The Dietary Secret to Longevity and Good Health

By T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.

We now have evidence showing that the kind of nutrition provided by a whole-food plant-based diet (WFPB) offers more health benefits than all the present-day pills and procedures combined. This means health benefits both for disease prevention and treatment. No other health protocol, diet or drug-based, can show the same health benefits.

This assertion about this WFPB dietary lifestyle is now supported by robust scientific evidence, but the public remains uninformed and confused. The confusion is two-tiered. First, a diet of such foods, initially called vegetarian (no meat), later expanded to include a vegan group (no animal foods of any kind), has had a long history of controversy. Second, the fundamental science underlying this effect is called nutrition, a medical topic that is given almost no professional standing.

The WFPB dietary lifestyle, with little or no added oil and refined carbohydrates, is neither vegan nor vegetarian, as they are usually practiced. A recent survey showed that fat and sugar contents of vegan, vegetarian and meat-based diets is almost the same. The WFPB diet, which I’ll take credit for, was first named in 1982 a‘plant-based diet’, later to become ‘whole food plant based.’

The ethical arguments for the ‘V’ diets are highly justified, of course, but this representation, standing alone, is unnecessarily contentious for some who could help advance this message to the public. For more professional legitimacy, it is important that this message about nutrition and health be constructed around solid scientific evidence and argument.

On my question about professional ignorance about nutrition, there are three glaring omissions. First, among the 60-plus specialties of medical practice, nutrition is not one of them! Second, among the 28 National Institutes of Health (NIH), the leading biomedical research agency in the world, there is no National Institute of Nutrition, properly mandated of course! Third, medical schools, except for some lip service, do not teach nutrition!

Almost no research funding, no medical training and no recognition of nutrition as a medical specialty… no wonder the public is massively confused! This is shameful.

WFPB nutrition can be used to cure (yes, cure) well-established heart disease, as reported by my colleagues, Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish. Similar evidence now exists for type II diabetes and a broad range of other ailments and diseases.

In my own experimental research career begun over 60 years ago — with a 14-year academic hiatus at MIT, Virginia Tech and Oxford University — I have spent my entire research and teaching career at Cornell, where my research group produced some astounding nutrition fundamentals that did not exist in standard nutrition texts. For example, in our research laboratory, experimentally using core elements of the WFPB diet, we learned that

— experimental cancer development can be turned on and off by nutritional means, i.e., by increasing then decreasing animal-based protein consumption.

— this nutritional effect does not depend on, or is explained by, consumption of specific nutrients, as in nutrient supplements. That’s pharmacology!

— individual nutrients do not function simply by one mechanism, but by complex networks of mechanisms, as if in symphony.

— upon adoption of the WFPB dietary lifestyle, the health benefits are exceptionally far-ranging, from serious life-threatening diseases to irksome ailments.

— upon adoption of this nutritional lifestyle, health benefits appear quickly, within days to weeks.

— even though almost all physiological and pathological events originate with specific genes or clusters of genes, the abilities of these genes to create health or disease depends on nutrition which turns on good genes, turns off bad genes.

— it is not necessary for each person to have a unique dietary protocol for good health.

— this dietary lifestyle enables people to be responsible for their own health, assuming of course, that they actually know and know how to use this information.

— although this dietary lifestyle may not be readily adopted by everyone, new taste preferences will emerge within 2–3 months, when many people then find it difficult to return to their former dietary lifestyles, so great will be their health benefits.

These extraordinary yet greatly under-appreciated health benefits of the WFPB diet remind me of the ancient views of Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Why do we honor Hippocrates’ name, as in the Hippocratic Oath, yet fail to honor his ideas? I know well this ignorance, as I also was a victim, both personally and professionally, until I spent so many years doing our research, all of which was funded by taxpayer money.

I now believe that this information is a ‘Fact of Nature.’ It is well past time that institutional authorities take seriously this information on nutrition, for it is our future that is at stake — in many ways.

Image source: Unsplash

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