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Are Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser Dealing With Confounding Facts?

This won’t take long. That’s the beauty of confounding falsification in the Poperian tradition of science. Unfortunately, most people are suckers for an endless stream of confirmation of bias, and if the perpetrators never bring up confounders, ignore, or hide falsifications, then they get to ride a gravy train of adulation. So, I’m wondering.

Let’s begin way back in the Paleolithic, by which I mean about 2008-ish. That’s when cavemen finally got a grove on, and men with short hair carrying spears was all the rage. It was a great big party, and I went barefoot. Avoidance of modern foods and an embrace of general carnivory created thousands upon thouands of anecdotes on all sorts of blogs—including this one—and my anecdote is included. It works. No doubt about that.

Many anecdotes do indeed constitute evidence; and contrary to typical puss-mouthed fucktards, if legion, it’s better evidence than whole legions of RCTs. paleo was legion.

…Because it’s fucking real, under life conditions. And a fuck of a lot of data. Those who spurn this sort of thing are merely looking for, or cheerleading for, another grant to “study”something they have neither the time, inclination, or money to do their own selves. They want you to pay for it.

“More study is required” is the literal endpoint of all studies funded with other people’s money.

I find myself in and at odds. I adore so many of the people who made this Paleotard thing happen, consider many my friends, have laughed with so many. But I will not abide bullshit.

Both of these were published mid-last year, but were sent out on their Facebook feeds yesterday, so I saw both. Blame Zuckerberg, if unintended.

On Robb Wolf, written by Mike Sheridan: Grains – What’s the Upside?

Now, here’s how you know you’re going to be lied to, especially given the title.

Grains – The Promoted Pros

What are the benefits of eating grains? I don’t know, you tell me.

Sounds like he’s really out to challenge himself, doesn’t it?

Then Chris Kresser: 3 Reasons Gluten Intolerance May Be More Serious Than Celiac Disease.

Chris’ approach as a hands-on clinician is different from Robb’s as a coachy-trainer sort of guy. So here’s  my problem with a clinician’s approach in this specific scenario.

What would happen if you tested to that level of detail on a broad range of the deconstructed elements on a broad range of foods, with a broad range of people?

See what I’m getting at? But I emphasize, the role of a clinician is one on one. And no matter what he finds in any individual, short of the dangers of a gunshot wound,  it probably isn’t scalable to everyone in a blog post. Just sayin’.

Evolution is a fucking mess, and h. Sapiens is the messiest of all—migrating generalists they are—and that’s why we survived and prospered to astounding measure, and billions of species have already gone extinct in the meantime, in their pristine, taylor-made environments (that man destroyed via anthropogenic climate change from a few hundred million years ago to the present).

To wrap this up: the French eat 40% more gluten laden wheat than we do and enjoy better health markers across the board.

That is fucking falsification of your premise, and that’s as much as I need to ever say about it to anyone and to keep it fucking simple, I won’t.

I’ll add this one little thing as a twist of the knife. How many times have people generally, in the paleo community, mentioned The French Paradox in terms of saturated fat consumption in order to FUCKING FALSIFY the idea that saturated fat is per se bad for you?

Ah, see what I mean?

You want to have your gluten-free cake, and eat it too.

I will not tolerate bullshit.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

13 Comments

  1. Tony C. on February 4, 2016 at 06:24

    Rob Wolf has the best track record of all the “gurus” out there right now, IMHO. For the simple reason that whenever he gives dietary advice he punctuates the end with “Try it for 30 days. How do you look, feel, and perform?”
    He should trademark that and license it to the more dubious gurus.

    OT? OT….. my bad.

  2. Hegemon on February 4, 2016 at 09:28

    Regarding the French paradox, their wheat is also free of many of the pesticides used in the United States.

    I ran across an interesting study regarding the toxicity of Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. It appears to disrupt gut bacteria (among other things), and is linked to a wide range of diseases.

    http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

    There is a documentary on Netflix called “Vanishing of the Bees”, and it’s a great watch. As a result of the work of beekeepers in France and around the globe, France banned several pesticides that were shown to cause disruptions in bee colonies.

    Last year, France also banned the sale of Roundup weed killer from garden centers in the county due to other studies that show it as a carcinogen.

    These pesticides could well be a cause, if not the cause of the problem we have in the States, and perhaps shows why France does not have the same issue.

  3. Karl on February 4, 2016 at 12:08

    Ah! Look before you kill your weed! Some of them are very tasty.
    Weedkillers are out.

  4. rrburner on February 4, 2016 at 16:41

    It’s hilarious to me that they don’t acknowledge longevity villages as a whole. Here we have real world evidence of people who for the most part live long, disease free lives. These villages produce centenarians routinely and they don’t fuck with any medications. Yet these gurus insist on peddling various paleo narratives as the source for robust, healthy living, when the blueprint for such an existence is out there and available – and includes plenty of legumes and whole grains with not too much meat or animal products. It shits on the face of what these “experts” preach.

