T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study was trained at Cornell (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT (Research Associate) in nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology and 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 1950’s, has been on the effects of nutritional status on long term health, particularly on the causation of cancer. He has conducted original research both in laboratory experiments and in large-scale human studies; has received over 70 grant-years of peer-reviewed research funding (mostly NIH), has served on several grant review panels of multiple funding agencies, has lectured extensively, and has authored over 300 research papers. Also, he a) coordinated a USAID-supported technical assistance program for a nationwide nutrition program for malnourished pre-school age children in the Philippines (1966-74), b) organized and directed a multi-national project responsible for nationwide surveys of diet, lifestyle and mortality in the People’s Republic of China (1983-present), c) was a co-author and member of National Academy of Science’s expert panels on saccharin carcinogenicity (1978); food safety policy (1978-79); diet, nutrition and cancer (1981-82); research recommendations on diet, nutrition and cancer (1982-83); and food labeling policy (1989-1990), d) was the organizer and Co-Chair (but listed as Senior Science Advisor) of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research report on international diet and cancer recommendations (1993-1997), e) was the principal witness for the National Academy of Sciences in two Federal Trade Commission hearings on issues concerning product-specific health claims (1984-1986), f) was Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Infirmary, University of Oxford/England (1985-1986), g) was the Senior Science Advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund (1983-1987, 1992-1997), h) presently holds an Honorary Professorships at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine and i) is on the Research Advisory Board of the Chinese Institute of Nutritional Sciences in the Chinese Academy of Science, the government’s leading institution responsible for nutrition research and policy in China and is an Advisory Professor of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He is the recipient of several awards, both in research and citizenship. In summary, he has conducted original research investigation both in experimental animal and human studies, and has actively participated in the development of national and international nutrition policy.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi. I’m Caryn Hartglass, your host of It’s All About Food. This is a live call-in show. You can call in at any time at 1-888-873-4643. I’m really excited about today’s show. I have a phenomenal guest. You’re going to want to get out pens and paper, take lots of notes. This man is a wealth of information: Dr. T. Colin Campbell. For more than forty years, he 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 the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and has more than seventy grant years of peer-reviewed research funding and authored more than 300 research papers, and is the coauthor of the bestselling book The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. Dr. Campbell, are you with me?
T. Colin Campbell: Yes I am. Pleasure to be here, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: I am so, so honored and privileged to have you today.
T. Colin Campbell: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: You are such an amazing individual. We have a short hour, and you just have so much information that I know we’re not going to… It’s just going to be the tip of the iceberg, the information that we cover today. I’m looking at your website, and I encourage everyone to go to www.tcolincampbell.org, a wealth of information. I’m kind of amused looking at this interactive timeline tool that’s on your website where you can see your whole history, and there’s just a wealth of information and you’ve just done so many wonderful things.
T. Colin Campbell: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: How are you today?
T. Colin Campbell: Good. Great. Pleasure to be here talking to you about this topic. I could talk about it all day, every day, all year.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I think we both have a passion about this topic.
T. Colin Campbell: Right. We sure do.
Caryn Hartglass: First I encourage everyone to grab the book The China Study. I read it a number of years ago and I just pulled it out of my bookshelf today and realized I really need to read it again. I’m wondering, has anyone bought movie rights to your book?
T. Colin Campbell: Well, not exact—yes they have, it’s this one group, the MGM-Disney group in Florida has, and it’s kind of chugging along. But there’s another film group on the West Coast out in Los Angeles. The professional group has actually put together and completed filming, in fact, of a movie-based production, theater-based production, that’s supposed to be about in April or May. That’s a little more than just The China Study. It’s focused to a certain extent on my career and also the career of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. That’ll be great. The reason why I ask is because not only is this a groundbreaking book in terms of what you talk about regarding nutrition and the production of animals and what happens to them when we consume animal products, but in some parts it reads like a thriller with some of the goings-on that you’ve had with committees and government agencies. Just briefly, let’s talk about how you got on the plant-based nutrition path. You were at Cornell studying about animal nutrition?
