Commentary on China Study: Dr. Mercola and Chris Masterjohn

Posted to Subscribers on 08 January 2011


Dear Subscribers,

Two and a half years ago, I posted a "hot" news item with commentary:

Yesterday, Dr. Mercola posted a radio interview with Chris Masterjohn, a doctoral candidate in nutrition who has gone over the China Study more meticulously than others:

There are so many issues here that I only want to take on a few of them at this time.

When someone, whether the high profile John Robbins or myself or Chris Masterjohn, decides to become a vegetarian for reasons of conscience or health, the question of how to make the transition is very important. In my case, I was very fortunate that I had been exposed to many cultures from childhood, tried many cuisines, and lived in India for several years. Twice in my life, my mother was seriously on my case about diet. The first was when I returned from a year in Asia as an exchange student. On the ship back, the food served was very Western and I missed rice. My mother imagined that I had been missing her cooking and made all the things she thought I would like. I was starving for rice but was trying really hard to enjoy the mashed potatoes. Oh, hey, I loved mashed potatoes as a child, but my mother probably forgot that I grew up somewhere along the line.

The second time was when I became a vegetarian. She was offended because she interpreted my decision as some sort of dismissal of the value of her cooking and parenting. She even said, "If I had fed you what you are eating now while you were growing up, you never would have grown up." I was brought up to be tactful so while I seriously doubted the merits of her statements, I tried to find some justification for my unacceptable choices. I felt like my back was to the wall and I had at most a few seconds to come up with a great one-liner or she would start phoning doctors and begging them to read me the riot act. Thoughtfully I said, "When I lived in India, the most gracious and well adjusted people I met were mostly vegetarians, people who marched with Gandhi, people who were spiritually and politically active and who did not seen to suffer from senility or degenerative conditions. So, it's hard for me to conclude that their diets are dangerous."

Believe me, it did not end there, but that was, in fact, a very good starting point, but people, even I am afraid Dr. Mercola and his guest, often equate protein consumption to meat consumption. In reality, these are separate issues because there is plenty of protein in the traditional Indian vegetarian diet: lentils, chickpeas, paneer, milk, yoghurt, and nuts and these are served with most if not all meals. In short, one cannot simply delete meat from the diet unless it is replaced by something that provides comparable nutrients.

Changing a diet for ethical or health reasons requires immense effort. There is hardly any part of our life more governed by habit than food, but if you add convenience, ethnic indoctrination, and idiosyncrasies of food preferences, then change is just hugely challenging. I have therefore been somewhat on the lenient side when urging clients to make healthy changes. I try to focus on the most harmful consumables rather than the ethical and nutritional issues. It may not be as scientific but compliance tends to be much higher when the changes are less drastic. However, every change requires a suitable substitution or improvement and this is where a lot of experience and knowledge is helpful.

In my estimation, the crises people like to use to defend their choices one way or another are nearly always due to poor decisions rather than the bigger issue of vegetarianism and all its subcompartments of vegan diets, raw foods diets, juice fasts, etc., etc., etc. For instance, I have a really hard time accepting at face value that Dr. Mercola's wealthy friend much less his guest suffered anxiety attacks from vegetarianism. If they were out of balance, it is because they had not found appropriate substitutes for what they had eliminated from their diets. So, convincing as the arguments might sound to some people, for me they are just as weak as the flaws in the China Study.


We have more food preferences based ethnicity than body type or blood type. When I was in Sweden, my relatives said I ate like a bird. Heck, I probably was a bird in a past life, but I never felt like eating a pound of cheese in one sitting. A slice was more than enough. However, when I looked at my relatives, they looked like me, not birds, and they were healthy. However, I was also healthy. In some parts of the world, most of the world, ethnic food choices have been preserved. The Lebanese still eat falafel and tahini, the Japanese still eat tofu with ginger and soy sauce, and Africans eat cassava and all sorts of fruits and vegetables we have never seen in the west. However, in the highly developed modern world, supermarket food is divorced from cultural roots. What is displayed is processed, adulterated, devitalized, and often microwave ready. This unfortunately fails to satisfy most of our nutritional needs so any study that attempts to correlate health or illness to any specific food choices has to take into consideration the quality or lack thereof in what is generally consumed. Moreover, massive overdoses given to rats are not good indicators of what happens to humans who eat small portions from time to time of a similar food.

Furthermore, we have to factor in issues such as how the food was prepared. Was it tossed into a microwave? refrigerated and reheated at a later date? Many efficiency experts like to spend time preparing meals for an entire week at one time and refrigerating or freezing the individual meals. This is an awful practice so simply eliminating this practice will probably already result in significant improvement. There are two main reasons that reheating foods is unhealthy. The first has to do with changes in the quality of oils and the second with the loss of prana.

I have harped on and on about oils because while they have a bad reputation, the fact is that they are necessary and precious. For instance, hormones rely on oils so when deficient, we do not produce proper hormones and we need hormones. Keep in mind that this means "all" hormones, not just the famous ones like estrogen or testosterone or adrenaline. Secondly, oils act as buffers, shock absorbers, and protectors. We need viscosity in our joints, skin, and especially on the surfaces of erythrocytes and myelin sheaths. Consuming high quality oils makes an enormous difference in health, emotional stability, and the capacity for regeneration.


There are as Dr. Mercola and Chris Masterjohn are aware countless diets with their advocates, some of them as zealous as holy rollers. A good diet is not necessarily only backed by rational science but by clinical observation, or as they fairly state, the person's own assessment of the diet. However, what they failed to mention — though I am sure they are both aware of this — is that detoxification is often triggered by healthy changes in the diet. Therefore when one begins the process of substituting good habits for poor ones or healthy foods for devitalized ones, we can expect the body to react, not just by building better tissue but by kicking out some of the residue from previous bad habits. While these responses rarely qualify as Herxheimer type reactions, they are to be expected. For instance, when we think of the liver, fatty liver or just plain old hard working liver, we see an organ charged with performing a few hundred different tasks, not the least of which is managing foods. If we simplify the diet, improve nutrition, and take some pressure off the liver, it will usually take the reprieve from processing junk as an opportunity for dealing with some deferred issues. Therefore, unless we give the diet a minimum trial of two years, preferably more like seven years, we will probably not be able to differentiate between a haywire and a detox experience. This does not mean that haywire experiences should be ignored but rather than the underlying cause(s) should be investigated somewhat more rationally than our inclinations might favor at the moment. Obviously, the imbalances should be addressed, but then we also have to consider the motivation because whether the motivation is spiritual alignment with one's ethical concerns or health, we want to succeed in anything we regard as important so these nuances do need to be recognized and dealt with accordingly.

Many blessings,


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011







Seventh Ray Press
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011

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