A recent question posed to an internet dietician Mary Hartley sparked some outrage over on the www.dadamo.com message boards and got me thinking:
Is there any truth to the diet based on blood type?
For example, O blood type should eat more protein and AB blood type should eat more veggies.
The Blood Type Diet is outlined by Peter D’Adamo in Eat Right 4 Your Type, a diet book that has been a bestseller for over 10 years. Mr. D'Adamo asserts that your blood type is the key to your immune system, and by eating particular foods according to your blood-type, you can lose weight and prevent diseases, such as cancer, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, and others. But truthfully, there is no scientific evidence to back the authors claims, and the diets recommended for some blood types could produce nutritional deficiencies. The Blood Type Diet is just another fad diet.
Many dieticians embrace and use the research behind the Blood Type Diet, so it is not a complete and absolute truth to claim that registered dieticians (RD) know almost nothing about nutrigenomics and genetic based nutrition. However, based upon a series of interviews conducted in Holland among Dutch dieticians, it's not far from the truth:
Based on the analysis of 51 face-to-face interviews with Dutch dietitians in April 2006, it can be concluded that awareness and knowledge on nutrigenomics is low. Almost half of the interviewees had heard of nutrigenomics and nutritional genetics, but most could not explain what either were about.
Clients of more than half of the interviewees bring up the topic of heredity or family history during consultations in regard of nutrition-related diseases such as weight and diabetes. Clients almost never ask questions related to genetic testing but, if they do, it is in the context of hyper-lipidemia, hyper-cholesterolemia and other metabolic disorders.
More than half of the dietitians thought genetic testing would be relevant for dietetic practice. Most, however, experienced difficulties with identifying the practical implications of nutrigenomics. They expected nutrigenomics to offer opportunities for dietetic practice through tools for creating more personalized or individual dietary advice and prevention of diet-related ill health. Some dietitians expressed concerns about cost, the current lack of evidence, and the affect on clients’ attitudes whilst other felt they knew too little to identify their concerns.
In line with these concerns, there is feeling that nutrigenomics is not relevant to dietetic practice because of a lack of evidence, anticipated costs of testing, and the existing potential for treatment without genetic testing.
When I read these critiques from people who are supposedly experts I simply marvel at the degree of self-assurance they display despite what appears to be a complete ignorance of the subject. There is enough science behind the use of blood type as a dietary determinant to choke a horse; maybe two or three horses. However, if you don't like the conclusions (or more likely don't like who or where they came from) go ahead and criticize the science. That never fails to buy a bit of time.
I also get a bit skittish when someone who is trying to convince me of something starts their sentence off with 'Truthfully...'
The line about the diets producing nutritional deficiencies is complete twaddle. There is no proof of that whatsoever. I challenge Ms. Hartley to back up her assertions with some sort of evidence, or lacking that have the courage to retract this ridiculous statement.
Reminds me of the quote by Upton Sinclair:
If is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
Speaking of fad diets, many dieticians still cling to the low-fat (or should I say 'fat-phobic') fads of the 1980's. There is perhaps perverse justice in a vignette I recently read in David Stafford's terrific new book Endgame, 1945. Stafford writes that after the outcry against the Nazi euthanasia program, the experts merely moved their lethal expertise away from gas to starvation:
The asylums and hospitals reverted instead to the murdering of the handicapped through lethal injection and deliberate starvation. The director at Kaufbeuren, Dr. Valentin Falthammer, was an especially keen and energetic supporter of the program, and proudly introduced a carefully crafted fat-free diet that guaranteed death to his patients and economized on pharmaceuticals. The death rate rose so high that local authorities forbade the ringing of church bells at funerals, so as to not alert the local population.
Like Peter Gabriel said three decades ago:
It's only knock and know-it-all,
but I like it.
Spent the weekend in Phoenix/Scottsdale where I lectured to the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association. Nice crowd; surprising to me was the fact that MDs outnumbered NDs at the morning professional session. Had way too much material. The professional lecture was supposed to last four hours, and by midpoint I realized that I actually had about nine hours worth of material, forcing a truncation which certainly had nothing to do with any lack of science.
