Live Blogging from the Paleo Summit VIII: Denise Minger

Link:  Denise Minger
Title:  How to Win an Argument with a Vegetarian?


☼ ☼    Entertainment Value
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼  Content
☼ ☼     Informational Accuracy
☼ ☼   ☼  Overall


Although her presentation is entitled How to Win an Argument with a Vegetarian, she mostly talks about a little of this and a little of that.  This is an enjoyable listen, though I think mostly the same as what she presented at AHS11 last August.  You'll probably want to listen to this if you are a vegetarian or vegan, or even your every day low fattie still fearing or on the fence about eating animal protein and/or fat.  She discusses her infamous China Study debunking and some other famous studies.  Denise also addresses some of the trends in paleo, specifically the increased incorporation of carbs to the diet, and the "internals" where disagreements exist.  It's not a scientifically heady talk (hence the 3-star content rating) but what she discusses is accurate to the best of my knowledge (and I'm sure someone will call foul if it's not!).  If you miss this one at the Summit, you can probably go listen to the AHS video at any time, but why not go have a listen now?

Just a Few Comments:

I have a pretty long review of Chris Kresser's presentation to get to, so with apologies to Denise, I'm not going to do much of a summary here.  There are several parts that I think are definitely worth listening to for most people, or overall I just like the girl so I'd listen for no other reason :-)   She sounds like she eats carbs, and I'm thinking she doesn't sound like an addict jonesing for her next fix .... for what that's worth :-)

One thing I have a quibble with her over is her somewhat overly optimistic assessment of the self-policing within the paleo community.  While the paleo community does seem to be more open to spirited differences and debate than, say, the low carb community I came from ... the self-policing as in calling out bullshit when its promulgated is sorely lacking at times.   For starters, there are certainly a number of "untouchables" out there whom one does not want to get on the wrong side of.  Just as easily as a Leptin Man can burst onto the scene, all that would be needed would be to go up against an icon in the realm and they will do their best to wipe you out.  Ahem ... yours truly ;-)  I have had the freedom to call bullshit when I see it because my livelihood is not dependent on this blog or sponsorships, etc.  And I am very sympathetic to those bloggers who have professional affiliations that make their silence a smart move on certain issues.  
Yet when I saw Chris Masterjohn basically take apart Wheat Belly but in the end tell us it "deserves our attention" as a good starting point and all that, my heart sank.  I wonder if Mat Lalonde has weighed in on this?  A less sciencey guy called out Wheat Belly as well, That Paleo Guy/Jamie Scott.  There was lots of urging paleos to scrutinize Davis' claims, and "kick his ideas to the curb" if they've been found wanting ... and yet that never really happened in the paleo community, and what's interesting is that the URL title of the post was "why we shouldn't ignore this book" so I don't know if he was saying we shouldn't ignore BS when we see it?  Dunno.  What I do know is that my own criticism of Wheat Belly has often been met with the meme that we all know wheat is bad and everyone benefits if we remove it from our diets so where's the harm in such a book?  The harm is in exactly what Lalonde was talking about in his talk -- and I talk about incessantly -- bad science makes for bad arguments.   It's like I tell my algebra students.  If you get the correct answer and show me no work, you get no credit.  And if you do it the wrong way but get the right answer, ditto.  If you do something a different way than I might have,  but that way is correct, then you get credit.  Davis should get no credit for capitalizing on something that's pretty obvious and constructing a web of half-baked theories to get the reader from A (eating wheat) to B (not eating wheat).  What criticism of Davis I've seen in the paleo community  has not had meaningful impact -- e.g. his being roundly criticized by the community as a whole.  In the absence of that, some paleos take the easy way out -- Well ... Davis isn't paleo so we don't even have to worry about him.  That last one I've always found interesting given that Taubes is often connected with the paleo movement, and that man ain't paleo!!
There is also a royalty class in the paleo movement whom many will never openly criticize lest they have the wrath of an angered giant on their hands.  The transgressions of these royals are often dismissed by the "well, he/she has done so much for the movement" or "but so many people's lives have benefitted from their work" excuses.  The excuses being "so what if xyz is wrong, but basic abc's are there and these help people" and "who cares if so-and-so is hypocritical having a sponsor/selling stuff, the important thing is getting the message across".  I think Jim Bakker provides a great analogy for why both of these are ultimately damaging to the movement.   The early days of the 80's were heady ones for the televangelism movement.  Jim and his wife Tammy built a huge empire bringing Christ into countless lives.  At least all Christians would celebrate this noble cause.  It matters more to most Christians of various denominations that their fellow man find Christ than the path that brings them there.  But ...  Bakker was a philanderer, so his personal behavior was not in keeping with his teachings.  And the Bakkers both used church monies for personal extravagence -- preaching tithing among the flock while lining their own pockets.   So to me, if the leaders and gurus and movers and shakers don't walk the walk and hold their business model up to the same scrutiny they hold the mainstream/conventional wisdom to, they should be criticized.  Ahhh ... but this is the real world. :-)


