Hey, thanks to my buddy, Rhiannon, I just discovered it’s World Vegan Day (November 1). While I don’t really consider myself vegan (after all, I do eat honey), my plant-based diet is nearly the same as a whole foods based vegan diet.
I think the biggest difference between me and vegans is that I am primarily doing this for health reasons, with humane animal treatment and compassion as a nice benefit to my diet!
In celebration of World Vegan Day, here’s a great article by Dr. T Colin Campbell, a professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and co-author of “The China Study.”
By T. Colin Campbell
I was raised on a dairy farm. I milked cows until starting my doctoral research over 50 years ago at Cornell University in the animal-science department. Meat and dairy foods were my daily fare, and I loved them.
When I began my experimental research program on the effects of nutrition on cancer and other diseases, I assumed it was healthy to eat plenty of meat, milk and eggs. But eventually, our evidence raised questions about some of my most-cherished beliefs and practices.
Our findings, published in top peer-reviewed journals, pointed away from meat and milk as the building blocks of a healthy diet, and toward whole, plant-based foods with little or no added oil, sugar or salt.
My dietary practices changed based on these findings, and so did those of my family. So, what is this evidence that has had such an impact on my life?
In human population studies, prevalence rates of heart disease and certain cancers strongly associate with animal-protein-based diets, usually reported as total fat consumption. Animal-based protein isn’t the only cause of these diseases, but it is a marker of the simultaneous effects of multiple nutrients found in diets that are high in meat and dairy products and low in plant-based foods.
Historically, the primary health value of meat and dairy has been attributed to their generous supply of protein. But therein lay a Trojan horse.
More than 70 years ago, for example, casein (the main protein of cow’s milk) was shown in experimental animal studies to substantially increase cholesterol and early heart disease. Later human studies concurred. Casein, whose properties, it’s important to note, are associated with other animal proteins in general, also was shown during the 1940s and 1950s to enhance cancer growth in experimental animal studies.
Casein, in fact, is the most “relevant” chemical carcinogen ever identified; its cancer-producing effects occur in animals at consumption levels close to normal—strikingly unlike cancer-causing environmental chemicals that are fed to lab animals at a few hundred or even a few thousand times their normal levels of consumption. In my lab, from the 1960s to the 1990s, we conducted a series of studies and published dozens of peer-reviewed papers demonstrating casein’s remarkable ability to promote cancer growth in test animals when consumed in excess of protein needs, which is about 10% of total calories, as recommended by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences more than 70 years ago.
One of the biggest fallacies my opponent presents is that a diet including meat and dairy products is the most efficient way of giving the body the nutrients it needs with a healthy level of calories. Plant-based foods have plenty of protein and calcium along with far greater amounts of countless other essential nutrients (such as antioxidants and complex carbohydrates) than meat and dairy.
Higher-protein diets achieved by consuming animal-based foods increase the risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and many similar ailments, caused by excess protein and other unbalanced nutrients as well.
It’s also worth noting that the government recommendations for certain population groups to increase their protein and iron consumption come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an agency long known to be subservient to the meat and dairy industries.
The dairy industry has long promoted the myth that milk and milk products promote increased bone health—but the opposite is true. The evidence is now abundantly convincing that higher consumption of dairy is associated with higher rates of bone fracture and osteoporosis, according to Yale and Harvard University research groups.
Some of the most compelling evidence of the effects of meat and dairy foods arises when we stop eating them. Increasing numbers of individuals resolve their pain (arthritic, migraine, cardiac) when they avoid dairy food. And switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet with little or no added salt, sugar and fat, produces astounding health benefits. This dietary lifestyle can prevent and even reverse 70% to 80% of existing, symptomatic disease, with an equivalent savings in health-care costs for those who comply.
This treatment effect is broad in scope, exceptionally rapid in response (days to weeks) and often, lifesaving. It cannot be duplicated by animal-based foods, processed foods or drug therapies.
By contrast, any evidence that low-fat or fat-free-dairy foods reduce blood pressure is trivial compared with the lower blood pressure obtained and sustained by a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
Based on the scientific evidence, and on the way I feel, I know beyond any doubt that I am better off for having changed my diet to whole and plant-based foods.