Books that significantly change your life don't come around all that too often. A handful of the ones that come to mind for me are "The Mad Cowboy," by Howard Lyman, "Diet for a Small Planet," (Francis Moore Lappe), "Diet for a New America," (John Robbins) "Vegan Planet," (Robin Robertson), "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease," (Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn), and "The China Study" (Dr. T. Colin Campbell).
I was most intrigued when receiving a copy of "Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition" by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson. I mean, can they possibly top "China Study" in impact, new nutritional realities, dietary insight, and health perspectives?
I read the book twice, in part in preparation for my interview the co-author (yet to be transcribed and published due to technical problems), and primarily as it's a stunning read. Comparing "China Study" to "Whole" would be folly. They are two entirely different masterpieces. The 1st, a very detailed technical scientific report, if you will, from the Director of history's largest study on diet. It's how, why, and what it means. The indisputable (in my mind at least) conclusion that animal casein facilitates and enables cancer and heart disease (among other health problems), is mind-blowing.
"Whole" however, is more philosophical in tone, a more accessible read (thanks to the co-author), and in many ways, a summation of what Dr. Campbell has learned from the experiences of the China Study, his entire career, the media tour, the medical industrial establishment, and is a finely tuned critique of the problems that keep people from embracing the demonstrable restorative and preventative value of a whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB). It chronicles this stellar scientist's journey from the highest government and academic levels of health-related research, his early "daze" of reductionism, to now embracing a "wholistic" view of nutrition and what that means for society.
Dr. Campbell's paradigm isn't new: mystics, philosophers, new age practitioners, and quantum physicists, as but a few examples, have all embraced the concepts of everything being interconnected and synergistic in processes where the "whole" is greater than the sum of the parts.
What IS new, however, is Dr. Campbell's superbly trained mind and powerful insight carefully, and with a surgeon's precision, dissecting all the mistaken perspectives/values/money spent in research, corporations, the health care industry, government, and mass media, until the conclusion he presents is inescapable. He points out tirelessly, how the collective reductionist paradigm is not solving our health problems, but in fact, make things worse.
One of the most stunning revelations in this book is the (soon to be infamous) study by a colleague of his on the amount of Vitamin C in a single apple.
"...the specific chemical we refer to as vitamin C accounts for much less than 1 percent of the vitamin C-like activity in the apple --- a minuscule amount. The other 99-plus percent of this activity ["an astounding 236 times as potent as the same amount of the isolated chemical!"] is due to other vitamin C-like chemicals in the apple, the possible ability of vitamin C to be much more effective in context of the whole apple than it is when consumed in an isolated form, or both." (p. 153)
With 4.5 billion years of evolution, our bodies have developed the means to extract exactly what it needs from plants,in both quality and quantity, and synergistically build on that input to nutrients and vitality superior to the original input. An absolutely fascinating discovery and it has a wide range of implications in regards to nutrition and human diet/health.
WFPB: the summarized prudent dietary strategy, as exemplified in Dr. Campbell's summation (see below) is to, in my words, consume as diverse and many multi-colored vegetable, fruit and plant-based foods as you can, and let your body figure out what to use, and dispose of.
Dr. Campbell's marvelously succinct description of what his and other's research is that the best diet you can effect follows:
"Consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible ("whole" foods). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil, and sugar. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat, and 10 percent from protein." (p. 07)
Everyone should memorize the above words, as they are subtle in text, but profound in terms of your health.
Furthermore, Dr. Campbell, as does Dr. Neal Barnard in "Power Foods for the Brain," comes down hard on the issue of supplements. Not how the body works. They are ill-considered, make no sense from a wholistic paradigm's perspective, and can easily cause more harm than good. Ironic that a few weeks ago the Feds came out with a major study saying that supplements have no serious benefit (other than B12, maybe Vitamin D on occasion). It's a reductionist view that we can add "X" to get "Y."
I could go on for "pages and pages" about this superb effort. The old story of blind men studying an elephant was so incredibly apt for what he wanted to explain. Modern scientific research (and funding) is akin to these individuals attempting to comprehend what an elephant is by, for example, studying the ears, or just the trunk. Marvelous way to explain what's going on and why this approach is conceptually myopic.
