Summer Food Course Photos 2010

Summer Food Course Photos 2011

Summer Food Course Photos 2012

Welcome to this site, all interested in resilient farming!

Welcome to this site, all interested in resilient farming!

The postings most appropriate for you have the label, "Resilient Farms."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Food scientists need to have a little more experience with media....

If I Google my top three favorite food scientists and writers (Lustig, Wansink, Seneff), they aren't exactly positioned in top health and alternative health websites, my team is not getting very much coverage (relatively speaking).[1] Results:

Name                                                                                                  # hits
Robert Lustig (Bitter Truth/UCSF)              7,300,000; 27,000 in Google scholar
Brian Wansink         (Cornell)                                268,000; 2,000 in Google scholar
Stephanie Seneff (MIT)                                          46,800; 1000 in Google scholar
Ancel Keys                                                                             232,000
Gigi Berardi                                                                             959,000;  305 in Google scholar
T Colin Campbell (China Study)                    11,000,000; 78000 in Google scholar
Erminio Monteleone
 (Sens.TasteSci/U Florence))                          464,000; 102 in   Google scholar (English)
Johannes Wirz (Goetheanum)[3]                                   17,900; 45 in Google scholar
Walter Willett (Harvard)                                             1,520,000
Deepak Chopra (health celebrity)                  14,000,000
Andrew Weil (health celebrity)                      3,460,000
Mehmet Oz    (health celebrity)                     5,970,000
Joseph Mercola (health celebrity)                  2,680,000
Marion Nestle (NYU, writer)                         437,000
Michael Pollan (journalist)                             3,090,000
Jamie Oliver (food celebrity)                          47,100,000
Mark Bittman (writer)                                     840,000
Molly Kimball (writer)                                    1,220,000

At the top of the list (in terms of number of hits) are those selling good stories as well as health aids of various sorts (Deepak Chopra ( and Mehmet Oz, exciting writers or food personalities (Jamie Oliver) or masters of story-telling with an academic base, in this case, Cornell (T Colin Campbell).

Aside from the popularity contest, what do these health celebrities, academics, and others have in common, besides the fact that many have ties with industry? No, seriously, there actually is one common theme: No or reduced sugar, and mostly, no or reduced processed foods.

Many of these academics have little experience with media. That’s a pity – because the media exposure advances their names and work, a type of work that is systematic although encouched in caveats, reluctant to make generalizations and recommendations – and even when they do, are not very accessible.

[1] Although consider, too, many top academic researchers/nutrition writers – many of which we may have never heard of, Google them and see how little is their reach.

[3] Molecular genetics and anthroposophical scholar profiled in an upcoming book.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Diets and “Good Science”

With the low fat mantra, consumers have been substituting sugar more and more, and weight and abdominal body fat have been increasing. Not surprisingly, so has purchase of “low-fat,” lite foods – discussed mightily in Sugar, Salt Fat (Michael Moss).  So, there seems to have been some cherry-picking in Key’s work – and the rise of mega industries to support it. Approximately  46 billion dollars has been spent on food science and technology geared at low fat foods. Willing food science and pharmaceutical industries[1] have helped to engineer this.

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source is to provide timely information on diet and nutrition for clinicians, allied health professionals, and the public. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The information does not mention brand names, nor does it endorse any particular product.

This nutrition-news statement describes the practice of “good science” belonging, basically, to those not trying to sell a product – so, I’m nut sure any of the media’s top diet celebrities (Dr. Oz?) would count, despite the fact that they are household words. In this chapter, I want to look at a few who are not. They may be a bit hard to find, but that’s all part of leading a cultivated life – searching out such information. They are three scientists with some hard-to-digest messages -- Robert Lustig of the University of California at San Francisco, Stephanie Seneff of MIT, and, perhaps the most accessible, Cornell University’s Brian Wansink. In the next blog posts, I will be discussing each.

[1] 100 billion dollars has been spent on cholesterol reducing drugs. And what actually has happened to cholesterol levels in the U.S.? They’ve been on the rise, although this is not necessarily a bad thing, if Stephanie Seneff is to be believed. Health claims on food also abound. Best example: Snack wells and weight loss (ref: Wansink).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ancel Benjamin Keys and the lipid hypothesis

The idea of cherry picking data in food science and studies is often associated with Ancel Keys, who died in 2004 at the age of 100. Keys completed studies at UC Berkeley, originally studying chemistry, but then receiving a BA in economics and political science, and a MS in zoology. He was a management trainee at Woolworth’s, but eventually received his PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the age of 26 in oceanography and biology. He also had a NRC fellowship studying fish physiology in Copenhagen  and contributed numerous papers on the subject. His second PhD, was in physiology, from Harvard.

Keys was probably best known for developing K-rations and popularizing the Mediterranean diet (lean meats, fruits and vegetables, olive oil).  A fish biologist and physiology expert from Cambridge, he was handpicked to conduct a meta analysis of a number of countries around the world, correlating saturated fat intake with the incidence of CV disease. He used one of his skills – multivariate analysis as represented in regression and limited the number of countries to a handful – what would become his famous “Seven Countries’ Study.” His work produced a (anti)lipid hypothesis, and a food industry that reifies all.

