Fifty Year Anniversary of a Nutritional Revolution: #WFPB

Cornell Peace Talks published a video of T. Colin Campbell reflecting on The State of Nutritional Science today in which he lays out very clearly what sets Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition apart from other approaches, particularly the vegan and vegetarian “trends.” It traces the history all the way back to the 1968 Indian study which first documented the mechanism of how excess protein intake promotes tumor growth. Later on, he established that not only are our protein needs much lower than traditionally thought, at around 10%, also plant-based proteins tend to inhibit tumor growth while animal-based proteins (meat, fish, fowl, dairy) tend to promote tumor growth, all of which was a key insight that led him to formulate the whole foods, plant-based nutritional paradigm as the optimal one for human beings. It all led to the publication of The China Study in 2007. In short, we are at the 50-year anniversary of these insights entering the public dialogue, and apparently Cornell University in its ultimate wisdom, and perhaps under pressure from the food industry has canceled Prof. Campbell’s nutrition class. Cornell Peace Talks is a student action dedicated to rectifying this situation.

T. Colin Campbell is the father of Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition.
T. Coin Campbell official photo from Center for Nutrition Studies

Since Campbell’s work is so central to the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet in all its many forms, and in fact foundational to a large and ever-growing body of clinical work, I want to post this video here. His certificate course is always still available through his Center for Nutrition Studies. The course is helpful to anyone who wants to practice whole foods plant-based nutrition, as well as providing CEU credit for medical practitioners who prescribe or otherwise work with diets that are founded on this research.

KISS: Whole Foods, Plant-Based

It pays to remember just how simple the program really is, Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition means what it says, with the only additional provisos being no ADDED Sugar, Oil or Salt. In practice there is always the 4Leaf Survey as a simple self-diagnosis to see where our eating habits score on the scale. The 4Leaf Survey is so simple that it guides you up the ladder towards better and better nutrition. Whole means whole, i.e. minimally processed. Plant-Based means plant based. The combination means you choose brown rice over white, whole wheat over white flour, or pasta, etc. Steel-cut oats over rolled oats: actually rolled oats are interesting, because it seems to be one step processing, but it is really two, for heat devevelops in the process of rolling the oats, and that’s why they cook quicker.

Clinical practice in Whole Foods, Plant-Based regimen

As a reminder, I give here a partial list of the clinicians whose work ultimately rests (though in some cases after the fact) on Campbell’s work as the foundational nutritional science. I may update this list for a while, but it is ever-growing. The bottom line is that the growing body of clinical research is anchored in the nutritional science that defined the Whole Foods, Plant-based diet in the first place. Perhaps most importantly, it pays to realize this is not a diet, but a lifestyle.

As to contributions to evidence-based nutrition and medicine,  I should mention:

Research Implications of Prof. T. Colin Campbell’s work

Perhaps the most important aspect of Prof. T. Colin Campbell’s work is his formulation of the paradigm of wholeness in nutrition and medical research, never mind his unfortunate habit of writing wholistic, instead of holistic – everyone is entitled to some foibles. The fundamental shift here is seeing that foods is more than the sum of its parts, it cannot be reconstituted from a bottle. The natural result of following a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle is a state of nutritional abundance, which puts your body in optimal position to deal with the stresses and strains of living. The sad truth about SAD (Standard American Diet) is that it sacrifices nutrition to convenience and as a culture, we are paying the price. From a research perspective it also means that the reductionist practice which dominates drug research and nutritional research is furthermore invalid for the simple reason that it is not interesting to see how one variable improves a diet that is making us sick when we have the option of choosing a diet that provably empowers us to take care of our own health, and maximizes the ability of our bodies to heal themselves. This is why the newly emerging specialty of Lifestyle Medicine is growing by leaps and bounds and doctors are leaping at the chance of practicing lifestyle medicine because they see such quick results, very often quicker than with any drugs and without any side-effects. In other words Lifestyle Medicine becomes 80% of the medical practice, and pills an procedures are relegated to 20%. In the process, the position of the primary care physician is gaining new relevance in our health care approach.

A Paradigm Shift in Nutrition

Just as important as Campbell’s foundational work The China Study, is his later book, Whole. There he fleshes out in brilliantly clear language, how we need to start thinking about nutrition in a radically different way. To be precise, the sum is greater than it’s parts, and this changes everything. A holistic approach is an absolute must. Dr. Pam Popper delivered some videos on the book that are worth reviewing.

The bottom line is that the reductionist approach to nutrition (and for that matter pharmaceutical research) leads to nonsense. For one thing it turns out that many isolated nutrients are not well absorbed in supplement form, to the point of sometimes even being toxic. So again it is the whole nutrition which works and you can’t make it up with pills. One example is that vitamin C is absorbed 265 times better from an apple than from a pill.

Food Business and Restaurants

In the food business, the implication is that fresh is preferable to processed, so the transition will shift people towards a new plant base diet grocery list, with the emphasis on fresh foods and vegetables. That does not mean however, that there is not a place for innovative new products, but first and foremost the new trend in supermarket towards better fresh produce is our friend. Fortunately we are seeing a real shift in the right direction. I can testify to this in my own neighborhood in the Bronx, which was a near food-desert when I moved in 15 years ago, and presently it is an absolute oasis to the point that I am inviting my friends from Manhattan to come shop here, whereas in the early years I use to shop in Chinatown for vegetables once a week in order to supplement the meager supplies in my area.

One of the interesting areas is that the search for flavor is producing some new solutions. For example, in spaghetti sauce, you need some sweetener to cut the acidity. Date sugar or simply dates you cut up yourself can do the trick, and it is sweetness still in conjunction with the natural fruit, which means you are getting not refined sugar, but a whole food with natural sweetness. Of course herbs and spices are on our new shopping list, but one of the more fascinating outcomes is that miso is a safe condiment even though it is high in salt.  Here is a video on that topic:


Clinical application of Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition is growing. In California it is now mandatory in hospitals and prisons, in Midland, TX, the entire town went plant-based, in Brooklyn, NY, Eric Adams, the Borough President is promoting it and helping introduce it in schools. Around the country the list of medical practitioners who follow this approach is growing rapidly. The conclusion is that incontrovertibly the work of Prof. T. Colin Campbell and his formulation of Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition remain the the rock for the only meaningful health care reform that is currently going on in the form of the transition to Lifestyle Medicine.