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For more than forty years, Dr. T. Colin Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition research. His legacy, the China Project, is the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. Dr. Campbell is a professor Emeritus at Cornell University and is most well-known for co-authoring the bestselling book The China Study with his son, Thomas Campbell, MD. In addition to his long and outstanding career as an author, scientific researcher, and Cornell professor, Dr. Campbell has been featured in several documentary films. He is the founder of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and the online internationally-recognized Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate offered by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies in partnership with eCornell. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board.
Dr. Campbell’s expertise and scientific interests encompass relationships between diet and diseases, particularly the causation of cancer. He has focused on nutritional status and long term health. Surprisingly, Campbell started his life on a dairy farm, but is now widely-known for researching links between animal-based protein diets and disease.
Campbell has conducted original research both in laboratory experiments and in large-scale human studies; received over 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding (mostly with NIH), has served on several grant review panels of multiple funding agencies, and has authored over 300 research papers. Campbell has served on many national and international expert committees with mandates to develop food and health policy positions and is the recipient of several awards, both in research and in citizenship.
He was trained at Cornell University (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT (Research Associate) in nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology. T. Colin Campbell spent 10 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech’s Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition before returning to Cornell in 1975 where he presently holds his Endowed Chair as the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry in the Division of Nutritional Sciences.
Since the publication of The China Study in 2005, Dr. Campbell has given more than 600 lectures in the U.S. and abroad. More recently, Campbell published Whole (May 2013), as well as The Low-Carb Fraud (Feb 2014), and the 2nd Edition of The China Study is scheduled to be released in 2015. He was featured in the very successful 2011 documentary, “Forks Over Knives” and 2015 documentary “PlantPure Nation”. Through his ground-breaking scientific research and his on-going efforts to educate the public concerning the benefits of the whole food plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Campbell has positively impacted the lives of thousands of people including health professionals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, etc.), community advocates, caregivers, parents, health coaches, lifestyle counselors, massage therapists, policy makers, athletes, coaches, chefs, vegetarians, vegans, and others who value long-term health.
Caryn: And now I’m happy to bring on Dr. T. Colin Campbell. He is the author of The China Study and some other wonderful books including Whole. And Colin are you there?
Colin: Yes, I am.
Caryn: How are you today?
Colin: Good. Good to hear your voice again Caryn.
Caryn: [LAUGHING] I want to – you know I – it’s just an honor to speak with you. You’ve just done incredible things for so many decades, but right now I want to thank you for being a great dad. [LAUGHING]
Colin: Oh thank you very much. Yeah.
Caryn: Leanne sounded like things were really hectic and she had to take off and couldn’t do the program and she asked you and Dell to give some of her time, take her place and I really appreciate you doing that.
Colin: Well, thanks.
Caryn: Okay, so what’s new with you? What are you working on these days?
Colin: Well, a number of different things. Too many things. But one which is Tom, our youngest son, who now is a physician as you probably know. He’s directed a program in nutrition and medicine at the University of Russia’s medical center. Tom and I are doing a second edition of The China Study that’ll be out after the first of the year. It was supposed to be out a little before that, but that’s what we’re doing. And I’m still lecturing a lot, going places.
Caryn: I’m curious…
Colin: I’ve got an oldest son who’s has a film Plant Pure Nation which is out now.
Caryn: Yeah, you’re not only a great author, but you’re a movie star.
Colin: Oh I don’t know about that. I never planned that earlier in life, so whatever comes along.
Caryn: Yes, you have an amazing amount of energy. You’re like one of these Energizer batteries, whatever. They just keep going. And I imagine you’re fueled on plants.
Colin: Yes, I’m eating the right food like you are.
Caryn: Eating the right food. What a difference it can make.
Colin: Yeah, for sure.
Caryn: This new China Study that’s coming out, what can we expect to see in it? Are you going to talk about what the people in China are like today health wise compared to when you first did the study?
Colin: A little bit. Not too much. But basically we didn’t change anything. The material we had in the first edition is still going to be there. What we did, we kind of went through it and added some commentary here and then and then some new material. There’s a whole new chapter. Now the largest chapter in the book. Having to do with advancing this message into a larger context. You know? A larger population. So it’s much the same, but there will be some really new stuff I think. I don’t know. It’s a little bit about the Chinese situation. I mean, all societies tend to gravitate, you know as time passes, from their native diet to the typical diet we use here in the west. And we get in trouble. Sort of what happens, so –
Caryn: Well you’ve been fighting this fight, researching this topic for so many decades. And you’ve come upon so much resistance and yet you’ve continued with grace and aplomb and finally, are getting the recognition you deserve and people are starting to hear your message. But as you know, there’s still many people who aren’t getting it. I don’t know if you saw this article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago that was titled, How Can Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?
