Despite numerous attempts by many people to let Dr. Andrew Weil know that his traditional criticisms of the Blood Type Diet have no basis in fact, he still insists on peddling his absurd take on my work. In a recent interview for a Canadian website, Weil repeats the same criticisms he has used for the last ten years --despite the fact that they are as inaccurate and ignorant of the basic facts now as they were a decade ago.
Among other things, Dr. Weil says:
This is nonsense. I know of no evidence suggesting that prehistoric people ate diets related to their blood types. The studies D'Adamo cites have been published only by him and not in any scientific journals. By the way, dogs and other animals have blood types similar to those of humans. It would come as unwelcome news to some dogs that they should be vegetarians.
This tone suggests to me that Dr. Weil has not actually read any of my books.
I've never suggested that prehistoric people ate diets according to their blood types. No doubt they should have, but how would they have known? The blood groups were not discovered until 1900.
I have suggested that the variations in our different digestive physiologies stem from adaptations over time to changes in diet that were in part coded by the immunology that governs the gut. And that this immunology is significantly under the influence of ABO blood type.
Dr. Weil avoids or just plain neglects the physiologic links between digestion and ABO blood types. This lets him parody my theory as some sort of 'caveman-fiction.' The effects of secretor status on immune and metabolic function; the connection between lectins and allergies; the influence of blood type on intestinal enzymes; links between stomach hydrochloric acid levels and gut bacteria; the fact that the very foods we eat have 'blood types' --all of this receives no mention.
These findings and facts are part of over 7,000 peer-reviewed studies on blood groups published in the medical literature over the last century. Now, I know that allopathic (MD) education does not teach any of this, so I don't blame Weil for being initially uninformed. Everyone has got to start somewhere. However he does not exhibit any curiosity on the subject nor a desire to investigate it any further. If he'd have contacted me, I'd have probably shared them with him. Instead we're left with the rather smug assumption that since he's never heard of any of this, it must not exist.*
Folks, that is an attitude that they usually do teach you in allopathic medical school.
I've always gotten a kick out of his "Well, animals don't eat right for their type" argument. If he knew the species genetics of ABO blood groups he might be surprised to learn that the ABO gene locus resides on different chromosomes in the various species. In hogs for example, having type O blood gives you a full coat of black hair. By Dr. Weil's account, every human who is type O blood should also have black hair. Dogs, by the way, are a very cancer prone species, and do fare much better on something other than an exclusively carnivorous diet.
The late Arthur C Clarke said it best in his First Rule of Scientific Prediction:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
* Dean Ornish repeats a similar mantra to audiences that he is 'unaware of any studies linking heart disease to blood types', when even the most cursory of searches on MEDLINE would show 200+ articles since 1966 (and probably over 300 from 1950).
This week's TIME magazine featured an execrable perspective on The GenoType Diet courtesy of columnist Andrea Sachs. In a column called Calorie Countdown she treats TIME readers to an array of her opinions on the various 'notable diets of 2008.'
The GenoType Diet gets short shrift from the pen of Ms. Sachs. In an analysis which appears to me no deeper than the back cover of the book's dust jacket (while also deriving substantial inspiration from The Fifth Dimension) she writes:
By Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo, with Catherine Whitney (Broadway; 317 pages). Naturopathic physician D'Adamo has identified six "GenoTypes"--the Hunter, the Gatherer, the Teacher, the Explorer, the Warrior and the Nomad--and gives food dos and don'ts for each. The book comes off about as scientific as telling Scorpios they should eat only food grown when Jupiter aligns with Mars.
Trying to learn more about who writes this type of article for America's most beloved weekly illustrated magazine, I retrieved this biography off the TIMES.com site:
Andrea Sachs is a former English major whose dreams were fulfilled when she became TIME's publishing reporter in 1995. What could be better than interviewing authors, reading fabulous new books, and going to publishing parties?
