Search This Site!
Nutrition Past and Future

Response to Denise Minger 5: Wheat and Carbs

Response to Denise Minger,
Part 5: Wheat and Carbs

I decided to address Ms Minger’s credibility as a source of health advice by discussing her blog about that so-called “New China Study” instead of her blogs about the original China Study of T Colin Campbell when I heard her make this statement.  She said, “There was recently another China Study that came out … that showed (that) out of all the diet patterns in China, people who were eating wheat as opposed to rice as their staple grain were gaining more weight, had higher body mass indexes just in general and it was a … a very strong association.” I hope I’m quoting accurately. 

The phrase “China study” has apparently become a dog-whistle for her audience so she uses it liberally.  For example, here a study of people following low carb diets said, “a vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet is probably healthier than an animal-based low-carbohydrate diet.” The participants were not Chinese nationals but the results of the study favored plant foods, so this study earned a comparison to the China Study by Minger anyway.  She hits a few more hot buttons with her audience to set her familiar tone of mockery, parroting Weston Price Foundation foolishness about phytoestrogens.  I guess at this point any study describing plant foods as healthier than animal foods will be compared to the China Study.

In my video #64, Minger suggests I am wrong for criticizing a study she blogged about because it used artificial food patterns, yet I made reference to a different study using food patterns to support my views. She is saying I should be categorically against studies based on food patterns, so this makes me a hypocrite.

The use of dietary patterns instead of naturally related foods and food groups is not totally without reason.  Using dietary patterns theoretically lets them see complex interactions between contrasting foods.  I'm not sure that's a very smart strategy, but we must accept that this is how these studies were done.

- Plant Positive

Ms Minger, I did not categorically criticize studies based on food patterns.  I said such studies are not without reason, but that I wasn’t sure they were such a good idea. That’s different.

My problem with the study Minger liked so much was the names of the patterns in question, which I explained very clearly in my videos.  “Vegetable-rich” was a very deceptive name for a pattern that emphasized eggs and milk more than fresh vegetables, don’t you think?

Despite the perhaps counterintuitive names and construction of these patterns, Minger has said they represented all the diet patterns in China. I don’t understand why she says this. Remember, this study used a pattern called the “macho pattern”. This was one weird study.

So what about that other diet pattern study, the one Minger thinks I was hypocritical to use?

She is referring to this one, which said in its conclusion,

"In general, a fruit-rich diet was related to lower mortality, whereas a meat-rich diet appeared to increase the probability of death.“

The patterns in question were called vegetable-rich, fruit-rich, and meat-rich. No “macho” pattern here. Look at the names of the authors.  I don’t have access to the full study to see what the exact patterns were, but…

Here you see all those same authors did a subsequent study based on food patterns. With the same researchers using patterns with the same names, it is very likely the patterns were very similar if not the same in both studies.

Look at the patterns and you’ll see they are named much more straight-forwardly.  The foods in the patterns much more closely matched the pattern names.  Sure, if you look at the long list of items they recorded, there were items in each category that don’t reflect the pattern names very well – again, I’m not a fan of the pattern idea - but there are a lot of foods in each pattern and the ones that match the pattern names are weighted much more heavily than the ones that don’t.  These patterns made a lot more sense, and not just because none were called “macho”. There is another reason I object to Minger’s suggestion that I was being inconsistent.

I am not disagreeing with the opinions of the researchers who conducted the study. They said a fruit rich pattern was associated with lower mortality and a meat-rich diet appeared to increase the probability of death. Sounds good to me.

Yet she downplays the high fat content of the “vegetable-rich” pattern in the study she used.  These researchers said the observed weight gain in their participants might be explained by all the fat they ate.  Now it is true, they did suggest wheat consumption was a problem here.

But as I said, the obvious issue was the wheat came in the form of noodles and dumplings.  Who says wheat is health-promoting when it’s refined and holding together a fried dumpling?  This isn’t hard, people.

These people ate very few whole grains – 298 grams of wheat flour versus only 15 grams of whole grains. Give me a break! Refined grains equal low fiber and poor nutrition.  This has nothing to do with wheat itself. It’s about processed and refined junk food.

She thought the authors were trying painfully hard to rationalize the association between wheat and weight gain through its higher energy density, yet she doesn’t think she is painfully rationalizing when she says wheat causes metabolic havoc. They are making more sense than Minger. Of course, if you remove the fiber from wheat, it will have higher energy density. That makes sense, even though they didn’t make that connection. Is Minger making sense when she says that wheat has to cause metabolic havoc?

Wheat has much different effects depending on how much it is milled and whether or not it has its normal, natural components like fiber. The graph on the left charts blood sugar, the one on the right represents insulin. Change the nature of the wheat and its effects change, too. These are important differences.

The purported problem with wheat is supposed to be its effect on insulin. I don’t really care that Campbell wrote this. It’s wrong.

Whole wheat bread is barely high-GI. This is because of its physical form, as I pointed out in video 23.  Cream of Wheat has a moderate GI like most other grains.  Ms Minger, the metabolic havoc in that pattern was much more likely to be the result of the high saturated fat consumption from foods like eggs and their interaction with refined, fiber-free junk carbs.