Colin: Oh my gosh. That’s as old as—right?
Caryn: And I don’t know if you know Dr. David Seres, the director of medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center.
Colin: No I don’t.
Caryn: Well in this article, he was quoted saying a number of things. And I just can’t believe it’s 2016 and this is printed by a reputable doctor at a prestigious university. But he said a number of things that I thought you might comment on. He said, “It is my opinion that veganism is not consistent with human life because all vitamin B12 originated in an animal.”
Colin: Well my answer to that is: Total nonsense. First of all, B12 does not originate in animals. He’s wrong. B12 is produced by microorganisms. It just so happens that women have a lot of microorganisms in a woman essentially. And you know we also produce some too though it’s not available. But that’s total nonsense. In terms of veganism, to be honest Caryn, I know everyone uses that word, “vegan”.
Caryn: I don’t.
Colin: I have some difficulty with that word and have from the very beginning. Namely, people became vegan or vegetarian if you will, as you know—as we all know, primarily did so over the years for ideological reasons, animal rights reasons in particular, which is—you know, it’s fine to make that decision. But I didn’t come to that for that reason. I just simply was doing some research and came up with the whole idea of eating plant-based foods is based on science, and it really is. And vegans today, unfortunately, the data really show that their average fat content is still around 30 percent. That’s not that good. And their consumption on average of refined carbohydrates is not so good. I mean they’re certainly taking a step in the right direction which is not bad, but they’re not quite able to do what the whole food plant-based diet can do.
Caryn: Yes, I know. With vegan Oreos out there, it just makes it hard for a lot of people.
Colin: That’s right. And so what happens under circumstances like that is as they consume, especially high fat, without all of the antioxidants and things like that. What happens is part of the significant portion of their calorie intake is taken out by this non-nutrient energy-dense substance. And so their consumption of the antioxidant in the form of whole foods actually goes down. And then you add to that the refined carbohydrates on top of it. You know they’re somewhat better than let’s say, the omnivores, but not that much better.
Colin: And the same with vegetarians. Vegetarians still 90 percent are using dairy and oftentimes, eggs and fish. So their nutritional composition too is not as good as it can be. So I would like to make that distinction.
Caryn: And I’m glad you did. It’s important.
Colin: Yeah, it really is in terms of the science. When I’m looking at the science you know, let’s say what impact food has on health and prominently focusing on the nutritional composition of those foods. And by that I mean that the average food, on average having around 10 percent protein. Plants hold, plant-based foods have the ideal level of protein. Columbia doesn’t seem to know that, but they have the ideal level of protein, which was established many years ago. We call it the recommended dietary allowance. The minimum intake required is more in the neighborhood of 5, 6, 7 percent. So they added a couple standard deviations to that to make sure that everybody got enough. And that was established way back in 1943.
Colin: And even at the early 1900s, it was shown that people with protein intake in the neighborhood of 4, 5, 6 percent just – did just fine. So we had this – you know – this fascination, I guess you could say. You know with protein. And most people tend to think that protein means animal food or animal protein. And it’s not as we know. We have all the protein we need – ideal levels of protein simply consuming whole plant-based foods.
Caryn: Okay, when we’re talking about protein, I don’t remember where it was, but I remember reading something recently that said as we age, seniors need more protein.
Colin: Yes, that was a study that came out. People over – I can’t remember what the cut-off point was.
Caryn: Yeah, like 60.
Colin: Over 65 or something like that. It was some evidence, but if you look at the study carefully, it was so minor as to how – in my mind, been almost as much of a chance. Significant, but you know, under that circumstance to say that kind of thing, I think it was really quite exaggerated. And I say that – the reason I say that is because all human studies, except for Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish. All human studies, the ethically marginal studies quite frankly, when they make statements about how much protein we should consume or how much fat or how much this or that, all the people in all those studies, none of those studies. And there could have been tens of thousands of those studies, none of them have people in those studies who are consuming a wholefood plant-based diet. So I say it’s inappropriate for researchers who are using those kinds of studies to speculate what might happen with wholefoods plant-based diets.
Caryn: Oh, but they do. They do.
Colin: It’s a major issue in terms of interpreting the science.
Caryn: So I wanted to remind you, I think the last time I saw you was at the – it was a book signing party or book launching party with BenBella Books when you came out with Whole. In Brooklyn at some bowling alley pub place [LAUGHING].
