Nutrition, a Forgotten Science. Dr T Colin Campbell

The following video 1  is a must-see for anyone who is interested in listening to one of the most qualified, eloquent and devoted advocates of using nutrition as a primary medical tool. Dr T Colin Campbell has been at the forefront of research into the effect of nutrition (good and bad) on human health.

As the coauthor of the bestselling book The China Study 2 , the New York Times bestseller Whole 3 , and The Low-Carb Fraud 4 , he appears in several documentaries (some of which are paid-for, others are free and some are on Netflix) including the blockbusters Forks Over Knives 5 ,  Eating You Alive 6 , Food Matters 7 , Plant Pure Nation 8 , H.O.P.E. – What You Eat Matters 9 , Cowspiracy 10  and others. He is the founder of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies 11  and the online Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate 12 in partnership with eCornell – a course that I completed myself and would recommend to anyone who is interested in getting to know the facts about nutrition rather than just the gossip and misinformation that so often floods the media and does the rounds within the general public.

He 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 with NIH), and has served on grant review panels of multiple funding agencies. What’s more, he has actively participated in the development of national and international nutrition policy, has given hundreds of lectures around the world, and has authored over 300 research papers 13.

He currently holds his Endowed Chair as the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, USA. His early training was at Cornell (M.S., Ph.D.) and MIT, where he was a Research Associate in nutrition, biochemistry, and toxicology.

Within the world of nutrition science, there are few more respected scientists than Dr Campbell. I recommend that you not only watch this video, but that you watch the above-mentioned documentary films and read the above-mentioned books. It’s hard to imagine any other living person other than Dr Campbell who could provide a better source of reliable and cutting-edge information on the essential role of nutrition in maintaining and improving human health.

If what he has to say resonates with you, perhaps you could consider signing the petition for Dr Campbell to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine – see my earlier blog 14 .


  1. Nutrition, a forgotten Science. It should be the flagship Science of Medicine []
  2. The China Study []
  3. Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell (Author) & Howard Jacobson []
  4. The Low-Carb Fraud  by T Colin Campbell []
  5. Forks Over Knives: The Film []
  6. Eating You Alive: Film []
  7. Food Matters: Film []
  8. Plant Pure Nation: Free on YouTube []
  9. I H.O.P.E. You Watch & Share This Film – Free []
  10. Cowspiracy: The film. Free on YouTube []
  11. T Colin Campbell – Center for Nutrition Studies []
  12. T Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies Plant-Based Nutrition eCornell Certificate Program []
  13. Some recent research papers by Dr T Colin Campbell []
  14. Please Sign Petition – Dr T Colin Campbell for Nobel Prize in Medicine []

Greens: Chewing vs Juicing

study in Okinawa, Japan demonstrated that eating lots of leafy green vegetables is really effective at preventing damage to the endothelial cells which line our blood vessels. But is it better to chew or juice our vegetables?

Oxidative inflammation

The specific process we want to avoid is oxidative inflammation. To do this this, we want to eat loads of anti-oxidants.

Food or supplements?

But can’t we just get these from swallowing a jugful of anti-oxidant potions sold by the local health store? Apparently not. This supplement approach not only does not work, but it’s probably going to be harmful.

The anti-oxidants we want will only come from food that has a high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) – raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are excellent, but the absolute champions appear to be the green leafy vegetables, at least according to Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn.

Cardiovascular disease and greens

Dr Esselstyn has successfully reversed heart disease in his patients merely by making radical changes in their dietary intake. He says:

“If I’ve got somebody who is significant in cardiovascular disease, whether it’s their legs, their carotid, their heart, we really wanna hasten this along…I want them to have a green leafy vegetable, six times a day. And how do we do that? I want it to be the size of your fist after it has been boiled in boiling water for five and a half to six minutes, until it’s nice and tender. Then anoint it with some delightful balsamic vinegar, so you’ve got something that is tender and delicious. And I want this alongside your breakfast cereal, I want it mid-morning snack. I want it with your lunch and sandwich. Again, mid-afternoon. Obviously at dinnertime.”

The Most Powerful Anti-Oxidant

When we eat vegetables “…[w]hat you are doing is you are bathing that cauldron of oxidation inflammation all day long with nature’s most powerful anti-oxidant” – nitric oxide, produced by the endothelial cells within our blood vessels. And it is the green leafy vegetables that he considers to be our best source of nitric oxide-producing foods.

Which vegetables are best?

Cabbage, kale, brassicas, spring greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, coriander, parsley, spinach, rocket, asparagus. That’s just a few, but enough to get you started.

