Dr. Eric Westman Debates T. Colin Campbell

You know T. Colin Campbell from his famous China Study (or perhaps you know him because of Denise Minger’s excoriating analysis of it). And of course, Eric Westman needs no introductions in these quarters… So it was with great anticipation that I’ve waited for the chance to watch their debate.

I have an obvious bias, so I’ll keep my interpretation short: T. Colin Campbell’s reliance on FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) was infuriating at points, but Westman was calm and self possessed and IMO, he argued his case better than his opponent.

Atkins vs. China Study diet. Who won? You decide. from uabnews on Vimeo.


13 Responses to “Dr. Eric Westman Debates T. Colin Campbell”

  1. Hello Ketopia! Really enjoyed the debate. It always feels healthy and good to bring opposites together. Problem is the jury is still out on most things about nutrition if you take macronutrient categories and look at them in observational context or worse if you feed them to poor lab rats/mice with or without a genetically engineered propensity to develop nasty diseases like cancer etc.
    Pity that evolutionary perspective is ignored. We thrived on highfat meat/fish diets for millions of years. Nor did Dr Westman brought up contemporary meat eating societies like the Eskimo and the Maasai.That would have been a very good question for Prof Campbell. The question about protein is interesting. I have heard more than once also within the paleo scene that protein sends the cells into growth mode it activates sertain pathways that could lead to cell division in a similar manner sugar is supposed to do. We think we know now that glucose in particular achieves this mitogenic effect via the insulin and insulin like growth factor 1(IGF1) pathway. But how to protein or I should say aminoacids (AAs) do this? Excess dietary AAs which Prof Campbell condemns so vehemently can be converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis so protein could be doing the trick in by turning to glucose and therefore via insulin and IGF1. I disagree very much with Prof Campbell that plant protein is complete. We would have to consume large amounts of legumes nad it would have to be all cooked (i.e. it would have been sustainable until we discovered/inveneted cooking). AND and this is a BIG AND since most vegetable protein is INCOMPLETE i.e. it does not provide all the essential AAs at one sitting (or rarely so and not in teh right relative proportions) a plant based diet is more likely to generate waste/excess protein that then is avaialble for gluconeogenesis……I was vegan for 16 years and was always sickneeded countless supplements, had serious nutrient deficiencies and even managed to grow lots of benign (lucky for me) tumors all by eating plants only…!
    Very interesting debate. I’d love to see Prof Campbell pitched against Gary Taubes…is there a video of that?Thanks Michael

  2. Until and unless Gary Taubes apologizes for his original defense of ATKINS High Fat Life Style in the New York Times has he any credibility at all. BS (Bad Science) remains BS. In none (zilch) of Taubes’s writings does he even discuss the major findings of Campbell. Look at the index of for ANY of his books and see for yourself. For someone like Gary what is there to talk about? DUH. His BS is so silly it is hard to know where to start. One example his very loose (nearly meaningless) straw man definition of what he calls “low fat” (30% fat from calories) which is totally stupid. He falsely claims that American is on a “low-fat” regimin for the last 30 years or so. THIS IS TOTAL BS. The % of calories from fat remains way over 30% or so. GIVE ME A BREAK. Ignoring facts does not make them go away. WHEW!

    Suggesting a “debate” between Campbell and Taubes makes no sense. One must start somewhere. Taubes continues to publish the worst BS for several decades.


    • Thanks for stopping bye, Gerhardt!

      I think you and Gary Taubes are a lot alike: you are both against bad science. Where you differ is that he tries to engage in discussion, and you appear to make a lot of demands, cast aspersions, and even try to resort to fat shaming him.

      Please take a note from Gary Taubes and share the sources you use to back up your claims. While doing so won’t make your claims (or Taubes’) correct, at least we’ll have more opportunity to understand the science behind the talk.



    • Pity the person who feels he can validate his beliefs by denigrating his opponent’s belly/

    • Well WHAT ? Pray tell. Questiion lacks clarity.

      See New York Times 7 July 2002 article by Gary Taubes. The “findings” implicit in this fully debunked article are recycled with joyous promiscuous abandon in the last 11 years (ALAS). Again, Gary Taubes MAY be worth listening to if he issued a public apology for his exercise in extremely deficient poor science reporting.