Colin: [LAUGHING] Oh yeah, I remember that. It was kind of a strange place, but it worked.
Caryn: It was a very interesting place and I got maybe four or five copies of your book and I didn’t read it until last month. But I’m glad I read it and it’s a great book.
Colin: I am actually more excited about Whole than I am the China Study because Whole was an attempt just on my part to try to understand a little better why there’s so much confusion about nutrition in the public. And why there’s so much confusion to most professionals including nutritional scientists, in my community. And I finally came up with an idea that’s partly old, partly new that I just find really, really exciting. And I – actually I’m finding now that, that book Whole is actually being used by quite a number of universities for recommended reading.
Caryn: Well I’m very glad to hear that because we do need a different paradigm when it comes to scientific study. And this whole reductionism thing, you’ve mentioned in the book, it can be useful to some degree, but we really need to look at the whole system. Not just one little thing. But it’s so expensive to do lots of little experiments with a gazillion parameters.
Colin: It is. That in part was the basis for the China Study, just in part. But there we collected as much information as we possibly could and then got involved in sort of combining some – some ideas and some observations. And we’re looking for patterns. And then of course, that can be assessed statistically to some extent. And I do have to add the comment that we did not assume causality from correlations. Some of the folks out there have criticized the China project itself that it did that. We did not. In fact, I’ve lectured on exactly what they were concerned about. So the China Study has lots of information and we’re basically looking for – I wasn’t – the kind of patterns that make sense in terms of the other information that’s available in the literature or we did ourselves before doing the China Study. You know I’m sure the criticism for the China Study was very frustrating. And a lot of it, if you really understand what you’re talking about, you know that they don’t know what they’re talking about, but I like to say don’t read your press, weigh it [LAUGHING].
Colin: [LAUGHING] Yeah, I know. That’s about right. And unfortunately though, some of them are quite – they’re backed up by some pretty big interest groups.
Caryn: So like the Western Price Foundation—
Caryn: Yeah. I had a friend of mine ask me. He said, “Can you point me to one study that—“Basically, he wanted to know the one study that tells it all, that really shows that a plant-based diet is superior or not. And I know that one study doesn’t exist, and I basically said: Read Whole and you’ll understand why I don’t have an answer to that question. But just like people want one pill to fix disease.
Caryn: You know, they want to see it easy and see it in one place.
Colin: That concept of Whole, I’m really finding more and more exciting as time passes. You know I started out, as you know, with trying to get feel for that concept by simply considering the inner workings of a cell of which we have between 10 and 100 trillion cells in our body. And every cell is like a universe. It’s intricately complex. I mean, I spent much of my early career studying chemicals and the workings about the cell, particularly in relation to nutrition. But those cells, who can imagine how much those 10 and 100 trillion cells in our body. And one cell, if you sit on the head of a pen and you can’t see it. It’s that small. But we’ve got trillions of those cells, each one of which is like a universe. And so we see all of these reactions going on inside of the cell. We know that. And we know it’s changing, you know, every nanosecond at a time. And so you get this extraordinary dynamic going on and it’s basically nature at work. It’s what it is.
Caryn: Well this is fascinating and I want to leave people with that thought of imagining all of these trillions of universes within our bodies. And if you want to hear more, know more about Dr. Campbell, you can go to the Total Health Conference. Right?
Colin: Yes [inaudible] I like the format for the conference. I’ve lectured there both times when Leanne did that. but it’s really relaxing. I heard what Del (Sroufe) said and it’s really just to kind of experience and you can relax and really talk and get involved in some serious discussions at the same time. It’s really nice.
Caryn: Well here’s an opportunity to have questions given right to you and get your answers.
Colin: [LAUGHING] Yes. Yup. And just make a comment they can comment on.
Caryn: Yeah. Well, great. Dr. Campbell, thank you for joining me. Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do and have a great time at the Total Health Conference.
Colin: Thanks very much Caryn for inviting me on, okay.
Caryn: Take care. Bye. Well, that was T. Colin Campbell and he and Del Sroufe are some of the speakers who will be at the Global Total Health Conference. And if you want to know more about it, you can go to Responsible Eating and Living, and look at this – the information for this show that we just had today and you can click on the links to get to that information. And we’ve come to the end of the show. Thank you for joining me and I just wanted to say, “Woo!” Not only did Leigh-Chantelle celebrate her 10th anniversary of her website, but we’re celebrating the one-year anniversary of my blog, “What Vegans Eat.” It happened four of five days ago, so thank you for supporting that. And we’re celebrating. Woo hoo! So thank you for tuning it today and have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Toni Ann Hall, 4/6/2016