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.
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.