T. Colin Campbell: Yes. I was. In fact before that, I was raised on a dairy farm, milking cows. I was raised on the good old American diet, high in protein, fat, and all good things like that. Lot of meat, milk, and eggs. When I eventually went off to graduate school at Cornell University, I kind of followed that path, professional perspective. I was in animal nutrition trying to figure out with my professors more productive and efficient ways to produce animal protein-based foods as leads to good health. Over the years with lots of students and colleagues and wonderful opportunities in different places, I just came to learn gradually that that idea was flawed, the idea that we should be consuming that kind of diet. We gathered lots of evidence through experimentation and surveys and so forth, and I finally came to realize that the best message is one having to do with consumption of whole plant-based foods.
Caryn Hartglass: Now why do you think other people in your field don’t come to the same conclusion?
T. Colin Campbell: Well I don’t know. I sort of ask myself that sometimes. I began my career actually wanting to have sort of a two-track process. One was working with molecules and enzymes and things like that in a laboratory to understand things. The other track had to do with actually working with people to see what the practical applications of this information was. I did conscientiously take that path that way, and it’s proven, for me at least, to be quite useful because it’s one thing to work in a laboratory and work on all the esoteric and theoretical things, but it’s quite a different thing to try to figure out how does this really apply to everyday life. I just saw a lot of consistency arising.
Caryn Hartglass: Now what about science and truth? A lot of us believe that science is truth, or the scientific studies are on the path to discover what the truth is about a number of things. But there seem to be some inconsistencies more and more with science.
T. Colin Campbell: It’s interesting you should ask that Caryn. I concern myself with that question a lot because actually I love the concept of science. I enjoyed my career in experimentation and working in the scientific arena, there’s no question about that. But as time passed, I learned that unfortunately what science does in terms of producing information and making it understandable, they’re not doing very well. Nutrition, for example. The subject of nutrition. Of course in my particular case and your case I’m sure too, the kind of nutrition I’m talking about is whole food, plant-based nutrition especially. But just the mere subject of nutrition, just trying to understand what does that word really mean? It turns out that it’s totally understood. Everybody’s confused. We have a lot of bias in this community talking about nutrition if you will, a lot of individual opinions. Part of the reason for that, and I write in the second book on this subject just now, and I think a major reason for that is the fact that the chief healthcare providers in our society, namely doctors, when they go to medical school are not taught nutrition. There’s essentially no medical school in the country that teaches nutrition, basically. Most of them don’t teach any nutrition at all. That’s one problem. The second problem is related, namely NIH, National Institutes of Health, who provide the major funding for nutrition research and for medical research. In fact the most influential medical research funding agents in the world, NIH is comprised of twenty-seven institutes and centers and programs. They funded most of my research, the National Cancer Institute specifically. Of those twenty-seven institutes NIH has, not one is named Institute of Nutrition. In the research community and medical research community, nutrition is essentially ignored as far as the research subject is concerned or treated very superficially at best. In terms of the healthcare providers, they’re not taught nutrition. It’s no wonder that the public is very confused about this subject and everybody’s sort of left to fend for themselves to try to figure out what it means. Instead, rather than the professional institutions taking some responsibility for this, the development of information is pretty much left to the corporate sector. The food and drug companies, for example.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, our favorite sector.
T. Colin Campbell: It is. They will tell you it’s in their own interest of course to produce products and services and so forth that they’re interested in obviously making money on. They kind of push the limit, in a sense, of making claims that are often times too specific and too definite for the public in order to sell their products and services. That’s not what science is all about. Nature is a very, very complex condition, if you will. We all know that, essentially. But unfortunately we try to reduce it down to little items of information and details and then try to make a product out of it and put it in a pill and what have you. They call it nutrition if it’s related to a food, and that’s not nutrition.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. It’s not even good science.
T. Colin Campbell: No, it’s not good science.
Caryn Hartglass: I remember when I was in school in my chemical engineering programs, it was certainly the easiest if you could simplify your study to a minimum number of variables and then change one of the variables and see how it reacts. A lot of times this is what happens, where some nutrient is isolated and then they do some playing around with it and see what happens. I know that you’ve talked about this reductionist theory, or this method, and the body doesn’t work that way. There’s just like hundreds of thousands of things going on at the same time.
T. Colin Campbell: Right. Absolutely. We’ve got to acknowledge the complexity. Once we’ve come to that kind of understanding, then try to develop some vision, some understanding of how do you work with complex systems.
