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Old 12-21-2006, 11:04 AM   #21
Robb Wolf
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Hey Everybody!
Thank you for the feed back and kind words. I had this project in mind for quite some time and I'm really glad we were able to pull it off.

A few thoughts:
1-I had a terrible time writing the introduction for the debate. I found myself echoing what Prof. Cordain wrote...I've had an essay in my head for about three years something to the effect "Where is the Science in Nutritional Sciences?" I think I got scooped on that! I wanted to create the opportunity for these guys, who are at the top of their fields, to get in and hash this topic out as thoroughly as they wanted. We had the opportunity for another rebuttal from both players however I echoed Prof. Cordains thoughts that nothing would be gained and things would likely devolve further. I think we wrapped that project at the right point and it stands well on it's own.

2-I really respect Prof. Campbell. I do not agree with him but I had the opportunity to talk to him on the phone and we exchanged MANY emails. He keeps a grueling lecture and appearance schedule at an age when most of America has been buried or they are institutionalized. That is impressive but I do think some opportunities were missed and I witnessed something that appears to be common behavior among the vegetarian pundits, particularly those who are more charismatic like McDougal. Instead of addressing concerns in a point by point basis (as Prof Cordain did in this case and has done in other situations...Dr. Eades same deal) the topic shifts and things take on an hint of ad hominen attack. When Prof. Campbell dismissed all of Cordain's points about nutritional science being only in a state of taxonomy and the need for a foundational theory...he asked the question (something to the effect...going from memory here) "Why don't you like nutritional science? There were other examples and if folks want to we can really de-construct that content, but I think you get what I'm saying. Instead of sticking to facts things become emotionally charged. That is unfortunate.

It is fascinating to me that virtually every field of inquiry regarding human health and behavior that incorporates an evolutionary perspective is witnessing an explosion in understanding and progress. I found an article talking about managing workplace conflict and the need for an understanding of the dynamics of hunter gatherer groups to manage situations better. This insight appears to be revolutionizing conflict resolution as there is now a cogent theory from which to assess various studies that were previously just a disjointed mess of information. But by the arguments that Campbell and his friend the evolutionary psychologist from stanford made we have nothing to learn about group dynamics by looking at how we evolved in groups! Our whole success as a species was predicated on how effective our group dynamics were.This is HOW we hunted, gathered, raised children, loved, fought. this also represents the economic strategies necessary for our ancestors to survive. If we just dismiss this underlying theory...what are we left with? Freudian psychology? Meyers brigs personality assessments? These both have some merit but they fail to answer ANY why's and are not up to the taks of making predictions...which is what science is all about.

One point in particular that I find almost laughable. The vegetarian crowd makes the argument that we are a mainly herbivorous organism. We know how large humans were in the past, we know the capacity of their GI tracts and how they can extract nutrients from food. It should be easy to run numbers on available foods and the thermodynamic viability of a vegetarian diet. Cordain has done just that and it appears that without agriculture an exclusively plant based diet is not feasable. Detailed analysis of carbon isotopes indicates that H. Sapiens in Northern europe were MORE carniverous than the arctic fox...but then the argument shifts that these people lived short lives and did not have time to manifest all the horrible diseases this type of diet "should" produce....even though NO hunter gather gorup was ever found to be vegetarian, all ate animal products, all were by all accounts very healthy. We can PROVE that it was thrmodynamicaly impossible for vegetation to provide the totality or even a significant portion of our calories...and instead of deconstructing the assertation, instead of using science to PROVE their point, the vegetarin crowd simply dismisses the argument as irrelevant. This reminds me of the Flat Earth Society...no amount of proof is going to change their minds. Circular arguments, side stepping the point at hand, going no where.

3-On saturated fat. Cordains point has always been that sat fat should be within certain percentages. This based upon the availability of sat fat in range fed wild animal meats. It does appear that a low carb diet mitigates potential problems with sat fat. My thought? Eat as much sat fat as you can get...from grassfed sources. If you are eating grain fed meat the sat fat and n-6/n-3 elements are not in healthful ratios. You should do some tinkering to get them back into line.

I'm going to get in and do some line by line thoughts on the debate...this is all going form memory.
"Survival will be neither to the strongest of the species, nor to the most intelligent, but to those most adaptable to change."
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Old 01-17-2007, 12:51 PM   #22
Ralph Cinque
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Default My take on Cordain vs. Campbell

I have read through the debate twice, and I have also read various reviews and comments that have been posted on two different blogs. And from what I have seen, the consensus seems to be that Dr. Cordain prevailed over Dr. Campbell. One thing is for sure: they could not have come up with two more diametrically opposed advocates.