Happily, this probably means that my presentations for IfHI 2009 are already complete.
Here is a short film about the epigenetic landscape that I made for the lectures. Enjoy.
Spent the last week lolling around Lancaster County Pennsylvania, one of my favorite places in the world. If the twenty-four hour news media leaves you with the notion that there is nothing that America can do right, visit Lancaster County. There is a lot of tourist stuff, but there are also fields and fields of the great agricultural bounty to be found in America. Corn, beans, lettuce, you name it. Rows upon perfect rows, fading endlessly into the horizon. Sturdy stone houses and hideously expensive (but quite beautiful) hand made quilts.
I was happy to learn that almost 100% of the fertilizer is natural manure-based; which, although it can be a problem with ground water runoff if improperly managed, is still better than the Monsanto-based explosives we've relied on in the past.
We were looking at schools for my oldest child, Claudia, a high school senior who will start college next year. We toured Franklin and Marshall and Gettysburg colleges. Both are gorgeous, small and inviting; just what a liberal arts college should be.
The usual protocols prevailed, typically a slide show ‘orientation’ followed by a tour headed by one of the students. I learned that at both schools, the washing machines in the laundromat will send you a text message when your wash is finished, and that at 12:00 midnight the week of the final exams, you can get free hot chocolate at the library. When I asked about the number of technical and scientific journals each library subscribed to, nobody knew the answer.
Of course, nobody ever talks about the 8000-pound elephant in the room: “Hey, just how much is this going to cost?” For kicks, I'd typically gesture to raise my hand when it got to question and answer time, at which point my legs were vigorously kicked by my younger daughter, nervously anticipating future mortification at the hands of dad's latest déclassé question.
Gettysburg College almost did the ‘anti-orientation.’ The assistant dean of admissions just went up to the front of the auditorium and proceeded to do 30 minutes of shtick. Some of it was tedious, but a lot of it was peppered with great advice, good tips to the kids about how to write the application essay and comport themselves during the interview.
- “If you don’t know Winston Churchill personally, please don’t write about how he is a role model”
- “Make a point to provide at least 50% of the total conversation.”
- “Look me in the eyes.”
- “This is not a good time to be shy or modest.”
If you have a teenage child, you will understand the benefits of this sage advice.
Gettysburg is of course the site of a famous Civil War battle, one of two that provided the turning point in fortune for the forces fighting for the maintenance of the Union. It is also the home of The Gettysburg Address, which I was surprised to discover, was not used as a name by any of the town shops or restaurants. By the way, the restaurant eating is much better than I remember from years back.
I fancy myself a fairly knowledgeable on the battle and tactics and looked forward to driving the park and discussing the history of the battle with the kids. It was pretty rough at first, since neither child is all that much into history. Sort of like our earlier trip to Cordoba. However a trip to the new Gettysburg National Visitor Center did sort of hook them in, especially the very cool 3-D type movie narrated by Morgan Freeman, which takes you through the battle, causes and aftermath, all in the very teenager friendly time-frame of 24 minutes.
Tonight is the first of the NAP Professional Webinars, and I’m told that it is standing room only (25 people are the maximum). We are using a service called GoToMeeting that allows people to hear what I’m saying on their computer speakers, see my desktop, and ask questions. Hopefully I can get the thing under my belt by show time. I'm told that it can be 'recorded' and if so, we will make it available to doctors and other professionals.
The Connecticut Post ran a very nice article on me the other day. Unlike that terrible article in Time a while back, this reporter actually took the time to try and understand the material. Of course, the comment sections of these online articles always seems to attract a screwball or two. Like Sister Marie Francis used to tell our fifth grade class at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Brooklyn, “Empty barrels do make the most noise.”
While on the subject of criticism, we’ve finally got round to developing a standardized response area for the myriad of articles on the Internet that are critical of all the blood type and GenoType theories. In time, we’ll just keep adding to it.
Other news: I’ve just received test batches of the skin toner, cleanser and moisturizer. People who have tried the day crème are usually pretty enthusiastic about the line, and they will probably like these as well.
