Tuesday, March 13, 2007
One thing that makes me really angry is when a group of people use their credentials to prey on people's fears. Like Dr. Phil, who is not a physician (not even in Mexico would they let that guy be a physician), but still feels the need to call himself "Dr. Phil" and give advice that would be considered practicing medicine if he didn't do it in front of a TV camera. A friend of mine at work recently told me about another example, a book called the China Study, which essentially tells people that our diets are very unhealthy and that we all need to become vegans to avoid lots of chronic health problems.
In this book, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell Part II make the claim that becoming a vegan will decrease the likelihood that you will get cancer. His claim is based on "research" in his book that looked at a number of factors in diets of people and their rates of cancer. Despite the fact that Dr. Campbell has his Ph.D., he must have skipped the classes where they explained that correlation is not causation.
There are numerous examples that jump out, but one of the most interesting is where he claims that children in the Phillipines with high protien diets have higher rates of liver cancer. Was there a control group? Nope. Were his results of sufficient scientific rigor to be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal? Negative. Probably because he didn't look at the children's exposure to pesiticides, lead or other risk factors for childhood cancer or genetics. That would have been a lot of work and research.
The sad part is that the jury is still out on how diet interacts with cancer. People who have cancer or who worry about getting cancer will do anything to get better or avoid cancer. This book has sold a lot of copies because of that. On the other hand, one recent study from Key, Appleby and Rosell (2006) from a little place called Oxford University concluded that "Studies of cancer have not shown clear differences in cancer rates between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. More data are needed, particularly on the health of vegans and on the possible impacts on health of low intakes of long-chain n-3 fatty acids and vitamin B(12)"
That means that not only does a vegetarian diet not differ from a non-vegetarian diet, but also there are health risks with becoming a vegetarian related to not getting all the nutrients you need. If you're a vegetarian for moral reasons or because you don't like meat, that's fine. Just don't become a vegetarian because you think it's reducing your likelihood of getting cancer or because two guys who can't get published in an actual journal wrote a book to scare you into thinking you're going to get cancer. If eating meat caused cancer, the city of Omaha would be one gigantic tumor. Some argue that it is.
Those sharp front teeth aren't the only reason that we were meant to eat meat. The Angry Midget Diet tells us that we eat healthy foods we like, excercise, and drink lots of beer. If drinking beer is bad for you, I don't want to be good. Follow the Angry Midget Diet and you still might get cancer, but you'll be happy that you didn't become a vegan, since the jury is still out about whether or not vegans are allowed to perform oral sex.