Caryn Hartglass: You’ve been in the university system for so long. Why has nutrition been ignored?
T. Colin Campbell: A discipline in a major university, especially a university that aspires to do research. For nutrition to survive in that kind of environment for the most part, the faculty need to do research and need to publish. It’s really true; the publish-or-perish idea is very active. For the faculty in these universities to survive and sustain themselves, they’ve got to get research under way, a research program. In order to do that, they’ve got to apply for funding to do the research, especially in the area of nutrition. For the most part, they go to NIH to get money and of course that’s a very competitive process. We’ve become essentially prisoners of that system, and we end up doing the kind of research, as you just indicated, on very specific questions. Looking at one nutrient at a time, looking at one so-called biochemical mechanism at a time, one disease. We have to do it that way in order to get the funding. We have to focus our hypotheses, as they say. I know the game very, very well because I served on the committees of NIH, for example, and other institutions to determine which applicants were best, which ones should be funded. I’ve seen it from both sides of the table. That’s the way nutrition is done as far as research is concerned. One can’t stray outside of that box very much. It’s difficult to look at the big picture and get funding and continue the research.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so talking about the big picture. You were an integral part of the China Project, and then you ultimately wrote your book, The China Study. How did that get pulled off, the China Project?
T. Colin Campbell: Well in the very beginning, I was at the time using animals for research and in fact most of my colleagues were at the same time. I had been also at the same time in the Philippines helping to coordinate a nationwide program feeding malnourished children. At that time the rationale was that these children who were malnourished in poor countries are malnourished in large measure because they don’t get enough protein. It was also the second idea, they don’t get enough energy of course, and so we kind of…
Caryn Hartglass: Energy meaning calories.
T. Colin Campbell: Energy meaning calories, exactly. I went to the Philippines, I was with my senior colleague at the time. We were trying to develop good protein sources because that was what I thought during my doctoral dissertation back home. What I found when I went there was that one of my principal colleagues, medical man essentially, was telling me how some young children were getting primary liver cancer, which was an odd idea, strange observation. Wasn’t sure whether to believe it or not. But it turned out upon further questioning, the children most likely to get the liver cancer tended to be coming from the families who were consuming the most protein. All of a sudden it was a paradox. We were going there to try to increase their protein consumption, especially high-quality protein like from animals. In reality those who were getting the most were the ones who were most likely to get into difficulty with cancer, or at least that kind of cancer. I came home and organized a project, funded by the National Cancer Institute for the next twenty-seven years, to understand is this really true? Some work had been done also in India at that time with experimental animals to show that in fact the animals that were fed the most protein got the most cancer. I had two kinds of observations to consider: one was the children in the Philippines, the other was the experimental animal report from India. We organized our study around that question, to pursue that question. See if it’s really true, how does it work, all that kind of thing. What we eventually learned was just one fascination after another. We got to a point where, for example, in the experimental system we could turn on and turn off cancer growth very easily by just adjusting the level of protein intake. We learned how it worked and it didn’t work by one single mechanism. It worked essentially almost like a symphony of mechanisms. It wasn’t just coming from genes. It was coming from nutrition. All of these heretical ideas it seemed that kept popping up finally got me to a point sort of getting more serious about expanding that observation. Not just for protein, not just for that one kind of cancer, but all the diseases, all the nutrients and so forth and so on. That’s when we had the opportunity to join with our colleagues in China.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I’ve seen you give numerous presentations and I’ve seen that chart that you put up showing how you turn cancer on and off with, I think it was casein?
T. Colin Campbell: Yes it was. It was cow’s milk protein, which was a bit difficult for me to swallow, no pun intended. I was raised on a dairy farm and the value of dairy was said to be because it was high-quality protein.
Caryn Hartglass: Were you still eating dairy when you came up with those findings?
T. Colin Campbell: Yes, I sure was.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh. I didn’t realize that. That one little bit of information is just so magical and so powerful, and why hasn’t that been on the front page of every magazine and newspaper? Cancer turned on and off with food.