Have been re-reading Vivian Perlis' great book Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral history.
I’ve drawn much comfort from Ives over the years; certainly through his music, but also with many of the corollaries between his life and my own. Our homes are within ten miles of each other, and we both shared the benefits (and challenges) of being the sons of men who were themselves geniuses ahead of their time.
Ives was a musical genius, anticipating the serialism of Schoenberg and many other elements of modern music, such as microtones, by many decades. Unfortunately, this placed him squarely in the path of the conventional musical minds of his time. What frustration he must have felt reading reviews of his work, where instead of seeing the horizon line of a new art, the reviewer merely saw an amateur composer who just wrote down the wrong notes!
Ives had no patience for these people. On top of one review, he simply scribbled the phrase ‘rot and worse.’ To Ives, these were just mediocre minds, steeped in the traditions of the past. Problem was, they taught in the conservatories, wrote the reviews and set the standards.
"Stop being such a God-damned sissy! Why can't you stand up before fine strong music like this and use your ears like a man?"
- At a 1931 concert when a man booed during one his friend Carl Ruggles's works
Reading about Ives has also reawakened in me a sense of outrage which I had sequestered a few years back. For example, as the previous blog described, I had never actually read the Wikipedia entry on The Blood Type Diet, trusting that somehow, a fair representation would emerge.
It's not that I can't handle the personal attacks, I can. It's the gratuitous assaults on the research and its benefits that I just refuse to put up with any longer. Basically if 'debunkers' are going to knock my work because it sounds like the wrong notes to their ears, they should be prepared to defend their assertions.
Like my favorite peripatetic scientist, Andrew Weil.
Dr. Weil, America’s holistic doctor and author of numerous books on the benefits of hallucinogenic drugs, seems to have a thing for the Blood Type Diet. Dr. Weil, whose book sales have been sagging for the last few years but appears to have no difficulty getting major media attention, now seems to have now taken the road common to many scientists at the twilight of their careers; that of ‘debunker’. In a short article on the AARP online magazine, Weil again argues that the Blood Type Diet should 'be sacked.'
Jettisoning his previous criticisms, including the rather odd observation that animals have blood types and yet don’t follow the Blood Type Diet, Dr. Weil, now a lectinologist and glycobiology expert, instead offers his opinions on lectins and blood types:
D’Adamo theorizes that the basis for such differences is our reactions to certain food proteins called lectins. Lectins are common in plant foods, especially grains and beans, and may be involved in food allergies and some immune disorders. But there is no convincing evidence for any interactions between lectins and the molecules that determine blood type.
Weil should really do his homework before committing himself to the further erosion of his nutrition credentials. Certainly he should have consulted the work of Boyd or Nachbar before making such claims, since he is essentially just plain wrong.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Dr. Joseph Mercola. Dr. Mercola, who for a time shared the same literary agent with me (at his request) and claims that his website is one of the most popular health sites on the internet with a very high circulation email newsletter. Mercola recently wrote in an email newsletter that following the blood type A diet and walking a lot gave him diabetes:
I am blood type A, so I switched to a high grain diet and changed my high intensity aerobic type exercises to walking like he suggested. Well, in a few short weeks my fasting blood sugar rose to nearly 130. This told me two things. The first was that I had diabetes, and the second was that Eat Right for Your Blood Type is a flawed theory that helps some, but can really harm and damage others.
Now, Dr. Mercola is a well-trained physician, so I have a hard time thinking that he actually believes this, since I doubt that any type A I know on the diet would ever call it ‘high grain.’ But imagine if you read the following; would you believe it?
I read in a book that people with legs should move around, so I walked down the street. Well, in a few short minutes I got hit by a car. This told me two things. The first was that I had to look at the stop signs more carefully, and the second was that moving around is a flawed theory that helps some, but can really harm and damage others.
What I find especially interesting is that if anybody advocates a high grain diet it is clearly Andrew Weil.
Now, I don’t have problems with either of these two guys; I just wish they would leave me out of their marketing plans. It would really be in their own best interests as well since one of the first things any salesmanship course will teach you is 'don't knock your competition.'
