I admit it. I was like “who is this cute girl and what does she know” and as she started speaking I started to dismiss her, but I stuck with it and she’s a gutsy detective who I want to read more from. Denise Minger describes this sentiment on her website quite aptly:
Who do I think I am, running a health blog without a nutrition PhD? Shouldn’t I be flipping burgers at McDonalds like all those other English majors?
I get this question a lot. It speaks volumes about how we view learning, and why we’ve abandoned personal responsibility for using our own brains when it comes to health. “We can’t possibly understand nutrition if we haven’t paid for a degree! Let’s just trust someone with formal credentials instead of thinking for ourselves.”
This sentiment came across in her speaking and when I looked at her website later, it has endeared her to me. This is the way that I think about my own health/nutrition. Why would I just hand this part of my life over to a doctor who only sees me once a year (or more if I’m unhealthy) instead of looking at my own health and well-being and using doctors/naturopaths/nutritional experts as resources and helps? Would I ever have a baby and then hand the baby’s care totally over to a doctor? NOPE. So why would I do that for myself? I don’t anymore. It takes a lot of my time to research issues like this, but I feel more in control, healthier and happier in general. Denise spoke of this in the podcast saying her goal is to debunk bad science surrounding food issues, to read the research and look at it objectively. In 2012, she plans to debunk some vegetarian/vegan and some paleo myths. Go girl. BUT, I digress.
Denise and Sean spent the time talking about debunking veganism and vegetarianism mostly. Denise has researched whether removing animal proteins from the diet is beneficial. The short answer to that is “no, it’s not beneficial”. Denise covers this aptly here and it’s worth reading so I’m not going to bother summarizing. She’s on the path of Gary Taubes, I tell you.
She calls the China Study “hogwash”. She became famous, or should I say infamous, because of the virality of her blog post on the China Study. She states that this is not a scientific work, it is not peer reviewed, it was never published in a prestigious journal. She also said that the study shows that more vegetarian inland populations who were dying younger and of heart disease, not the coastal fish eaters. A lot of selective mis-information is offered up, says she.
She spent a bit of time talking about confounding variables using the ice cream/drowning example that is often used and the same one that Mat Lalonde used yesterday. Confounding variables are hidden variables, lurking variables, variables that correlate positively or negatively with the variables being studied, but are extraneous. She tied this to why observational studies are often less helpful and often are misconstrued by the media. Can I hear an amen to that? How many times have we heard that such and such causes breast cancer only to read the actual study and then find ourselves unable to make the same conclusion as the guilty journalist?
Sean asked if she had advice for the “ethical vegetarian” to optimize diet. She recommends apply paleo principles, using heat stable fats, ditching vegetable oils, ditching gluten and Amy’s tv dinners. She advises them to focus on whole foods. she recommends coconut oil, macadamia oil, etc. She clarified that she’s not saying paleo can be vegetarian, but that vegetarians can apply ancestral principles and thrive.
Sean asked about meat being acidifying and causing osteoporosis. She said that what we see in terms of actual evidence is that most studies show that there is no difference in bone health of omnnivores and vegetarians. Animal consumption shows higher bone density, and some studies she says show that vegans have lower bone density. She points out that heavier folk naturally have higher bone density since they are doing weight bearing exercise all day, so bone density is not always a great marker. Then she went on to say that vegans have a higher fracture rate. Hmmm.
Sean also asked “Is there dogma in the paleo community?”:
1. She feels like there is a downplay of cholesterol numbers, things that might signify abnormalities. Concerned that there might be overlooked issues that are not favorable.
2.She feels like there is so much healthy division in the ancestral health movement that it diminishes dogma.
Overall it was an interesting presentation to listen to and I look forward to reading more of what she has to say. She has a new book, Death by Food Pyramid, due out this year. She hopes to make it accessible to all.