The Amazing Pill

            Have you heard about the possibility of a long awaited breakthrough in medical research?  It’s a pill that can keep most of us healthy and vital into our 80s and 90s by:

  • Preventing 95% of premature cancers,
  • Preventing nearly all heart attacks and strokes,
  • Often reversing heart disease,
  • Preventing and reversing type 2 diabetes,
  • Returning most to their idea weight,
  • Improving energy,
  • Curing erectile dysfunction, and more.

            I have no doubt that pharmaceutical CEOs everywhere dream about this possibility.  Now, what if the benefits of the amazing pill were already available in the form of an evidenced based diet?  As it happens, such a diet exists and for most lives up to its claims.

            Research leading to evidence based support for the diet has taken over 50 years.  The first major report to the general public was published in 2005.  The book that detailed these findings was “The China Study.”  In essence, the study compared the health consequences of diets rich in animal-based foods to diets rich in plant-based foods among people that were genetically similar.  In it’s magnitude and breadth, the study is still the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing a wide range of diseases.

            As with most paradigm shifts, beliefs, culture and economic interest often delay research findings from being widely accepted.  Really, who wants to offend mom for a family favorite recipe despite the fact that no one lived beyond 60 eating it.  It’s also rare for a news organization to risk offending its most important advertisers by reporting negative opinions about their products.  In a healthcare system where the expectation is disease care, explaining that the goal should be health care that minimizes disease care and maximizes disease prevention is a challenging message to convey.

            The person most recognized for creating the paradigm shift in nutrition in America is T. Colin Campbell, PhD.  Today, at age 84, Dr. Campbell holds the position of Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.  Some 50 years ago Dr. Campbell was one of many searching for answer in the nuances of physiological and biochemical processes.  It was during these early years that Dr. Campbell became part of what is now called The China Study, a 20-year partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine.

            While the depth and breadth of the China Study is remarkable, the findings were very simple to understand and apply.  A plant based whole food diet demonstrated the most health promoting opportunities.  In essence, a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes was the answer.  It’s also a diet that minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, along with highly refined foods (bleached flour, refined sugar, salt, and refined fats.)  Over the many years since the China Study, hundreds of peer reviewed research papers have published data confirmed findings from the China Study.

            Unfortunately, there remain economic interests (food, pharmaceutical, medical research, etc.) not well served by the message that certain foods are health promoting and that other very profitable foods are disease promoting.  Fortunately, there are a growing number of healthcare professionals that are beginning to question the status quo.

            If interested in more about the China Study and subsequent explanations that fill in details of the story I’ve skipped over, I recommend reading:

  • “The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health” by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II
  • “Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition” by T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson
  • “The Campbell Plan” by Thomas Campbell

            If more interested in how to eat nutritious and delicious foods than the science behind the recommendations, I suggest reading “The Campbell Plan’ by Thomas Campbell, MD.  While having a deeper understanding of the science is helpful, at the end it comes down to buying nutritious foods and preparing them.  For suggestions about preparing plant base whole foods I recommend five popular cookbooks.

  • “The How Not to Die Cookbook: 100+ Recipes to Help Prevent and Reverse Disease” by Michael Greger M.D. and Gene Stone
  • “The China Study Cookbook: Over 120 Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes”, by LeAnne Campbell and Steven Campbell
  • “The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook: Over 125 Delicious, Life-Changing, Plant-Based Recipes” by Ann Crile Esselstyn
  • “The Engine 2 Cookbook: More than 130 Lip-Smacking, Rib-Sticking, Body-Slimming Recipes to Live Plant-Strong” by Rip Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn
  • “Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

            Many more wonderful plant based whole food cookbooks are available that offer a near unlimited opportunity for the most discriminating taste buds.

            Nancy Neighbors, MD

About The Nobel Prize in Medicine

            The Nobel Prize in Medicine is awarded to people whose work is transformative and translational.  Dr. Campbell’s primary discovery in human health has the power to benefit every person born into this world.  It is also one of the most important methods for improving the nation’s health.

The Nobel Prize in Medicine has never recognized the power of healthy nutrition.

            In recognizing Dr. Campbell’s groundbreaking research, the Nobel Committee has an opportunity to bring attention to one of the most important health truths ever discovered: the extraordinary ability of plant-based nutrition to maintain health and prevent and reverse disease.

            Dr. Campbell’s 50+ years at the forefront of nutrition research have resulted in a new understanding of the link between diet/lifestyle and disease formation and opened up a profoundly unique area of study for cancer prevention and treatment.

            Trained at Cornell University (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT (Research Associate) in nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology, in 1975, Campbell accepted a tenured professorship at Cornell. A decade later, he was awarded the Jacob Gould Schurman Professorship of Nutritional Biochemistry, now Professor Emeritus.

            Dr. 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 from the National Cancer Institute of NIH), authored over 350 research papers, and served on many expert panels on food and health.

            To his credit, he was an outstanding researcher that remained true to the spirit of research.  As he tells the story, it was his inability to reconcile outliers in his data that caused him to question the status quo.  From these early suspicions about conventional theories he began to appreciate that the complexities of biochemical processes were quite interesting but unlikely to be understood well enough to create medicines that addressed the broad spectrum of needs people have for longevity and quality of life.

            Dr. Campbell is publicly best known for his co-authorship of the 2005 book, The China Study, now having sold well over two million copies and still selling at a remarkable pace 14 years later.  His later book, “Whole”, published in 2013, brings together his research findings, his recommendations for health, and the challenges our country faces as we change how healthcare is taught in public schools and medical schools.

            The pioneering work of Dr. Campbell and his team have opened the door to a new area of study, especially in the relationship of nutrition to cancer.  Campbell’s groundbreaking research has shown us the enormous importance of scientifically connecting health and medical research with the infinitely complex physiological and biochemical events of the whole body.  His work also shows an enormous capacity for nutrition, a long ignored and misunderstood science, to play a central role in health maintenance and disease formation.

            If you would like to see Dr. Campbell nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contribution to the health and wellbeing of the world, then join with me in a petition to help make that possible.  To add your support for Dr. Campbell, click here.

Published by Nancy Neighbors, MD

... Dr. Neighbors provides a blend of traditional family medicine and evidence-based lifestyle medicine in Huntsville, Alabama. When indicated, lifestyle change is recommended as the first line of therapy.

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