Healthy dietsDr. T. Colin Campbell, world-famous cancer and nutritional researcher, says he "can't use words strong enough to condemn" popular high-protein, high-fat diets.
start with plants,
A noted researcher lectures on
the value of vegan over fad diets
By Helen Altonn
"They're a disaster," he said in an interview. "They're basically telling people good things about their bad habits and making lots of money."
Campbell holds the endowed chair of Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. He is co-chairman of the World Cancer Research Fund and director of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project.
He recently gave three lectures here to the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii, Castle Medical Center health professionals and others concerning "what to eat. ... The closer we get to a plant-based diet, the better off we're going to be," he said, stressing "enormous health benefits."
Among those espousing healthy diets, Dr. Terry Shintani, who has spoken to his class at Cornell, is "one of the gems," Campbell said. He visited Shintani, creator of the Hawaii Diet and co-founder of the Hawaii Heath Foundation, at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, which he said is a national model.
Consumers of high-protein, high-fat diets, which have zoomed into prominence the past three years, may lose some weight fairly quickly, Campbell said. But it does not last, and the person is soon back into eating animal-based foods related to diseases, he said.
Counting calories is overemphasized and, "quite frankly, kind of silly," he added. "If you're eating the right kind of foods -- fruits, vegetables and whole grains -- one doesn't need to think very much about that. Weight will stay under control.
"The beneficial effects are consistent across the board for various cancers, heart disease, diabetes" and excessive weight, he said. Obesity in the United States is getting worse, especially among children, who are increasingly afflicted with Type II diabetes, he said.
Campbell, who was raised on a dairy farm in Virginia, said he gradually shifted to a vegan diet after research and experiments he and his students did on diet and cancer and other diseases. He eventually eliminated dairy products. "It is not a healthy food; it simply isn't," he said. "I never thought I'd say that, raised on a dairy farm."
Scientific evidence for the benefits of plant-based foods is "so overwhelmingly impressive. I'm awed by what nature has done," Campbell said. "If we just give our bodies the right resources to work with ... we can enjoy really excellent health."
He said his five children are vegetarians, and his five grandchildren, ages 5 to 11, "are almost purists."
Nationally, however, Campbell said: "We're in sorry shape. The cost of medicine is the highest per capita in the world. ... A lot of people don't even have insurance, and we're getting disease rates at unprecedented levels."
Changing people's eating habits is difficult because they are inundated with advertising "for the wrong kind of food," he said.
They have also become accustomed to foods high in fat, salt and sugar so nutritious, plant-based foods do not taste as good to them, but they can be appetizing, he said. "My wife does it very well. I have never tasted food as good as I do now."
Campbell said he weighs 145 pounds, 45 pounds less than when he was younger. Exercise also is important, he said, and he jogs three to five miles or more every day and skis in the winter.
Focus in changing national eating patterns should be on children, Campbell said, stressing "a serious political problem" in school lunch programs. Schools must agree to offer dairy products to gain access to cheap commodities from the U.S. government, he said.
"So kids are getting a high-fat, high-protein, high-carbohydrate (sugars and refined starches) kind of diet because industry has worked it out with government to get rid of commodities."
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