T. Colin Campbell: There’s two touchstones there that are very, very sensitive with the public. Number one, we’re talking about cancer, which obviously is something terribly important to a lot of people. Very sensitive topic. The other is talking about protein, especially animal-based protein which is I’ve often said is the most revered of all nutrients that we worked with over the years. You sort of match up protein with cancer. You’re taking two very fixed ideas and discovering that the protein… When protein is consumed in excess of what is needed, especially in the form of animal foods, that’s when cancer gets turned on. Again, I didn’t want to stop just at that particular point, working with one nutrient of course even if it was protein, or one cancer which in this case was liver cancer. We got involved in looking at other nutrients that are present in animal foods and plant foods, like fat and antioxidants and so forth, and other kinds of cancers, other kinds of diseases. It turned out what we saw initially just with the protein and the liver cancer was kind of holding true with a lot of consistency when we looked at other nutrients and other cancers and other diseases. The whole world just started expanding as far as I was concerned. There was a fantastic continuum or vision, a ray of information—I don’t know how to say it. Essentially that just started saying so much about what we eat and what kind of problems we’ll get when we eat the wrong kind of food and all the rest of it. Of course eventually it got into questions concerning the relationship with the environment. It was a whole world, just like stepping into a new universe, once I sort of came to this notion of looking beyond the question of just protein and cancer, although that itself was terribly important. But it’s consistent with the relationship between diet and heart disease and diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. Everything. It’s all about food, and it’s all connected to all the chronic diseases that we’re seeing today. I just wanted to talk a little bit more about the China Project and the two things that I really loved about it. One was the fact that you did all these tests on the Chinese people. What was great about that—and I don’t want to compare the Chinese people with mice or rats, but—often times to do tests, animals like mice or rats are bred so that we can test on them and they all have very similar genetic characteristics. Once again, to reduce all the variables that you’re involved with. By using a culture of people that are genetically very similar, and yet they have other things involved in their life that are causing different types of health issues, you can really do some incredible studies. The other thing I liked that you’d mentioned is that a large… In China at that time when you were doing the study and I think unfortunately it’s changing, they were consuming a lot less animal protein than we are in the Western world. That was very different than most of the studies we see because so often we see these crazy sound bites from studies that say a high-fat diet doesn’t…or a low-fat diet doesn’t really have any health benefits and a variety of different things, but what they’re doing is testing very high fat versus high fat, and not really getting to a different area where people are eating significantly different and that’s what was going on in my understanding with the China Study. Where a lot of them were eating a lot of plant foods.
T. Colin Campbell: Right. I was obviously particularly interested in the, shall I say, comprehensive effect of a large number of different nutrients and other lifestyle factors relating in turn to a large number of, as we say, health problems, different kinds of diseases. It was an attempt to understand more comprehensively what the relationship between food and health and disease is. We did incidentally in China focus our study entirely on people living in rural China, where they tended to live in the same place all their lives and they produce locally produced food. That’s a nice experimental condition to study things that way—compare disease rates across the country which were dramatically different, cancers and other diseases. I have to acknowledge though, however, obviously we didn’t do all this ourselves. I worked with some really marvelous Chinese senior people by doing this study. They’re the ones that actually went out and actually collected all the data—the blood samples, the urine samples, the flu samples. Secondly, this is a collaborative study with the University of Oxford. We had a fantastic team working on this.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it was really a tremendous project. Dr. Campbell, I wanted to talk a little bit about the media. There’s been a little bit more in the media these days about consuming animal foods. More celebrities are talking about being vegan. I noticed that you were on CNN back in October.
T. Colin Campbell: Yeah, on Larry King’s show.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, on the Larry King show [Larry King Live]. Unfortunately, the topic was really, really a sad one. Do you want to talk about…?
T. Colin Campbell: Yeah. Exciting opportunity to be on Larry King’s show I think on the one hand. But unfortunately we had two topics to talk about, lots of commercial time. I was told after we got on the show who are the other guests. I think there was a total of five of us, I believe. It was a very stilted kind of arrangement. I was not live in the audience, I was at the studio at Cornell. It was difficult, it was a difficult challenge. But nonetheless, it was interesting.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I watched it, and I forget the name of the person that you were kind of debating about whether we needed animal protein in our diet or not, but I didn’t think that she really gave a good presentation. I mean, she looked like a deer in headlights for a while.
