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Corruption in the Science of Nutrition: Can what we Eat make us Healthy?

  • Starbucks

    1600 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA (map)

    39.954769 -75.166756

  • The building is named "The Phoenix". If you enter on Arch Street, walk through the Starbucks to the lobby behind (or opposite) the checkout line. Or enter from 16th Street and we'll be at a table in the lobby on the right near the Starbucks.
  • Note: RSVPs for this meetup are closed until Saturday December 31st.

    This topic will be based in part on the optional reading of the best-selling book "The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health" by Thomas Campbell and T. Colin Campbell.

    I will soon write a complete event description that will include enough quotes that reading the book will be optional. Please check back in a few weeks. But if you are interested in the topic, get a copy of the book and read a fascinating tale about the science of nutrition and why much of what you read in the news and in government reports is corrupted by corporate interests and the biases of convention.

    Draft event description (changing rapidly, please check back next week)

    How can you and me assess the claims of scientists in the field of nutrition? To illustrate this question with a concrete example, we will discuss and assess the scientific beliefs of T. Colin Campbell (his CV). He is a distinguished scientist at Cornell University whose 38 years of high-quality research has led him to startling heterodox conclusions which conflict with the scientific views of most nutrition researchers especially those serving on the eminent government panels that set our nutritional guidelines. Campbell has served on these panels and argues that our science policy is frequently shaped by widespread biases and pernicious conflicts of interest and not by the actual data.

    Is Campbell a maverick whose distinguished career belies his propensity for radical interpretations of the data? Is Campbell himself the corruption in the science of nutrition?

    Or, as he claims, do the preconceived biases of other nutrition scientists and the prevalence of food industry "education" (ads, marketing, partnerships with schools and government, lobbying, etc.) taint the whole field resulting in contradictory study after contradictory study leaving the general public with the view that nothing definative has been learned in nutrition and leading to our increasingly poor health (obesity and diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, heart disease and cancer remain our predominant killers despite billions of dollars invested in so-called "good science"). Is the natural role of human bias and corporate influence the source of corruption in the science of nutrition?

    Or is science just, by its inherent nature, subject to producing a bevvy of thoroughly contradictory and hard to interpret results? Is science simply a human tradition of inquiry and action subject to the foibles of human nature or a powerful tool able to overcome those human weaknesses to guide us to find incisive explanations and predictions about the role of nutrition in human health? Can we trust science to help us guide our personal and national nutritional policy?

    Campbell's thesis is that a whole plant-based diet with minimal fat, sugar, processed foods, and especially animal protein (including dairy) can prevent and even reverse cancer, heart disease, obesity and other ailments.

    Is animal protein the cause of the diseases of affluence that we suffer from in the rich industrialized countries of the world?

    How are you and me supposed to be able to distinguish truth from fiction in the science of nutrition?

    Is the interpretation of scientific data even more challenging than doing careful, peer-reviewed research?

    Is it possible for scientists to overcome their biases? Even when all our lives depend on getting the science right?

    Is the prevalent role of the non-profits built by major industries inherently corrupting our science? Is it possible to save the integrity of science from the ever-encroaching biases of commercial interests?

    What is necessary to establish truth in science? Is science always and only the conventional beliefs of establishment thinking where contradicting data is dismissed even if it is both peer-reviewed and compelling?

    In an essay Musings About Science, Campbell writes "More and more frequently, the statement, “…based on scientific evidence”, is wasted breath." What does he mean by this statement? How might we fix the brokenness of modern science that such a statement represents? Can we learn the value of scientific evidence and correctly interpret new findings?

    Evidence for Campbell's thesis

    This topic was inspired by reading the best-selling book "The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health" by Thomas Campbell and T. Colin Campbell. Reading the book is optional. If you have time to read the book, I recommend focusing on Part I (pp. 9-108 which describes the science in support Campbell's thesis) and Part IV (pp. [masked] which explores the nature of the corruption in the science of nutrition). Below I summarize key research presented in the book.

    Working on a project in the Phillipines, a doctor told Campbell that "children who ate the highest-protein diets were the ones most likely to get liver cancer" (p. 5). Then he saw a 1968 study that found that of rats predisposed to get liver cancer from aflatoxin (a powerful carcinogen) 100% who ate a 20% protein diet developed cancer but 0% of rats that ate a 5% protein did so (p. 47). Outside the physical sciences effects of this definitiveness are hard to find. But rats are not people, so more research is necessary.

    Campbell then researched the subject in depth corroborating that study and learning a lot about the biological mechanisms by which excess protein support cancer development. Low-protein diets reduce the number of tumors in aflatoxin afflicted rats by reducing cell uptake of aflatoxin (1970, 1980, 1982), slowing growth rate (1972), reduction in activity or amounts of enzymes (1970, 1977, 1978), reducing the effects of aflatoxin-DNA reactions (1976, 1981).

    p. 53: "The fact that we found more than one way (mechanism) that low-protein diets work was eye-opening. It add a great deal of weight to the results of the Indian researchers. It also suggested that biological effects, although often described as operating through single reactions, more likely operate through a large number of varied simultaneous reactions, very likely acting in a highly integrated and concerted matter."

    In 1980 it was discovered that foci or precursor clusters of cells that become tumors can be use to detect precancerous biological activity. Campbell and his students discovered (p. 54) "Foci development was almost entirely dependent on how much protein was consumed, regardless of much aflatoxin was consumed!" (1982, 1987, 1987, 1991, 1991, 1992).

    Eminent Yale researcher, RH Chittenden, in his 1907 book The nutrition of man (see chapters 5-8) details experiments that strongly suggest that "the physiological necessities of the body are fully met by a much more temperate use of food than is commonly practised". He cites protein particularly as something that extensive experiments of the time indicated is not as important as we then and still today believe.

    "Some world-class athletes, such as ironman Dave Scott, track stars Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses, tennis great Martina Navratilova, world champion wrestler Chris Campbell (no relation) and sixty-eight-year-old marathoner Ruth Heidrich have discovered that consuming a low-fat, plant-based diet gives them a significant edge in performance." pp. 23-24

    More details on the topic will be provided closer to the meeting date.

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  • CJ F.
    Explorer in Universe, Organizer,
    Event Host

    My favorite quote is Buckminster Fuller's "Dare to be Naive". I'm both-neither: "unity is plural... more

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