Nitric acid as we age

By the age of 50, nitric oxide production from the endothelial cells of the healthiest person will tend to drop to approximately 50% of what it was at age 25. Does that mean that your anti-oxidant protection will run dry no matter what you do? Apparently not. Another route for making nitric oxide is through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Nitrates to nitrites

When we consume green leafy vegetables, the nitrates contained within them get converted into nitrites when they get inside our GI tract. But not as much nitrate is absorbed as nitrites when the food passes through the body. However, there is an additional method that we can use to get the maximum “bang for our buck” from these nitrates.

Chewing or juicing – the answer

  • If we chew nitrates (i.e. our green leafy vegetables) rather than juicing them, then the nitrates are going to mix in the mouth with the facultative anaerobic bacteria that reside in the grooves and crevices of the tongue.
  • These bacteria will reduce the nitrates in the mouth to nitrites, so that when these additional nitrites are swallowed, they are further reduced by gastric acid into nitric oxide, and this will join with the body’s nitric oxide pool.
  • The nitrites in the stomach that are not converted into nitric acid will be reabsorbed into the circulation further downstream.
  • In turn, they will circulate back to the salivary glands where they will now be concentrated ten to twenty fold.

So chewing rather than juicing allows the saliva to release more nitrites and these, in turn, get further reduced by gastric acid into nitric oxide. This nitric oxide is then available to the endothelial cells to keep your blood vessels healthy and, hopefully, your body free of cardiovascular disease.

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Mano R, Ishida A, Ohya Y, Todoriki H, Takishita S. Dietary intervention with Okinawan vegetables increased circulating endothelial progenitor cells in healthy young women. Atherosclerosis. 2009; 204(2):544–548.

Heinonen OP, Huttunen JK, Albanes D, et al. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994;330(15):1029-1035.

Esselstyn CB Jr., Gendy G, Doyle J, Golubic M, Roizen MF. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014 July; 63(7): 356-364.

Esselstyn C. Resolving the coronary artery disease epidemic through plant-based nutrition. Prevent Card. 2001; 4: 171–177.

Esselstyn C, Ellis S, Medendorp S, Crowe T. A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice. J Fam Pract. 1995; 41(6):560–568.


The Lowdown on Low Fat vs Low Carb

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine just published results from a 12-month study which aimed to identify which diet was the best – Low-carb or Low-fat. And the winner is…

Well, first, let’s see what were the basic questions (hypotheses) that the leader researcher, Professor Christopher Gardner  and his team were aiming to answer whether either of the following factors would dictate your success at losing weight:
  1. Genotype (that which predicts other factors such as your eye colour), or
  2. Baseline insulin secretion level (how much insulin your body produces to process glucose).

And the winner was?


No evidence was found for the existence of a genotype or a baseline insulin level that would clearly favour your chances of losing weight.

Both diets resulted in an overall weight loss:

  • An average 13 pounds / 5.8 kg weight loss within the 609 study subjects
  • Wide variability – some gained as much as 20 pounds/9 kg while others lost as much as 60 pounds / 27 kg.

More detail about the methodology used can be found here.

Conclusions from the Research

Professor Gardner says “We have all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet – it worked great – and then another friend tried the same diet, and it didn’t work at all. It is because we are all very different, and we are just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity. Maybe we should not be asking what is the best diet, but what is the best diet for whom?”
His takeaway lesson from this study was that we should eat:
  • less sugar,
  • less refined flour,
  • more wholefoods (e.g. “wheatberry salad or grass-fed beef “), and
  • as many vegetables as possible.
Future projects are likely to focus on questions related to:
  • the microbiome (the billions of bacteria in our guts),
  • epigenetics (looking at gene expression rather than potential changes to the genetic code itself)

He goes on to say “I’m hoping that we can come up with signatures of sorts…I feel like we owe it to Americans to be smarter than to just say ‘eat less.’ I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalisation to it.”

In his own words:

What Others Say

In the Telegraph article that discussed this research, they drew the conclusion that “the research showed the key to losing weight was simply eating less.”

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, a UK campaign group, said: “The best diet in town is not a fad but much less of what you actually fancy – and stick to it.”

Some Thoughts

The findings of the research do not surprise me at all. And I applaud some of the conclusions that Professor Gardner draws – cutting down on (refined) sugars/flours, eating more (plant) wholefoods and vegetables – but there are some issues that require clarification.

