The China Study Author on Why People Are Confused About Nutrition

The China Study Author on Why People Are Confused About Nutrition

At a recent Vegetarian Society of Hawaii event, the author of The China Study – Dr. T. Colin Campbell – explained the dangerous disconnect between food and medicine.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, recently gave a lecture on nutrition to a packed house of about 500 people in Honolulu. It was so packed, in fact, that I arrived five minutes before the lecture would begin to find that I’d have to practice my standing-desk-blogging technique if I was going to write a summary for Eat Drink Better. Given Dr. Campbell’s rock-star status, I was not to be deterred by lack of a lap in which to put my computer.

More from Dr. Campbell’s talk: Are we eating too much protein?, Protein and Cancer: The Facts We Can’t Ignore

Campbell is a Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. His book, The China Study, is a groundbreaking volume that chronicles over three decades of cancer research.

Campbell and many of his medical peers documented incredibly clear linkages from nutrition to just about every disease in our society, but most specifically to cancer. The medical evidence is so striking and so conclusive, it is hard to understand why everyone doesn’t already know about it.

That lack of adoption is not lost on Campbell: the title of his talk was “The Best Kept Secret…Ever!” It was a tongue-in-cheek jab at society’s knack for cognitive dissonance when it comes to the effects our food choices have on our health.

“It’s an idea that is not new,” Campbell said, about the subject of his talk. “In fact it’s 2500 years old. But it’s an idea whose time has come. And it’s time that this information moves beyond the choir.”

Campbell started the discussion by showing that, as a percentage of GDP, the U.S. spends more than any other country in the world on health care, about double the next biggest spender.

“We’re not getting the results we should be,” he said. “We have a terrible life expectancy.” On top of that, he said, we lead the world in the use of pharmaceuticals, using about double, per capita, of countries like Sweden.

The solution is crystal clear, said The China Study author:

“The solution, of course, is understanding nutrition,” he said.

The first problem he points out as to why people still don’t make the linkage from their diet to their health is that the public is very confused about nutrition. Part of this results from an almost complete lack of nutrition teaching in medical schools.

As a society, we are taught to revere and hold sacred everything our doctors tell us, but when they’re not being taught anything at all about nutrition, it’s not hard to see why the general public is unclear about what they should eat.

“I’ve given over 150 lectures in medical schools, and what I’m seeing is a swelling of interest…from individuals in the medical community. The main reaction,” he said, “is anger. Not at me, but at the medical schools that gave these professionals no training whatsoever in basic nutrition.”

In addition, Campbell pointed to the lack of funding for nutrition studies, which totals only 3-4% of total medical research. “There are 28 institutes at the National Institutes of Health,” Campbell said, ” and not one of them is called the Institute of Nutrition.”

There are exceptional benefits of whole, plant-based foods, Campbell said. “This is where it’s at,” he said, referring to the ‘answer’ society looks for in pills, miracle diets, surgeries, and the like.

Check out more about Dr. Campbell’s online nutrition training program (through Cornell University) at. Individuals and health professionals can get certified as a plant-based whole food specialist or get continuing education credits through Campbell’s program, in cooperation with eCornell.

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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on
  • Guess he doesn’t know about Tulane’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, where medical students are taught nutrition in concert with hands-on cooking classes. http://tmedweb.tulane.edu/mu/teachingkitchen/

    • Eliana Figueiredo

      And most probably supervised by the great Pharmaceutical Indusltry, right?!
      It’s all about money, not people’s health, unfortunately.

      • No, it’s not supervised by the pharmaceutical industry. In fact, it’s part of the School of Medicine and was originally started with a donation from a local businessman and philanthropist, Bill Goldring (Google him to see what he does – it’s not pharmaceuticals by any means!).

        In addition to the classes for medical students, the Center conducts 6-week cooking classes for the New Orleans community (I believe three separate classes are being run at the moment) with the goal in the next two years to have at least 1 community class every day. How much are they? FREE. No charge even for class materials. And participants eat the meals they make in class.

        The Center offers CME classes to practicing physicians for a fee, which also goes to fund the Center. They’re still working on becoming self-sustaining financially, but the free community cooking classes are part of their reason for being and will never go away.

        In this case, it really IS about people’s health and not money.

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