      His credibility of the above article is on a par with that of Denise Minger (similarly debunked) and other critics of Dr. Campbell –

      There’s more to life than extreme optimal human performance, but it’s noteworthy to see how vegan Scott Jurik performs.Consider SOME of the over a million related hits. For starters he holds the world record for distance run in a 24 hour period. No low-carb High Fat Atkins Lifestyle folks are worth a damn in comparison. Really.
      Please do not review a million hits without frequent breaks. OK?

      Where are the top elite Atkins High-Fat Lifestyle performers? Inquiring minds want to know. Apologies to National Enquirer.

      Know any? But, as always, existence precedes essence.

      • Hi Gerhardt,

        Please share the references so that we can understand how Gary Taubes’ article is fully debunked.

        Also, please share the references in regards to Denise Minger. I understand you have strong opinions in this matter, but I think it appropriate that you support your claims with credible sources that we can all learn from.

        It is my understanding that Gary Taubes acknowledges that much of the field of nutrition is in dispute, and much of the science is shoddy (and as a result, so are our conclusions).

        As far as examples of elite athletes using Low Carb/High Fat performance? Perhaps Tim Noakes is a good person to start with?


    Tim Noakes intrigues and is worth further study. Nobel Prize winner Roger Williams made a case for Biochemical Individuality.I’ve his book (replete with illustrations) in my library since I was a young man. Telling a story of a ravenous carnivore who can ALSO can perform ultra marathons is well worth following.

    In prime of life, SOME people MAY do OK for a while on pork chops and lard.
    But fact remains, that TOP performers are SELDOM on a high-fat lifestyle. While never an “extreme” athlete of the first rang, I’ve done many long distance rides such as several “double-centuries” every year. In retrospect I was eating wrong.

    I hold an “European Walker” International Marching League award involving many 50K / day walking events – including Nijmegen 200K – four day events. WALKING? Yes, I’m slow. Happy to keep ahead of the street cleaners. My coast-to-coast US and Canadian bike rides as well as European rides along their main “river routes” (source to ocean) would likely have gone better as a vegan then. HAD I KNOWN.
    Better late than never. I aspire to die young as old as possible,.The clock ticks.

    As for Denise Minger, Gary Taubes, Chris Masterjohn, et al and critiques of the China Study, please see Dr. Campbell’s reply is his web site. I see no point in posting massive blobs of “he said, she said” text for those innocent of above.
    At first blush, there’s untold thousands of search hits on above area of inquiry.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I remain outraged at the very loose (nearly useless) manner that Gary Taubes, Eric Westman, et al invoke “Low Fat” as a descriptor. Their use of “low-fat” is a “straw man” that only serves to sustain needless confusion. Ditto with their “Ornish Diet” (which is nothing Ornish would recognize). With all respect to Lewis Carroll and his Alice and Wonderland, why belabor the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee? Over the last 11 years Gary repeats TOTAL fictions to effect that Americans have adopted a “low fat” lifestyle. FALSE! FALSE! The percentage of calories from fat is damned near as it was decades ago. DUH.

    It is EXTREMELY dishonest to call ANY diet of 30% or so fat calories as “low fat.”
    Eleven (11) years is enough for Gary to recognize current macronutrient FACTS.

    • Gerhardt, have you lost your mind? The critique against The China “Study” by this fraud, charlatan, that is T Colin Campbell have all been well placed and correct. But you really only need one thing to blast it apart, which is “correlation cannot prove causation”. The China Fallacy is full of just that… correlations. It is bogus, fake, deliberate lies by a man without ethics. It is not even worth the paper it’s printed on. Best use of this book is to wipe your ass with it.

