If there is one piece of advice that Dr T. Colin Campbell, 87, would give to those looking to age well and stay healthier for longer, it would be to change your diet to a whole-food-based approach. of plants.
The idea of a “plant-based” diet has grown in popularity in recent years, but it was first invented by Campbell in 1978. The best-selling co-author of “The China Study” (published 2006) said it was exciting to see him gain ground. during the last years.
“It’s interesting because the idea that a plant-based diet may be the best and the way of the future is just starting to catch on with the mainstream,” Campbell said.
His recommendation that almost anyone can adopt a plant-based diet and benefit their life is based on a discovery he made early in his career: People don’t need to eat animal protein to that their bodies are getting the protein they need.
For the son of a dairy farmer, this went against what he believed growing up – but evidence that a plant-based diet can prevent and, in the vast majority of cases, even reverse them. common American diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease was so strong that he dedicated his career to researching and sharing his findings publicly. He has also worked on public policy development in health and nutrition and served as the Congressional Liaison Officer for the medical research community in 1980 and 1981.
Campbell has not always been interested in the study of nutrition. He was finishing his first year of veterinary school when he received a telegram from a well-known Cornell professor offering him a scholarship and research opportunity, which led him to complete his studies at Cornell University and the MIT in the field of nutrition, biochemistry and toxicology. While at Cornell around 1965, he was tasked with coordinating an effort to help malnourished children in the Philippines. It was believed at the time that children needed more animal protein to be healthy, but what Campbell found instead was that the few children from families who could consume more animal protein had a higher rate of liver cancer than their peers.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Campbell. “I have asked many students to do lab work on this issue and over the years I have found that you don’t have to eat animal food to get this protein. This is totally wrong. “
Campbell spent a decade in the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition at Virginia Tech, then returned to Cornell in 1975, where he currently holds his chair as Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry in the Division of Nutritional Sciences.
In recent years, Campbell has founded a nonprofit online nutrition learning organization that recently developed, under the leadership of Campbell’s daughter, LeAnne Campbell, the Plant Forward program, which runs online workshops.
The workshops teach a simple philosophy that may be difficult to put into practice at first, but which pays off a lot if the individual can stick to it for a month or two, Campbell said.
“The people who stay with her are often people who have a serious health problem or who have a motivation,” he said. Sometimes the effects are almost immediate.
“People can see their blood sugar drop dramatically within a day,” he said. “It’s incredible.”
The key is to go all out on the new diet. He likened it to quitting smoking – just cutting back to one or two cigarettes a day or smoking some days but not others is not likely to lead to long-term success. But soon, Campbell said, this new kind of food will become second nature and even a treat.
“You will suddenly find that you crave a salad,” he said. “Just eat vegetables, grains, nuts, and avocados for oil and fat.”
“As much as possible, avoid added oils and refined carbohydrates,” he added.
The effects of adopting a whole plant diet are striking, he said.
“We can turn experimental liver cancer genes on with animal proteins and turn them off by eating a plant-based diet,” he said.
Campbell’s own father died of a heart attack at the age of 70, and his wife’s mother died of colon cancer when she was just 51. His wife is 80 and both are largely drug-free, except for a short time Campbell spent taking medication to control her blood pressure.
Campbell’s first book, “The China Study,” emerged from a partnership in the 1980s with researchers at Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine and sold nearly four million copies worldwide. Campbell continued with his second book, “Whole,” in 2013, which focuses on the science behind the plant-based diet.
In 2020, he published “The Future of Nutrition: An Insider’s Look at the Science, Why We Keep Getting Wrong, and How to Start Getting It Right”.
He still lectures and participates in the Herbal Nutrition Online Certificate in partnership with eCornell. His research is the cornerstone of the 2011 documentary film “Forks Over Knives” and his eldest son, Nelson Campbell, made another popular documentary on the subject called “Plant Pure Nation”.
Some advice he received from his father that guided him throughout his life: “Speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s a philosophy that allowed him to question his original assumption that eating animals should be good for you.
“The key is to be honest with yourself and check your own biases,” he said. “It’s really critical.”