Technically, Dr. Cordain may indeed have won the debate because he did put a lot more effort into it. He provided numerous scientific references to back-up his claims, whereas Dr. Campbell didn't provide any- except for a few in his brief rebuttal. You might say that Dr. Cordain offered more "meat," both in his diet and his presentation. However, even though he didn't make his case as well, in my opinion, Dr. Campbell's position is closer to the truth. And I'll tell you why.

Despite his greater eloquence and verbosity, Dr. Cordain's case really came down to just one argument: that modern humans are descendants of hominoids who ate high-protein, high-meat diets for a very long time, eons, and they "evolved" on such a diet. Therefore, our "genome" (referring to our total genetic nature) demands that we follow such a diet because we are clearly "adapted" to it. He alleges that such a diet is deeply ingrained, mandated, and stamped in our very genes.

I put some of those words in quotes because they are all derived from modern evolutionary theory. But I think that it's wrong. The idea that random genetic mutations underwent "natural selection" to make us who and what we are is nonsense. Here is a link to my article about it: http://www.1to1vitamins.com/news/2007/artl6239.html.

Since Cordain's whole case is based on Evolutionary Theory, if Evolutionary Theory is wrong, then his whole argument falls apart, which I think it does. In a way, he's like a guy hopping around on one foot. All I have to do is sweep that one leg out from under him, and he goes tumbling down. He's got nothing else to stand on.

Why, may I ask, should the whole science of human dietetics be based on just ONE consideration, namely, what did our ancestors eat? Granted, it's an interesting question, and I think it is an important question. But it is not the only consideration. For example, it pales in comparison to doing clinical research studies and epidemiological studies of modern humans, feeding them different diets and then observing and comparing their outcomes and results. That is far more valuable and important and crucial than just being dogmatic about following in the footsteps of our remote ancestors. But to Cordain and his followers, paying homage to the Caveman and trying to duplicate his way of life as much as possible has become both a religion and an obsession.

Whenever I start talking about the quest for the optimal diet, the first thing that comes to mind is the realization that the most proven technique and method of life extension is caloric restriction. Imagine, with all the knowledge we have about vitamins, minerals, hormones, antioxidants etc., it turns out that simply controlling the amount of food eaten is the most certain way to stem disease and prolong life. Experimentally, it has worked with animals large and small, and there is every reason to believe that it works the same way with humans.

So, what does it mean to restrict calories? It means to restrict proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Those are the only things that have calories. In a sense, we say "calories" just because it's less work than writing out "proteins, fats, and carbohydrates." But which of the three should be most restricted? Obviously, there is debate about that, but I see no reason to be biased one way or another. Why do we have to particularly demonize any of one of them? I say restrict all of them. Try to determine how much of each is really, truly needed and then set the restriction bar a little above that. That makes sense to me.

Let me stress that I am not an advocate of extreme caloric restriction. I do not think people should make themselves downright skinny and wasted in an attempt to prolong their lives. But I do think the principle is sound, and that applied in moderation (which is maintaining an attractive, healthy leanness), it has a lot to offer.

So how much protein is needed? Well, let's look at what protein is used for by the body. Basically, it comes down to two things: structure and function. You need protein to maintain structures, including muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, etc. And then on the functional side, you need protein to make enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, immunoglobulins, and other functional components. How much does that all add up to? Well, Dr. Campbell proposed a number that is actually quite widely agreed upon in Science: .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Dr. Cordain never offered any formidable objection to that figure except to imply that it referred to a minimal amount- enough to barely get by. But as Dr. Campbell explained in his rebuttal, that is really not true. The figure includes a safety factor to cover the few people who require more for various individual reasons. Dr. Cordain never offered a technical, quantitative reason why that figure should be considered insufficient, other than that it vied with the "evolutionary model."