  1. When weight loss is the only factor considered, other issues related to the overall health-promoting aspects of nutrition are marginalised. There appears to be no stated justification for Professor Gardner’s jump from talking about the results of the research (genotype and insulin secretion levels) to then recommending specific nutritional elements (less sugar, more wholefoods etc). If he is going to make these statements (especially if he includes “grass-fed beef” in the list of healthy wholefoods), then it would be useful to see some justification for such statements – and, as we would suspect, any justification would not come from a study that simply focuses on weight-loss without also measuring other health factors (cholesterol, triglycerides, mineral/vitamin balance, etc).
  2. Professor Gardner’s statement “It is because we are all very different, and we are just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity. Maybe we should not be asking what is the best diet, but what is the best diet for whom?” is somewhat misleading. It suggests that there is no evidence from large population studies (such as the largest of them all, The China Study) that optimal health appears to depend on diet, to a large extent, irrespective of the individual genetic variations within the members of that population. Indeed, the Stanford University research itself dismisses the primacy of genetics or “insulin secretion levels” as markers for future weight gain, let alone the uncharted, and more vital area, of overall health gain.
  3. There appears to be a misunderstanding in the media about what conclusions can be drawn from the study. Professor Gardner says “I feel like we owe it to Americans to be smarter than to just say ‘eat less.’ The Telegraph, on the other hand, states that “the research showed the key to losing weight was simply eating less.” No wonder the public get confused. And to add more confusion, Tam Fry (National Obesity Forum) states “The best diet in town is not a fad but much less of what you actually fancy – and stick to it.” Again, the implicit assumption here is that all foods are equal, all diets that do not include “moderation in all things” are fad diets, and, again, the mistaken implication that the research is suggesting we should simply eat less calories.
  4. Professor Gardner’s comment “Maybe we should not be asking what is the best diet, but what is the best diet for whom?” is, for me, a frankly shocking indication that he may not have looked at the wealth of research demonstrating that there is one diet that has been proven to be optimal for human health – a whole food plant-based diet, with minimal or no animal protein. I suspect that if his research subjects had been rural Chinese, Papua Highlanders, Central Africans or Tarahumara Indians from northern Mexico, then he would not have even bothered to do this research study since more or less everyone within those communities would already have been at their optimal body weight, largely regardless of genome or insulin secretion level.
  5. When such research projects are taken up by the media and then the public, they are thrown back, once again, on the mistaken belief that nutrition is simply a matter of the quantity and not quality of the calories being “eaten”. People do not eat calories. They eat food. And our bodies are made out of the food we eat.
  6. Yet again, this research focuses in a reductionist manner on genetic and individual biochemical responses in order to establish something so vitally important to our populations’ health and well-being. It still makes me recall Nero fiddling while Rome burned…

In my experience and that of my clients, even increasing the amount of calories consumed after making the transition to a WFPBD (whole food plant-based diet) from a standard diet (whether it be a meat-based, vegetarian or vegan diet), can cause excess fat to drop off the body. Just as a vitamin C supplement does not cause the same bodily responses as compared to the vitamin C derived from eating an apple, the calories “consumed” from eating animal foods (whether processed or unprocessed) have a very different effect on the body than those derived from eating plant foods (whether organic whole plants or even less-healthy processed plant-foods). And the added bonus from eating a wide variety of organic whole plants represents yet another step in the direction of optimal health from eating those less-healthy processed plant foods.

There is yet to be mainstream coverage and acceptance of the only diet proven to reverse heart disease and other chronic diseases. In the meantime, looking after your own diet can have a greater effect on your health, encourage other people’s appetite for dietary change, avoid further damage to other species, and help protect the environmental welfare of our land, sea and air.

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Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. AMA. 2018 Feb 20;319(7):667-679. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.0245. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial.


Vitamin C Supplements vs An Apple

We are constantly bombarded by new claims about the benefits of taking this or that supplement. The implicit assumption made by this emphasis on supplementation is that a varied and healthy diet alone can’t supply everything that the body needs to maintain homeostasis – that is, its optimal natural balance. I want to challenge this assumption and put whole plant foods back at the top of the Must Have list…

First, let me introduce you to someone I expect many of you have never even heard of – Dr Rui Hau Liu, PhD, MD (see bottom of post for more information about his academic and professional qualifications).

Dr Liu makes it makes it clear that the majority of all the current and past scientific evidence suggests that it is the whole plant food approach, and not the dietary supplement approach, that is the powerful solution for cancer prevention and health promotion. He points out that a dietary supplement (which might contain one compound or multiple compounds) “… cannot mimic a natural combination of the bioactive compound in foods, vegetables, and whole grains.” And the scientific literature suggests that “…the single antioxidant, single bioactive compound approach is not working. For example, beta carotene, selenium, vitamin E and vitamin C alone to prevent cancer is not as effective as a combination of the compound from the whole fruit.” (From a lecture in Diseases of Affluence module 2.16 of the eCornell Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition.)

His advice is that, instead of trusting expensive dietary supplements, we should eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other plant-based foods – whether these be processed, raw, cooked, dried, fresh, canned, frozen or in the form of 100% whole plant juices. The important thing is to increase the plant-based portion sizes that we consume. Some bioactive compounds are more bioavailable without processing, and some others are more bioavailable after cooking. For instance, the antioxidant benefits of the lycopene in tomatoes increases after cooking.

