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QUESTION: On a national prime time Australian lifestyle show (Burkes Backyard) the blood type diet was dismissed as a load of bunkum by the shows health and nutrition expert (Dr Rosemary Stanton). She also stated that the blood type diet was without scientific basis whatsoever. I have been subscribing to the blood type diet for about three years and haven't felt as well for 20 years. Do you have a comment for Dr. Stanton that I could forward on your behalf?
ANSWER: Ms. Stanton is apparently not an expert in human ABO polymorphism, which may be one of the prime reasons that her criticism is so rudimentary. Undoubtedly the blood type diets may well shake up the basis of so-called nutrition orthodoxy, but that in itself should not be a prime reason for dispensing with it; you have to develop an argument based on the available facts.
Let's look at what she has to say:
"There is no proof or scientific basis for these claims. Pathologists test millions of blood samples, but have not found links between particular disease and blood group. If you go on one of these diets you may feel better initially. That's partly because you expect to feel better, and partly because the diets are very restrictive and you'll end up eating less."
There are hundreds of illnesses linked to blood type, including heart disease, blood clotting, resistance to infection, cancer and a variety of psychological disorders. MEDLINE, the national medical citation database, lists 1213 studies when the keywords 'ABO blood group' and 'disease' are entered.
One could also counter that by her claiming that feeling better on new diets often results from expecting to feel better could just as well be applied to the reams of dietary advice she offers up weekly, so it is not much of an accusation.
[N.B. 12/12/01: Ms. Stanton's site has since changed the phrase:
"There is no proof or scientific basis for these claims. Pathologists test millions of blood samples, but have not found links between particular disease and blood group.
To the phrase:
"There is no proof or scientific basis for these claims. Pathologists test millions of blood samples, but have not found links between particular foods, disease and blood group."
So my initial response is not longer relevant. In reality, this phrase, while of considerable sophistry, is not very effective; pathologists have NEVER looked for any links between particular foods, blood types and disease, which is a considerably different argument.
"One of the reasons many people are following the blood group diet is because it has what seems to be a strong scientific and medical basis. Practitioners do what they call live blood tests - a few drops of your blood are examined under a microscope and an image is projected onto a screen. If the blood cells clump together or appear misshapen they conclude that your diet is causing a toxic reaction with your blood group. Rosemary Stanton says that this type of diagnosis is downright shonky. For more information, visit the quackwatch website
It appears that Ms. Stanton has confused the blood group diets with another modality often seen in alternative medicine, the so-called 'live cell analysis.' None of my writings or work has ever used this modality, which I agree is subject to questionable interpretation. However, I do believe that Ms. Stanton has confused legitimate hemagglutination studies with live cell analysis. Thousands of studies have documented the basic mechanisms of lectin to cell reactions, and it does not bode well for Ms. Stanton's understanding of the overall topic that she mistakes live cell analysis for lectin agglutination. A search of MEDLINE, the national medical citation database lists 2297 scientific articles when the keywords 'lectin' and agglutination' are entered. By the way, the link that she provides has nothing at all to say about me or my research.
All in all, a not very convincing performance, but very typical of many so-called media experts: No analysis, no impartiality, no curiosity.
[N.B. 12/12/01: Ms. Stanton has communicated to me that she takes exception to my prior characterization of her review of my work as 'lazy,' and indeed I do acknowledge that this was unfair. In contrast, I continue to embrace her characterization of my work on her site as 'downright wonky' and 'crazy' as a testament to the cultural divide between us.]