T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Forks Over Knives
For more than 40 years, Dr. Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition research. His legacy, the China Project, is considered the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and Project Director of the acclaimed China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project. The study was the culmination of a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine.
Dr. Campbell received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Cornell, and served as a Research Associate at MIT. He spent 10 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech’s Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition before returning to the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell in 1975 where he presently holds his Endowed Chair (now Emeritus).
His principal scientific interests, which began with his graduate training in the late 1950s, has been on the effects of nutritional status on long term health, particularly on the cause of cancer. He has conducted original research both in laboratory experiments and in large-scale human studies; has received more than 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding, mostly from the National Institute of Health, and has served on several grant review panels of multiple funding agencies. Dr. Campbell has lectured extensively, and has authored more than 300 research papers. He and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II, are authors of the bestselling book, The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell is the recipient of several awards, both in research and citizenship, and has actively participated in the development of national and international nutrition policy.
FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Dr. Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, was concerned in the late 1960’s with producing “high quality” animal protein to bring to the poor and malnourished areas of the third world. While in the Philippines, he made a life-changing discovery: the country’s wealthier children, who were consuming relatively high amounts of animal-based foods, were much more likely to get liver cancer. Dr. Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unknown in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed. FORKS OVER KNIVES utilizes state of the art 3-D graphics and rare archival footage. The film features leading experts on health, examines the question “why we don’t know”, and tackles the issue of diet and disease in a way that will have people talking for years.
Caryn Hartglass: I would like to welcome Dr. T. Colin Campbell; Dr. Campbell are you with me?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: I am, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, how are you doing?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Good.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s good to talk to you again. You’re one of my heroes!
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: So how are you handling all the excitement that’s going on over your film?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Oh, it’s just a lot of fun. I’m really happy to see that more and more people are getting interested in this in this idea. And the film has played a major role in causing this to happen.
Caryn Hartglass: You won’t remember this but the first time I met you in 1996, I had come back from living in France and wanted to get more involved in the veg community and a bunch of us drove up to Cornell and you were having a meeting with Jay Dinshah and Freya Dinshah and a number of other people. I’m not exactly sure what we were talking about and there weren’t many people there; but remembering that I am so impressed with how long you have been on this path and have been involved in so many major events and big projects as well as the little ones, and you just support them all with a great amount of integrity. You’re just an amazing individual.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Well thank you so much. I like science, that’s what it’s all about; it’s a lot of fun.
Caryn Hartglass: You’ve done a great amount of work; I invite people to go to your website tcolincampbell.org and also the thechinastudy.com. One of the things I was just talking about with Lee and Brian is the family; you have your lovely wife Karen, your son Thomas and you all seem to be on the same path. They’ve been a part of this whole plant based journey. Has it always been this way? Have they always been with you?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Obviously our family has been a close family for many, many years but we really got to eating this way starting in late 70s or the early 80s. So we finished up the task I guess later in the 80s, maybe 1990 when we went the whole way. We actually have five grown children and five grand children and another on the way. And all of us are 100%, 100% in the sense that we all do this. So it’s a lot of fun.
Caryn Hartglass: That certainly helps. I know a lot of people struggle because they can’t get their family members on board; and you’re really a great model.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Why thank you. I have the advantage too of being in the lab and being of the scientific community and really seeing and talking about it. Maybe sometimes my family’s getting tired of me talking about it! But to any case it was impressive. And so as we all learned and we learned together in a way.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I want to know why aren’t you just sitting back and taking it easy. You just keep adding, you keep putting this message out there. You are non-stop working on and on.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Well I don’t feel like sitting back and just resting I guess. I don’t feel like saying my time is up; I really want to continue working on it especially now when so many people want an opportunity to visit with me. And I think there’s nothing more gratifying then meeting people who choose to try this.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s magical.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: And I really don’t know what to expect in many cases, and they turn around and get these remarkable results, and that is gratifying; to see people getting well.
Caryn Hartglass: We really live in this crazy sci-fi kind of world, don’t we?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: That’s right.