Dr Liu looked at whole plant food consumption compared with supplements. His team increased the number of apples (from 1 to 6 apples per day) fed to study animals. While the supplements had little or no effect (and in some of his studies, injurious effects), apples both inhibited tumour appearance and caused existing tumours to grow more slowly. The thing here is that it is not an isolated component of the food item (in this case apple) that can be extracted and made to be useful; rather, it has to be a matter of taking nature’s “medicine” in whole natural form, so that our bodies can absorb and utilise the bioactive components.

This then permits all the hugely complex range of bioactive compounds to come into play – many, perhaps the vast majority of which, we do not yet even know. These include secondary metabolites and antioxidants such as the carotenoids, phenolic acids, and flavonoids and many other compounds.

To illustrate this, here are just a few of the known bioactive components within just six divisions of the flavanoid group:

1. Flavones  – luteonin, apigenin, tangeritin
2. Flavonols  – quercetin, kaemferol, myricetin, isorhamnetin, pachypodol
3. Flavanones – hesteretin, naringenin, eriodictyol
4. Flavan-3-ols – catechins, epicatechins
5. Isoflavones – genistein, daidzein, glycitein
6. Anthocyanidins compounds – cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, petunidin

There are many other flavonoids, including some of the more common ones called aurones, xanthones, and condensed tannins.

We have little idea yet about how the 8,000 or so known bioactive compounds in fruits, vegetables and whole grains relate to and depend upon each other. And, again, it is thought that there are many thousands more yet to be discovered. It is not, therefore, difficult to understand that food components and nutrients work synergistically in whole foods, through a complex variety of different mechanisms. We cannot replicate the benefits of food with isolated chemical supplements.

The complexity is simply mind-boggling and will probably always be beyond our minds to comprehend, and our scientific instruments to measure. However, we would be able to see the results in those individuals and populations whose habitual diets consist largely or exclusively of whole plant foods.

Evolutionary processes, over vast aeons of time, have equipped plants with intricate and highly effective defences against everything from damaging sunlight radiation and hungry insects, to fungi, viruses and bacteria. And, slowly but surely, evolution has also established mechanisms through which our human bodies are able to access and extract these bioactive plant compounds and, thus, take advantage of their beneficial properties.

So, the next time we are encouraged to buy the latest miracle dietary supplement, perhaps we’ll give it a miss – we get enough a mouthful of miracles every time we bite into a juicy apple.

Dr Rui Hau Liu, PhD, MD

Rui Hai Liu is a Professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University. He received his PhD in Toxicology from Cornell University in 1993. He also holds a MD in Medicine and a MS in Nutrition and Food Toxicology. Dr Liu was a Research Associate in the Department of Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.

His research program focuses on diet and cancer, effect of functional foods/nutraceuticals on chronic disease risks, and bioactive compounds in natural products and herbal remedies for anticancer and antiviral activity.

His specific interests include:

1) health benefits of phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;

2) food genomics and functional foods for disease prevention and health promotion targeted at cancers, aging, and inflammatory diseases; and

3) natural products and herbal formulations for antiviral activity to hepatitis B and C.

Thomson Reuters recognized Liu as one of the world’s most influential scientific minds for 2014 and 2015 and named him as a highly cited researcher.

He has published more than 145 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and accrued over 11,100 citations. Essential Science Indicators ranked him as one of the top five scientists in the field of agricultural sciences, including nutrition and food science. In 2011, he received the Institute of Food Technologists’ Babcock-Hart Award for outstanding contributions to the field of food science in the improvement of public health through nutrition.

Note: For more information on Dr. Rui Hai Liu’s work visit Cornell University.


Boyer J, Liu RH. Nutr J. 2004; 3(5). Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. 

Ali Ghasemzadeh. Neda Ghasemzadeh. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 5(31), pp. 6697-6703, 23 December, 2011. Available online at Flavonoids and phenolic acids: Role and biochemical activity in plants and human.

Campbell TC, Jacobson H. Benbella Books, Dallas TX. 2013. Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. 

Eberhardt MV, Lee CY, Liu RH. Nature. 2000 Jun 22; 405(6789): 903-4. Antioxidant activity of fresh apples.

Liu RH, Liu J, Chen B. J Agric Food Chem. 2005; 53:2341-2343. Apples prevent mammary tumors in rats.

Science Watch Author Commentaries. (2012). Rui Hai Liu on studying the health benefits of whole foods.

Dean Ornish et al. Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention.

Dean Ornish. Intensive Lifestyle Changes May Affect the Progression of Prostate Cancer.

David Palma, Tom Pickles. Telomerase and the benefi ts of healthy living.

T Colin Campbell. The Mystique of Protein and Its Implications.

