things than I disagree with him about. I appreciate his commenting here on my blog.