In each issue Vegetarians in Paradise presents the 24 Carrot Award to an outstanding person or organization that endeavors to practice or promote education, natural health, wholesome nutrition, and ecology techniques for the mutual benefit of humans, animals, and the earth.
Vegetarians in Paradise proudly presents its 24 Carrot Award to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Jacob Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell Univerity and author of The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health.
Through his work as a professor, reasearcher, and scientist for almost 40 years, Dr. Campbell has been an inspiration and health resource to people around the world. The high point of his career was serving as director of the China Study, the most comprehensive study of diet, lifestyle, and disease ever done with humans in the history of biomedical research. The New York Times described the project as the "Grand Prix of Epidemiology.
Dr. Campbell clearly exemplifies the positive aspects of a compassionate lifestyle by devoting his life to helping others through his research and writings.
What follows are the questions asked by Vegetarians in Paradise (VIP) and the answers by T. Colin Campbell (TCC).
VIP: In your recent book The China Study you call on Americans to change their diets in order to reduce their risk of chronic disease. How do you personally assess the impact of your book?
TCC: By noting the more than 200 reviews on Amazon.com (80% of which are 5- star) and an additional 100+ emails that I have received, with most of the recent comments being from practicing physicians and surgeons. I also especially like the comments of those who understand the basic science of nutrition and medicine and the message that I am most interested in, namely, the comprehensiveness of the nutrition effect on health and disease
VIP: The China Study focuses on the difference between diseases of affluence and diseases of poverty. What are the principal differences? Could you give us examples of diseases in each category?
TCC: Diseases of affluence are those that tend to occur much more frequently in industrially advanced, mostly Western nations. They tend to be chronic and degenerative, progressing with age (e.g., cancers, cardiovascular diseases, etc.). Diseases of poverty, as the name implies, are those that occur in the poorer societies and are strongly related to inadequate public health conditions and poor nutrition (e.g., infectious diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, tuberculosis, pneumonia).
VIP: Why is a study of over 6000 people in rural China relevant to Americans today?
TCC: All humans share virtually the same biochemistry and physiology, regardless of ethnicity, race and gender. They differ, both as individuals and as groups of people, in the DEGREE to which they respond to dietary insult. But the direction of the effect is essentially the same.
VIP: Could you tell us what circumstances in your career led you to focus on diet and nutrition as a means for combating disease?
TCC: It was almost entirely due to the evidence produced by my work in experimental research and policy development. I say "my" advisably because I had many colleagues (students, post-docs, professorial colleagues) who worked with me, both in the U.S. and in several countries abroad.
VIP: What personal experiences led you to vegetarianism and veganism? How long have you been vegan?
TCC: I never intended to seek out evidence to support vegetarianism or veganism because of any preconceived ideas or experiences. Indeed, I tend not to use the 'V' words because they often infer something other than what I espouse. I have been a 99% vegan since about 1990.
VIP: You pioneered a college class in Vegetarian Nutrition. Which aspects of vegetarianism did you emphasize? What kind of reception did the class receive? Did you encounter any obstacles?
TCC: I focused on the role of nutrition on health maintenance and disease occurrence. I wanted to illustrate the concept of plant-based eating by understanding the basic biochemistry and physiology of health and disease. I also included discussions on the way that research is conducted and the reasons why research reports on diet and health tend to be so confusing. And finally, I shared to some extent my experiences on expert panels that write the national and international food and health policy documents and recommendations. This course was offered for 7 years with 30 to 40 lectures/meetings per year and was greatly enriched by presentations provided by about two dozen of my professional colleagues around the U.S.
VIP: Is the current food pyramid an improvement over previous ones? If you could develop your own nutritional guide, what foods would it stress and which would eliminate?
TCC: I think that the Food Pyramid is rather trivial and highly political. I have paid little attention to what they say or do, for I know how corrupt is that process. More on my views can be found at http://www.nutritionadvocate.com/index.html.
VIP: You have made some strong statements about the negative effects of casein, a milk protein. Could you give our readers some of the major points you make about the detrimental nature of casein? What led you to those views?
TCC: In experimental animals (rats and mice) we could turn on and off experimental cancer development by feeding and withdrawing casein at levels above minimum protein requirements. We also studied in great detail how this works and discovered some very profound and provocative phenomena that relate, more generally, to the broader issue of diet and health. This began with my work in the Philippines coordinating a nationwide program for feeding malnourished children and observing that those few families and their children consuming protein diets at levels similar to the U.S. got more cancer. A subsequent experimental animal study in India confirmed what I suspected that I was seeing. This then led to a long series of experimental animal studies that was largely confirmed in the studies of others, both in humans and in experimental animals.