Preventative Medicine Research Institute.

Video recorded at UR Nutrition in Medicine’s Lunch with Docs on April 8th, 2017. Nutrition and Cancer, Lecture from Dr. Thomas Campbell

Casein in Dairy = Cancer in Humans?

The 1958 Delaney Amendment stated that “…no additive is deemed safe if it is found [in “appropriate” tests] to induce cancer when ingested by man or animal…” This US amendment required zero tolerance – that is, no amount of any substance found to be carcinogenic could be added to food. Of course, we know that this noble goal was never achieved and now we have carcinogenic food additives and carcinogenic food processing methods.

£billions are spent researching potential carcinogens found in the environment rather than those found in food. Why is this? Simply, it is easier to get funding for this type of reductionist research than it is to deal with the complexities of human nutrition on a population-wide basis. Also, the so-called Toxic Triad of Big Food, Big Farming and Big Pharma put political and commercial pressure (and lots of it) on research institutions to avoid pointing the finger at powerful food manufacturers, distributors and sellers who make huge profits and contribute huge sums to both government and academic institutions around the world.

The three phases of cancer

Also, there has been an overwhelming emphasis on the first phase of the three phases of cancer (Initiation, Promotion & Progression).

Genetic science appears to be somewhat hamstrung by a particular paradigm. Within this paradigm, consideration is almost solely given to the concept that the only approach we can take is to try and prevent cancers by avoiding the Initiation stage (which happens in a tiny fraction of a second) when DNA is first exposed to carcinogens at the point of cellular reproduction. Once the cancer has passed to the Promotion (years to decades) or Progression  (usually years) stages, the seemingly unchallenged consensus appears to be that there is no point in doing anything other than turn to one of the three ugly sisters – surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. As we will see later, there is strong evidence that cancer can be slowed, halted and even reversed completely throughout the Promotion stage and, to perhaps a lesser degree, in the Progression stage of cancer development.

Much of the focus of scientific research, government legislation and media coverage is on individual non-dietary carcinogens (such as radon or asbestos). And even when researchers do deal with diet-related carcinogens, the emphasis for most part is on those carcinogens that are unintentionally included in the food cycle (such as aflatoxin in corn and peanut mould or 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin which is produced during the manufacture of chlorinated hydrocarbons). This tendency can be seen, for instance, in this quote from a section entitled Types of Food Contaminants (my bold highlighted text) in a peer-reviewed paper entitled “Carcinogenic Food Contaminants”:

“There are four primary types of potentially carcinogenic compounds that have been examined to determine if they act as carcinogens in humans. The first are natural products that may be present in food and are unavoidable. For example, the process of creating salted fish produces carcinogens which can not be easily avoided. Second, are natural products that might be avoided such as the contamination of grain with the carcinogenic fungal metabolite aflatoxin, which can be reduced or eliminated using best practices for grain storage. Third, anthropogenic chemicals may be present in food. For instance, 2,3,7,8-tetracholordibenzo-p-dioxin has been inadvertently produced during the manufacture of chlorinated hydrocarbons, but it contaminates the environment, resists degradation, and accumulates in certain foodstuffs. A fourth category of concern is anthropogenic chemicals intentionally added to foods, such as saccharin or food coloring, but these are not addressed in this review because they are not contaminants because they are added intentionally.”

It may be an erroneous assumption, but could this stated avoidance of investigating those dietary carcinogens “intentionally” added to our food be motivated by hidden political/commercial pressures to do so? The paper continues (my bold highlighted text) to this conclusion:

“The accumulation of evidence sufficient to render judgement on food contaminants and human cancer risk is a daunting task…several food contaminants have been confirmed as carcinogenic to humans. Possibly the clearest example is the finding that aflatoxin is a major cause of liver cancer…”

Again, we see a tendency to seek the “clearest” (read “easiest to research”) examples of dietary carcinogens as well as a tendency to miss the elephant in the room – namely, the fact that ALL cancers and other diet-related chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, obesity) are rising around the world at a pace perfectly in parallel with the equal rise in adoption of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

There are reported to be between 80,000 and 100,000 environmental chemicals that would need to be thoroughly tested in order to establish whether or not they each represent a significant cancer risk for humans. Imagine how long that would take? As research teams trawl through these, the focus on the avoidable (i.e. both those intentionally avoided “intentionally added”) dietary carcinogens referred to above would continue to be unwittingly consumed by millions of people. And this is aside from those carcinogens that are not added to foods, but actually ARE the foods, such as our next and main topic casein in dairy.

The animal protein used by Professor T Colin Campbell and his team of researchers was casein, which represents around 85% of all the protein in cow’s milk. He demonstrated that you could turn cancer tumours on and off in rats and mice merely by alternating the amount of protein consumed from 5% to 20% and then from 20% back down to 5% of their total daily calorie intake. Since this research, which is now decades old, he was able to identify the precise mechanisms concerned and how they are involved in all three phases of cancer development.

