All Things Considered
Some Things Considered
The inclusive approach to research
By Don Bennett,
China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, is a wonderful book that introduced
a lot of people to a plant-based diet and the advantages of that
diet over the typical Western diet which contains a lot of animal
course, the people who support the eating of the typical Western
diet did not like the book. But I liked the book. I was delighted
to hear Dr. Campbell speak, and I even got to speak with him myself.
In my researching of diet and the other lifestyle practices that
affect our physical and emotional health, I feel it's a good idea
to meet the people who wrote the books many of us embrace and
the courses of study that many people sign up for. Human nature
being what it is, I want to vet not only an author's information,
but the author as well; I want to try and ascertain their motives.
At heart, are they a people-before-profits person or a
profits-before-people person. This informs the value and
worth of their information in my opinion.
have no doubt that Dr. Campbell is a people-before-profits
person. But this doesn't necessarily mean that fully 100 percent
of what he says is accurate. He is, like all people, a human being,
and subject to human nature, which means it is possible to be
incorrect about something. In Dr. Campbell's case he's unlikely
to be incorrect about the facts he states. And this is great.
I can't tell you how many times I've come across opinions masquerading
as facts (usually by people more interested in pushing a certain
narrative than the truth, or by educators more interested in pandering
in order to increase popularity to make more money).
even researchers who have tons of great information can have their
researching techniques constrained in such a way so that they
don't make use of all the tools in the researcher's toolbox. Case
in point: Dr. Campbell does not endorse a fruitarian diet. Is
this because the research clearly shows that this is not the healthiest
diet to eat? No. In fact, when it comes to a frugivorous diet,
the type of research that Dr. Campbell relies on to inform his
conclusions is nonexistent, so it is no wonder that he is not
of the position that a fruitarian diet is the healthiest diet
for humans. But this doesn't mean that it isn't; it just means
that, for researchers like Dr. Campbell, the jury is not in on
this issue. Meaning, there is insufficient evidence for them to
conclude that a fruitarian diet is what all humans should be eating.
But if this is because the level of research that Dr. Campbell
and all others who are of the same opinion rely on has not been
done, and their type of research does not take into account empirical
evidence, then it is perfectly understandable why they hold the
positions that they do. But as I've implied, the absence of the
type of evidence that Dr. Campbell and others require is not evidence
against the contention that a fruitarian diet is, in reality,
what we're all designed to eat, and therefore should be eating
if we want optimal healing and optimal
the lack of multiple, peer-reviewed, double-blind studies of lots
of people over a long period of time that demonstrate that an
all raw, vegan, fruit-based diet is superior in health outcomes
to a vegan diet that contains a good amount of cooked food does
not mean that this is not true. It only means that those level
of studies don't exist. And since they probably never will, should
this foreclose the issue? Should this issue be considered settled?
Of course not. Not when there are other tools available to consider
the issue. And this is the problem I have with educators who,
when asked about their opinion of even a raw vegan diet say, "Show
me the studies!" To me, this is a narrow way of looking at
health-related issues that constrains our attempts to unearth
the reality of the issue.
am writing this article because of a recent conversation I tried
to have in an online forum. Well, not really a forum, more of
a group devoted to a particular diet where no questioning of any
aspects of that diet were given an open forum for discussion,
and instead I was banned from the group. But before being banned,
I was informed of a reason for not using the nutritional supplement
that I was contending should be part of people's diet even
a diet consisting exclusively of the foods of our biological adaptation
and the basis for that reason came from Dr. Campbell's
latest book, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition,
which he coauthored with Howard Jacobson.
background is needed to fully appreciate my further comments.
The nutritional supplement in question is a green powder made
from barley grass that has been juiced. So it's dried (at low
temps) barley grass juice (not barley grass). I was told that,
"juicing returns organic minerals back to the state they
exist in the soil." As this was news to me, I asked for whatever
he was relying on for this contention, and was simply given the
name of Dr. Campbell's book. My request for the citation or at
least the page number went unfulfilled, with his answer to my
request simply being, "The whole book" which he promptly
tagged with a
So obviously I am not dealing with someone who is interested in
getting to the truth of the matter. This is not the behavior of
a researcher trying to help another researcher understand his
since I am a proper researcher, if there is anything to his contention
that juicing makes minerals less bioavailable, I want to know
about it. So I went to Barnes & Noble and bought the book.
And I read the book. And in so doing I was reminded of the few
things that I take issue with regarding Dr. Campbell's way of
looking at nutrition (and Dr. Campbell and I have had an in-person
converation about this).
I know what some of you may be thinking, who am I, someone who
never even finished college, to disagree with someone like T.
Colin Campbell, someone who has done so much to further the acceptance
and adoption of a plant-based diet. Well, as my mom imparted to
me, my brain is just as good as anyone else's, and my opinions
are just as valid. But she also made me very aware of the importance
of seeking the truth, and of doing so in an intellectually honest
manner (although I'm sure she used simpler wording at that young
age). So any criticisms I may have of Dr. Campbell's positions
do not take away anything from all the good work he has done.
I only point them out in an effort to inform a continuing conversation
about nutrition as it relates to human health, and to provide
a counterpoint and a different perspective. And unlike the people
I was trying to have a conversation with in that online "forum",
I'd love to continue to chat with Dr. Campbell about these issues
because I know he'd do so in an open and honest manner.
chapter 11 "Reductionist Supplementation", Dr. Campbell
natural health community has also fallen prey to the ideology
that chemicals ripped from their natural context are as good
as or better than whole foods. Instead of synthesizing the presumed
"active ingredients" from medicinal herbs, as done
for prescription drugs, supplement manufacturers seek to extract
and bottle the active ingredients from foods known or believed
to promote good health and healing. And just like prescription
drugs, the active agents function imperfectly, incompletely,
and unpredictably when divorced from the whole plant from which
they're derived or synthesized.
"The reductionist slight of hand goes
something like this: Oranges are good for us. Oranges are full
of vitamin C. Therefore, vitamin C is good for us even
when extracted from the orange, or synthesized in a lab and
stuck in a pill, or "fortified" into a breakfast cookie.
But there's no evidence that this is the case. And as we'll
see, not only do most supplements not improve our health, some
that have been intensely studied actually appear to harm us."
is what that person I was debating with basing his contention
on? Obviously Dr. Campbell is referring to the worthless pill
type nutritional supplements (and even if it isn't obvious, I
know that he is).
by-the-way, nowhere in the book is there anything that would lead
one to believe that juicing (with a low speed juicer) would change
the nutrients back to the form they were in when in the soil,
before being uptaken by the plant. So obviously, that person's
philosophical aversion to nutrition supplements has affected his
ability to think critically. And it doesn't help that this person
is a huge fan of a raw vegan educator who contends that, "Once
you start eating enough fruits and vegetables you don't have to
worry about nutrition". No wonder this person's ability
to think independently with no biases has been affected. Any decent
researcher will have no "appeals to authority" when
doing their research. And it's important to note that this lovely
sounding notion by that raw vegan educator has been shown to be
incorrect, yet he continues to teach this. Maybe he's more concerned
about losing some credibility from doing a 180 on such an important
issue than he is about teaching accurate information, and more
important, not teaching any info that has the potential to do
harm. We health educators are supposed to be abiding by the same
oath that medical doctors take: "First, do no harm".
But sadly, this is not taken seriously by some raw vegan health
when it comes to health information, just as with mainstream health
reading on this important subject is here