405: Denise Minger Debunks And Dismantles ‘The China Study’


Health blogger Denise Minger dissects, chops, folds, spindles and destroys The China Study by T. Colin Campbell (Phd) and Thomas M. Campbell II today on The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore.

Denise Minger has made quite the name for herself over the past few months with her methodical breakdown of one of the most cherished books cited as evidence in support for a plant-based diet. Denise did her homework and went back to the original data used by Campbell in The China Study and noticed that the conclusions drawn in the book don’t even come close to matching the evidence from the original study. She’s here to talk about who she is, why she got so interested in the subject of nutrition and health, what led her to begin writing on The China Study, and the response she has received from the blogosphere. This interview had to be bumped up in the schedule because you demanded to hear from her! ENJOY this amazing conversation with one of the bright up-and-coming voices in the health debate!

PLUS: If you’ve been wanting to join us on The 4th Annual Low-Carb Cruise to Jamaica coming May 1-6, 2011, then time is running out to register. We’re gonna have over a dozen guest speakers for you to enjoy along with hundreds of your fellow low-carbers! Don’t miss out on this exciting annual event!

Sign up for The 4th Annual Low-Carb Cruise to Jamaica
Denise Minger bio
Denise’s China Study posts
Denise’s “Raw Food SOS” blog

41 Responses to 405: Denise Minger Debunks And Dismantles ‘The China Study’
  1. Christopher Tyler
    September 27, 2010 | 12:23 pm

    RAD interview! Just awesome.

    • Jimmy Moore
      September 27, 2010 | 1:19 pm

      Glad you enjoyed! Denise is a “RAD” girl. :)

  2. Joe D
    September 27, 2010 | 3:05 pm

    Great interview! I’ve read every article Minger wrote several times. It is nice to hear more of the story.

    One of the interesting things she reports is obesity in China is mostly correlated to wheat and seed oils, but not rice (a carb of course). In fact, others that studied the data says rice is protective against heart disease (until you “overdose”). It makes me believe that obesity is more about what food does to you, rather than being a “carb” per se (somewhat contradicting Taubes.]

    One of the sites you recommended recently, The Perfect Health Diet, explained “rice is good” before Minger and others verified using the China Study data. I suspect that lingering obesity after going low-carb is more about lingering inflammation and chronic infections than carbs.

    Anyhow, I suggest interviewing Paul Jaminet or the Jaminet couple, who also has a book coming out (and an e-book already available). It would be a complimentary interview to this one, and one I’d very much be interested in.

    Thanks for all you do!

    • Jimmy Moore
      September 27, 2010 | 7:03 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion, Joe!

  3. Chris Masterjohn
    September 27, 2010 | 4:02 pm

    Wow, Jimmy, congratulations on getting an early interview with nutrition’s brightest rising star!

    The review I wrote back in 2003 was the second article I’d ever written about nutrition and intended to fill a couple pages in the back of Wise Traditions. I’m glad I saved my more intensive analytical efforts for my work on the fat-soluble vitamins because I really did not have the statistical capabilities back then to pull off anything nearly as amazing as what Denise has done, which far outshines anything I had written on The China Study.

    Every event has its proper time to occur and I think we can all see in retrospect that the heart of The China Study has been labeled with a “Denise Minger, tear here” sticker from the get-go, and I think we can all moreover see that this is just the beginning of many marvelous things to come.


    • Jimmy Moore
      September 27, 2010 | 7:05 pm

      Thanks for your feedback, Chris!

    • Sue
      September 29, 2010 | 12:30 am

      Well said Chris!

      • Chris Masterjohn
        October 1, 2010 | 8:25 pm

        Thanks Sue! I think I actually understated Denise’s brilliance, but such are the constraints of the English language. :)


  4. Darrin
    September 27, 2010 | 11:45 pm

    I’ve been looking forward to this interview ever since you announced it, Jimmy! Denise’s dismantling of The China Study is as masterful as Taubes’s destruction of the lipid hypothesis, and she deserves as much of the limelight as she can get.

    • Jimmy Moore
      September 28, 2010 | 8:28 am

      THANKS Darrin! I agree. Sure hope Denise takes her columns and makes them into a book someday.

  5. Joshua
    September 28, 2010 | 11:26 am

    Please dont take the shoddy China study and use it as a means to promote low carb dogma. Our research is past that. Also, don’t cherry-pick weston price’s research to say that we are best off with high animal fat contents in our diet; Some healthy peoples thrive on high fat, but some thrive on very high carb, very low fat. Check into the Kitavans, the Zulu, or many of subsaharan eastern african tribes (with exception to the dinka/massai). Or check out the non-industrialized Irish/scottish whose diet consisted largely of oats (some fish too). Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing unhealthy about most animal products/fats. There’s ALSO nothing wrong with a high carbohydrate diet, and many peoples–around the equator especially–have thrived on it for millennia. Look into Dennis Burkitt, Weston Price, Steffan Lindenburg, T.L. Cleave, and others. Weston Price’s greatest revelation is that a diet of healthy humans lacked vegetable oils, white flour, and white sugar. Fat soluble vitamins can be assimilated without much fat (especially vit D, which can be synthesized by the sun’s effect on cholesterol).