T. Colin Campbell: Yeah. I don’t know her personally or professionally. Never heard of her before, and unfortunately I didn’t know her background or anything else. The media, when they put these kinds of programs together, they certainly can do a better job.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I agree. Absolutely. They’re looking for entertainment, unfortunately. They’re not looking for really educating the public. A lot of the public gets swayed with the way programs are edited. But more and more, there is information kind of leaking out because we really can’t ignore it anymore, what’s going on with all the chronic diseases today. Such a large percentage of them are caused by poor diet and high consumption of animal foods. Then of course there’s more discussion about the devastation to the environment from factory farming. It’s a good thing that there is a little media going around, but it’s never enough.
T. Colin Campbell: I’m sure it’s a very competitive process. Who’s going to get to talk and who’s not, and so forth and so on. I guess that’s understandable. But I think it is time that some of the authorities in our country begin to take seriously what nutrition can do, and specifically what plant-based nutrition can do. Now it’s not just about eating vegetables and fruits and grains to prevent some future disease problem, generally under the roof they call preventive medicine. Instead, it’s about a plant-based diet actually being used to treat people already with the disease. I think, in my view at least, we’ve only continued to talk about preventive medicine as being the main part of what we’re talking about, but instead talking about treatment. I’m mentioning this because my colleagues obviously in the practice of medicine are doing things like curing heart disease in advanced stages. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has done a marvelous study over now twenty-three years following some people. Dr. Dean Ornish a little bit before that reported on studies over a shorter term. Dr. John McDougall is doing work, as are many other physicians now in basically, I think I can use the word “cure,” type 2 diabetes.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
T. Colin Campbell: There’s a lot of multiple sclerosis, prostate cancer. I mean, there’s just one disease at a time now that’s popping up into the scene of being able to be controlled, if not in fact cured of this disease. That’s going to register with the public, there’s no question about it. It has to. Because I don’t know of—
Caryn Hartglass: Well unfortunately the bottom line in this country and many others is money. You kind of touched on it before, but the things that get studied, the things that get promoted, are things that can bring in a profit. Unless you’re someone who is going to really search out and try and find the information, especially if you have a health crisis, it’s really difficult for the mainstream to get information that’s going to literally save their lives. I’m grateful for everything that you’re doing, and all these other doctors that you’ve mentioned. I’m a big fan of all of them. So you have a foundation that you started. What does that do? The T. Colin Campbell Foundation.
T. Colin Campbell: Well, for some time in the earlier years we got a little funding in there to support my graduate students. But more recently we’ve gotten some additional funding from some different sources to do something that we’re very excited about, and that is to develop an online course in plant-based nutrition. We’re fortunate to be able to use the lectures that I had been giving at Cornell University in the class that I was offering there to put online, along with some lectures from some of my colleagues. This has all been organized just during the past year. One of my former students who took the class in addition to some other folks too, young people, we’re doing it in conjunction with the company that’s owned by Cornell University. The name of the company’s called eCornell, Incorporated. That’s the company that is a specialist in making online courses. They’ve really developed some wonderful formats for this kind of activity. We’ve had a course going now since a year ago. In fact, three courses. The way it works is such that when a virtual class gets together of about thirty, thirty-five people, they have the opportunity over a two-week period to listen to the lectures and then participate in some very active discussions with each other about what it is they’re listening to and then have the opportunity to express their opinions and raise questions. It turns out it’s been fantastic. This thing has taken off like a shot. We have physicians and other professionals taking this course, and we’re going to be able to offer accreditation—CME credits and other professional credits—for people to take this. We want do to a lot more with it. We’ve had to take it a step at a time, which is I’m sure a good idea, but we could use more funding for the foundation.
Caryn Hartglass: Of course.
T. Colin Campbell: Move it up to the next level. But so far it’s been beyond me. We’re getting students from Iran to Pakistan to Russia to Greece, whatever, and around this country of course, sharing ideas and talking about this. My book in fact has also been translated in about twenty languages now too. It’s become an international effort in many ways. Some of the people we get on there, we don’t know who they are, but it’s turned out that some of these people are very significant personalities. It’s gotten back to us. I don’t want to put their names out, we don’t want to do that at the moment, but I can just assure you that some of the people who have taken this course, it’s quite amazing. It’s been a great vehicle for bringing this up to a level of some serious discussion.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I look forward to the time when it’s required for those in medical school to take a program with this information in it.
