All Things Considered
Some Things Considered

The inclusive approach to research

By Don Bennett, DAS

The 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 products.

Of 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.

I 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).

But 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 health.

So, 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.

I 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.

Some 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 position.

But 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).

Now, 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.

In chapter 11 "Reductionist Supplementation", Dr. Campbell writes:

   "The 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."

This 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).

And 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 educators.

So, when it comes to health information, just as with mainstream health information...



Additional reading on this important subject is here


Don Bennett is an insightful, reality-based author, and health creation counselor who uses the tools in his toolbox like logic, common sense, critical thinking, and independent thought to figure out how to live so we can be optimally healthy.