He is also convinced that other animal proteins have the same detrimental effects – that is, if animal protein intake is increased then cancer risk also increases; but if animal protein intake is reduced then the cancer risk decreases. This can be witnessed in human populations. The following graph shows the example of breast cancer and its geographical spread by country and quantity of average national levels of animal protein (and in this case, also animal fat) consumption. The USA is highlighted in red, but the UK has even higher incidence of breast cancer per capita, reflecting the corresponding higher protein (and fat) intake.

The following chart from The China Study shows female colon cancer rising with meat consumption.

And just to hammer home the correlation between animal protein consumption and incidence of cancer, I have included these further charts from other research:

Assuming a causal rather than a merely correlational relationship between these factors, we can identify the particular protein’s amino acid composition as the specific reason for the adverse effects. Sufficient studies for more than 50 years have shown that the nutritional responses of different proteins are attributed to their differing amino acid compositions; and the differences in nutritional response between animal and plant proteins disappear when any limiting amino acids are restored. Limiting amino acids are those essential amino acids which are present in only small quantities within any given food. The only “food” completely lacking one essential amino acid is gelatin which completely lacks tryptophan. All other foods, as far as I am aware, contain all the essential amino acids, but – and this is the significant point – in varying amounts.

Throughout many experiments over a period of over 30 years, Professor Campbell’s research team found that casein in particular was a powerful promoter of cancer, with two of the major contributory factors being:

  • increased production of growth hormones, and
  • elevated body acid load (metabolic acidosis).

Unlike animal proteins such as casein, plant proteins (for instance, the protein in wheat) does not stimulate cancer development. However, as indicated above – when wheat’s limiting amino acid, lysine, is restored to the relevant level, wheat protein acts just the same as casein in terms of cancer promotion.

So, to recap:

  • animal and plant proteins are not the same
  • the variation is due to their different amino acid compositions
  • these different amino acid compositions produce different nutritional responses.

While animal proteins do vary between themselves, any difference is much less than the degree to which they differ from plant proteins as a whole, and there is virtually no overlap between the two groups of protein.

The conventional way in which the so-called “quality” or “completeness” of a protein is determined relates to protein’s efficiency ratio. Thus, plant proteins are described as having LBV (Low Biological Value) while animal proteins are HBV (High Biological Value) depending on how many grams of gain in body weight occur with a given intake of the protein:

  • Animal proteins cause a greater weight gain over a specified period of time
  • Plant proteins cause a lesser weight gain over a specified period of time.


  • Egg, meat, cow’s milk, and fish promote a faster rate of growth
  • Rice, beans and wheat flour promote a slower rate of gain.

So what’s wrong with that?

Nothing, if you want your farm animals to grow rapidly to return the maximum profit over the shortest time; but not if you are a human. Rapid growth in childhood is not a beneficial thing and rapid growth of cancer cells in childhood or adulthood is generally accepted as undesirable.

Cow’s Milk is Baby Calf Growth Fluid

And, as Dr Michael Klaper says: “The purpose of cow’s milk is to turn a 65-pound calf into a 700-pound cow as rapidly as possible. Cow’s milk IS baby calf growth fluid. No matter what you do to it, that is what the stuff is.”

It appears at first sight to be a truly shocking that Professor Campbell should define casein in dairy as “The most relevant cancer promoter ever discovered.”

But it is possible to understand this when one considers the increasingly ubiquitous role that dairy plays in the majority of diets. Dairy products are in everything from pizzas to puddings, sherbets to soups. I needn’t tell you how much the dairy industry promotes its supposed (and largely discredited) health benefits – you just need to turn on the TV or flick through a magazine. And the public at large are so taken in by the claims that it is good for your bones (debatable) and or that it is a health food (debatable).

Dr Neil Barnard from the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) goes just as far as Professor Campbell and Dr Michael Klaper. He says “Thanks to these marketing campaigns, milk myths abound in our culture. But science doesn’t support them.” Calling them “white lies” he goes on to attack the myths that the milk industry continues to promote to the public. (Click picture below to read his article, “White Lies? Five Milk Myths Debunked”.)

It occurred to me that one of the reasons that the dairy industry peddles the unsubstantiated myth about milk’s bone-building features is that it is a useful distraction from the potentially catastrophic impact of casein. Maybe I’m just being cynical…In any case, here’s Dr Michael Greger’s view on milk and bone health:

Finally, if you are still in doubt about whether or not people are wise to pour a bit of the white (or red) stuff into their breakfast cereal, I will leave you with a couple of self-explanatory posters about a rather distasteful ingredient that you won’t hear the dairy industry mooing about…



T. Colin Campbell. J Nat Sci. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 Oct 18. Published in final edited form as: J Nat Sci. 2017 Oct; 3(10): e448. Cancer Prevention and Treatment by Wholistic Nutrition.