VIP: The meat and dairy industries have much power and influence in our society. How have these groups affected you personally and in your career?
TCC: They know well who I am, ever since about 1982, and they have tried, at times vigorously, to use less than professional means to silence me and to discredit my reputation. This has only spurred me onwards.
VIP: As citizens how can we effectively oppose these groups and make the public aware of the dangers of animal protein consumption?
TCC: Specifically on the issue of animal protein, by reading the The China Study, the book that I wrote with my son, Tom, who is now in medical school hoping to enter medicine with a refreshingly different view. Of course, there are many other excellent books written by highly qualified medical practitioners and others that are consistent with what I believe, although they have not dealt with animal protein in the ways that I have done. I have in mind pioneering medical practitioner books like those of Drs. John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., Joel Fuhrman, Hans Diehl, Bill Harris, Robert Kradjian, Pamela Popper and Tom Barnard, along with other excellent books like those of John Robbins, Brenda Davis, Vesanto Melina, James Mason, Meg Wolff and Jane Plant, among many others.
VIP: How have your colleagues responded to your efforts to reverse chronic diseases through diet?
TCC: As far as the research community is concerned, mostly with silence, although as I write this, I am suddenly seeing an increasing number of medical practitioners beginning to carry the banner forward. These people have, for the most part, seen first hand what they can do for their patients when they adopt this practice. I've lost some research colleagues but I've gained a lot more new colleagues.
VIP: If a person comes to you and asks how to improve his/her health and lose weight at the same time, what initial dietary measures would you recommend?
TCC: Cut down, as much as possible, the consumption of animal based foods, processed foods (including those made of plant based ingredients), and eliminate if possible all added oil/fat, sugar and salt.
VIP: How do your friends and relatives react to your emphasis on a plant-based diet?
TCC: Quite well. My family of 5 grown children and 5 grandchildren all consume virtually the same diet. Also, my two brothers and sister are close to this ideal. One brother is total, so he tells me. Some friends follow this practice, some don't but all seem quite respectful of the idea.
VIP: Could you tell us the role your family has played in your career activities?
TCC: My immediate family could hardly have been more supportive. My wife, Karen, has been especially supportive. In fact, I cannot say with certainty that I would have succeeded getting this far without her support. I might have strayed.
VIP: What personal goals have you set for yourself in the coming years?
TCC: To promote the science that underlies this practice. I believe that if people truly understand the empirical evidence, many would come very close to adopting this style of eating. I am truly amazed at the number of people who have told me as much after reading our book.
VIP: Of all of your personal accomplishments, which ones give you the most pride and satisfaction?
TCC: Negotiating the development of the nationwide study in China at a time when the political and cultural climates of doing so were not especially embracing the idea. This was the first jointly funded research project between the U.S. and China and, later in 1997, it was awarded first prize as being the most significant health prevention study in the 20-year period, 1978-1997 (among 111 competing entries). I give this example as a cherished accomplishment because I have always had a calling, perhaps a calling higher than that of promoting a particular view of science, to find ways that peoples of different ethnic, religious, and geographic origins might cooperate. I am a great believer in the philosophy that we all are of one race, with the same personal desires and abilities. We too often fail to look for this common ground.
VIP: What leisure activities and hobbies do you enjoy?
TCC: I used to say hunting, traveling, writing, and being with the family. I have since changed the tools of my "hunting," using a camera instead of the guns that I was raised on.
VIP: Can you give our readers the main features of your personal diet and exercise regimen?
TCC: Almost entirely plant based with no added oil or sugar, and very little or no added salt. About 60-70% of it is raw. I also exercise every day, jogging, mostly 3-6 miles, and work out on the weights.
VIP: What person or persons have had the most influence on your life?
TCC: I cannot say "most." I can only name a few who are candidates, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
VIP: We may have omitted areas that are important to you. Please feel free to add anything you would like to share with our readers.
TCC: Thank you for considering me. But, as we all know, I could have little or nothing without the support of so many people.
Information about The China Study can be found at http://www.thechinastudy.com/
To read Vegetarians in Paradise review of The China Study click on http://www.vegparadise.com/vegreading74.html