Konstantin Monastyrsky – Pseudoscience of Nutrition (Part 1)

Surfing through my Facebook wall last week, I came across a post by a self-taught nutrition “expert” Konstantin Monastyrsky. I hesitate to even link to his website here, as it is so full of bad information, misrepresentation, and misdirection that I don’t want people to go there and start believing it. Click the link below if you’d like, but I will break down several areas within it that should leave one to question his expertise and his claims.

First, let’s look at Mr. Monastyrsky’s biography. It begins:

Mr. Monastyrsky graduated from medical university in 1977 with a pharmacy degree. He is also a certified nutritional consultant and an expert in forensic nutrition, a new field of science that investigates the connection between supposedly healthy foods and nutrition-related disorders, such as diabetes and obesity.

There is no mention as to which medical university, although in Russia alone there are several. In the Ukraine where he was from (though it was still part of the USSR at the time), there are also several medical universities. I am not sure why he wouldn’t reveal which one specifically, but it does lead me to question his expertise. There is also no mention as to what type of degree it is. It is possible at that time the Soviet Union still graduated people with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, though at that time the Doctor of Pharmacy degree was pretty common throughout the world. From an education standpoint, much of his “expertise” appears to be self-taught.

The next year he emigrated to the United States from what was at that time the Soviet Union. He worked in the technology field here, working for several banks and contributing to the GUI of Windows and business programs for Windows. I believe he is including this in his biography to somehow bolster the claim of his intelligence. I have no doubt he is intelligent, but intelligence comes in many forms. I know quite a bit about computers and physics, but it in no way makes me an expert in biology or nutrition.

From there his biography is all about his personal experiences with various health conditions, which include diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and others. He later in the bio explains that his diabetes led to many complications such as:

…sky-high triglycerides, erratic blood pressure, chronic colds and infections, painful gout and arthritis, debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, migraines, insomnia, irritability, and depression.

So far, it seems like he has many of the complications of diabetes. But the timeline is a bit jumbled from here. I will pick out a few highlights.

Mr. Monastyrsky quit smoking in 1984 and claims shortly thereafter he developed the symptoms of IBS – but only points out the constipation as a symptom. Constipation is common among those who first quit smoking, so this doesn’t seem like IBS, but just a common withdrawl symptom from the various chemicals in cigarettes, including the nicotine. He went to a doctor, where he was advised to increase his fiber intake, drink more water, and exercise more. Mr. Monastyrsky says his constipation went away. it would seem the doctor used the right approach.

However, when his began developing hemorrhoids two years later, he was advised to increase his fiber and water intake again. He isn’t clear as to whether or not he stuck to his original plan from 1984, but it is clear Mr. Monastyrsky feels the fiber and water approach is not a good one. In 1988, he was diagnosed with IBS, and was told to continue on the high fiber diet. He says by 1994, he had embraced “…a vegetarian lifestyle with even more fiber and water,” and even though he “… kept loading up on carb-heavy juices, fruits, vegetables, breads, rice, and pasta,” he ended up “…twenty-four pounds overweight, clinically depressed, and suffering from a whole range of degenerative conditions specific to type 2 diabetes. The situation with IBS, constipation, and hemorrhoids degenerated, too.”

So far, the entire biography on his expertise is studying his personal situation. He blames the vegetarian, high-fiber diet for his condition, with no measure of the number of calories consumed, a measurement of his water intake (a key component to the high-fiber diet), nor any mention of any medicines he was taking for which he could be having side-effects. He also mentions how his career and his wealth was destroyed by his condition. However, his conclusions get more confusing from here.

In 1996 he began researching his condition further, and decided the best approach to his condition was to go on a gluten-free, fiber-free, and low-carb diet. He says, “Almost immediately the symptoms of IBS—abdominal bloating, flatulence, and pain—cleared up, but not the constipation or hemorrhoids. They got worse.” I am not surprised. My casual research would indicate a gluten-free and low-carb diet lends itself to being lower in calories. Lowering calorie intake and the usual weight-loss that goes with it often helps resolve diabetes symptoms. Also expected, without fiber, bowel movements become less regular.