Let's take me as an example. I am 5'6" and weigh 137 pounds, which is 62 kilos. That works out to a dietary protein need, according not only to Campbell but to most nutritional scientists, of about 50 grams of protein a day. I probably get closer to 60 or 70, and that's eating almost entirely plant foods and without eating any meat at all. And on that diet, I am maintaining my weight and my strength and my health. I'm not heavily-muscled, but I am rather toned and fit and athletic, especially for a man my age. At least, I think I am. I don't go to the gym, but I do have some exercise equipment that I use at home, plus I bicycle regularly and swim in the summer. At age 55, my goal is to preserve the muscles that I have, that is, to keep them from dwindling. If I do that, say over the next ten years, I will be doing better than 98 percent of people, because most people, the vast majority, male and female alike, lose quite a lot of muscle over that decade- no matter how much protein they eat. And so far, I seem to be managing OK. I don't seem to have lost any muscle size or strength between the ages of 45 and 55, which is pretty good in itself. And I have every hope and expectation of doing the same between the ages of 55 and 65. But my plan does not involve loading up on animal protein. Why should I? I didn't do that the last ten years, and I maintained my strength and fitness. Remember, I'm not trying to make my muscles grow; I'm only trying to maintain what I have. I'm not saying it's impossible to grow new muscle in your 50s and 60s, but it's darn hard, and I'm not sure it's worth trying. The things I might do to accomplish that might cause me stress and strain in various ways, and since I'm content with my overall size and strength and proportions, I'm inclined to leave well enough alone and just try to maintain. So that's my plan. In fact, the only way I could possibly gain new muscle is if I started doing very heavy exercise- lifting heavy weights. But I'm not going to do that because it's not going to make me any healthier overall, and I could easily get hurt. Do you think I want to spend my hard-earned money supporting physical therapists, chiropractors, and orthopedists? I assure you I don't. But what would happen if I kept up the same level of exercise that I do now, the same workload on my muscles, and just increased my consumption of dietary protein? I'll tell you what would happen: nothing.

Muscles don't respond and grow just because you eat more protein. If they did, then all the people (men and women alike) who go on high-protein diets to lose weight would get more muscular as they did it. But of course they don't. So what happens to the extra protein? It gets broken down. The body deaminizes the excess amino acids, breaking off the nitrogen radical which basically becomes ammonia. Then, the liver wraps up the ammonia radicals into a larger molecule known as urea (which is easier to handle; it's not irritating the way ammonia is), which is then excreted by the kidneys. This amounts to extra work for both the liver and the kidneys. But it has to be done so that the body can process the extra protein as a fuel, either for burning or for storing as fat. (Yes, the body can convert protein into both carbohydrate and fat.) But when it comes to my need for fuel, I would rather rely on carbohydrates or even fats because both carbohydrates and fats burn all the way down to carbon dioxide and water. And nothing else. That's clean fuel. Why should I try to burn proteins when the nitrogen radical won't burn? Think of it like a log that you throw on the fire to create heat (which you want) but which also generates a bunch of black smoke (which you don't want).

But getting back to Dr. Cordain's arguments again, relying on the "evolutionary model" to evaluate all things biological is both presumptuous and, in my opinion, wrong. It occurs to me that human ancestors ate the way they did "way back when" not necessarily because of some evolutionary mandate, but because there was an Ice Age going on. Granted, under primitive Ice Age conditions, you either feed heavily on meat, or most likely, you die. But now that things have warmed up and the ice is mostly melted, we don't have to do that any more. And no, our genes are not going to scream bloody murder if we don't.

Dr. Cordain seems to think that only when we eat so much protein that we saturate our liver with unconverted ammonia do we get into trouble. Sure, that is a deadly situation, but don't you think there are lesser and more subtle degrees of harm from excess protein? And regarding the kidneys, he admits that people whose kidneys are already impaired suffer from high-protein diets, but for those whose kidneys are in the normal range, he assumes that they "adapt" to the greater workload of a high-protein diet. Even if that's true, and I'm not sure it is, give me one good reason why we should give our kidneys the extra work? Don't think of it as a beneficial thing like physical exercise. It's not like that at all. I know from my own clinical experience that people who eat high-protein diets have higher levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and I don't see that as a good thing. He can laugh it off if he wants to, but I do not. I would add (and he agrees) that high-protein, meat-based diets result in higher purine intake, which is tied to the formation of uric acid. However, he tries to argue that somehow that's a good thing, and that high-purine diets actually lead to lower uric acid. But his argument is very weak. He makes some startling citations, true, but trust me, it goes against the bulk of the scientific evidence concerning gout.

Regarding bone health, Dr. Cordain admits that high-protein diets result in increased urinary loss of calcium. But he argues that it doesn't matter because at the same time, intestinal absorption of calcium increases. But that doesn't change the fact that there is a strong epidemiological correlation between high-meat diets and osteoporosis. I agree, as he points out, that there can be "confounding variables." But even when researchers try their best to account for those confounding variables, the association still remains. Besides, even if it is true that high-protein diets cause increased calcium absorption, we should wonder why. It's well known that the body cranks up the efficiency of calcium absorption precisely when it is under calcium duress. Perhaps that is what is going on.