    • Sue
      September 29, 2010 | 12:32 am

      Joshua, more and more people do better on a lower carb diet.

    • TJ
      September 29, 2010 | 12:37 am


      You make several good points, and it’s true that many hunter gatherer populations do eat a significant amount of carbs, but keep in mind that for many people, low-carb eating controls cravings and blood sugar swings and makes dieting easier to follow.

      A lot of people who find great success with low-carb eating have damaged metabolisms and impaired insulin sensitize, to say nothing of a history of problems controlling their food habits. So by avoiding “trigger” foods and old habits they are able to stay on course with healthy eating and manageable daily caloric totals.

      So yea, if you spend your whole childhood and adult life eating natural whole foods devoid of sugar and flour and seed oils and you have a healthy lifestyle and metabolism higher carb intake might not represent a physical or psychological problem, but few adults in America are so lucky.

      For them low-carb eating represents the path of least resistance to getting their bodyfat and insulin under control.

      • TJ
        September 29, 2010 | 12:39 am

        Edit- that should read: “impaired insulin sensitivity”

        • Bad_CRC
          October 1, 2010 | 11:46 am

          And many people with shot metabolisms have had great success on HIGH-carb diets, too. Pritikin, McDougall, Ornish, et.al. have whole stables of former type-2 diabetics. That’s right, their blood glucose normalized on a diet of 70%+ carb.

          The differences I see between their camp and yours:

          (1) They have degrees and research credentials, and aren’t just laymen or journalists who’ve made names via online self-promotion and mass-market books.

          (2) They have actual disease-reversal (not weight-loss/biomarkers) studies published in peer-reviewed journals (Ornish, Esselstyn, etc.) Angiographically documented reversal of CAD, prostate cancers reversed, etc. Low-carb has nothing comparable to this.

          (3) They can point to MANY long-lived populations (Okinawans, Chinese centenarians, Kitavans, Tarahumara, etc.). The Okinawans have the best longevity on record, and their diet was 85% carb, 9% protein, 6% fat. (Willcox 2007) Long-lived populations on anything like the diet you promote simply don’t exist. All you can point to are the Masai and Inuit who died in their 50s — but hey, not of heart attacks! If that’s your health goal, eat low-carb.

          • kevin
            November 3, 2010 | 3:46 pm

            “The Okinawans have the best longevity on record, and their diet was 85% carb, 9% protein, 6% fat.”

            Yes, well now the Japanese government can’t actually find many of these pension-drawing centenarians. Massive fraud is suspected.

    • CPM
      September 29, 2010 | 12:21 pm

      I don’t think you can use Campbell’s book to promote much of anything other than the fact that we need better science in nutrition.

      An indirect argument could be made though that The China Study demonstrates that animal food is not so bad – a career research scientist did his damnedest to indict animal foods, but to do so he had to resort to all sorts of lying, hand-waiving, and pseudoscience.

      I think TJ makes a good point that people who have spent a good part of their life gorging on seed oils and high-carb processed foods might have different issues with a high-carb diet than others who have not. I think a lot of it is finding what works best for yourself while keeping an eye on the science to make sure you haven’t adopted any habits that will cause problems in the longer term.

  6. Peter Silverman
    September 28, 2010 | 11:47 am

    It’s curious that in India the rice eaters in the south have far more heart disease than the wheat eaters in the north, the opposite of what Denise found China. If anyone knows why, I’d love know.

    • Melissa
      September 28, 2010 | 3:14 pm

      Increased use of seed oils seems to be the culprit. I have some Sri Lankan friends and they said that cheap oils have had a huge impact. Nearly everything is fried in this omega-6 heavy often-rancid oil. Vegetarianism is also more common the South.

      I eat some South Indian food sometimes, but it’s almost impossible to find fried in traditional oils like coconut.

  7. JayCee
    September 28, 2010 | 8:35 pm

    Finally somebody more RAD than me – Awesome podcast – these are the type of people who become Nobel Prize winners – Denise you totally rock (hey you single ? jk) , keep doing it!

  8. Luther
    September 29, 2010 | 8:47 am

    This was a fantastic podcast. I knew it would be good after reading Denise’s critique of the China Study.. But WOW!

