Cordain vs Campbell

I recently read what is entitled the “Protein Debate” between Loren Cordain, a paleo diet proponent, and Colin Campbell, a plant-based diet proponent. Given that I’m simply a graduate student without any specific adherence to either diet philosophy, i found the debate to be fascinating. Both had strong points to defend their positioning. In short, this is how it goes:

  • Loren Cordain argues that because nutritional science is a young, evolving science with little agreement as to what is correct in eating for the general population, they should have a “guiding paradigm” based on the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The paleolithic diet would be one that include high amounts of protein from lean meats and minimally processed foods of paleolithic resemblance.
  • Colin Campbell argues that nutritional science is not young (it’s older than many other sciences) and, that, although knowledge of ancestral diets may be helpful, “biological complexity” throws out its use as a reference standard (after all, high calorie intake from meat may have increased likelihood of reproduction, but not guarded against disease). The priority should be given to searching for dietary factors that cause “collective disease and health outcomes” to guide nutritional recommendations.

You decide. They could, in fact, both be right and wrong on different levels. David

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

One thought on “Cordain vs Campbell

  1. Cordain cited tons of research, and provided many strong arguments. Campbell cited almost nothing, other than his own research and then mentioned Ornish, Mcdougal, Esselstyn, all of which were horribly uncontrolled experiments where the researchers took a group of people and took them off of refined sugar, refined oils, cigarettes, white flour, and red meat. Then they claimed ALL the benefits they saw were from cutting meat. Junk science. Campbell's entire career is an amazing case study in the confirmation bias: every page of his works confirm his pre-conceived narrative. Cordain owned this one, even though I believe Cordain has his own faults and blind spots. don't we all.

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