I will close by making one last point, and I'm surprised that Dr. Campbell didn't make it. Look at the comparative analysis of mammalian milks. Meat-eating, high-protein feeders, like lions and tigers, and for that matter even dogs and cats, have much higher amounts of protein in their milks than do cows or sheep or people. In fact, do you know which mammal has the lowest protein content in its milk of all? Yes, it is the human being. Human breast milk has a protein content of only about 1 percent, whereas dog milk has 7.5 percent protein, and cat milk has 10.6 percent protein. In fact, I have seen human breast milk listed to be as low as .8 of 1 percent protein. Yet, on an exclusive diet of low-protein breast milk, a human baby can double its birth weight in a matter of months. Let's see you talk your way around that one, Dr. Cordain.
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Old 01-17-2007, 01:23 PM
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Old 01-17-2007, 02:03 PM   #23
Neal Winkler
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Nice reply, Ralph.

I agree with Scott Kustus that everything Dr. Cambbell said can be dismissed because of lack of references. I kinda find his lack of references to be insult to my intellect, to be honest.
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Old 01-17-2007, 08:46 PM   #24
Elliot Royce
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"of about 50 grams of protein a day. I probably get closer to 60 or 70, and that's eating almost entirely plant foods and without eating any meat at all. And on that diet, I am maintaining my weight and my strength and my health. "

I don't think there is one prescription for everyone. Higher protein consumption has, in my mind, two benefits: protein fills you up and reduces appetite, and it provides the support for muscle growth. Since you have the discipline not to binge and no desire for muscle growth, you don't need all that protein.

I don't buy into the evolutionary argument much -- too much noise around it (see my posts on sickle cell anemia) -- but I can speak from experience that the Paleo diet allows you to lose weight while building some muscle mass. Having said that, as soon as I shifted back to a high carb diet, my lean mass started to increase at a faster pace (carbs are anabolic).
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Old 01-17-2007, 09:10 PM   #25
Yael Grauer
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I really like the metabolic typing diet. It really seems to explain why some people thrive on a high-protein diet and some people just don't. (Yes, the test costs money. But you can get the book out of the library.)


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Old 01-21-2007, 04:07 PM   #26
Robb Wolf
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Great post! You bring up many, many interesting points. Regarding the holes in evolutionary theory, epigenics and work like that of Stephen Wolfram (http://www.stephenwolfram.com/), specifically cellular automatia remove many order of magnitude the uncertainty of complex structure evolution. Frankly as a biochemist the more I learn about genetics the less likely it seems that things "just happened" but just because my mind can not grasp potential underlying mechanisms does not mean they are not there. It is very interesting however. Embryology is compelling, as is population genetics. A still popular book. Darwin's Black Box made a point I think similar to yours that certain structures are too complex to have formed randomly...I think the term is "irreducibly complex". The only problem with this is the folks who buy into the theory take micro structures like flagella draw a line in the sand and claim "this structure can not function if one more protein is missing...it is irreducibly complex". Then a month or two goes by and some new bacteria from a deep ocean vent turns up and it has a flagella that functions with 10 less proteins than the supposed limit! One can whittle away hours on Amazon.com reading the ongoing drama from the pro and con camps around that book.

Is evolutionary theory an airtight and finished science? No, not by a long shot...but what I see opponents of the theory do is pick at the edges yet offer no viable mechanism as an alternative. Physics is in a "crisis" as string theory was thought to be the bridge between quantum mechanics and relativity, integrating gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces and magnetism. They have been hashing the same equations around for almost 60 years. Time to shift gears! Evolutionary theory appears to make ever greater inroads with regards to predictive value. I guess you are saying those predictions/conclusions are flawed, I'm frankly not seeing it. I think you made the point that no one in academia wants to hear about flaws to evolution. I LOVE conspiracy type stuff and that's why I love Uffe Ravanskoves' work (http://www.ravnskov.nu/cholesterol.htm) He crunches Merck's numbers, proves they are lying and gets them hammered with millions of dollars of fines. He questions the role of dietary fat in various diseases, statistically proves his point...and is ignored by the mainstream. This sounds a lot like the chap you mentioned in your link, but for that guy to hold any water for me he had better have some numbers and alternative explanations not just shining a light on holes in our current knowledge as a means to dismiss a whole branch of science. The flat earth society still has a following:
You gave a more detailed rebuttal of evolution question than Campbell, he simply dismissed it as relevant. That's convenient and much like making a point with a flat earth-er.

