Editor's Note: As more and more people discover that healthy plant-based nutrition is the only medically proven way to prevent and reverse many serious diseases, certain health "experts" -- usually those with something to sell -- are feeling threatened.
Health products salesman Joseph Mercola, D.O., has been taking shots at T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Campbell's landmark bestseller, The China Study. Yesterday Mercola wrote a confused diatribe against Campbell, which, among other things, appears to show that Mercola has not actually read Campbell's book.
Following is Dr. Campbell's response:
Dr. Mercola raises so many questions that it would take me at least several weeks if not months to answer. He invents clever sayings and makes serious innuendos that are total nonsense--indeed slanderous. His questions are rhetorical, with meaning, and no matter what I say, the questions will always remain--without my answers.
But here are a few general comments that strike me as main points:
1. Dr. Mercola's main mantra (business model) is Nutritional Typing. In some way (maybe with paid phone assistance from his staff), we are supposed to listen to our body to determine which of three dietary types best suit us. He then becomes more specific as to the importance of eating foods in the right order and of the right type. These recommendations, he claims, are science based.
This is a clever strategy for positioning his company in the marketplace. He casts a broad net to capture as many customers as possible for his many products that he sells. According to him, we fit within one of these three diet groups, ranging from 1) the high carb-low fat types vs. 2) the low carb-high fat types vs. (3) those in-between, thus capturing for his company a much larger customer base.
I deeply respect our personal freedoms to do as we wish (as long as it doesn't harm others). But given the complex environment within which we choose foods, I cannot understand how we can reliably determine what dietary patterns and order of eating foods is best for our long-term health. I know that some people can recognize specific food allergies, but I also know that we tend to choose food for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is convenience, avoidance of pain and sense of 'pleasure' or gratification (read the little gem of a book, The Pleasure Trap, by Lisle and Goldhamer to see how so many of us continually choose foods not in our best interests). His method defies common sense. He says that this is based on science but, if so, I want to see the evidence. I see none. To say that we can determine, with any certainty, which nutritional type, based on our personal but very nebulous assessment of our metabolism is hokey pokey.
On his claims about science, Mercola is out of his element--way out. He excuses his failure to document his professional experiences in the scientific literature because he (and his compatriots like Dr. Eades) don't have time in their busy practice of medicine, as if public documentation of evidence is a bit of a luxury that is not really that important. This is an extremely lame excuse, exposing his fundamental misunderstanding of what scientific validity really means. Scientific evidence, as accepted by virtually everyone, is that which represents proper scientific experimental design and subsequent publication in the peer-reviewed literature.
Doing and reporting on peer reviewed research may not be a perfect solution for establishing truths (nothing is) but it is far better than listening to someone only telling us what he/she does or believes while giving us no way to evaluate such claims. Peer-review, the main engine of scientific validity, means that our research findings are subjected to the critique of professional colleagues before it is published in the professional literature. Even more to the point, in order for us to get the funding to do the research, especially from institutions like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Science Foundation (NSF), we are required to undergo a most serious and somewhat protracted exercise of defending our hypotheses before committees of professional peers that may include as many as 15 members (I know this, having been on several of these panels). The chances of successfully obtaining funding is, on average, only one in six. In short, peer review is rigorous both in getting the funding and in publishing the results. Anyone, like Mercola, who claims scientific validity for his personal/professional observations is really at liberty to say whatever pleases them--and their wallets. This opens doors wide for snake oil 'science'.
2. He relies on the bogus idea that it is our individual differences in "metabolism" that makes it possible for us to determine which foods please our metabolism and guard us against future ailments. He has no idea what is metabolism. It changes and responds continuously and it is an enormously complex system of digestion, absorption, transport, enzymatic synthesis and breakdown of intermediates and distribution, excretion and storage of metabolites, all in an effort to maintain homeostasis. Reducing this concept to a simple phenomenon of energy use, which we can assess for ourselves is more superficial than adjectives can describe.