Caryn Hartglass: The solution is so simple and so many people just are resisting, and it must be frustrating. But on the other hand, those that go. And you have so many cases on your website; you’ve got all kinds of information, and peoples’ stories talking about how the plant-based diet has helped them. It’s a beautiful story.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Oh, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: So, we were talking a little about Bill Clinton and that must have felt very gratifying that he was influenced by your work.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Yeah, it surely was. We could hardly get a better voice than that I think. And I’ve since referred to him as one of the greatest scientists that has come along in the past two to three centuries.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm hmm…
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: I’m kidding! I mean we honor him as an honorary scientist these days.
Caryn Hartglass: Well he is smart. I don’t think anyone questions that he is smart and I just wonder why he didn’t get this information sooner.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Well it’s interesting you should ask that question because he first heard about it at least from me maybe three years ago when a mutual friend of ours, the former governor of North Carolina Jim Hunt; we were together on a board and Jim had asked me for a couple copies of the book and get them autographed because he was going to give them to President Clinton. And he did. And I got a hand-written note from back from him. But I wasn’t sure how much he had actually read it because I hadn’t personally met him except for one occasion but we didn’t talk about it. But in any case he had it and I’ve heard him make comments a couple times on the TV referring to some specific facts. And I said to myself “That’s written in our book, I wonder if he had it read it”. That went on for two to three years and then I got word that he took it seriously. I guess his daughter really played a role in that too.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, that’s great. Okay, so did you have fun being on Dr. Oz again?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Yes. That was certainly fun to join my good friend Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Barnard and Lee came along that was great; to be interviewed as well and Rip, as a whole on several networks.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to talk a little about your Book, The China Study; because it’s a phenomenal work. And what I enjoyed most about it was all the work you’ve done with the government sitting on panels, and being surprised again and again how people were making the wrong decisions; kind of in support of their corporations.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. That activity was extraordinarily educational for me because I could see in a period of 20+ years where science gets interpreted through public information and public policy. And I wish a grant, I must admit; to see how just a turn of words and adjectives and things like that set the numbers differently. To reflect a particular point of view really could have major effects in terms of public information. And I really found it not fun, that part was distressing I think. We just couldn’t speak it out.
Caryn Hartglass: The people, do you think they understood the science, or did they not want to understand the science?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Combination of things. I mean the panels I was sitting on obviously included a variety of scientists some of whom really hadn’t worked in the area I had worked in that much. So I think in their part they thought they were saying the right things and being reasonably conservative in saying it. And that’s one of the features of a panel like this. If you get ten to fifteen people on a panel, often times the report comes out sort of meeting the least common denominator. It tends to be quite conservative and people are not willing to go beyond what they think is truly true. So there’s just that sort of flaw that exists in these panels. But then, there were people too that I knew who quite frankly associated with the industries and getting paid for, that’s were their bread and butter seemed to be. So they were saying things that clearly reflected their personal biases or maybe their professional biases. So it was a combination of things. And the other thing is I’m writing a second book now that I’m trying to explore this idea a bit. We all live within this cocoon, this paradigm, of Western thought about health and about the role of food in health. And it’s a paradigm that has cultivated for decades even more than a century. And it’s gotten to a point now where most people in the populated places in a sense, “know something” when in fact they really don’t.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: But you know we go around saying these kinds of things to each other. And it was part of the game too, growing up. And some of the things we discovered in the laboratory were quite shocking to me. I said “What’s going on here, let’s explore this further. So the idea of trying to cut through the borders or to go beyond the borders of what we tend to think is difficult at times.
Caryn Hartglass: Well you have to commend yourself to have been open to the information you found because as you’re saying they’re actually been studies talking about scientists, even though they think they’re designing their experiments objectively; there is something underneath that puts a subjective slant on it.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Yeah there truly is and we like to think that science is objective and I think the vast majority of them try to be so but they’re still encumbered with the boundaries of this environment and this invisible boundary, they’re kind of stuck there. I owed a lot of this to my father I have to say, he passed away many years ago but he only had three years of education actually.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm…
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: I was the first to go to college and he was anxious for me and my brothers to go to school and he always used to say the honest man had a great reputation. He used to say, “Always tell the truth, no matter what”. I was the oldest and sometimes I wondered about his advice. If you tell him the truth as you saw it, it would get you in trouble.