In the Seven Countries’ Study, the graphs he produced were clear, stark, and disturbing – showing a rapid increase in the incidence of heart disease with saturated fat intake. On the chopping block (so to speak) were everything from Big macs to pork chops to bacon.  Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol were under attack (cholesterol had been implicated, too). Results were widely accepted (including by me) and eventually formulated into “the lipid hypothesis,” which I referred to in both versions of Finding Balance.  The data seemed compelling  – and the conclusion – eat less fat, eat more plants -- an obvious path to weight management and health. The American Heart Association formed soon after that, heavily promoting low-fat messages via recipes representing “heart-friendly foods.”

Many have argued that Keys had been highly selective with his data – ignoring countries that did not fit the pattern. This misrepresentation of science is presented with much fanfare in Robert Lustig’s The Bitter Truth, as well as in many scholarly critiques, not to mention popular ones.[1] The consequences of this “mis-exercise,” especially in light of the results of the multi-year Framingham study, are astounding.[2]

[1] For example, see Gary Taubes, one of Keys’ most ardent critics. Taubes introduces the idea that #B10 a calorie is not a calorie, even eating the same amount. There is a difference between what you eat and how much weight you gain, Taubes says (refs). For example, he refutes the bathtub model, of weight gain, merely calories in-calories out. Carbs as calories-in is the problem. Frankly, most of the critiques are in popular media, and not in refereed journals, save the Framingham study results. It’s, however, worth looking at the anger of internet responses leveled at critiques -- for example at Denise Minger’s critique of The China Study.
[2] Since then, The Framingham Heart Study, begun in 1948 with 6,000 people from Framingham, Massachusetts, has refuted Keys’ research. "In Framingham, Mass, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person's serum cholesterol. . .We found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active." The study did show that those who weighed more and had abnormally high blood cholesterol levels were slightly more at risk for future heart disease; but weight gain and cholesterol levels had an inverse correlation with fat and cholesterol intake in the diet. (refs)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cherry-picking in science, examples!

One of the best examples of cherry-picking has been in the story of the huge expansion of the Sahara Desert, based on a series of articles in 1991 in their highly-reputable journal Science, wherein it was found that the metaphors and images used to describe the phenomenon of drought and famine were inaccurate (a marching desert vs. a desert growing like a rain-fed organism). Lack of rainfall was the problem and not third world women procreating (or goats overgrazing).

One diet magnate who uses science is Dr. Dean Ornish. His claim to fame is the success of use of very low fat diets, along with major lifestyle alterations, to effect changes in health. Ornish, who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is known to be committed to science. “[Dietetics is a] preliminary science, and usually the controls aren’t the greatest, but it is for the most part science (see FN 17).[1]  Of course,  Ancel Benjamin Keys was, as well.

[1] See it’s a hugely long essay/blog, featuring a lengthy response from Ornish as well, related to a series of blogs, in turn, about Apple founder Steve Jobs and whether he had to die or not. Accusations of cherry picking are flying. See . This blog is a convoluted presentation, blog posting: Cherry-picked data and Denier dishonesty.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cherry picking

Whose science?

Eating eggs is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day…
(C 20) So, somehow eating eggs, and presumably the controversial cholesterol in them, does as much harm to bodily fluids and organs as smoking a pack of cigarettes? Seriously? This isn’t science, it’s hyperbole.

Western science typically spins its story in a proscribed way. Another type of science, one based mostly on observation and intuition, is the subject of my next book; I discuss it some in the research of Ton Baars, at the end of this chapter. For now, we’ll look at our problematic Western science.

Typically, there’s a statement of a hypothesis or idea or question, a review of what’s been done, selection of data methods, and discussion of data (Results). Oh yes, and there’s recommendations for future research. And a requisite self-bashing on the limits of the work (why you can’t generalize form the research – like saturated fat causes a rise in cholesterol, of course maybe Twinkies would, too. Or maybe sleep deprivation, arguing with your spouse, or basking in the light of a full moon (we don’t know, unless someone has researched these questions). So, if the low-cholesterol (a sign of disease to begin with) mice, show drops in blood (serum) cholesterol when eating only lean meat, it’s interesting, but none of this really amounts to much in terms of a dietary recommendation (although many have tried).

One reason for this is that many elements of bias can be introduced at any point along the way – scientists are supposed to account for these in their work. More importantly, selection of the research question itself is hardly unbiased. One easily-recognizable and flagrant type of bias is what’s known as “cherry-picking.” Cherry-picking is the purposeful selection of certain data to prove one’s hypothesis, and ignore the data that do not.

Here’s a hypothetical example: Study on the effects of fast food on weight. I put together my research design and gather data (with the help of high school students), using a simple research method (systematic random sampling). In this study, every sixth person is asked about his or her weight at a Mac Donald’s for a study linking weight and number of visits to MacDonald’s each week.  A positive correlation is expected (more visits, more weight), but what if that’s not what you get? You start throwing out some data that don’t make sense or don’t fit – that’s cherry picking.