This blog is all about Dr. T. Colin Campbell — mostly in his own words.
After first discovering him on the internet in early 2003, I immediately had the feeling that he was a man of deep integrity who had earned an unprecedented amount of legitimacy and credibility during his 50-year career. I also came to learn that he is a man of great courage; risking his livelihood by telling the world the “dirty little secrets” that science was telling him about our typical Western diet.
Shortly after his book came out in January of 2005, I decided to make it my business to get to know this great man and some of the other great professionals that he introduced in The China Study. Now that I have become his friend, I have Dr. Campbell to thank for my first published book that is sitting here on my desk. He has opened so many doors for me that I have lost track of the number.
Having just scheduled a meeting with him in three weeks to strategize how we might best deliver his life-saving message to the world, I decided to honor him today in this post and share some of his exceptional wisdom that you may not have seen before. The remainder of this post is pure Dr. Campbell. (Most of the following is published online; with some from a few selected emails to me, and they are noted.)
T. Colin Campbell, PhD, in his own words
On Hard Work & Integrity. I was personally close to my father, well known for his very high bar for integrity and honesty that he insisted that his sons abide by. I grew up on a dairy farm, worked really hard long days and, along with hunting, fishing and trapping in my spare time, it was an almost idlyllic life. Most importantly, I heard well my father’s advice, above all, to always do the best I could to learn (he only had a couple years of education), to tell the truth and to be cognizant of the needs of others. His life was exemplary in honesty and integrity.
On President Clinton. President Clinton has gained health after reading our book, The China Study, which he told to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. A mutual friend of Clinton’s and mine, a four-time governor (Jim Hunt) of North Carolina, got two autographed copies of our book to give to Clinton around 2008.
Clinton had already known of Dr. Ornish’s book and we summarized his and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s brilliant work on reversing heart disease in our book. President Clinton abided by our recommendations and gained exceptional health.
His family’s own personal health. I know that my physique and my health is only a case of one, but I am quite happy with it nonetheless. My father had his first heart attack when he was 62 — in spite of being almost continuously outdoors his whole life (he was a farmer). He ate lots of fried foods and animal based foods (he had almost NO processed foods in those days!). At 70, he passed.
His brother passed at 58 when he had his first and only MI, also a big meat eater. Their father, my grandfather, had a fatal stroke at 73. I think I can say that a heart problem existed in my family.
I am soon going to be 78. Additionally, I just came back from my morning run of 4.2 miles, and worked out on our exercise machine (I run almost every day 2.7–4.5 miles, except missing some days when I travel). Except for an occasional B12 supplement that my wife insists on my taking, I take no pills or potions (including Viagra) and feel fit as a fiddle.
My wife’s family has a tendency for cancer (her mother passed at 51 of colon cancer, her brother of lung cancer at 53). My wife of almost 50 years is 70 years of age–no pills or potions–and exercises like I do, trying to get in 3-5 miles every day, either on the treadmill or outdoors.
On veganism and his research. Although I respect those who choose to be vegans, I never went into my research and teaching work over a half-century ago trying to prove that veganism or vegetarianism was my goal. I didn’t even learn of those words until late in my career. Except for 1-2% of unsolicited funding, all of my research was paid for by the American taxpayer. I am simply interpreting what we did and what I learned in order to tell these generous people what I did with their money.
On cancer; its cause and prevention. Responding to my post about Steve Jobs dying of pancreatic cancer, Dr Campbell wrote:
“About 25 years ago, we reported on the effects of dietary fat on experimental pancreatic cancer in laboratory rats and published our results in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, who featured our results on the cover of their journal.
Finally, the associations of animal protein and fat with pancreatic cancer are beginning to make news and your help in publicizing this observation is gratifying.”
On his “dream study.” (in a 10-8-11 memo to me) You may recall my long time interest in doing a professional study of the effects of a whole food plant based diet, not only to determine how comprehensive it is, but also to learn something about why some individuals doing all the wrong things fail to get the expected diseases and why other individuals doing all the right things (presumably) still get one of these diseases. I have found it very difficult to get people to understand this need.
His online review of the latest “New Atkins for a New You” book.
Posted on Amazon on March 18, 2010. Only a few paragraphs are included below; for the complete post on Dr. Campbell’s website, click here.
I was initially inclined to give a 2 ranking for this book–to acknowledge the authors’ effort to encourage people to reduce their consumption of ‘bad carbs’ (to use their words), but the remedy offered by these authors is so seriously misguided that I finally decided that a score of 1 is actually too generous.
Although the authors of this book certainly promote a message that they believe is scientifically valid and useful and although a very large number of people agree with them, I take exception, for several reasons. With minor exceptions this book represents nothing more than an extension of the arguments for the Atkins diet. Thus my comments relate to what I believe to be wrong with those arguments.