Having insulin go up after eating some food is completely normal and desirable.  I can’t make any sense of this low-carber fear of insulin.

Minger’s “New China Study” tracked weight change over a five-year time period.  She and the authors wondered if there was something about wheat that caused it to be associated with weight gain.

 She and they seem completely unaware of the fact that whole wheat is superior to the refined wheat flour in noodles and dumplings.  Here is a study tracking weight gain over an 8-year timespan.  The results state:

“In multivariate analyses, an increase in whole-grain intake was inversely associated with long-term weight gain. A dose-response relation was observed, and for every 40-g/d increment in whole-grain intake from all foods, weight gain was reduced by 0.49 kg.”

They conclude:

“The increased consumption of whole grains was inversely related to weight gain. This suggests that additional components in whole grains may contribute to favorable metabolic alterations that may reduce long-term weight gain.”

Ms Minger says she was only kidding about vegans plotting world domination in her AHS presentation. I missed the joke, she says. I’d hate for anyone to think I don’t have a sense of humor. I appreciate her clearing this up for me. I’m glad she was only kidding in that talk. Let me show you why I might have thought she was being a little more serious.

The last slide referencing Seventh Day Adventists is interesting as well.  It's a reference to members of the American Dietetic Association, the most prominent nutrition science organization, which has endorsed well-planned plant-based diets.  I guess Ms Minger has uncovered that they're in on a vegan conspiracy.

- Plant Positive

In my video, I said her reference to a vegan conspiracy related to her interest in the American Dietetic Association and the Seventh Day Adventists.

Here’s what I had in mind.  These were Minger’s quotes.  She said, “I have some bones to pick with the American Dietetic Association.”
And in reference to ADA authors of position papers, “pretty much everyone since 1988 has been either a Seventh Day Adventist or a vegan for ethical reasons, so everybody who’s writing it has a reason to be promoting a plant-based diet, so there’s a lot of strange things going on with that, too, and it’s funny because people think the ADA is so credible but they are appointing people who have obvious bias to write their papers.” So I’m sorry to say I’m still not getting the joke. Were these comments to be interpreted as jokes as well?

So you don’t like the ADA’s supportive statements regarding plant-based diets. Let me ask you then, have the Seventh Day Adventists infiltrated the American Heart Association, who say well-planned vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound?

What about the USDA or the NIH, who say much the same? Is the USDA run by vegans? Somehow I missed that.

Maybe they run the Mayo Clinic, too.

And the European Food Information Council. Have the Seventh Day Adventists caused all this?

Ms Minger, it might be more understandable for vegans and vegetarians to feel they are on the wrong side of a conspiracy. When Marion Nestle served on a committee advising the government on dietary guidelines in 1995, she said she felt forced to add cautions about the minimal health concerns associated with plant-based diets.

Ms Minger has a couple other comments I’ll address. You can pause and read this if you want to. She is saying I liked this one guy’s comments in one situation but not another. This section isn’t worth much comment other than to simply say that the same person can be right sometimes and wrong other times. I reference the work of others simply to point the viewer in the direction of information they can use. I’ll admit, one other minor reason I did this was to demonstrate that I am willing to give credit to people when they produce good work, even if I think they otherwise misinform. Ms Minger is apparently a fan of Gary Taubes, another cholesterol confusionist, even though he expresses absurd theories about carbohydrates having a special ability to make us fat.

Ms Minger says she eats 90% plants, so she must be eating plenty of carbohydrates. Clearly she doesn’t think Taubes makes any sense, either, unless she considers herself to be fat.

Ms Minger, you eat 90% plants and you aren’t fat. So what do you think of this quote from Gary Taubes? He says,

“...If somebody knows they are going to doom their kids to a life of obesity and diabetes cuz they’re going to make them vegetarians or vegans, then that’s fine as long as they understand that they’re not doing their kids any favors.”

This is the sort of insanity that comes out of Gary Taubes’ mouth all the time. Ms Minger, are you really going to associate yourself with someone this detached from reality?

Gary Taubes, if you didn’t know it, it looks like vegans have lower BMI’s than meat eaters.

And if vegetarianism causes diabetes, it might be hard to explain why these Seventh Day Adventists had such dramatically lower rates of diabetes. Wait, I forgot. You have books to sell, don’t you, Mr Taubes?

And you’re making lots of friends in the meat industry, aren’t you? Frankly, I’d be shocked if you did not intentionally mischaracterize vegetarian diets.

Getting back to Ms Minger’s comments, I didn’t rely only on bloggers to represent a different opinion from Taubes’ in criticizing Dr Hall. I included this excellent article by an actual expert in obesity. Don’t you remember seeing this, Ms Minger? It was there, I promise.

The next comment she makes about accepting non-peer-reviewed blog posts makes no sense to me. Are there any blogs that are peer-reviewed? And what does it mean to “accept” a blog post?

I have to admit it. Denise Minger caught me in a big goof. I’ll start the next video with that.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« Response to Denise Minger 6: Number Needed to Treat | Main | Response to Denise Minger 4: China Revisited »