Evolutionary theory and an understanding of our our origins is revolutionizing the areas of bio-science and medicine that actually embrace it. Even workplace conflict is being attenuated by an analysis of our hunter-gatherer social dynamics:

Related to this caloric restriction is not the only method whereby health and longevity are improved. Intermittent fasting is to date less studied however the results have proven to be equal if not superior to CRAN....and this appears to model normal human feeding patterns. Airtight case? No, absolutely not, but it is very compelling.

Keep in mind that Cordain has always reported ranges of macro nutrients consumed by hunter-gatherers, with protein intake being quite low on average for some groups such as the !Kung to quite high among thee Inuit and Ache. ALSO it is stressed that these levels change throughout the year based upon availability. The point being however that these people were remarkably healthy whether the intake was high or low.

Ralph it sounds like you are fit, active 55 year old vegetarian, yes? So what conclusions do we draw from that fact VS Art devany and Keith thomas: http://evfit.com/

These guys are your age or older. Fit, lean and meat eaters. I'm open to the statement that "a whole food diet is beneficial to health" but Keith used to be vegetarian. Incorporated meat, has better body comp and improved blood chemistry's. Are you game for trying that for a month or two? I have blood chemistry's from when I was vegan...a whole physical in fact. I was a mess compared to where I am now yet I am 10 years older. That is pretty damn compelling for ME.

Metabolic ward studies are underway right now that look at a "paleo diet". Recently the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism published a study looking at a "paleo diet" vs high carb diet in pigs. It is very interesting.

I may be blindly embracing a flawed science but I'm not quite ready to toss evolution and what Prof. Cordain has to say on the scrap heap of time. From my perspective a paleo diet saved my life, that of my mother (both celiac, both highly carb intollerant). Veganism offered me nothing but to "try harder". Not very helpful.

On the strange coincidences vain, this arrived in my inbox from Ido Portal while I was writing this response, perhaps there is a God:
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"Survival will be neither to the strongest of the species, nor to the most intelligent, but to those most adaptable to change."
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Old 01-21-2007, 06:29 PM   #27
Neal Winkler
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Well, I would argue that that illustration does a grave injustice to the extremely sophisticated defenses by various religious apologists today and throughout history. Anyone who can walk away from say, a William Lane Craig or Alvin Plantinga and claim that all religious people are just blind fools who don't have the intellectual respectability to face contradictory evidence probably needs to take a step back and take a look in the mirror.

If this discussion is frowned upon here, then my lips are sealed forevermore. But, I would just like to say that there is nothing on this subject that anyone could say that would offend me, so don't worry about hurting my feelings. :-)
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Old 01-21-2007, 06:55 PM   #28
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I tried very hard not to post this but from the standpoint of a person with some Faith as mentioned in Ido's chart I'm kind of offended. I think it is only those without faith that view it as such a stark cold ignorance, but those who have it may seem to view it much more like that evolutionary chart with which it describes science.

Two quotes from Albert Einstein if you will:

"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge."

"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."

I would swap the word Religion with Faith since I would be more inclined to label Religion in certain dogmatic applications to be more closely related to your chart. I find it odd that those who consider themselves most intellectual and rational ignore the rational attachment to that which we do not/can not understand.

I often would prefer to speak to an individual from a manifestly opposed or opposite religious/faithful position than an agnostic who's staunch ignorance of their own spiritual existance serves only to make them obviously less rational and intellectual than they believe themselves to be.

Neal I would normally agree with you that I do not offend easily on this subject but today I find myself severely offended at this point and that is something that usually requires great and concerted effort. Particularly on the behest of someone I consider a friend. Maybe I should reconsider that position?

I think as far as science and nutrition both sides have made good arguments except for that illustration. I find my IQ has probably dropped several points for having read it! My point I think moderation on all counts is best, and hence why I think the zone works well in almost every case.

Unlike Neal I'm not very apologetic, If this kind of discussion if frowned upon here I will be deaply saddened.
NOTICE: Pierre Auge's opinions are subject to change at any time and without prior notice.

To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. - Douglas Adams
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Old 01-21-2007, 07:46 PM   #29
Neal Winkler
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Certainly you've heard worse before? The conception that faith is an irrational belief in something that cannot be proven, and that religious people emphaticaly embrace this "fact" is a common one. No sweat.
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:03 PM   #30
Mike ODonnell
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I'm out......
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