There are numerous instances where the authors misuse scientific evidence. Of course, they will disagree because they are claiming quite the opposite, namely, that their book highlights a growing body of scientific evidence now supporting the Atkins diet, a position also publicized on the Atkins website. Trivializing and marketing the science began early with the Atkins group, starting with Dr. Atkins himself who had no use for the scientific method.
According to his widow, he was proud that he never published a single peer-reviewed scientific paper. This is dramatically contrary to professional scientists in this field who have published at least dozens, even hundreds of papers that, Most importantly, are subjected to critical review by peers. Thus, Atkins’ enthusiasts rely much more on personal testimonials and anecdotal reports for their arguments. This kind of evidence need not be entirely dismissed but, without systematic and transparent organization of scientific research that is critiqued by qualified peers, it is very hard to validate claims. The give and take of peer review, for example, is absolutely demanded for claims being made about personal health, especially when these claims are intended for large segments of the public.
Atkins himself seems to be the first to have developed the now widely used term ‘carb’. I am of the strong opinion that this was a contrived marketing word that was originally meant to question the recommendations being made at that time to consume more whole vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains. Generalizing the so-called nutritional advantage of ‘low carb’ diets had the effect of diminishing the health value of these plant-based foods because these are the only whole foods that contain carbohydrates.
Even though more recent attempts are being made to distinguish ‘bad’ carbohydrates from ‘good’ carbohydrates by superficially ‘counting carbs’ (as if these are entities that can be counted!), this still stigmatizes the exceptional health value of a whole food, plant-based diet. Virtually anyone of any scientific substance during the past half-century has known that relatively simple (‘bad’) carbohydrates like sugar and refined flour, cause health problems. But this does not mean that we can generalize this large and complex class of nutritionally valuable carbohydrates, as found in whole plant based foods, into a single class called ‘carbs’, then demonize the superior nutritional value of these high carbohydrate foods.
The major problem with this book goes well beyond the numerous specific errors committed by these authors. It is the misguided Atkins diet paradigm into which this book is inserted that is a much more ominous problem.
Most people agree that there are health problems with the standard American diet (SAD), which, on average, is 17% protein and 35% fat (totaling 52%), leaving 48% for carbohydrates. The Atkins diet rightly recommends reducing the ‘bad’ carbs but primarily by replacing these ‘carbs’ with increasing protein (30%) and fat (40%) (totaling 70%) thus compromising an already low intake of highly nutritious carbohydrate-rich plant-based foods. Within 10 years or less, I predict that most people using the Atkins diet will either quit or experience serious health problems, although many may see more health benefits than adverse health effects in the short run. The nomadic Masaai of eastern Africa who consume large amounts of meat, milk and eggs, incur like old American men, extensive atherosclerotic lesions in spite of their extensive walking.
The same decreased consumption of ‘bad’ carbs advocated by Atkins’ people, can be easily accomplished by a whole food, plant based diet but not by increasing fat and protein but by increasing the consumption of whole food, plant-based diet that contains the countless antioxidants and complex carbohydrates (e.g., fiber). This simultaneously avoids excessive intakes of protein, fat and bad ‘carbs’ (like sugar and refined flour) while enhancing the intake of the highly nutritious whole food, plant-based foods. There is far superior to replacing the ‘bad’ carbs with fat and protein, mostly from animal-based foods, that contain little or no antioxidants and complex carbohydrates.
Finally, the authors in this book are committed to finding scientific evidence that encourages people to consume foods of personal choice (good marketing strategy!), generally meaning high fat, high protein based meats, milk and eggs. This pleases many people who like to hear good things about their bad habits, but this is a strategy that can seriously bias scientific objectivity. It should be noted that fat, salt and sugar are acquired tastes and, for fat and salt, there is convincing evidence showing that within a month or so, these addictions can be reversed while new and healthier taste preferences emerge.
For all the gory debate on Amazon, click here. Note: the remainder of this post was written by J. Morris Hicks.
Cornell Update. Since he began challenging the “system” that controls the flow of information in the field of nutritional science, Dr. Campbell has not always received the best treatment from that “system.” Having seen some of this in person, I have documented my observations in the two articles at the end of this page.
Candidate for the Nobel Prize? Absolutely. His courageous work has already affected the lives of millions, including one former president of the United States. In so doing, he has earned the genuine respect of the physicians around the world who have discovered the life-saving power of plant-based nutrition on their own.
At the risk of loss of income, and possibly worse, he has always reported the science as he saw it and has never compromised his integrity for any person, company or institution. History will probably record his essential contribution in building the foundation of science from which the “great food revolution of the twenty-first century” will launch itself to change the world.
With an unblemished career of service and his powerful record of achievement, certainly he must someday be a serious candidate for the Nobel Prize. After all, they gave it to Al Gore for his movie about global warming — and he failed to mention the #1 cause.
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—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com
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