I guess Goethe was right. You do see what you know. Ms. Sachs never interviewed me, and seems to have not actually read my 'fabulous new book.' As far as the parties... well.
Some people seem to just get things wrong. One can only suppose that in world of Andrea Sachs I actually think that the universe splits up into Teachers and Nomads and that Teachers should teach stuff and Nomads should wander around. Those are just memes. Science writers often do this in an attempt to bring complex characterizations to life for laymen. That, as any good English major should know, is called a literary device. Read The Seven Daughters of Eve by Brian Sykes for a similar treatment. In the last third of the book Sykes writes narratives about fictional clan mothers ('Helena', 'Tara', etc.) which correspond to one (or more) human mitochondrial haplogroups.
A friend of mine was fond of saying that "You can always spot the pioneers. They are the folks with the arrows in their backs."
Now, that's real science.
*. The phrase 'file under futile' is from 'Back In Judy's Jungle' by Brian Eno
The etymology of pathos, pathetic and pathological are all the same. They come from the Greek word ('pathologia') that is the name for the study of emotions.
Can you judge a book by its cover? What about if you don't even have a cover?
Recently my publisher leaked a tidbit about The GenoType Diet to one of those glossy woman's magazines. In an article of perhaps two whole paragraphs the editors chose to mention my book and another one I had never heard of as two of the new books on genes and diet.
Anyway, after a quick trial and summary execution from the resident expert, the reader was essentially advised to read the book not written by me.
Now, in case you don't already know, virtually all the women's magazines are the lock and stock domain of organization shills for professional nutrition associations, which is why the advice in these ad-driven magazines is so generic and inoffensive. Though they act the part of impartial consumer advocates, most glossy womens magazines are in the diet business themselves, usually cranking out a 'new' one with every issue.
I doubt that the resident experts ever laid eyes on a copy of The GenoType Diet. The manuscript wasn't ready in time to send them a galley copy.
So here we are. 'Experts' now tell us to avoid reading something they've never read.
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."
We were talking about diets the other day and one of the people at the table mentioned that they had brought up the subject of the Blood Type Diet to several friends who ran a health food store. Their friends had certainly heard of it, but responded that that concept was "old" and "past its prime." Thinking perhaps they were correct, I decided to compare my first book, Eat Right For Your Type with current as well as past diet best sellers to see how it held up.
Interestingly, many of these books have long gone on to paperback, whilst ten years after its release Eat Right For Your Type keeps chugging along in hardcover. Another factoid I just learned from my editor is that Eat Right at $24.95 is priced substantially higher than the usual hardcover diet book which typically has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $19.95. Since amazon.com gives up to the date sales ranks, I thought I'd use their ranking system as a good idea of current consumer interest.
Here are the results:
|The Maker's Diet (Rubin HC)||3,854|
|Eat Right For Your Type (D'Adamo HC)||226|
|Healthy Aging (Weil HC)||1,667|
|Enter The Zone (Sears HC)||3,688|
|Atkins for Life (Atkins P||489,632|
|Eat Less, Weigh More (Ornish P||6,388|
|The No Grain Diet (Mercola P||270,636|
PD=Paperback HC=Hard Cover
Doesn't look past its prime to me. In fact one of my daughters, who relentlessly checks its standing on Amazon, tells me that Eat Right more typically hovers around #150 and will peak at 30-35 when I do a radio or television show. Like most books on Amazon, you can also buy a second-hand copy of the book you are perusing from an Amazon-approved independent vendor, with the listings set up as a sort of reverse auction, lowest prices first. The lowest price being asked for a second hand copy of Eat Right For Your Type was $7.95, whereas the lowest asking price for most of these other books hovered between one cent and fifty cents.
Health food stores are often difficult arenas for the BTD. The concept requires both education and discussion, which a lot of retailers don't have much time for. Also, like other sales-driven entities, the health food industry tends to get seduced by new and exciting things. It just makes me even more appreciative of the doctors and retailers who use the concept day in and day out in their work .