T. Colin Campbell: Well medical school, I just said an incredible thing before about it and I want to say also at the same time there are some changes occurring that I’m excited about. Last year there were three new medical schools in the United States that were started, two in Florida, one in Texas. I was actually the inaugural staker in two of those three medical schools. Primarily because some of the leaders in those schools were becoming aware that nutrition really needed to be part of their program. I thought that was a very exciting development.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Can we talk a little more about healing disease with plant-based nutrition? Have you had any personal experience with this?
T. Colin Campbell: Well I certainly have had a number of friends and other colleagues who’ve listened to some of my lectures, tried it, and seen remarkable results. That’s always very gratifying. The problem with—I shouldn’t even call it a problem—but the issue there, however, is the fact that each person who comes and tells me about something like this and tells me about the remarkable results they’ve gotten switching to a plant-based diet, unfortunately in science we call that a case of one. Or it’s anecdotal.
Caryn Hartglass: Anecdotal. Love that word! Hate that word, actually.
T. Colin Campbell: I’m sure you do.
Caryn Hartglass: They always say that, anecdotal.
T. Colin Campbell: Yup. It’s always anecdotal. It turns out, and I’m writing this second book now just on this concept, talking about why it is that nutrition’s so confusing, it’s not understood, why the profession is ignoring, etc., etc., etc. That word anecdotal creeps into the conversation all the time. It’s the way to dismiss. It’s a way for the professional to dismiss what could be very important information because it’s just taking a case of one. Although I have to say that physicians who will in fact publish from time to time so-called case studies of one patient and kind of get away with it. But in reality I think when a lot of people, each of whom individually are talking about their achievements, it’s time for us in the profession to take that seriously. I’ve been organizing just with my sons, actually, an effort to do a demonstration project of what a plant-based diet can really do in a comprehensive way, and to do it in a way in which the people who participate in the project will sustain that activity going into the future. In other words, change their behavior. We now have tools that when we put it together in a program in a proper way, the results are fantastic. I’m having some difficulties for some time getting enough funding so we can take off, but I want to do it and do it in a very professional way. Get the information published and publicized. At that particular point in time it will be a program that we can in fact replicate. It’s basically a grassroots approach in other words, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve worked at senior levels within the government and elsewhere in academia. For a while I thought we should get the people at the top to understand this and it will all drift down. That’s a rather foolish idea. I was wrong. I think the only way to get this idea really working in our society is from the ground up. You’re doing that.
Caryn Hartglass: One person, and one person, and one person. Yeah.
T. Colin Campbell: That’s right. You don’t have to worry about who’s regulating what or need any kind of legislation. If you produce a product, and I’m sure here in this case we have a product, and if we have a service we can organize for people to participate in, and then go from there. We’re very excited about… We’ve got the pieces of that puzzle already put together. For example, for individuals to be able to track their own disease even when they don’t know they have it. Another program, you’re providing food for sample, at affordable cost, the right kind of food. We’re pulling these pieces together and right now we’re very excited about moving to the ultimate stage, and that’s creating a program that can be sustained and replicated.
Caryn Hartglass: I just wanted to talk a little bit about these case studies and these anecdotal situations. I had my own personal experience with ovarian cancer. When I was looking for solutions or what I could hold onto, and I read a number of books about case studies where people healed themselves, and they were dismissed by the medical community as anecdotal or as these spontaneous remissions and they would not even look at them. I kept realizing, especially with my background in engineering where I studied statistics and mathematical modeling and a variety of things, you have to have an explanation in order to dismiss a piece of data. I realized that the magic, the mystery was in those case studies. That’s where the focus needs to be because we’re going nowhere in the medical community, really, to cure some of these mystery diseases. Certainly we know what causes the major chronic diseases today. It’s mostly poor nutrition. But there are some mystery diseases. We need to focus on these case studies.
