Feb 22 2012

Partial stories have value too.

It is not enough to be in the right place at the right time. You should also have an open mind at the right time. –Paul Erdos

One thing I’ve noticed about my work with blood groups, which has done much to convince me that it is truly valuable, is the fact that it seems to make a considerable number of conventional and alternative practitioners equally apoplectic.

Recently, on a Facebook group that I belong to, a participant asked the other members what they ‘thought about the Blood Type Diet’. I was surprised by the intellectual horizon of many the responders. It seemed that the practitioners who were skeptical of the theory had tried it once for a while, or had known or heard of someone who had tried it unsuccessfully, and did not support its use for these or similar other reasons.

I had left this group a while back, after a particularly snarky attack from a Ayurvedic practitioner, who went to great lengths to prove that Ayurvedic classifications were superior; using, of course, himself as an example. As a blood type A, he tried to make the point that while a vegan, he was always sick, as if to prove that the type A diet is a vegan diet, which it is not.

It brought back to mind this quote from Sinclair Lewis:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

This current discussion thread included a response from an acupuncturist and was quite typical of the more negative responses:

I don’t think its ready for prime time. Lectins in blood are not the whole story. When I eat as recommended for my blood type I get bloated and gain weight.

To me this brought up the question of what happens when we evaluate information simply and exclusively by whether we like or agree with it. Read any diet blog, pro or con something, and you’ll quickly see just how pervasive this is.

I wrote this response and thought I’d share it.

In any discussion one can expect a combination of facts, experiences and opinions. All are valid in their own way. Partial stories can be helpful as well.

Some basic facts: the digestive tract normally glycosylates in a manner influenced by age, diet, pathology, species, microbial load, ABO group and ABH secretor status. That is just basic glycobiology and this list of contributing factors is well-known.

The same is true in any scenario characterized by aberrant glycosylation, which in its own right, characterizes an extraordinary range of pathology: malignancy, inflammation, dysbiosis, and aging all show derangement in glycosylation. Indeed in most cases it is their preeminent phenotypic manifestation. So at its very minimum, as a member of this list, ABO/secretor is a partial predictor of all this. Aside from that a variety of phosphatases, brush border hydroxylases, and who knows how much of the microbiome is conditioned by ABO expression in the gut. Any PubMed search should suffice to prove the point.

Out of the box, the basic ABO-only diets developed for each blood group work in about 80% of the people who employ them. That percentage is from over 8000 case reports generated off of our main website from 1999-2003. Certainly not perfect, but then again what is?

Confirmation biases aside (and they are obviously there), the data showed one particularly interesting trend: the 80/20 percentage was consistent across the groups. In other words, 80% of the type Os claimed the diet was beneficial, as did 80% of the Bs, 80% of the As, etc. Now as anyone who has read even the basic book can tell you, the A diet looks nothing like the O diet. However 20% is obviously a large number of unhappy people, and it is entirely feasible that any given person can reside there. There can be a plethora of reasons why the the recommended diet for a blood type could fail, perhaps in the great majority of cases even for reasons that have nothing to do with blood type.

Although cheap as hell, a simple ABO is a still a pretty rudimentary approach and a second gene (FUT2) which controls one’s ability to ‘secrete’ their blood group substance in a free unbound form can be an important additional discriminant. Adding this to the mix does clean up the results a bit, especially by identifying the the so-called ‘nonsecretors’ who are genetically unable to secrete their blood group antigens in an unbound form. Interestingly enough, nonsecretors make up 20% of the population and the literature is rich in references to a variety of pathology issues linked to this outcome. But that is another story.

Now, what to do about experiences and opinions? They can be honored in their singular nature, but they don’t move the discussion very far. To a person who has gotten no results from acupuncture, homeopathy or Ayurveda, these are all useless things. But we all know that in larger data sets they can and do appear to help a great majority of people. Something doesn’t have to work in everyone, or every practitioner, to be useful.

Thanks for reading.

Take your everyday Super Bowl stadium.

Now multiple that by 48.

Although the post spends a lot time discussing the 20% who don’t respond to the basic ABO diet, let’s spend a few moments describing the societal effects of the 80% who apparently do. As of December 2011, my books have sold a total of approximately six million copies. Assuming that each book is used by one individual (a moderate estimate, since most purchasers seem to implement the program for other family members as well) and then subtracting 20% (1,200,000) from this number (assumed non-responders) yields about 4,800,000 individuals who may have theoretically benefited from changing their diet in this manner.

Let’s put a visual on this. Assume that the average Super Bowl audience is 100,000 fans. An aerial shot of the number of people who have benefited from this theory would have to include 48 fully-packed Super Bowl stadiums.

As Vladimir Lenin quipped, ‘Quantity has a quality all of its own.’

Although participating in these types of discussions is much like shoveling the stables of King Augeas, it made me think about how flippant we can be with our words and deeds and how much truth gets locked away in a vault of our own mind, simply because, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously alluded, we failed the test of having the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

* BTW: Most common discovery about people who visit the forums on my main website and report that the diet did not work for them: They had their blood typed wrong or had remembered or been told incorrectly.

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Partial stories have value too.”

  1. Andrea A Wsec says:

    It reminds me of a quote that you have said– “if they don’t already know you can’t tell them.”

    thanks for your thoughtful response… now can I post it on Vitalist? :)

  2. Jolanda Bassi says:

    Facts’ are not good enough .. facts need to be contrived and manipulated, distorted and then reassembled. Coke needed Pepsi. Macy’s and Gimbel became much more important after a movie was made depicting human nature at its innate ‘self’. Humans are; Predictably Irrational (by Dan Ariel). It’s like spell-check, we mostly know how to spell – but spell check confirms it for (ones own ego) every time we use it, and then it’s REAL.

  3. Hi Peter,

    Love the post and love this blog, really appreciate your perspective.

    This quote “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” made me equally gleeful and introspective.

    If you are stimulating thought, I suppose that is the whole point, right?

    Looking forward to continuing to follow this wonderful train of thought!


  4. John G. says:

    My copy of your book helped not one person, but four in my immediate family, and others, tangentially, whose interest I piqued.

    Keep up the great work, Doc!

  5. user1 says:

    “As of December 2012, my books have sold a total of approximately six million copies.”

    Wow! you can see into the future.

    I think its a typo but still made me stop and think.

  6. Ronaldo Azevedo says:

    I have followed the O type diet since 1998, and have been enjoying it a lot.
    Today a read about the 3 “enterotypes” “thing” (Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Ruminococcus), here:
    At a quick glance, it seems that the O type would correspond to the Ruminococcus type.
    It is 3 types there versus your 4 types.
    What is your opinion ?

  7. nakliyat says:

    Wow! you can see into the future.

    I think its a typo but still made me stop and think.