"I can't think of a better metaphor to highlight the big problem with scientific research today. Except that instead of six blind men, modern science tasks 60,000 researchers to examine the elephant, each through a different lens... [the] researchers don't talk to one another or acknowledge that the overall goal of the exploration is to perceive and appreciate the whole elephant." (p. 851, 853)
Suffice it to say, it you want to understand WHY we are in the health mess we're in, the implications, the waste of time and money focusing on genetics, and the incredible curative and preventative value of a WFPB diet, this book is mandatory reading. This book is a magnum opus: the culmination of over 50 years of the highest level of scientific research (both government and academia) and the brilliance of a man who's internal integrity forced him to question his previous assumptions and follow the truth as it unfolded. People, he's published over 350 mostly peer-reviewed studies.
He has the cojone to lay out his life's efforts and show how he was wrong, and what he's come to understand from the realities in his subsequent research and deliberate integration into what it all truly means. A totally thoughtful, intelligent, and unassailable analysis of the "disease-caring" industry and why it must change. He is, indeed, "re-thinking" nutrition with the scientific caliber of few alive today. His perspectives demand attention.
I'm just so impressed. It's a wonderful read, and I recommend it highly for anyone who wants a "whole" view of the problems of health in our society, and particularly, for any health professional who REALLY wants to help people help themselves, as well as the individual who wants to foster good health, knowing that a WFPB diet will get them there.
And yes, this book has had a major impact on how I view the world, health, diet, and society. Somehow, for me, he's done it twice with his first two books, and I dearly hope there's more to come. IMHO, there needs to be two statues in front of the National Institute of Health: one of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (whom Dr. Campbell notes did one of the most incredible research studies ever accomplished, reversing heart disease), and Dr. Campbell himself.
These are two scientists that should be put out in front of the building to inspire future researchers and remind us (and everyone entering and exiting that prestigious institution), that true revolutions in thinking and saving human lives are not always loud or corporate-funded, but they can be quietly persistent, and "whole." The work of both of these individuals has the potential of saving, literally, millions of lives from long-term degenerative diseases that need not exist.
With "Whole," Dr. Campbell provides a deeply penetrating, experienced, and encompassing "thought umbrella" to understand how to avoid the mis-information raining down on use from media, government, corporate, and academic sources, and instead, shine with the time-tested knowledge of how a whole foods plant-based diet can cure, prevent, and promote a truly healthy life. I cannot recommend this book any more highly than I just have (especiall to all medical students or anyone involved with health and nutrition). With regards to Dr. Campbell's two books, IMHO, lightning has, indeed, struck twice.
"• What you eat every day is a far more determinant of your health than your DNA or most of the nasty chemicals lurking in your environment
• The foods you consume can heal you faster and more profoundly than the most expensive prescription drugs, and more dramatically than the most extreme surgical interventions, with only positive side effects.
• It's never too late to start eating well." (p06)
My sincere thanks to BenBella (publishers of "Whole" and many other fine books) for sending me a copy for review, as well as offering to sponsor the giveaway of a FREE copy of "Whole" for the lucky winner.
RULES: leave a comment on this blog (w/ e-mail address) telling us the most important event, book, person, whatever, that enabled your epiphany to give up animal protein and embrace a plant-based diet. Doesn't have to be long, spelling won't count! Deadline for entries is Tuesday, February 11th, 11:59pm est. The winner will be selected at random. I'll send the winner an e-mail requesting a physical mailing address on the 12th.
Go for it!
[Extra Credit: check out Dr. Don Wagner's excellent interview with Dr. Campbell about "Whole" from last month. Available (free) as a streaming/downloadable audio here.]
AND WE HAVE A WINNER! Here's what she wrote to earn her free hardback copy.
"Hello, my name is Monica Cameli and I am 56 years old and when I was 7 years old, my mother remarried and we went to visit my new step dads brother on a farm. My sister and I went with our new cousins who were the same age as us to the 'slaughter house'. I had no idea what we were walking in to. Every time I tell this story, I can see it, smell it, and hear the animals crying for their lives! That experience is what started me on my vegan journey. It's taken many years to figure out how to eat right, though. Thankfully, I've heard Dr. Esselstyn speak twice and have read many good books within the last few years to help me along in this journey.."
Next week: a review and free giveaway of "The China Study Cookbook!"