T. Colin Campbell: You just said something Caryn that just occurred to me. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s too easy for people to dismiss, especially for professionals who have their own agendas, it’s too easy for them to dismiss let’s say an observation, one or two or whatever, without explaining why it is that they’re dismissing it. You were just suggesting for example that we should take some responsibility; if we’re going to dismiss something we should at least offer some explanation better than is presently now used. Some explanation for why it doesn’t make sense.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I just remember in my college classes when we were doing our homework or our tests, we had a little box for our assumptions. If we didn’t have really good assumptions for dismissing certain things that we didn’t wanna deal with, we were docked points for it. But people get away with this all the time. I learned a lot on my own and found a path that I was really comfortable with, and fortunately I’m here to talk about it. There’s just so much that’s not getting any attention in order to heal and cure. Nutritional excellence is such a critical part of it.
T. Colin Campbell: Don’t you think now is the time, though? I think we’re getting to a critical time in our society, in our country, where this kind of information needs to go forward now because we have a serious healthcare crisis and we all know that. There are serious economic concerns where this is all going. I find it very strange, as matter of fact, during the past year or so that the discussions by the politicians and other people of the current healthcare crisis offering various and sundry proposals. I frankly saw, I think, that most of these proposals are talking about who’s going to pay the future bill. They’re not talking about how to reduce the future costs by actually making people well. It’s mostly just talking about who’s going to pay the future bill. That’s a ridiculous sort of vision, if you will.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
T. Colin Campbell: I think it’s now time to grapple with this problem, healthcare costs and healthcare, by coming up with some novel ideas to show people how in fact they can actually be well.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a favorite expression of my father’s where he says, if you can’t solve the problem, eliminate the problem. Eliminate the bill, okay? Get into nutritional excellence and preventative medicine, and there won’t be a giant bill.
T. Colin Campbell: That’s right. Exactly. We can in fact with the proper kind of diet. We can, I’m really convinced, spare at least seventy to eighty percent of all the illnesses and diseases we get. If not through prevention, actually through reversal and cure. It’s remarkable. This sounds like a figure from outer space for some people, but it is really true. We can actually eliminate and prevent, I say seventy to eighty percent. I’m saying that conservatively because I think it’s actually more than that.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you mention where you think things are going, have more success working from the ground up. I know you worked on a number of committees that were government-related and you were supposed to come up with some recommendations. Can you talk about some of those? I just remember reading in your book all the frustrations that you had where you were presenting sound science and not getting much support.
T. Colin Campbell: I was involved as a member in a number of these major committees where we’re addressing important questions in medicine and health from time to time. I really enjoy being on those committees for the most part, working with colleagues who are very diligent and also interested in exploring ideas. However, when those reports actually were finished off and then used, they became very politicized. Terribly politicized. In fact in more recent years it’s worse because now those committees have been organized by people who have close associations with the food and drug industry. They can help choose who’s going to be on the committees. That kind of expert policy work has now been corrupted even more. It’s a private sector. This is usually out of the view of the public. The private sector, in this case the corporations and companies who have something to gain, they’re the ones really controlling this process. They have become involved in the government network to actually gain control of how these committees are going to be run and of course at the end of the day what they’re going to say. I was for about twenty years involved in one or more of those committees and saw a lot unfortunately, too much sometimes I wish I’d never seen, but it’s really… Those committees are in a sense working at the interface between what science has attained by way of information, the interface between science and public policy.
Caryn Hartglass: Something I can never understand is people that have information and then support and promote something because there’s money behind it. Do they really believe this information? Because most of them have family, children, and wouldn’t they want to promote what’s best for them?
T. Colin Campbell: I’m understanding, I like to be positive. I think the majority of the scientists do want to do that. But unfortunately it only takes a small number who’s kind of weaseled away into chairmanships and other positions like that of power. The few are the bigots that couldn’t care less I think. Might just as well sell their grandmother downstream.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well unfortunately we’ve seen that.