  9. hans keer
    September 30, 2010 | 10:08 am

    Great show Jimmy. Amiable “girl”. Asking for the main three issues was a great move, now I can fight the China Study advocates too :-) VBR Hans

  10. B.C. RD
    October 1, 2010 | 9:56 am

    It must be tough being a lay person in nutrition. You have to rely on other lay people like Jimmy Moore or Denise Minger to tell you how to eat or not eat.
    Both Denise and Colin Campbell use the same technique in talking about their interpretation of the same studies, and claims the other is wrong. I wouldn’t take Colin Campbell’s interpretation as gospel, but his qualifications make his analysis a little bit more credible than this girl’s. If we aren’t going to do our own research, and are going to rely on others to interpret the research, It seems silly to put your faith in someone who talks a good game, but has no credentials.
    Not to mention that speaking as an expert in nutrition, any diet promoting low carb is laughable. So a radio show that promotes a laughable concept is promoting some internet blogger who has no credentials, and no background in the sciences give her layperson interpretation of something she doesn’t know how to read. I’m not sold on Colin T. Campbell’s work, but I’m even less sold on this little girl’s work.

    • CPM
      October 1, 2010 | 12:51 pm

      Denise isn’t telling anyone how to eat, and she is not drawing her own conclusions in her critique of Campbell. She is just showing how bad his analysis and interpretations are. You can read her analysis for yourself and decide whether you support Campbell’s way of interpreting results or not.

      Campbell insists that casein is the most relevant chemical carcinogen he ever tested when his own research group got the same results with lysine-fortified wheat. Campbell insists that the maxim “Correlation is not Causation” does not apply to him because he is no longer doing “reductionist” science. His defense of the China Study has always centered on “Hey, I’m a great scientist,” but his casein comments demonstrate that he is a liar and his correlation comments demonstrate that he is a pseudoscientist. So why put such stock in his credentials and not just read Denise’s analysis with an open mind?

      BTW, an organization that specializes in calling out pseudoscience has called Campbell out:

      Since you are so reliant on credentials, which way do you go? Experts at calling out pseudoscience or someone who is well practiced at saying “Hey, I’m a great scientist”?

    • Chris Masterjohn
      October 1, 2010 | 8:29 pm

      Just as a lay person does not have enough background in the science to sort through it themselves, so a lay person does not have the experience in graduate school to know what a PhD is worth or have the experience in grant-writing and research to know how much expertise an NIH grant gives someone. So a lay person is just as unqualified to determine how important “credentials” are.

      I think the appropriate approach for a lay person is to listen to both arguments and decide which one is best, without respect to who is making the argument.


      • Onikukaki
        October 13, 2010 | 10:27 am

        Amen to that!

    • Greg F.
      October 3, 2010 | 4:24 pm

      Low-carb is laughable, so therefore anything promoting low-carb is laughable? Only people with credentials can have correct ideas? Have you been getting logical fallacy lessons from Dr. Campbell?

      Also, do you understand that calling Minger “little girl” negates any possible legitimate point you could make, if you had one?

      I’m having a hard time believing this comment is sincere with all this ridiculousness embedded. But maybe it is. In which case: get a clue!

      • Grok
        November 11, 2010 | 10:56 am

        Einstein, Gates, etc.. did great things without piles of credentials.

    • kevin
      November 3, 2010 | 3:54 pm

      Actually, this show regularly features physicians, researchers, Registered Dieticians and even molecular biologists discussing the benefits of a controlled carb dietary approach. But you wouldn’t know that since you are obviously a hit-and-run detractor.

      Even Dr.Dean Ornish has asserted on this very show that he feels that there is more agreement than disagreement between his Spectrum approach and a low-carb philosophy.

  11. Ronald Pottol
    October 1, 2010 | 5:29 pm

    I found it amusing that Campbell would not come on because of how harsh he expected you to be. If anything, you are too laid back, for example, it would have been interesting to have you talk about what other guests had said during thyroid week, perhaps make the first interview a two parter for follow up (very interesting, and that would have made it more so).

    • Jimmy Moore
      October 3, 2010 | 3:45 pm

      What you see is what you get with my show. If I’m not doing a good job, then I welcome anyone to show us all how it can be done better by starting your own podcast. It’s certainly not as easy as some people think it is.

    • Greg F.
      October 3, 2010 | 4:32 pm

      Campbell ducked out because of what he perceived to be attacks in the forum, none of which came from Jimmy! And the attacks weren’t even attacks in my opinion, and were in the middle of some comments Campbell had no problem with: long rants full of indefensible and hurtful statements about the overweight (by someone who is no longer registered on Amazon, so the original remarks are gone).

      Check out the thread – just a little peek into how Dr. Campbell conducts himself in a discussion. I knew nothing of him before that thread and through reading it and interacting with him saw what he was about pretty quickly!