  4. Ken Mikeska

    Hey Michael,
    I just wandered into your site today and , surprisingly, watched this whole debate. Please don’t let me get involved in this last discussion here. My comments are only directed at you.
    You asked who we thought won. I actually thought Campbell did a better job. I don’t agree with a lot of his conclusions. But I thought he was more poised on stage, answered questions better and made a better argument for his side. Westman seemed nervous during his initial talk and more on the defensive for the whole debate. I also didn’t think he did as thorough of a job at answering questions altho some he answered very well.
    High Protein diet people, especially Atkins people, are fond of saying that the Low Fat crowd always talk about Induction like its the whole diet. And it did seem like Campbell thought that. But I felt Westman should have made that more clear. The Atkins book/website says that more supplements may be needed during Induction and may be tapered off some as other foods are added. Dr Atkins, in the original book, didn’t like industry-made supplements. He noted that at his hospital he had dedicated professionals mix up solutions to give each patient that would be stronger and give a better amount, altho he did say that wouldn’t be practical for most people doing the diet on their own. As you progress thru the latter stages of the Atkins diet you are supposed to add more foods from a bigger list including many plant based foods. You get more and more of the good things that Campbell says only come from plants. As for the side effects like constipation, headaches etc, that chart is also part of the Induction phase. They are predicted to go away as more carbs are added to the diet. Westman, in perhaps a stab at bringing the two diets closer, did say that you
    couldn’t apply any one diet to all the population. I think he should’ve made it more clear that at least on the Atkins diet that more and more of the carbs that Campbell feels are essential are actually added back into the diet. Altho apparently Campbell wouldn’t have been thrilled that even in the final phase of 30-40-30 that as much
    as 40 percent or more of the diet would still be protein.
    Westman kept saying he didn’t work for Atkins and that his practice didn’t include Atkins products. To me it seems disingenuous to write the book and then say he isnt associated with them. At least say that he did write the book but has changed his mind on some of their ideas. I can certainly see why Campbell would think of him as
    an Atkins spokesman. Westman pointed out that until about 1999 it was difficult to get a grant to do work on High Protein diets in this country so most of the work came from overseas. He seems to still be on the defensive not about the diets themselves but at his part in writing the last Atkins book. He seemed to me to be saying the diets are good but he doesn’t really have anything to do with the Atkin’s people. As if they are still bad and misinformed or taboo somehow. But maybe that’s just what I heard.
    Also Campbell did a better job explaining how trials could be shown to have one affect when really they had a different effect. I think if Westman had been prepared to discuss Campbell’s charts on Breast Cancer vs Protein Intake he could have proved his points better than his slides about how one type of study was better/worse than another. Altho Westman talked about how studies had to be done on humans rather than animals for final results, I think he could’ve scored points by pouncing on Campbell’s study about protein effects on Genetically Altered Rats. From a layman’s perspective how do i know that genetically altering rats didn’t cause the higher cancerous cell growth. Maybe they would have had high growth no matter what they were fed. Of course both pointed out they didn’t have the time their normal lectures had.
    So I think Campbell won but I agree more with Westman. But I am not a doctor or a scientist or a scholar. I don’t know about other High Protein diets. I only know about Atkin’s.

    • Ken,

      Thanks for stopping bye! I’d like to thank you for leaving such an outstanding comment. I agree with much of your analysis, but a few things I’ll take comment on:

      Please don’t let me get involved in this last discussion here.

      Deal! 🙂

      I thought he [Campbell] was more poised on stage, answered questions better and made a better argument for his side. Westman seemed nervous during his initial talk and more on the defensive for the whole debate. I also didn’t think he did as thorough of a job at answering questions…

      I find it quite striking that we have such differing reads on this. I haven’t watched the video in a while, but I’d like to carve out some time to see if my impressions have changed at all since my initial viewing (where I wrote that Westman seemed, “calm and self-possessed”).

      Westman kept saying he didn’t work for Atkins and that his practice didn’t include Atkins products. To me it seems disingenuous to write the book and then say he isnt associated with them.

      Thanks for bringing this up. I know lots of people liked the latest Atkins book, but I had a lot of issues with it. I actually prefer some of the earlier versions.

      Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that the Atkins we recognize today is an international brand intent on generating revenue. I think that with the loss of Atkins, a lot of the mission behind the brand was lost. It’s a sad state of affairs, really.

      In regards to Atkins and Westman: I agree, Westman could have been more clear about his business relationship with Atkins. Regardless of whether or not he works for them today, attaching his name to the book makes him a brand ambassador. In the future, he can probably acknowledge that, explain his past and current relationship with the brand, and move on.

      Ah well…

      Once again, thanks for the comment. Lots of good stuff there. I hope you stick around!


    • I think an important point to clarify is that the low carb high fat diets that have shown the health benefits along many disciplines are not high protein. Some such as the Rosedale diet actually recommends a diet much lower than the average SAD diet. Westman describes it as adequate protein. High protein are seeming to come up with health risks such as insulin spikes etc.


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