What is bizarre is his conclusion resulted in a book (with others to follow) in direct contradiction to what he experienced. He writes:

[For my first book, I wrote a] section on constipation because it‘s by far the most common and troublesome side effect of low-carb/low-fiber diets, including Atkins‘, South Beach, Protein Power, and others. By the time I finished writing that section, it was almost 300 pages long.

So, he changed his diet from a high-fiber to a fiber-free diet, and his constipation got worse…and somehow fiber was the cause of his constipation? This fails both on what he observed in himself, as well as not following the scientific process and being based on anecdote.

Throughout this process, he claims to have become an expert on forensic nutrition. He also has used his expertise in the computer industry, because he coined a term that not many people have used, thus his results come up first in a search. His claim is doctors suggest doing everything to excess, using this example:

Traditional nutrition seeks out food to improve health using a simplistic approach: If one apple is good for you, then more apples are better. If water is good for you, then more water is better. If fat is bad for you, then no fat is better.

My personal experience with my doctor is about everything in moderation. Eat some fruits and vegetables every day. Eat less of the saturated fats, and replace with olive oil and similar fats. Eat leaner meats. Drink enough water as to not become dehydrated as judged by the color of the urine. My doctor never suggests specific amounts of water or foods, just to try to watch calories and eat a variety. It seems rational advice is to do just that.

The most egregious claim he makes is that his “science” of forensic nutrition is the only one that follows real evidence. He states it this way:

Forensic nutrition is deeply grounded in an existing well-established, undisputed, and well-settled body of science in human anatomy, physiology, biology, anthropology, and medical biochemistry — collectively, fundamental science. This approach precludes personal biases, which are typical for most medical writers. Hence its answers are exacting and specific:

  • If soluble fiber causes diarrhea, then exclude foods rich in soluble fiber instead of wiping out intestinal bacteria with antibiotics just because the bacterial fermentation of excess fiber produces diarrhea-causing substances.
  • If insoluble fiber causes large stools, large stools cause straining, straining causes hemorrhoidal disease, and hemorrhoidal disease causes constipation, then exclude fiber instead of enlarging (bulking up) stools even more in order to overcome constipation.
  • If overhydration causes hypercalcinuria (calcium loss with urine), and hypercalcinuria causes kidney stones, then consume fluids in moderation instead of drinking even more water to wash out the said calcium, and ending up with debilitating osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia on top of kidney stones.
  • If a low-fat diet causes gallstones, then consume fat in moderation to facilitate a timely and regular release of bile from the gallbladder instead of losing your gallbladder to a surgeon‘s knife.

Nutritional intervention is the next logical step in reversing food-borne diseases, or “nutropathies” (nutritionalpathologies). It combines nutritional hygiene (proper style of eating), nutritional profiling(matching food with age-related physiological needs), and nutritional augmentation (compensating missing micronutrients with basic supplements instead of consuming factory-made foods fortified with iron, folic acid, vitamins A, C, and D, and calcium).

His entire body of research by his own claim is based on his personal experience. That is the opposite of science – it is anecdote. He throws out a quick ad hominem that most medical writers suffer from bias, but that his “science” is so pure that it cannot contain bias. All science has some bias, but the very process of science is designed to reduce and eliminate most of it. Mr. Monastyrsky does not follow any type of bias reducing process.

He then leads into an insinuation that all diarrhea is treated with antibiotics. His claim on insoluble fiber is again based on his personal experience, in which he did not talk about his medications or his fluid intake, thus his single person “study was uncontrolled and does not hold up to research. It also doesn’t fit his own results where his constipation got worse after cutting out the fiber in his diet. His claims on water are in regards to extreme water consumption, and not how a doctor would recommend hydration. Finally, he claims that somehow supplementation is superior to fortified foods – when in reality they are nearly identical. Both put nutrients into your body in their pure form instead of being embedded in the food naturally. There wouldn’t be much difference, and some studies would suggest fortified foods would better aid absorption of the nutrients over a pill passing through by itself. I also enjoy his word salad of “science-y” sounding terms in the last paragraph as a way to bolster his credibility.