T. Colin Campbell: They get involved and they get into important positions. Their primary interest is to protect the association with whom they’re connected, industries in this case, or at least maintain the status quo. There’s always the tendency, and that’s kind of the natural tendency for when committees getting together look at a lot of complex data in an area like this, and various people sitting on the committee have different views, the final report will come out like the least common denominator kind of information. Let’s say the safest thing, let’s not get into much trouble here. It comes out as kind of a wishy-washy report at best. Certainly for those committees to take a stance and show some leadership, it doesn’t happen. It rarely happens. If it does, if it’s some information that is kind of exciting—novel let’s say, the public should know about it—then when it gets massaged by the media and gets massaged by the companies who are interested in using this information, then all bets are off. You don’t make much progress. You just sort of kick the ball down the road and keep at the status quo. I see this kind of activity more with society today than I used to. Part of the reason that I just mentioned before about the need to go the grassroots route to go directly to people. Offer the service, offer the product, and say, “Here, here’s how you can use it. Try it for yourself.” That works. That really works. I know in our book that I did with my son—can I tell you about my son by the way, Tom Campbell. He’s our youngest son. At the time he had been a graduate in theater and he was an actor in Chicago, and he’d come back to help me write some of the words we had in the book. Did a lot of work on it. He got so fascinated with it that he decided to go to medical school at the end of his stint with me. Now in two months’ time he’s going to be graduating from medical school.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, congratulations.
T. Colin Campbell: He wants to practice doctoring in a rather different way, taking this information seriously. It’s not just Tom, but those other young pre-med students who’ve taken my course at Cornell and others who are getting very excited about the future. That’s another bright spot, young people.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, that’s exciting. Now you have five children.
T. Colin Campbell: Yes, we have five. They are between the ages of Tom, who is thirty-one, and the oldest is forty-five. They all eat that way and our five grandchildren eat that way too.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay. That was my question. Well good for you.
T. Colin Campbell: The whole family’s going down that route.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really wonderful. Now what motivates you? You have done so much work for so long, and you just keep going. I’ve seen where you’ve given a talk somewhere and then you get in a car and you drive tons and tons of miles to go somewhere else. What motivates you? Where do you get your rewards for what you’re doing?
T. Colin Campbell: I believe the information, I guess. I really believe it. That’s one thing. The other thing is that like other people, I see people now in their older years suffering needlessly. It really angers me to think that, whether they’re members of my own family or friends of ours or just others, it really angers me that so many of these people did not know what they could have known and they didn’t know. They end up the last few years of their lives suffering. I had an occasion to visit a senior home for a while. One of my best friends was there before he passed away. When I would go to a place like that and was in the neighborhood and from time to time meet people there who had just come into the facility who I knew as active people in their lives all of a sudden suffering. That is very motivational. To see people that you may have known suffer in their last days. That’s disgusting, frankly.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it is. So unnecessary.
T. Colin Campbell: Society, we’re warehousing these people.
Caryn Hartglass: I just… January I understand is the time where a lot of people die because they want to keep going for the Christmas and New Year holidays and then they kind of let out in January. I’ve been to a bunch of funerals this last few weeks of people that really didn’t need to go so soon. Very sad, very unfortunate. What about the people that don’t want the information?
T. Colin Campbell: There are some of those. There are those who are protecting industries and that’s their primary job, they feel. They can become very hostile. They can become really nasty and hostile. But then there are also some too who aren’t necessarily connected with any commercial interests, but may be products of their culture for a long time. They have come to really believe very firmly that what they’re doing is the right thing, and want to continue to do that and will not, for example, won’t even hear. They won’t wanna hear a lecture on this topic. They refuse to read a book in this area. You have to wonder about these kind of people. They have just formed a mental block. Wherever it comes from, I’m not sure. But sometimes for ideological, religious, social reasons, they’ve formed a block and they’re not going to hear it, hear anything to do with it. Once they say it, just ignore them. They’ll learn someday. I try not to deal with some of these folks because they can become quite hostile. The other ninety-five percent of people, I’m interested in.
Caryn Hartglass: The one thing I try and do on this show and everywhere else is to talk about how delicious the food is and how you won’t be deprived. You’ll be satisfied on a very healthy plant-based diet and you get all these wonderful benefits and also doing great things for the planet. But we’re out of time. Dr. Campbell, it was really great talking with you. I could talk to you for another few hours. You have so much wonderful information and passion for this subject, so thank you for what you do.
T. Colin Campbell: Thank you very much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. We’ll talk again. Please visit his website, tcolincampbell.org. I’m Caryn Hartglass. This is It’s All About Food. Thanks for listening.
Transcribed by JC, 6/10/2016