David O. Carpenter M.D.,  Sheila Bushkin-Bedient M.D. Journal of Adolescent Health. Volume 52, Issue 5, Supplement, May 2013, Pages S21-S29. Exposure to Chemicals and Radiation During Childhood and Risk for Cancer Later in Life.

Campbell TC. J Nat Sci. 2017 Oct;3(10). pii: e448. Cancer Prevention and Treatment by Wholistic Nutrition.

Campbell TC. Nutr Cancer. 2017 Aug-Sep;69(6):962-968. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2017.1339094. Epub 2017 Jul 25. Nutrition and Cancer: An Historical Perspective.-The Past, Present, and Future of Nutrition and Cancer. Part 2. Misunderstanding and Ignoring Nutrition.

Campbell TC. Nutr Cancer. 2017 Jul;69(5):811-817. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2017.1317823. Epub 2017 Jun 8. The Past, Present, and Future of Nutrition and Cancer: Part 1-Was A Nutritional Association Acknowledged a Century Ago?

Campbell TC. Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(6):1077-82. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2014.927687. Epub 2014 Jul 18. Untold nutrition.

Campbell TM, Campbell TC. Isr Med Assoc J. 2008 Oct;10(10):730-2. The benefits of integrating nutrition into clinical medicine.

Sarter B, Campbell TC, Fuhrman J. Altern Ther Health Med. 2008 May-Jun;14(3):48-53. Effect of a high nutrient density diet on long-term weight loss: a retrospective chart review.

Campbell TC. MedGenMed. 2007;9(3):57. Fail to test the impressive ability of diet to favorably affect long-term health and body weight loss.

Campbell TC. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1667. Dietary protein, growth factors, and cancer.

Wang Y, Crawford MA, Chen J, Li J, Ghebremeskel K, Campbell TC, Fan W, Parker R, Leyton J. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2003 Sep;136(1):127-40. Fish consumption, blood docosahexaenoic acid and chronic diseases in Chinese rural populations.

Feskanich D, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Frazier AL, Willett WC. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jan;168(1):54-60. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3821. Milk consumption during teenage years and risk of hip fractures in older adults.

Sun Z, Zhang Z, Wang X, Cade R, Elmir Z, Fregly M. Peptides. 2003 Jun;24(6):937-43. Relation of beta-casomorphin to apnea in sudden infant death syndrome.

Fiedorowicz E, Jarmołowska B, Iwan M, Kostyra E, Obuchowicz R, Obuchowicz M. Peptides. 2011 Apr;32(4):707-12. The influence of μ-opioid receptor agonist and antagonist peptides on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).

Kost NV, Sokolov OY, Kurasova OB, Dmitriev AD, Tarakanova JN, Gabaeva MV, Zolotarev YA, Dadayan AK, Grachev SA, Korneeva EV, Mikheeva IG, Zozulya AA. Peptides. 2009 Oct;30(10):1854-60. Beta-casomorphins-7 in infants on different type of feeding and different levels of psychomotor development.

A S Wiley. Biol. 2012 Mar-Apr;24(2):130-8. Cow milk consumption, insulin-like growth factor-I, and human biology: a life history approach. Am J Hum

B C Melnik, S M John, G Schmitz. Nutr J. 2013; 12: 103. Milk is not just food but most likely a genetic transfection system activating mTORC1 signaling for postnatal growth. 

C Melnik. J Obes. 2012;2012:197653. Excessive Leucine-mTORC1-Signalling of Cow Milk-Based Infant Formula: The Missing Link to Understand Early Childhood Obesity.

M S Kramer. J Pediatr. 1981 Jun;98(6):883-7. Do breast-feeding and delayed introduction of solid foods protect against subsequent obesity?

B C Melnik. World J Diabetes. 2012 Mar 15;3(3):38-53. Leucine signaling in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

A S Wiley. PLoS One. 2011 Feb 14;6(2):e14685. Milk intake and total dairy consumption: associations with early menarche in NHANES 1999-2004.

D S Ludwig, W C Willett. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Sep;167(9):788-9. Three daily servings of reduced-fat milk: an evidence-based recommendation?

K Arnberg, C Molgaard, K F Michaelsen, S M Jensen, E Trolle, A Larnkjaer. J Nutr. 2012 Dec;142(12):2083-90. Skim milk, whey, and casein increase body weight and whey and casein increase the plasma C-peptide concentration in overweight adolescents.

P Wilde, E Morgan, J Roberts, A Schpok, T Wilson. Physiol Behav. 2012 Aug 20;107(1):172-5. Relationship between funding sources and outcomes of obesity-related research.

