“The China Study” Author Dr. T. Colin Campbell Reveals Hundreds of Years of Support for His Nutrition Symphony Concept
This is part three of a three part interview series with Dr. T Colin Campbell. We’re going to be looking at “The China Study”; which is the book that Dr. Campbell coauthored and it’s also a New York Times bestseller.
Books like ““The China Study”” and “Whole” and others that Dr. Campbell has worked on and his countless lectures have really inspired thousands of people to eat more plant based whole foods and arguably add years to their lives. He was also in ‘Forks Over Knives’ the film that has impacted many people.
Back to ““The China Study””. Just in case you’re not familiar with the research and the book, it’s the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. And here’s a little hint about the research findings: Dr. Campbell stopped eating dairy and eggs and meat in response to this research and his findings with his co-workers. He also coined the phrase “whole food, plant-based”.
Dr. Campbell is a professor emeritus at my alma mater Cornell University where he taught research for decades. It is an honor to have you back here Dr. Campbell.
Let’s start with talking about “The China Study”. From my perspective this book is about real tangible steps we can take to reduce cancer risk heart disease diabetes and obesity. Why has there been so much controversy around your books and your research?
Dr. Campbell: Well, actually when I was at Oxford 30 years ago; Oxford University that is – I had to question at that time. Why was there so much controversy about the role of nutrition in cancer?
It was a new to me to some extent in those days. I had been on a National Academy of Science panel in 1982. They got a lot of attention in those days. It was the first so-called institutional science-based report that was published on the subject, and I was pretty involved in that. I was one of the 13 authors and then I ended up being the one who also gave testimony before congressional committees. I was, you know, in magazines and PBS, etc.
So, I kind of became, to some extent, the voice and the face of that report. What I got was something I never expected: the hostility. I mean, there was a lot of interest a lot of excitement about it at the time, but there was also a lot of hostility.
People were so upset with it because we were saying, “Just eat vegetables”.
And so then I went to Oxford. Two years after that I actually asked that question myself. Why all the hostility? Everybody assumed this was a new topic. It was 1982 and everyone assumed it was some kind of new topic for science. I thought, “Is there something going on behind this?”
And so when I went to Oxford quite frankly all hell broke loose on my involvement. And so I went to the library in Oxford to explore the old literature. It was so fascinating.
I ended up writing a paper about 60 pages or so. I never published it; learned a lot. Basically to ask myself, “What does history have to do with what we now know?” Put more bluntly, “Was there anything in history that could explain to us why we’re in such a mess; you know, when it comes to questions like food and cancer and so forth?”
So, I never publish that. Just now, I just finished cleaning it up and I’m publishing or three papers and the editor of one of the better known journals is very excited about it. I’m excited about it too because I just get a feeling now that I know why there is so much controversy around this field, I think. I mean, obviously, industry plays a role. That’s understandable. But there was more than that.
There’s something about the way we think, the way we think about food and the way we actually think about ourselves.
Why this unusual…let’s say interest, let’s be positive…why this interest in this topic?
Why is nutrition ignored?
Nutrition is ignored in professional communities, and that’s the title of my talk. I give a lot of help to medical schools now, and I say “Why don’t you pay attention to nutrition?” or “Why do you ignore nutrition?” and so we’ll get into some discussion. I mean I try to do it politically correct if you will, and we have discussions.
Nutrition is so confusing. History really tells us a lot about that; way back in 1800’s and even before.
Alicia: Dr. Campbell, I want to pause and take in what you just said. So, in the case of cancer nutrition is ignored by medical professionals and it’s even bigger than that. This controversy has to do with industry and big money that is made from selling unhealthy food, pharmaceuticals, etc. And this controversy also stems from the way we think, the way we think about food and the way we think about ourselves. Are you saying that this goes back hundreds of years?
Dr. Campbell: That’s right. In 1800’s the question was, “What causes cancer and how do you treat it?” I mean, the doctors of those days they thought cancer was a local disease; they called it Local Theory of Disease and there was an alternative view that was called the Constitutional Nature of Disease; Two very different sort of points of view. And in any case, the ones who like the local idea, they were their surgeons. Because if you assume that, all you need to do is cut it out. And they basically accuse their opponents of fear of the knife. They actually wrote books on that one written in 1700’s. Now in the 1800’s, then they thought, “You know, this is the way to handle it”.
Nutrition was reflected in the so-called Constitutional Nature of Disease. In other words, it referred to something about the whole body. We have very comprehensive scientific or biological effect and they (Local Theory of Disease supporters) couldn’t stand that.
There were some great debates in Europe at that time; one in 1840’s, another one in Paris in about 1875. And so, the Local Theory and the surgeons they won out.
The Constitutional Nature of Disease is the reality with cancer, involving the whole body, food, the environment and so forth.
And so the people with the local theory of disease won the day. They basically just said to the others, “Hey, the only reason you don’t like us because you fear the knife.” There are two books written that way. And so, as we get into the late 1800s; with the advent of the industrial revolution, microscopes had come in by that time and there were other sorts of instrumentation allowing us to peer into issues concerning biology a little better.
And at that time nutrition faded into the background as something they couldn’t quite understand. The surgeons picked up a couple of new allies. One was the radiation biologists, because they agreed with the radiation people that, “Yeah, maybe we could take care of our cancer by just beaming a ray of radiation directly at the cancer and killing the cancer.” So, that’s one way they did it. That’s when radiation therapy came into play. That was the late 1800s, early 1990s.