Mr. Monastyrsky puts himself out there as an expert in nutrition based on his personal experience. He further made his own version of nutrition called forensic nutrition which he claims is the only purely settled science, when the science is based mostly on anecdotes. He claims he isn’t selling a diet, but then advises buying his books in order to learn how to eat “correctly” – thus selling his own version of a diet. Not only does he promote his poorly constructed evidence, he leaves out several key details and his results contradict his conclusions. He continues to be misled by his own confirmation bias. He doesn’t show any data, nor any studies he has published on the area of forensic nutrition or in treating the conditions he claims to be treating.

A few other classic red flags of misinformation includes a clear need to point out all other scientists are wrong, that he is fighting against big organizations like the USDA, FDA, and food manufacturers, that the current approach is “not natural,” and that while others are just in it for the money, he is putting out this information as a higher calling to help people. These are all hallmarks of someone trying to prove his superiority above all others as a way to market his “expertise.” Mr. Monastyrsky may truly believe in what he is writing, but next week I will discuss some of his other writings which will put that into question. Stay tuned!

About Eric Hall

My day job is teaching physics at the University of Minnesota, Rochester. I write about physics, other sciences, politics, education, and whatever else interests or concerns me. I am always working to be rational and reasonable, and I am always willing to improve my knowledge and change my mind when presented with new evidence.
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26 Responses to Konstantin Monastyrsky – Pseudoscience of Nutrition (Part 1)

  1. jimthepleb says:

    The amount of woo i have come across since being diagnosed with early onset Ischemic heart disease has been an eye opener. The number of people who have told me that it is carbohydrates that I need to cut, and that I can eat as much animal fat as I wish is actually quite frightening. I am not in medicine myself but my father and cousins are and obviously i am under the care of a consultant cardiologist. The ‘advice’ i get from the woo merchants follows a recognisable pattern.
    1) I am told that I am being given the wrong advice by my doctors and that actually I would be better off doing the opposite to what they have told me.
    2) I’m offered a (usually expensive) tablet or herb or book that will ‘prove’ their claims.
    3) When I ask for peer-reviewed papers proving their claims I’m told; ‘ this is so new/old that no research has been done yet.
    4) Anecdote starts to fly: ‘My dad did this for 20 years and never had heart disease.’
    5) The doctors are dismissed as a) under the influence of big pharma. b) Not up to date or c) Unable to use these as yet unproven methods as they are …well unproven.
    Talking to my doc if I were to listen to the 0 carb lots of animal fat advice my prognosis would be death in 2-5 years.
    Having watched an aunt die needlessly after quitting radio/chemotherapy in favour of having crystals waved over her body I am highly sceptical, but can see how others could fall for this, potentially lethal, advice.

  2. gwen says:

    The sheer quackery on facebook astounds me. I AM in the medical field, and it is disheartening to see other nurses, who too exactly the same science courses I did, and used the same critical thinking skills I did at work, fall for and promote this. I can excuse medically naive family members, but I am surprised I have not been defriended yet by family and co-workers who do not appreciate me pointing out the bunk and explaining WHY it is bunk, although in some cases I have had to just shut down the conversation out of frustration (like the one on staving off flu by placing cut onions around the house).

  3. Crystal says:

    His LinkedIn page says he went to Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University.

    I’ve googled him and watched some of his videos. While I’m skeptical, I think he’s been very upfront with his credentials.

    • Eric Hall says:

      That’s good to know. I still am not sure why he wouldn’t reveal this on his website. I don’t think that alone implicates him of anything, but my guess is he is trying to balance his medical credentials with a “regular guy just offering an anecdote” and, to me, is failing at both.

      • Al says:

        “I am not sure why he wouldn’t reveal which one specifically, but it does lead me to question his expertise.” – Eric Hall

        • Eric Hall says:

          I’m not sure what you are trying to imply here – but if I get your direction I will explain as I have to others.

