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Fiber Menace? (part I)

Okay, it’s 6:00 pm and I have to get this post out – and I had a wisdom tooth extracted a few hours ago, and these pain killers are a one-way ticket to la-la land… but here goes.

I’ve taken the opportunity of having little to do at work in the past couple of months to make the rounds of doctors and dentists, catching up on all the visits I should have made over the past few years, and naturally a few ‘issues’ have come up, like the aforementioned wisdom tooth.  Well, my GP tells me that at 43, I have developed type 2 diabetes.  Not good, but it means that I’m going to start eating right and exercising, along with jabbing my finger three times a day to check my glucose levels.  Fun, let me tell you.  Along the way, I did a little research on fiber, because everybody says that a high fiber diet is good for what ails me, and I encountered this fellow: http://fibermenace.com/.

Konstantin Monastyrsky, a one-man crusade against fiber.  He has all the earmarks of a crank, fighting a lone battle against the establishment, accusing all and sundry of invovlement in ‘big fiber,’ an enormous conspiracy against the public’s health.  Only he has seen the truth.  He points to a selection of studies that don’t show the expected results in favor of fiber.  He has a whole list of things that fiber doesn’t do – it doesn’t help your heart, it doesn’t counteract diabetes, it doesn’t clean out your system – domino after domino falls before the assault from this pharmacist, computer programmer, and nutritionist.

Not only that, he makes some good points about the history of fiber, pointing out that early proponents of high fiber diets were themselves pretty much coo-coo for cocoa puffs.  John Harvey Kellogg, for example, was obsessed with enemas and took a very strong anti-sex and anti-masturbation line, reportedly (though it could be a myth) never having sex with his wife.  He was also an active member of the eugenics movement, beleiving that the races should not mix.

So the skeptical bells are ringing.  How do we evaluate Monastyrsky’s claims?  Check back in next week for part II.  I’ll be especially grateful for comments from anyone who knows something about this topic, which has suddenly become very dear to my heart.  As it were.

8 comments to Fiber Menace? (part I)

  • droddy

    THANK YOU. I have had many doubts about the nutritional value of fiber after stumbling upon that webpage a while ago. I noticed that my digestion was better after switching to a low fiber, high fat, moderate protein diet.

    It seemed the more fiber I took in the more constipated I became. Can’t wait for Part II!

  • redcoat

    Hi John

    My motive for posting a comment is chiefly to offer solidarity. I got the exact same diagnosis of type 2 diabetes 3 years ago which, then under 40 as I was, just seemed so unfair. And you’re right, as soon as you start reading around the subject you enter a whole fog of information/disinformation of varied and sometimes obscure provenance. The critical thinking hat has to stay firmly on the head.

    For me its a story of ‘so far so good’. I have the blood sugar under control and I’ve avoided submitting to the abundant quackery. On good days I can say that the condition has been good for me; it motivated me to get my Masters (in Public Health Nutrition), motivated me to get in shape (105kgs down to 80kgs) and put a lid (or cork) on my destructive boozelife. Of course, it’s always a struggle.

    I can’t enlighten you on the fiber question, although I’ve always tended to go along with the belief that it probably has many small beneficial effects – it has afterall always been part of human diet (as far as can be determined). But if you feel the need to extend your brief a little you could address two other subjects that I have myself failed to research properly.

    (1) The possible benefit to type 2 diabetes sufferers of supplemental vitamin B1 (which looked like Science when I caught it the press http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1559766/Diabetes-damage-linked-to-vitamin-B1-shortage.html ) and (2) The possible benefit of to type 2 diabetes sufferers of pumping iron to increase skeletal muscle mass (which seemed more tenuous but may also be Science http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/29/8/1933).

    So ‘solidarity’ to you Jon (and a beer if you’re ever in London). I will share with you my personal diabetic motto – “Cheese is my chocolate” (but then I do have freaky-low cholesterol).

    I’m a big fan of the Rogues and the SGU podcast – keep up the good rational work.

  • KeithJM

    Bringing up John Harvey Kellogg’s support of fiber just so you can talk about how crazy supporters of fiber are is an ad hominem attack. He might also have been in favor of several non-crazy things (say, arresting pedophiles). Can you use him as an argument against arresting pedophiles too? I don’t really care about fiber either way, but I’ll bet I can find some historical wacko that HATES the stuff. Maybe Hitler hated fiber.

    Anyway, show us the proof that fiber is good or bad. Leave the wackiness of historical players out of it.