  12. pleb
    October 5, 2010 | 1:18 am

    An english lit graduate with some anecdotal experience in diet “dissects, chops, folds, spindles and destroys” peer-reviewed scientific research. Are you guys serious? Be rational, see both sides:


    I’m a South African and was practically weaned on BBQs (“braais”) boerewors and steak. Nevertheless I know for a fact that if I ever want to shape up fast, increase my stamina, lose weight and get properly fit for surfing a big swell season all I need to do it munch nothing but fruit and veg and water for a couple months. It really is that simple. Why wouldn’t it be? Don’t take anyone’s word for it, just try yourself, its a lot easier & cheaper than exercise equipment and gym contracts?

    • Jimmy Moore
      October 5, 2010 | 5:48 am

      Pleb, did you even listen to my interview with Denise? We addressed the “Veg Source” column directly. LISTEN DUDE!

    • CPM
      October 5, 2010 | 7:19 am

      Pleb, just because you claim that The China Study is “peer-reviewed scientific research” does not make it true (it’s just a book), and just because a very biased vegan website claims that “Campbell slaps down critic” does not make it true. Seriously, be rational.

  13. S
    October 6, 2010 | 2:36 am

    “Vegan ideology” is that it’s morally wrong and unnecessary to keep and kill animals for enjoyment … including the enjoyment of taste. Nothing more, nothing less.

    “Vegan ideology” isn’t about being anal about diet or weighing 400 lbs and following some weird way of eating to try to lose weight, which is what the low carb thing seems to be about (and many other fad diets).

    I’m a long term vegan and in better health today that I was in my 20s (and I saw my 20s about 20 years ago). This girl is talking about her vast experience as a vegetarian from age 11 to 16, which is a ridiculous measure. That there are thriving vegans who have been vegan for decades is proof that it’s a healthy and viable way to live.

    I agree that The China Study is flawed. To extrapolate that the flaws in that project mean the vegan diet is unhealthy is simply bizarre … “mind boggling,” if you will lol.

    • LCforevah
      October 11, 2010 | 2:44 pm

      I don’t know one healthy vegetarian or vegan and I live in SoCal, the land of pink tofu.

      I talk to a lot of vegetarians who claim to be healthy as they constantly sniffle, while their eyes looked like they’ve been punched out, the under-eye area being so blue. For those who don’t know, that is an indication of allergy to wheat. I have yet to meet a vegetarian who doesn’t catch every bug that’s making the rounds.

      As to the veggie people who look healthy, I’m beginning to suspect that they secretly eat meat and don’t tell anyone, all the while pretending they maintain their WOE.

      I can’t remember what chapter of Lierre Keith’s book,”The Vegetarian Myth” talks about some of her vegan acquaintances admitting they eat meat. Not enough has been said about this.

      • Why S?
        October 16, 2010 | 2:23 am

        Really, LCforevah? You don’t know one healthy vegan or vegetarian? Well you don’t know me. I haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years and I don’t constantly sniffle and I don’t catch every bug making the rounds. I very rarely catch a cold or flu, in fact.

        And I do NOT secretly eat meat.

        In making these statements you are engaging in the same activity that Ms. Minger identifies in Dr. Campbell. You have a point that you want to make and you don’t necessarily rely on facts to make it.

        Keep you suspicions to yourself. Otherwise, anything you say is irrelevant.

        • Auggiedoggy
          October 19, 2010 | 12:27 am

          Why S:

          And my wife’s aunt turned 98 this year and smoked most of her adult life. So this means we should take up smoking? Got any more anecdotes? I’m sure I can match you.

  14. Why S?
    October 30, 2010 | 5:26 pm

    Auggie, I was responding to LC’s extraordinarily stupid statement that he doesn’t know one healthy vegetarian. Why don’t you challenge him to a duel of anecdotes? He either a) has not met many vegetarians b) selectively remembers only the unhealthy ones or c) is lying.

    I’m not sure why you found it necessary to attack me. I was simply stating my experience in contrast to what was an obviously biased, blanket statement.

    I don’t doubt your commitment to a low-carb lifestyle but if that’s the best you have to defend it, maybe it needs some re-thinking.

    And if you’ll notice, I did not challenge low-carb.

    • Auggiedoggy
      November 2, 2010 | 7:17 pm

      Why S,

      Just for the record I’m not a low-carber. I’ve simply reduced, rather drastically, my grain and dairy consumption. My diet is still heavily plant-based with occasional grains. Also for the record, in my opinion the Okinawan diet has produced the healthiest, longest-lived population on the planet. Yes, my comment could apply to LC as well but I have to admit that I can’t fault him that much for his observations. I’ve had similar ones myself. The healthiest people I see follow a plant-based diet supplemented with animal foods, especially fish.

      Challenge low-carb if you wish. It won’t bother me for reasons stated.

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