Youngman LD, Campbell TC. J Nutr. 1991 Sep;121(9):1454-61. High protein intake promotes the growth of hepatic preneoplastic foci in Fischer #344 rats: evidence that early remodeled foci retain the potential for future growth.














The China Study

If you already know about The China Study then you will know how important a milestone it is for nutritional research. It’s such an important study that I thought it would be worth taking a quick look at its background, method and conclusions.


Protein Consumption in Rats

Professor T Colin Campbell observed a relationship between the amount of dietary protein consumed and the promotion of cancer in rats. The animal protein used was casein (the main protein in milk and cheese), along with a variety of plant proteins. Distinct differences between the effects of animal vs. plant-based protein were observed:

  • animal protein tended to promote disease conditions
  • plant protein tended to have the opposite effect

Early 1970’s in China

The Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was dying of cancer. He had organised a survey called the Cancer Atlas which gathered details on about 880 million people. The survey revealed cancer rates across China to be geographically localised, suggesting dietary/environmental factors—not genes—accounted for differences in disease rates.

1983-1984 Survey

Dr. Campbell with researchers from Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese government, conducted a major epidemiological study (i.e. a study of human populations to discover patterns of disease and the factors that influence them). This was called The China Project (from which the book The China Study derived some of its data). Researchers investigated the relationship between disease rates and dietary/lifestyle factors across the country.

Why China?

  • large population of almost one billion
  • very little migration within China
  • rural Chinese mostly lived where they were born
  • strict residential registration system existed
  • food production was very localised
  • the Cancer Atlas had revealed diseases were localised and so dietary and environmental factors (not genes) would be likely to account for disease rate variation by area (whether affluent and eating Western diet, or rural and eating traditional plant-based diet)


Research Questions

1. Is there an association between environmental factors, like diet and lifestyle, and risk for chronic disease?

2. Would the patterns observed in a human population be consistent with diet and disease associations observed in experimental animals?


Researchers hypothesised generally that an association between diet/lifestyle factors and disease rates would indeed exist. A specific hypothesis was that animal product consumption would be associated with an increase in cancer and chronic, degenerative disease.

Hypothesis Testing

6,500 adults in 65 different counties across China were surveyed in the 1983-4 project. These counties represented the range of disease rates countrywide for seven different cancers. The survey process with each participant included:

  • three-day direct observation
  • comprehensive diet and lifestyle questionnaires
  • blood and urine samples
  • food samples from local markets analysed for nutritional composition
  • survey of geographic factors

1989-1990 Survey

  • same counties and individuals resurveyed plus a survey of 20 additional new counties in mainland China and Taiwan.
  • 10,200 adults surveyed
  • socioeconomic information collected
  • data combined with new mortality data for 1986-88

Analysis of Data from both 1983-1984 & 1989-1990 Surveys

  • data was analysed at approximately two dozen laboratories around the world to reduce chances of error in data analysis
  • researchers could be confident that if results were consistent, then they would be correct


  • diseases more common in Western countries clustered together geographically in richer areas of China
  • diseases in richer areas of the world were thus likely to be attributed to similar “nutritional extravagance”
  • diseases in poorer areas of the world were likely to be attributed to nutritional inadequacy/poor sanitation
  • blood cholesterol (strongly associated with chronic, degenerative diseases) was higher in those consuming more animal foods
  • lower oestrogen levels in women (associated with fewer breast cancers) related to increased plant food consumption
  • higher intake of fibre (found only in plants) associated with lower incidence of colon and rectal cancer

The consistency of the results led the researchers to make the overall conclusion that the closer people came to an all plant-based diet, the lower their risk of chronic disease.

Published Data

  • The data on both the 1983-1984 survey and the 1989-1990 survey can be seen in more detail here.
  • More detail on the experimental study design of the China Project (covered in Appendix B) plus a full copy of The China Study in pdf format is available here.
  • Professor T Colin Campbell’s complete CV (including published papers analysing data from the China Project) is available here.

Plant Protein vs Animal Protein Webinar from Professor T Colin Campbell

If you have any comments or require further information on this topic, please let me know.


  1. Chen J, Campbell TC, Li J, Peto R. Diet, Life-Style and Mortality in China: A Study of the Characteristics of 65 Chinese Counties. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 1990.
  2. Chen J, Peto R, Pan W-H, Liu B-Q, Campbell TC, Boreham J, Parpia B. Mortality, Biochemistry, Diet and Lifestyle in Rural China: Geographic Study of the Characteristics of 69 Counties in Mainland China and 16 Areas in Taiwan. Oxford, UK; Ithaca, NY; Beijing, PRC: Oxford University Press, Cornell University Press; People’s Medical Publishing House, 1990.