IfHI Faculty Member Dr. Emily Kane sent me this note:
"Recently there was been discussion on a Naturopathic chat group about the validity of blood type diet, with (IfHI Master) Dr. Virginia Oram being one of your most fervent defenders! Our moderator commented that corn could hardly have been "bad" for all those native Americans. The highly esteemed Pam Taylor offered the following perspective:"
Back in the mid-70's a group of us were doing some comparative studies of skulls from Woodland Native American tribes and skulls from Central America with Dr. Jerry Rose (U. of AR, Dept. of Anthropology), whose specialty was medical anthropology. He pointed out the outlines of arterial imprints in certain groups of the Woodland skulls, which were noticeably larger than those from Central America. He theorized that the adaptive development of the larger blood vessels was a response to the presence of anemia, requiring greater blood flow to supply an adequate amount of oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
The discrepancy was due to diet. The Woodland tribes were known to have cultural "boom and bust" cycles where they would spend some time hunting and gathering while the population expanded and became more robust living off game, fish and berries. Skulls from these groups did not display the enlarged blood vessels. When the tribe reached a certain level of vitality with a large enough population to afford a greater division of labor, they would find a place to settle and and farm, with corn as a staple. The significant increase in corn consumption as a dietary staple eventually resulted in anemia, a lower fertility and birth rate, and a level of irritability that led to less cooperation, more fighting (as evidenced by breakage and healing patterns in the bones), increased mortality and injury, a smaller band of individuals, and eventually resulted in their having to abandon a settled life style and resume hunting and gathering.
He theorized that when native populations in Central America prepared their corn by grinding it with limestone tools the grit that mingled with the corn contained a chemical had an inhibitory effect on corn's assumed inhibition of iron uptake.
Recent rat studies indicate that the periodic iron deficiency anemia of the Woodland population during their settled agricultural periods was more likely due to the amino acid imbalance in the corn (see article notation below) rather than a specific factor inhibiting its uptake. However, the physical evidence over time consistently supported the idea that when the Woodland groups were hunting and gathering, with substantially less corn in their diet, they were measurably healthier.
Studies in cultural anthropology spanning nearly a century note specific disease susceptibilities peculiar to different blood groups. But for sure, whether it's from an anthropological perspective or a naturopathic one, the contributing factors to health and disease, whether focused in an individual or extended to a culture, are multiple and multi-layered.
On days when I have a string of obnoxious patients, I definitely miss the bone lab.
I seem to remember reading that changes in dental and skull molding were also seen in so-called 'Mound Builder Cultures' that appeared to correlate with their evolution to an increasingly corn-based diet. That corn may have had this effect takes nothing away from its sacred role in these societies. It was a key subsistence food which allowed populations to grow and avoid starvation, despite the fact that it may have been a suboptimal source of some key nutrients.
Living on an avoid food is probably better that starving because you can't find any beneficial ones nearby.
Fact is, my research has not met with great acceptance in the naturopathic community. It indicates prudence and occasionally some honest skepticism, although I also think a lot of NDs just can't grok it intellectually. So like the chat moderator, they see it in only its most simplistic manifestations, thus requiring only the simplest objections.
Although you might think that capitalizing on the potential for polymorphisms and biochemical individuality would be a 'no-brainer' in a healing art like naturopathic medicine, the reality is otherwise. Maybe in time things will change, but for now my work lies in that wonderful 'excluded middle' that Charles Forte alluded to; misapprehended by the allopaths and naturopaths alike.
Nonetheless, my old friend, Dr. Pam Snider, who is running the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine project, an attempt to codify naturopathic tools and techniques, recently asked me to author two entries (co-author with Dr. Joseph Pizzorno on the genomics chapter; lead author on the genomic medicine chapter; and contributing author on nutrition chapter.) I don't know where I'll ever find the time to do this, by Martha has said that she would help out, which almost always makes things better.
Getting ready for a lecture this weekend at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts. They invited me to do two lectures on Saturday, for a total of about three hours running time. I suspect they don't have much awarenes of the GenoType material, so I'll do the first session on blood groups and then perhaps the second on GenoTypes and epigenetics.