  • Jon Blumenfeld

    KeithJM,

    I agree that Monastyrsky’s use of Kellogg proves nothing – but I think Kellogg’s fiber obsession is a good point that should get us asking questions. After all, Kellogg held himself out as an expert on nutrition and had a tremendously successful company predicated on the idea of selling high-fiber foods. He also had an institute that pushed fiber as well – along with a bunch of crackpot theories about diet and sexuality.

    Now, that still doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. The question I want to try to answer is this: Is Monastyrsky a crank, or is he on to something? He sure gives off a lot of crank fumes, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. That’s the question I’ll try to answer next Thursday.

  • Jon,

    Thank you for bringing up my work to this forum’s attention.

    I found something amusing in your comments. A fellow skeptic refers to another skeptic as a “crank,” and sets a rather negative tone for ensuing discussion…

    Another “skeptic” gets into blog rage without yet reading a single line of my book or site… What gives, KeithJM?

    If you guys are real skeptics, please don’t act just like some typical old cranks.

    Good Memorial Day weekend to all!

    Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of Fiber Menace
    http://www.FiberMenace.com

  • Jon Blumenfeld

    Konstantin,

    Let me respond by saying that I didn’t actually call you a crank, though I could certainly see how you might feel that way. I said you had the earmarks of a crank – which proves nothing about you at all. But I’ll cop to setting a negative tone, which I admit is not quite fair.

    It probably comes from years of trying, in my amateur way, to evaluate claim after claim on the fringes of the mainstream. You are something of a lone voice, you are accusing the medical establishment of involvement in a grand conspiracy, your claims go against what appears to be accepted scientific opinion, etc…. Now, that does not mean you’re wrong, and that does not mean you’re a crank. It just means that my instincts as a skeptic are on high alert.

    Finally, as I mentioned – for my own health reasons – I have become very interested in this topic. Any further information you can provide would be very much appreciated.

  • Jon,

    Thank you for being a good sport. I started this work in order to recover from type 2 diabetes. Just like you, I was 43 at that time.

    In the nineties doctors weren’t testing A1C yet, so diabetes was easily missed. I explain all this here: http://www.fibermenace.com/author/author.html

    I am diabetes-free today, and my diet is fiber-free too. Here I explain why fiber isn’t effective for diabetes: http://www.fibermenace.com/fiber/myth.html#qt_2.

    This particular quote “Fiber intake has also been linked with the metabolic syndrome, a constellation of factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes.” is coming from The Harvard School of Public Health: (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fiber-full-story/index.html)

    So as you study my analysis page by page, and follow through on endless references to mainstream research that I provide, you’ll realize that I am simply an investigative medical writer without any particular bias, except for facts and truth.

    I look forward to part II of your take on this subject.

    Thank you again,

    Konstantin

  • Jon,

    Please chew on this:

    » Is it true that fiber speeds up stools?

    “There is little or no relationship between dietary fiber and whole gut transit time;” (Source: Rome II: The Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, one of the most respected and authoritative textbooks on clinical gastroenterology; First published in 2000;

    » Is it true that fiber helps people with constipation?

    “Those with defecation disorders or slow transit respond [to fiber] much less favorably. Those with severe colonic inertia may not be helped by fiber, since there is decreased smooth muscle contractile activity.” (Source: ibid; the euphemism “much less favorably” in politically correct medicalese means “much worse” — KM.)

    » Is it true that fiber prevents colon cancer?

    “For years, Americans have been told to consume a high-fiber diet to lower the risk of colon cancer — mainly on the basis of results from a number of relatively small studies. Unfortunately, this recommendation now seems mistaken, as larger and better designed studies have failed to show a link between fiber and colon cancer.” (Source: Harvard School of Public Health, first original reporting in 1999)

    » Is it true that fiber prevents heart disease?

    “The rate of CHD [cardio-vascular disease] mortality was reported to be inversely associated with fiber intake across 20 industrialized nations, but adjustment for fat intake removed the association.” (Source: American Heart Association, first reported in 1997;) (29)

    » Is it true that fiber is effective for weight loss?

    “Fermentable and nonfermentable fiber supplements did not alter hunger, satiety or body weight in a pilot study of men and women self-selected diets” (source: A report by Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, study reported in 2003 [31])

    Excerpted from here: Dietary Fiber: The Bull’s S..t in The China Shop; http://www.gutsense.org/gutsense/chinashop.html

    Konstantin Monastyrsky

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