Rad Warrier said…
I don't know what this Denise Minger said in her presentation "How to Win an Argument with a Vegetarian?", but if she tries to argue with this vegetarian (i.e., this humble self) that vegetarianism is some harmful way of eating, I would point out to her the big laboratory called India inhabited by over a billion souls (sticking to the mortal bodies.) India has, and had in the past, non-vegetarians as the majority, say about 70% of the population. But till about half a century ago, the average Indian non-vegetarian ate minuscule amounts of non-veg food compared to an average westerner or non-Indian. Meat might be part of a curry taken say once in a week. Fish might be more frequent. In other words, the average Indian non-vegetarian of 50 years ago can be practically considered as a vegetarian. The people of India whether eating a practically vegetarian diet (though nominally non-vegetarian) or whether eating a pure vegetarian diet (pure vegetarians like my own ancestors) were as healthy as the people of the rest of the world. Even in the distant past, India was relatively densely populated. Civilization thrived. We did not die out because our diet was vegetarian - we lived a healthy, vibrant life, and went forth and "multiplied" to over a billion souls now :)

Sanjeev said…
It's been a couple of days since I listened but I believe she repeats a point she's made before, really good studies of vegetarian versus non have not been done. No significant prospective or randomized controlled trials have been done.

Her major point is not anti-vegetarian, it's anti-bad-study. Up to now the bad studies she's been critiqueing have been vegetarianism-related but she has critiqued others.

There are Western vegetarians that claim vegetarianism is healthier than meat eating or omnivorism.

her argument is that most of the studies that Western vegetarians cite are very flawed, and when studies are done that remove these flaws the better health case disappears, or at least becomes far less simple or clear.

the major flaw is that vegetarianism rarely occurs alone - along with it one usually finds more religious practice, less smoking, drinking[1], and other health-reducing behaviours/habits/choices.

[0] and with extreme non-vegetarians, extreme canoodling
[1] dancing, canoodling[0], disobeying parents, being sent to school with the slave kids[2]

[2] most of [1] is a joke, but I would bet that most adrenaline junkies whose coroner's report reads "death by misadventure" are not vegetarians. And if the coroner's report reads " ... combined herpes, syphilis and gonorrhea ..." probably not a teetotaling 7th day adventist. Might be a Liberty U grad though.
Sanjeev said…
> that most adrenaline junkies whose coroner's report reads

obviously that should be "most FORMER adrenaline junkies" ...
CarbSane said…
Hey Rad! Denise didn't really get down on vegetarians, more dispelling myths about animal eating perpetrated by vegetarians in this country.

I really got a kick out of Mark Sisson's claims about legumes and fertility. I'd say your India seems to tell us otherwise. ;)

(BTW, you have a lovely young wife ... I don't think I got to comment when you posted those pics)
Lesley Scott said…
Me? I'd much rather hang out with someone destined for demise though misadventure any day of the week. :)
Rad Warrier said…
"BTW, you have a lovely young wife."

Thanks Evelyn but the "young wife" will turn 54 in a few months and this humble self will be 60 in a couple of months. :)

Angela said…
Hi, all. Evelyn, just got around to checking out your blog yesterday after seeing your frequent comments on others. I shall wander by more in the future. :)
Just wanted to comment that Denise is really not the typical "paleo" type. It's almost funny she gets invited to the same conferences as some of the VLC crowd. Some might call her diet technically paleo because she doesn't eat grains or dairy, but she is allergic or intolerant to them so it's not entirely by choice. However, she not only eats carbs, but she eats a lot of them. Her diet consists largely of fruit, followed by veg. With a little fish and eggs and maybe some other meat on an occasional basis. She is a recovered raw vegan and would argue that a vegan diet is harmful, but not a vegetarian diet (such as that typical in India) which includes dairy and/or eggs.