          His education is one piece of the puzzle. Just like it is for me. If I go see a doctor, I can assume (as part of the licensing process) they have a medical degree. This alone doesn’t make them a good or bad doctor, but it becomes a piece of the puzzle. If the degree is from backyard shack university, I might be more skeptical of the doctor’s opinion than if the degree was from Yale. I am not a doctor – my education is in physics. I wouldn’t expect anyone to read this blog and take my word alone on my conclusions on fiber or nutrition in general. But if I was vague “I have a degree in science” versus “I have a MS in physics” – the vagueness would raise a red flag.

          So again – I am not discounting his opinion solely based on his education – but his area expertise + his vagueness on the where gives me pause as to if he is offering a valid opinion.

  4. diane says:

    What I am curious about is why people are so quick to discredit this approach without trying it first. This only offers his advice and research and personal experience. If you have the problems he addresses, why would you not try some of his suggestions? I guess, it’s just easier to stick with wonder bread for sandwiches and be a nay sayer.

    • Eric Hall says:

      There are a few key reasons why one would not want to take his advice if faced with similar symptoms as Mr. Monastyrsky.

      1. If someone has these symptoms, especially if it is a change from past patterns, it is vital to see a doctor. Changes in the digestive system can indicate a more serious condition, which should be ruled out. While he states this on his “about” page, it is not clearly indicated in his posts.

      2. We are given an incomplete story of his health. For example, he worked in the computer industry for many years. That type of job would usually require may hours at a desk. We do have medical evidence that being sedentary is a good indicator for weight gain. Weight gain can cause digestive changes, hemorrhoids, and other symptoms he faced. Changing to a high fiber diet doesn’t change the fact he would not be getting much exercise. If he happened to change to his own style of diet at the same time he changed his career, there is no way to know for sure if it was the diet or the exercise that led to his improvement.

      3. Changing your diet dramatically away from what a doctor recommends to treat your condition could be dangerous. If one is on a high-fiber diet on the recommendation of a doctor, one shouldn’t use Mr. Monastyrsky’s story as evidence to change from that diet. If could make their symptoms worse. Instead, a person should talk to their doctor about changing their diet, and perhaps making other lifestyle changes (more exercise, maybe reevaluating medications, stress, etc) to help correct the problem. Over the long-term, studies show that changing one’s diet alone isn’t enough to change one’s health – it usually requires other changes as well.

      If you look at my other post (part 2), you will see Mr. Monastyrsky has a general misunderstanding of medical science. I can’t be sure if he just doesn’t know or is purposely misusing the information, but his post on MiraLax is very misleading. I don’t find the site to be a trustworthy source, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There is also a chance of some harm. For examples of how that question is answered 1000s of times showing harm – see http://whatstheharm.net/

  5. diana says:

    Actually, he may not be credentialed, but he’s right about fiber. And the importance of gut flora.

  6. Logan says:

    Being a skeptic myself, when I chose to follow this link from a google search I was hoping to find an article written by someone in the medical sciences who could address Mr. Monastyrsky’s claims. But instead I find a recent physics major who, like most young people, don’t have enough experience in life to know just how little they actually know or learned in school (in time they will learn just how stupid they were out of college), who thinks that attacking a person’s character some how disproves their point of view. Mr. Monastyrsky’s website provides many links to fairly recent medical reports backing up his assertions. And to be sure, just about any belief can be supported by studies, but the only rational means to counter these beliefs is to provide better contradicting evidence, not by attacking a person’s character or credentials. An appeal to lack of authority is just as irrational and fallacious as an appeal to authority.

    If you really want to be taken seriously as a critic by intelligent rational people, please take the time to learn about logical fallacies and how to avoid them in your writings. Focus on discussing ideas and concepts and spend less time talking about people.

    • Eric Hall says:

      I hope you will reconsider with a few more pieces of info.

      First, I have over 10 years of work experience between my undergraduate and graduate work. I won’t post my resume here, but my knowledge goes beyond my school work.

      Second, please notice this is part 1. His credentials are one piece of the puzzle. I agree, I wouldn’t expect you to go on credentials alone as a judgment, good or bad. I said that in the post and in these comments. But if you read part 2 (another post) – you will see an example of his poor understanding of basic chemistry. When taken as a whole, credentials included, you will see he is a poor source of information.