Speaking of which, running factor analysis on the GenoTypes yields interesting spacial distinctions. Here is a graph of two principal components of data aligned along the point of maximum variability seen with the so-called 'classic genes'. It helps to imagine the small lines as actually coming out at you, if the graph could be in 3 dimensions.
The Explorer GenoType sticks out under these conditions as a very unique archetype.
Dr Ken Carlin sent me this neat link that details the migrations of humans based on Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA evidence.
We've collected some of the best pictures from IfHI 2007. Enjoy.
Should Paris Hilton serve her full sentence? Hey, why not? I've spent 45 days chained to a computer writing The Genotype Diet. I agree with Al Sharpton that the whole thing is one big insult to all those normally faceless people who just have to serve their sentences as dictated by law. Sharpton by the way, is no media pretty face. I recently did his radio show and he struck me as being quite intelligent and measured.
Wikipedia does a good job of bringing to light the differences between skepticism and pseudoskepticism, principally that pseudo skeptics have no interest other than denying what it is that they purport to be skeptical of. Much of what they brand a 'pseudoscience' is often the very beginnings of a new protoscience.
Grouppe Kurosawa has an interesting natural medicine blog that has a refreshing technical bent to it. The most recent entry is on the pathetic state of the US health care system. Think the we have the best health care system? Think again. We spend over 2 trillion dollars and rank 37th overall in quality of health care.
Now you would think that this sort of crime would generate widespread outrage. However, the Medical Industrial Complex, headed by the Current Dominant Medical System, has the public so bamboozled that this obscene lack of efficiency (which in any corporate environment would have long ago yielded to shareholder revolt and widespread executive firings) is not only tolerated, but a perverse pride is taken in the sheer magnitude of the inefficiency. We applaud as 'breakthroughs' drugs that prolong the lifespan of liver cancer patients by one month and we do nothing to address the underlying reasons people get these cancers in the first place. We wring our hands when a drug for adult onset diabetes is shown to be a menace and yet we do nothing to fix the root cause of the 'diabesity epidemic', preferring instead to find the solution through the marvelous benediction of an eleventh hour miracle drug.
And when was the last time you ever saw a pharmaceutical company post a quarterly loss?
Yet a recent show on PBS had a researcher who explained that half of all the families who file for bankruptcy are there in the aftermath of a serious medical problem. And, amazingly, about 75% of these families had health insurance at the onset of the illness or accident.
One of the reasons Allopathic medicine is so darned inefficient is that it is geared to acute medical care. This has been paraphrased as 'parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.' Many of its greatest breakthroughs occurred as a direct result of observations on the battlefield, and indeed when Hollywood wants to iconify modern medicine, they always put the doctors in the location where icons come naturally: The emergency room. Here comes the gurney rolling down the corridor, everyone shouting, everything purposeful.
Who wants to watch a film of some gerontologist examining the nasty feet of an 80 year old diabetic? Yet diabetic foot problems in the elderly are a major challenge to health care.
The major fallacy of Modern Medicine is that it fails to realize the difference between a chronic disease and an acute one, usually considering chronic disease just 'very long versions' of acute disease. But there are very different mechanisms involved, especially when we look at the patient's ability to compensate and recover.
Is naturopathic medicine the complete answer? Unlikely. We've got our own golden calf. However, at least we have a better comprehension of the nature of chronic illness, and the need to mobilize the patient as part of the recovery process.
I did have to laugh recently when the local hospital sent me the nicest brochure about their new 'Integrative Medicine' department. A quick read showed just what a red herring this thing was. Everyone involved was from the hospital staff, except for a harp player who was in charge of the 'therapeutic music' part of the center. Oh, sorry, there was a yoga teacher on staff as well.
All this reminds me of the quote from the English printmaker William Hogarth that I had read many years ago:
'..the problem with the ancient physicians is that they tried to make medicine an art, and failed; whilst the problem with modern physicians is that they tried to make medicine a business.. and succeeded."