Caryn Hartglass: And you have gotten in trouble a few times.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: But any how that’s obviously the only way to live, mind you.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. Be true. Well, we love you for that and all the work you have done and all the people that you have definitely helped. So where do you see us going as a society? I think there’s a change happening, is going to happen soon enough? Our healthcare costs are so tremendous.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: I think actually things are going to happen faster than what we realize.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm hmm…
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: There are two to three different reasons you just mentioned one. That is the great pressure we now deal as a society. Our health care system is in the ruts. We gotta make change, a lot of people know that. It breaks the bank, there’s no question about that. So that kind of pressure exists coming from people who would have never thought about food in this way, but they’re certainly interested, and I sense that.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm hmm. I don’t read about it but I’m glad you sense it.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Yeah I really do and I’ve given, gosh more than two-hundred lectures I’m sure, since the book came out. And I speak now mostly to medical conferences and medical schools. So I’m really gratified to see the professionals step up and say “What is this you’re talking about” kind of thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: That’s kind of fun. So I think things are changing because the pressures that exist but then there’s a second reason; and that is that the technology we have today to communicate is extraordinary as you know. And with the network of social media, technologies, and other kinds of communication we have at our finger tips; word spreads about things very fast.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, we’re definitely seeing that with the political climate in the Middle East and it’s like wildfire.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Well let’s make our own revolution here in this country in the area of health.
Caryn Hartglass: Whoo-hoo!
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: And I know that’s it’s all possible, because all people need to do is try and see what happens.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, the amazing this is that there is really no cost-individual costs. It’s just about changing what you’re eating; and it doesn’t really require anything, except ones own personal determination.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: That’s right, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well that’s really inspiring. Okay we have things to look forward to.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: We have, I should say in partly to answer your question. My sons and I, and my daughter too; we have some ideas we’re working on now. And very specific ideas that I would like to flesh out and talk about, in the next few months or so.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, will we hear about that on your website?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Yeah, we’ll get around doing it that way too. I don’t have the time first though, but I mean; we have some serious things in mind, I just want to leave that. We’re not floundering I guess you could say. We do have some very crystallized ideas I think.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well that’s exciting. I’m glad to hear that there are things on the horizon to look forward to. And if it’s coming from you, it’s going to be good.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Thank you very much!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well, do you have any other words to share on the film Forks Over Knives, before I let you go?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: No, just to say something positive I really sincerely mean that, I think my friends, Brian Wendel and Lee Fulkerson and John Corry and company, Allison Boon, that was the crew.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmm Hmm…
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: They hadn’t done this kind of thing, well Lee Fulkerson did, he’s a real pro and John Corry had been in the business. But Brian pulled us all together. And they have just done a fantastic job. I just can’t complement them enough.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay well we’re really glad they made the film. We need more and more films like this. People need to be flooded with this information because unfortunately people need to hear this information over and over before they get it.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Can I mention one more thing?
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely!
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: In our foundation web – we have a foundation just for the purpose of education in the present time. And we have an online course on there. It started out with lectures I had been giving at Cornell in a course. And then later was joined by all the people that got involved too. That course is online and we offer it with the company that currently owns Cornell University, who does online courses. E-Cornell, and our foundation; we put out this course and it’s been up now for maybe two and a half years. It’s fantastic. We just got the way it’s really flying off the handle, we just got accreditation for nineteen medical education credits, for doctors. So doctors who don’t get trained in this area are now taking it and starting to really come. I’m not sure how we’re going to keep up it!
Caryn Hartglass: Wow. That’s great news. That’s exciting.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: It’s a very exciting opportunity.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well tcolincampbell.org that’s the website; go there and learn. Thank you Dr. Campbell.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: I appreciate it.
Caryn Campbell: And I look forward to speaking to you again soon. Bye!
Transcribed 12/26/2013 by Mohammad Maaz