  7. Victor says:

    i stumbled on his website and, yes, some info makes sense, others are contradictory. But what really got me concerned was his claim that “fibre causes autism”. He deduced this by the sheer pattern of increasing diagnoses of autism with the “increase” of fibre put in food. By this you could also say Facebook, the internet or the decline of fossil fuels all directly associate with autism! WTF?!

  8. Bivoj says:

    Erick you are a Idiot or you working for gestapo FDA. I was in Tijuana 17 years a go with 4 stage of colarectal cancer and I thing that Monastyrsky is right.

  9. It never ceases to amaze me how vehemently and religiously so many people will defend every crank who comes along selling some unscientific nonsense that he made up. Advise caution, and you’re an “idiot” or “the gestapo”.

  10. BarryBoy says:

    I don’t see that your credentials are any more compelling than his, frankly.

    • Eric Hall says:

      BarryBoy – Credentials are only part of the story. I certainly wouldn’t ask you to take my advice on a medical matter as the final answer for my area of expertise is physics, not medicine. But even if I am talking about physics, or you are talking to a doctor about medicine, it is important not to judge what is being said on credentials alone. Credentials and experience can help you judge a person’s trustworthiness – meaning you may be willing to accept someone’s explanation more easily if they have the education and reputation, but that alone shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor.

      The other part is I didn’t use my credential as a reason for you to trust what I wrote. Sure – people want to know my educational background to understand my perspective, but I don’t hold my degree out at the front of each blog and say that is the reason you should trust what I wrote. Read what I wrote. Look at the evidence presented. I think the science as I presented it validates my point.

  11. Mr. Hall:
    Anyone that bucks the USDA, FDA and government nutrition experts is OK in my book. One of the officers at FDA is a past executive of Monsanto, ( the Agent Orange and Roundup Poison folks.) Monsanto has contaminated and poisoned almost l00 percent of all processed food, and FDA passes it gleefully. Why on earth would you believe that swallowing tons of fiber is a natural thing for the body?

    America’s food has become so contaminated with pesticides, hormones, genetically modified organisms that many, many countries are banning it, but FDA thinks it is swell. Like I said, one of the officers at FDA is a past Monsanto executive.

    Masses of fiber, chemicals, additives, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms are foreign to the human body and cause horrible illness. Just look at the huge increase in illness among the population since the FDA allowed this junk into our food.

    This nonsense about whole grains is just that. It is loaded with gluten, another substance that the human digestive tract is not able to handle.

    Mr. Monastyrsky did not rely upon his own personal experience with fiber. He spent years researching and studying cases. It is this kind of determined research, outside of the box, that brings to light the hideous fraud perpetrated on the public by people that are in the health field business strictly for money, which is the majority.

  12. Jason Richardson says:

    Thanks for enlighting me on this, Eric Hall.

    As I was reading pages on his website, I just had a feeling the entire time that this guy is not legit. What really set me off is right at the point he is about to tell his “secrets” to cure constipation, you must first buy his book as he explains in a condescending way.

    And you are so right about him basing everything on his personal experience. He claims that the fiber/water intake/exercise method that every doctor on the planet recommends is not the right way, was in fac the right way for me to overcome constipation and the other side effects related to this condition.

    People like this think that everybody else must be exactly like them. Well I’m never going to buy his books.

    • denisebreslin@aol.com says:

      Exactly … there is this insular type of thinking, ego-centric that cannot tolerate anyone else’s opinions, knowledge, experience.

  13. VeganBum says:

    The best thing to understand if what someone is saying is true is find out what they are trying to sell you. This guy is selling books and Supplements to ‘help’ your non fiber digestive system…waiiit a second I thought fiber caused constipation, so if I eat a 0 fiber diet I wont be? Yet I need his super special supplement, which constains all the super awesome vitamins and minerals you would get by êating fruits and vegetablês, and books to cure my constipation???? GTFO quack.

  14. denisebreslin@aol.com says:

    The HUGE ego’s of people like this is a problem. They refuse to hear any other methods or science or experiences. When someone condemns an entire area of food, I am skeptical to say the least. Honestly it’s a sad story. CONSUMER BEWRE OF “EXPERTS.”

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