Diet and Disease with Drs. T. Colin Campbell and LeAnne Campbell
Dr. T. Colin Campbell is a graduate of Cornell University and went on to get his medical degree from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine. He has published multiple papers in the scientific literature and has presented widely on the topic of plant-based nutrition.
Dr. LeAnne Campbell is president of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She has over 30 years of experience designing and directing education initiatives, including leadership programs, professional development for teachers, and development workshops.
How Did You Make the Switch to Whole Food Plant-Based?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: My career started a long time ago in the late 1950s in graduate school. I had come from a farm milking cows and eating meat. That’s who we were. I did my graduate research – my doctoral dissertation in fact – specifically on finding doing some research promoting the consumption of more animal protein.
I had a chance to coordinate a project in the Philippines feeding malnourished children, and there we were supposed to be giving them more protein. That was supposed to be the solution to that problem, but what I saw there was a bit alarming. The families consuming the most protein, like we do in the West, had a higher risk of getting liver cancer. That was really odd, because that suggested this thing about animal protein being so important was being challenged for me.
Dr. LeAnne Campbell: When I left to go to college in 1984, we were still having dairy ice cream and even a little bit of eggs. I remember coming home from college and opening the refrigerator. I saw all these plant-based milks. Dairy was replaced with soy ice cream, and it was interesting because when I graduated from college, they were pretty close to being almost 100% plant-based. They had also taken out the dairy in the late 80s – around 1988.
I ended up working in the Dominican Republic immediately after college, and I was living in a rural clinic rehabilitating malnourished children. There were some instances that happened when I was living and working there that really made me start questioning the ethical and humanitarian role of meat in our diet.
Dr. LeAnne, can you tell us a little bit about your experience in the Dominican Republic?
The diet has changed tremendously in the Dominican Republic. 30 years ago when I lived there, there were a lot more small gardens in people’s homes. There was less meat compared to what people are eating right now; people consume almost three times more meat than they used to!
There has also been a major shift in the amount of oil in the Dominican diet. Before, it was a lot more expensive, but now you can get a gallon of corn oil easily. That gallon is gone for a family of four almost within a week. We did a little health survey, and there was a lot more oil, a lot more meat, and just junk food, in general. Spam, salami, that kind of thing – today there is a lot more processed meats available. Before, everyone had gardens, and there was much more local food.
Dr. T. Colin, did you see similar changes during your work in China?
I’ve recently noticed an epidemiological transition you may have heard about. I published a paper in early 1990s actually, because of being in the Philippines, being in China, and being in those southeast Asian societies, where the diets are very different, and then watching them change. I saw this particularly in China; we repeated The China Study we first did in 1983, doing it again in 1989. In just that six year period, the diet had changed quite dramatically, especially in urban areas. There was this desire in those societies; as soon as they got some money, they would eat like Americans. That was the flagship idea that they were aspiring to, and I used to have discussions with my Chinese colleagues – who were the ones setting the standards for the country.
“Why are you even recommending even higher levels of protein than what we do in the west?”
This was in the 1980s, and they said, “Well, because you people in the United States eat a lot of protein, and you get big and strong. You compete in athletics.” They were looking forward to their Olympics at that time, and they said they’ll increase it because they thought that they had to have more protein to be able to compete with the West.
The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (CNS) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to increasing awareness of the extraordinary impact that food has on the health of our bodies, our communities, and our planet. Through science-based education, service, and advocacy, we seek to inspire and connect all people, providing practical solutions to enable a healthier life, more equitable communities, and a sustainable world.
The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies was established to extend the impact of Dr. Campbell’s life changing research findings. For decades, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, has been at the forefront of nutrition education and research. He is the coauthor of the bestselling book, The China Study, and his legacy, the China Project, is one of the most comprehensive studies of health and nutrition ever conducted.
Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies: https://nutritionstudies.org
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