Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hero of the Month: Denise Minger

I"ve been more than lax in my "Hero of theWeek" entries, so I'm going to try to post monthly and hope I can stick to that schedule. 

Denise Minger is many things, I'm sure, but she's my hero specifically because of her blogging activities.  As you can probably tell by the name of her blog, Denise is a raw food advocate, and I'd place her roughly in the raw paleo camp - she eats foods available in paleolithic times and doesn't cook them.  Yes, that means raw meat, egg yolks, and so forth. 

Now I'm not a raw food advocate - I'm not against it, but I can't personally get over the ick factor of eating raw meat.  Would we be better off eating raw?  I'm not sure - the science I've seen on this seems mixed.  Some nutrients are more bioavailable in cooked foods, some less.  I don't do a lot of research into this area because even if I discovered that an all raw diet was healthier I just can't bring myself to do it. 

There are two overall reasons Denise is my hero.  The first (but not the one that brought her to my attention) is her overall approach to nutrition.  You can read her blog yourself to see what I mean, but she's the best kind of scientist.  She has experimented with  many diets, on herself, and made many modifications until she found a mix that works for her - makes her feel and look good.  She's very open about acknowledging that this eating style may not work forever and that she may tweak it further in the future if she finds something else to make her healthier.  So a strong research background combined with a nice lack of dogmatism - that's how you get at the truth.

The second thing I love about Denise is her posts dissecting various scientific publications, including most famously The China Study.  If you're not familiar with it, The China Study (I won't link to it out of sheet spite) is a book based on a massive amount of data taken in China (go figure) that got detailed dietary information and health status information from a huge number of people.  The book took this raw data and tortured it to make a case for veganism.  It's been torn apart by a number of people - the authors don't understand statistics, they ignore strong correlations that don't match their argument, so on and so forth.  Denise took that criticism to another level entirely.  She took the raw data (publicly available) and did a much more sophisticated analysis of it, showing how specious the book's authors conclusions were and finding some new stuff - like a very nice demonstration that wheat consumption may be pretty bad for us. 

This was a massive task, labor-wise, and not done to further a book sale or supplement company.  She did it, I assume, to satisfy her own curiosity, and shared it to edify the rest of us.  To be honest, these posts could form the core of an intro to science course at a university.  In fact, we'd all be better off if intro to science courses were all based on this kind of writing.  Until then, I highly recommend going through Denise's blog regularly.  I guarantee it will provide food for thought and help you clarify your own thinking about science and research and the dangers of just reading abstracts!

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