The other ally they picked up with the chemotherapy people. In that particular case it’s the same sort of thought: “Cancer is a local disease. We’ve got to kill the darn thing”. And so, they were trying to figure out what chemicals might be used to selectively kill cancerous cells.
All during this period of late 1800s, and early 1990s; especially in the early 1990s was when some major professional societies began. One was the American Association for Cancer Research A.A.C.R. in 1902. Now a very prominent one. It is the leading Cancer Research Organization in the country. In fact, I’ve been a long time member of that one. The other was the American Cancer Society; they started in 1913.
Then on a British side, I was mostly familiar with the English literature, so it’s UK and US essentially, but on the British side, there were a couple of organizations called the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. They incidentally gave a small amount of money for our cancer study our China Study. The other was called the British Empire Cancer Campaign; more clinically oriented.
And those two organizations together; the two organizations here in the States, really took over and they established the sort of programs that we should be following. That gently boiled down to surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. So that really put a firm grip on the way we think about cancers, starting in the early 1990s especially. And it continues through the years. All the while, the point of view which had been prominent in the 1800s, constitutional nature of disease, it remained in the background. Every once in a while would kind of surface. Somebody would bring it up.
In one case, the founder of the New York Scan and Cancer Hospital, which later became a very important hospital later. He suggested the surgery wasn’t working. He got thrown out of his cancer study when he was 82 years old. And they really acted very harshly against anybody who brought up the question concerning Nutrition.
In fact, the founder of the American Cancer Society…said they should concern themselves with the nutritional causation of cancer. Basically, he was off the board of trustees within three years after that. Then they really started maligning him until the end of his life in 1943. And he was a giant. He was a great thinker, but he was more into the lifestyle kind of idea.
Alicia: This goes back to your analogy that nutrition is a symphony; different elements of life are interacting and sometimes manifesting cancer, which is a complex disease category; cancer is not simple. And it’s possible that we could actually lower our risk of getting cancer by eating the right food; mainly a whole food plant based diet. And that’s really, very exciting. We don’t need to wait for another drug or machine or complicated operation with unknown side effects to save us. We can prevent these risks. And as we discussed in the first two parts of this three part interview series, we can also eat delicious food, drink water, exercise and dance and compose our own symphony instead of being victims. I really like that.
Dr. Campbell: And so, now today what do we have? We have a system whereby cancer is treated in this very local theory of disease. Shaping perspective and everything we do with cancer patients. Virtually everything we do to explain cancer, biochemically, and everything we do when we talk about the causes of cancer, all comes back to that same point. You know, we just need to identify the specific chemical environment, this or that. We need to know exactly what the mechanism it is so we can make a chemical and attack the mechanism.
The entire drug industry; the chemotherapy industry. It’s all dead wrong.
I guess, I should use that word advisedly, but I intend it because an awful lot of people are paying a huge price for this nonsense, for this behemoth industry we now have. And it really is tragic and they have done everything they can until the present day to diminish any discussion about nutrition.
And so, in 1982 when I was on that committee, that was the first institution report to give some voice to this. And when we got done giving testimony to congressional hearings People Magazine came along and did kind of a special on me. I was on PBS and things like that. And then my society, after they had nominated me for president, they negated the election and had a petition to have me thrown out of the society.
One gives life gives life to another. You know, I’ve been living with that stuff for now for 35 years. It really comes down and I have to say to Cornell University too. Cornell gets hooked up in it because they get a lot of money from the industry. And so, it’s been a roller coaster ride. And a lot of fun sometimes, because like I find new ways of saying things with more validity.
I’ve been on a number of the expert panels on this subject over the years and I know how public policy is made. I know how these ideas sort of get fixed in place.
I have to say, and this is pretty serious criticism, that the ones in authority controlling knowledge and information are controlling knowledge for their benefit, not for the benefit of the public.
And so as a result the public is listening all the time. They hear things on TV. They hear this and that. But most of that stuff that they get access to is pretty well controlled; either directly or indirectly by unconscious people.
And so a lot of the information we get is very confusing; it’s very confusing and it’s counterproductive.
And so, my mission I guess in the rest of my life is to see this thing through. One way of doing that is just figuring out how the public can get educated. Also, right now we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to do the ultimate study on this. You know, thanks to my younger son who is a physician and he’s clinical director of the first program of nutrition at a major medical school in the United States. His wife is assistant professor there at the University of Rochester Medical Center. So, we’re setting up something that was never been done. My son Tom has really become very, very informed of this and has become a good spokesperson.
So, it’s a combination of research, education and activism. And you and I work together on this too as you know. You were very helpful in getting in touch with a couple of groups. It’s a three-pronged approach. And the main point here is let’s serve the public, let’s serve the next unwitting victim of this disease. That’s all I care about is just making sure that the person who most deserves this information gets the information.
And it just so happens, those are the people who paid for my research.
They were taxpayers. All of my research is paid for by taxpayers and I don’t like these third party outfits called news or U.S. government or called industry. I don’t like them come along and massaging my data by controlling the knowledge that is paid for by the taxpayer. I’m going to do what I can to go straight back to the taxpayer. That’s my story. I’m pretty passionate about it as you can probably tell. I’m going to do whatever I can to make this happen. And Alicia, I have to tell you, this is the first time I’ve actually talked like this on this topic.
Alicia: Thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise with our audience, Dr Campbell. Your contributions to science and the world are immense and it is truly an honor to have you here on Healthy Gypsy Soul.
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