3. Mercola dismisses my professional capabilities to assess diet and health evidence and to make dietary recommendations because I am not "a practicing physician [with] no real world experience." I probably should ignore this insulting comment. I never claimed I am a practicing physician and have repeatedly stated that I rely on the outstanding clinical accomplishments of (MD) physicians like Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., Joel Fuhrman, Matt Lederman, Dean Ornish, John McDougall and Terry Shintani, with a rapidly growing list of other primary care practitioners producing much the same results. I now personally know more than 30 such physicians whose findings are remarkably consistent with these clinical experiences. My 20-plus years as a member/participant of several major national and international food and health policy reports also provided a very rich experience in developing dietary recommendations. Mercola, according to the PubMed website (National LIbrary of Medicine), has not written a single peer-reviewed experimental study (only a few freebie letters to editors). My publications (mostly peer-reviewed) are well in excess of 350.
4. Mercola's comments (along with comments of others of his ilk) that my research is flawed because I used correlations to "prove causation" in the China project is dead wrong on several grounds. But this is answered elsewhere, including our book if only he would read it. I'm beginning to doubt the ability of his and his kind to read such material! Mercola is grossly wrong on several accounts, quite frankly bordering on intentional slander because I have good reason to believe that he already saw my responses but nonetheless parades out the same old questions without acknowledging my responses. Here are my previous comments:
The rationale and analytical strategy for my views expressed in our book, "The China Study" were carefully explained in the book. Mercola is merely repeating an already answered question. He is wrong to suggest the use of randomized control trials as the main determinant of nutritional effects, a point that I carefully explained in our book.
5. Mercola's assertion that we are all biologically different individuals impresses people because it is so obviously true. But what does he really mean? In no way does this mean that each individual (or each likely disease event) responds to very different diets. It only means that we can respond in the same direction with the same dietary lifestyle but to different degrees, depending on our genetic and environmental circumstances.
Our society has serious health problems and people are looking for serious advice. Mercola and others of the Atkins stripe believe that 1) we are biologically different, 2) we therefore require unique dietary lifestyles that represent a broad spectrum of possibilities and 3) we--perhaps with very expensive phone consultations--are essentially required to customize our diet, based on our reactions to food soon after we eat it. Mercola and his colleagues also never fail to advocate that diets high in protein, fat and cholesterol are not only acceptable but are advisable for most people.
Then the Mercolanites make the audacious claim that this is science based when, in fact, almost all of these people have little or no understanding of scientific research and essentially no evidence of actually doing scientific research. This is a mockery that mostly leaves people where they want to be (in the 'pleasure trap) while still pursuing a lifetime leading to a very high risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis and other serious illnesses.
In a marketing sense, this strategy works because people, while remaining uncertain about their best health practices, will continue to present a big market for pills, potions, supplements and gadgets that make some people financially rich but most people health poor. I worry that this would-be scientific group are continuing to bilk, in my opinion, the public while they fatten their own wallets. But I also am becoming aware that they are beginning to run scared, as evidenced by their feverish, irrational attack on our idea of whole foods, plant-based diets. Their livelihoods are being threatened because people are learning that they can do for themselves what needs to be done and, in doing so, do not need the snake oil preparations sold by the Mercolanites. Check out Mercola's own website of about 50 different products.
Because harsh words are now being spoken with increasing frequency about my ideas and my person, I must respond, briefly, about my motives for pursuing what I have found to be remarkably healthy for virtually all people for a wide variety of ailments. I spent more than 50 years in the diet and health research and policy communities, using taxpayer money. My only motive at this time of my life is to tell these taxpayers who generously supported our work what we did with their money--I feel this responsibility very deeply. I have no products to sell. I only want to do my part as honestly as I can to help resolve some very serious health problems.
I doubt that I will ever again answer such self-serving diatribes for they divert me from other more productive projects, including my writing an almost-finished second book. I have no doubt that the message in our book--and told in many other books of my physician colleagues--is finally beginning to resonate with large numbers of people. Dr. Eades and others have lamented why so many people continue to embrace the message in our book and the best answer that I can give is very simple. It works. Readers tell readers. Book sales continue to climb, now nearing 6 years since its publication.
So, Drs. Mercola, Eades and others of your compatriots, I lay down the gauntlet: your path is not scientifically based but is one for self-enrichment, in my opinion. It will become ever more difficult to follow, as people get to know the motives for your diatribes.
Addendum 9/12/10: Since I wrote my reponse to Mercola, I was alerted to this