    I remember Robb Wolf once speaking on the legitness of sweet potatoes, and in doing so referenced the Okinawan’s. You know what else the Okinawan’s eat in abundance more so then sweet potatoes? Whole grains and beans.

    Fucken clowns.

  5. Robin on February 5, 2016 at 05:20

    It’s the gut – if the gut is healthy gluten would not be a problem. Gluten is inflammatory – in all people – entirely all on it’s own. It literally ferments in the gut – Fasano’s research shows this. Other research shows it raises inflammatory markers in people.

    If your gut is healthy it doesn’t matter. Coeliacs occurs when their is the genetics for it and the gut is suspectible.

    The french also eat a lot of saturated fat, so did the Masai. The Masai had perfect LDL / HDL numbers too.

    Why?

    It’s the gut – high fiber diet and probably just good general overall health.

    Some Americans eat too much saturated fat and their cholesterol levels can sky rocket (Jimmy Moore). Others eat more and their numbers are fine.

    Overall health is the key –

    The French can smoke, eat fatty steak and enjoy their bread because their overall health is better.

    Social connection is the key IMO. Avoiding processed and refined shit too.

  6. Nils on February 5, 2016 at 06:11

    Hi Richard,

    Did you reach Ned Kock’s latest paper on wheat and rice? He makes a compelling case that wheat is not the reason per sé that wheat eating Chinese people have poorer health, indeed, there are many confounding facts. He even calls it ‘wheat culture’.

    http://escholarship.org/uc/item/7hk1254d

    Nils

    • Richard Nikoley on February 5, 2016 at 07:47

      Just read it. Great stuff, and ties right in with my idea that modern processed foods are the big elephant.

      Midern processed foods are primarily wheat products. It may not be the wheat though, but all the other factors that fo into it, including the high PUFA fats.

  7. LaFrite on February 5, 2016 at 06:16

    Unless you have fallen into the rabbit hole of fringe internet nutrition theories of the 1st world, these people make hardly any sense at all. In reality, the vast majority of people doesn’t give a damn, too busy trying to make ends meet and ingest at least a meal a day …

  8. wallycat on February 5, 2016 at 08:57

    Some of these “small villages” or islands that scientists looked at also point to less diversity in genetics…and people who start healthy produce healthy babies. 60 minutes mentioned this when they were looking at a very small, hard to get to island off Sicily and studying the “paradox.”
    They discovered a subset of genes that offered health despite cholesterol/etc. in the 300+ range. These “good” genes simply multiply if you have a small pool for marriage prospects!

  9. Brian on February 11, 2016 at 18:46

    Richard,
    The French paradox does not falsify Wolf’s and Kresser’s theories. For one thing, I don’t think those theories say that gluten is per se bad for everyone. And even if they did say that, I don’t think the relative health of the French would falsify that theory. The “gluten is harmful” theory is perfectly compatible with the French being relatively healthy despite eating it. There remains the possibility that they could be even healthier without it but are still healthier than we for all sorts of other reasons. I agree with you that gluten may not be the problem, but for the sake of intellectual honesty (i.e., bullshit intolerance), I think “falsification” is too strong in this context. I think the same would apply to the standard Paleo argument that the French Paradox falsifies the claim that saturated fat is harmful. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t, because falsification would require that the “saturated fat is harmful” theory is simply incompatible the facts (of healthy fat-eating French people). Again, the possibility remains that they are healthy despite eating fat and would be healthier without it. This possibility means that facts are at least compatible with the theory. Again, I agree with the Paleo argument that that theory (“saturated is bad per se”) is wrong, but to claim falsification on the basis of the French paradox is inaccurate.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 12, 2016 at 08:33

      There’s two elements. Falsification and confounding observations. The former applies to categorical statements some make like “grains are per se bad for everyone.” Robb has come very close to this, if not explicitly, implicitly, by saying “everyone has some level of inteolerance.”

      Well duh, kinda. All plants except fruits produce defensive toxins. What nags me is when people speak of hormesis, adaptation, etc., it’s only valid for foods on the “approved” list. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.

      In the second case, confounding observations, at minimum, the case of the French and others who seem to do just fine on grains ought minimally be acknowledged in any case arguing against grains, yet I literally NEVER see that being done.

      • Brian on February 12, 2016 at 13:29

        Yes, I agree — I don’t see that being done either. And, again, I agree with the general thrust of your argument, that gluten may not be the problem. On personal note, I’ve been very helped by all your work on (resistant) starch, so let me take the chance to thank you for that. I’m definitely someone who does well on lower fat and higher carb, and blogs like yours (and Guyenet’s and Kresser’s) helped me get over the (Paleo-induced) fear of going with that. Cheers.



  10. kees on September 16, 2017 at 10:03

    in France you’ll find a ‘pharmacie’ on almost every streetcorner….causality?

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