The central message of this extraordinary book is: consume whole foods in the context of a plant-based diet. If you do you will greatly decrease the likelihood that you will die prematurely from the "diseases of affluence" that ravage our society, including cancer, heart failure and diabetes.
This is a diet that makes eminent sense and is in accord with what we may surmise was the natural diet of our ancestors in the prehistory before the rise of agriculture and animal husbandry. Campbell shows through intensive and wide-ranging studies, in particular through evidence from the "China Study: the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted," that it is a diet that will prevent and even reverse disease.
Campbell is no pie-in-the-sky visionary or nutritional quack with a bogus agenda, nor is he an animal rights activist trying to find justification for his concerns. He is a bonafide mainstream scientist with forty years of experience who is currently Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. Furthermore, he grew up on a farm, and prior to his learning about the effect diet can have on human health, he ate a more or less traditional American diet heavy on the meat, milk, fat, refined sugars and starches.
I have been reading books on nutrition and diet for decades. I have seen food fads come and go, and I have seen the rise of the supersize in which McDonald's and other large corporations have seduced us into eating not only foods that are bad for us, but lured us into eating (and drinking) them in large quantities. As a result we have become among the fattest people on the planet with something like two-thirds of the population overweight and one-third obese. (p. 135) Part of this is due to lack of exercise, but a significant part is due to eating too much. But Campbell believes that it isn't just how much we are eating, it is what we are eating. He maintains that eating exclusively from a whole foods, plant-based diet and maintaining an otherwise healthy lifestyle, we can eat as much as we like and not only keep trim but avoid the terrible diseases of affluence that haunt our society.
What is different about Campbell's book is first the enormous about of scientific evidence he presents, and second the idea that eating not just fats and overly processed foods is bad for you, but that eating too much protein, especially animal protein, is correlated with the scourges of diabetes, cancer and heart failure. Animal protein consumption in conjunction with various carcinogens in the environment causes cancer, to put it bluntly, is his message. This surprising finding is supported by Campbell's discovery that the effect of the carcinogen aflatoxin is almost completely negated when a low protein diet is followed. In particular, his research targets casein, protein from cow's milk, as contributing to the formation of cancerous tumors. He believes that consuming diary products on a regular basis is dangerous to your health.
All told, this is without doubt the best book on nutrition, diet, and health that I have ever read, and believe me, I've read a few over the years. The arguments presented, over and above the very persuasive evidence, are compelling. One of the things I like to do when evaluating opposing views on what is good for human beings is to ask myself how was it in the prehistory? What sort of diet did humans become adapted to over the millennia? It was only about 10,000 years ago that animal husbandry began; in other words, it's only been about 10,000 years since any people have depended on milk as a food. Furthermore, although prehistoric humans were hunters and scavengers, it is clear that the bulk of their diet came from gathering plant sources. Even when they did slay an animal, that animal's flesh was lean, not fatty. This is not to say that prehistoric humans did not eat animal flesh. They did. In some cultures (the Inuit for example) animal flesh was the mainstay of the diet. But they are exceptions. Furthermore, the deleterious effects of a diet containing significant amounts of animal products would not have affected prehistoric peoples much since few lived long lives. Today most people (in the Western world at least) will live into their sixties, seventies and eighties. How free from pain and discomfort and how active and healthful they will be for how long will depend to some large measure on what they eat. This is Dr. Campbell's message.
Another, more sinister message is contained in "Part IV: Why Haven't You Heard This Before?" It is here that Campbell chastises the medical profession, the scientific establishment and the government for being in the pocket of the various corporate interests. He shows how we have been indoctrinated by the diary, meat, poultry and drug industries into eating an unhealthy diet and attempting to treat the symptoms of the chronic diseases of affluence caused in part by that diet with ineffective and expensive drugs and invasive and dangerous treatments. He shows how under the Bush administration the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) from the government's Food and Nutrition Board have been revised so that increased amounts of fatty, highly processed, sugared and protein-stuffed foods are now more okay than ever. (See pages 306-314 for the appalling details.)
Why is this happening? Because corporate vested interests have hoodwinked the medical profession and taken control of the government agencies and have bought off the politicians. Campbell writes: "...[W]hen it comes to health, government is not for the people; it is for the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the people." (p. 318) He adds, "The whole system is paid for by the drug industry, from education to research. The drug industry has bought the minds of the medical profession." (p. 332) He concludes (in italics): "The health damage that results from doctors' ignorance of nutrition is astounding." (p. 329)
--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"