In celebration of Vegetarian Awareness Month, the non-profit group Oldways interviewed me and my colleague Mark Rifkin, MS, RD, LDN to get some historical and practical perspective on vegetarian diets. Oldways, while not a vegan or vegetarian organization, promotes traditional plant-based food patterns for health.
I was especially happy to be teamed up with Mark for this interview. He and I bring some different perspectives to our work, but we agree on most of the important issues—in particular that nutrition guidance has to be based on current research, not personal belief and wishful thinking. (My favorite quote from the interview is Mark’s answer to the question about how we should respond to those who have questions about roles of fats, oils, and carbs in the diet. “I respond by suggesting that others review the evidence with a critical eye, not just an adoring, worshipful eye.”)
Thank you to Georgia Orcutt, Oldway’s Program Manager, for including me in the interview and for her thoughtful questions. You can read the interview with Mark and me here.
Thanks for sharing that interview! I’ve never heard of Mark Rifkin RD before and always enjoy finding new people who are doing interesting work on plant based nutrition. I hear you both on your choices of favorite cookbooks! My copy of The Moosewood Cookbook is also missing its cover, stained and very well used after 30+ years. Laurel’s Kitchen is the second vegetarian cookbook I ever bought. Smiles on this reader’s face.
Thanks so much for your smiling comment. I’m local to Baltimore, and my first book is still in process. You may find me at Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA, where I’ve presented the last two years. I plan to present there next year as well, and I also plan to exhibit at various veg festivals around the country in the next few years. I hope to meet you soon.
I enjoyed the Oldways interview very much. Dr. Rifkin mentions near the end of the interview that he recently did a research review of the no-oil position that doctors such as John McDougall, Neal Barnard, and T. Colin Campbell take about vegan diets. I’d really love to read that, as I’ve struggled with eating a no-oil vegan diet for a few years, finding it hard to do each time (and leading me into binge eating episodes) but trying to persevere because the doctors are so insistent that it is the ultimate diet for optimal health. I have since moved to a more liberal vegan diet that follows more the guidelines of Vegan For Life and I am much happier (and haven’t binged since). So I’m really interested in seeing another perspective on the research about no-oil vegan diets.
Same here! I totally agree!
No need to call me Dr. (I’m not a doc), but I appreciate the sentiment. 🙂
I will be presenting the review of the no-oil presentation as a webinar topic through my website (balancednutritiononline.com). Feel free to sign up on my homepage and like my Facebook page Balanced Nutrition Solutions.
The nature of the data omitted from no-oil publications and presentations is significant, in my opinion, and changes the entire context of the no-oil claim. Such omissions are very disappointing.
In short, as long as you eat well-balanced, nutrient-dense meals, and you don’t use oil in large amounts, you’re on the right track. Thanks so much for your comment!
i just listened to Mark’s recent interview with Victoria Moran. I hope Mark will broaden the discussion beyond just one study of Dr. Esselstyn’s and the overall advice in Dr. Esselstyn’s 1st book (he’s done more research since then and refined his concepts), and note that Drs. T. Colin Campbell (who’s significant mentioned and praise Dr. Esselstyn’s work and noted that it’s unprecedented and not a sample size issue), Dr, Neal Barnard, Dr. Alan Goldhamer (over 10,000 patients the past 30 years), and Dr. John McDougall, all concur with Dr. Esselstyn dietary advice regarding no oil, no salt, no sugar.
There’s also the recent 200 person study published by Dr. Esselstyn that had 90% of the heart patients compliant and 90% of those showed significant reversal of heart disease symptoms.
There’s also the matter of why Mark hasn’t addressed his concerns directly with any of these Doctors. As far as I know, he hasn’t. I offered, in phone conversation with him last year, to take any questions and/or concerns he had directly to Dr. Esselsyn (I have his phone number) and Dr. Barnard (I was to interview him a month later). Mr. Rifkin never availed himself of the opportunity to engage in discussion with these two scientists. He was given the opportunity to disagree and see what they said, and we’d all be smarter as a result.
Finally, here’s what a man with over 250 mostly peer-reviewed studies under his belt and directed the largest study on human diet in history, “The China Study,” Dr. Campbell, had to say about Esselstyn’s earlier work. This is from “WHOLE:
“ESSELSTYN’S HEART DISEASE REVERSAL STUDY: In 1985, Esselstyn recruited patients with advanced but not immediately life-threatening heart disease for a clinical trial to explore whether heart disease might be reversed using diet… The subjects had forty-nine cardiovascular events in the ninety-six months prior to the intervention, and zero cardiovascular events in the roughly 312 months since the intervention began. This life-and-death finding is about as profound as any health benefit I have ever known. Nothing else in medicine comes close.”
“STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE VERSUS MEANINGFUL SIGNIFICANCE: …You may be wondering about the size of Esselstyn’s study, since his experimental group was so small. Is eighteen a large enough sample size to prove statistical significance? To answer that question, let’s say Group B, the control group, still gets four to five attacks per week on average. Group A, the group getting the new treatment, gets no more attacks at all. None. Zero. Hundreds of data points are no longer required when the effect is so large. The likelihood that such profound, consistent results are the result of chance is nearly zero.”