I just finished Whole, by T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist with a lengthy record of scientific publication, scholarly writing, and teaching. Dr. Campbell is known for his landmark research detailed in The China Study, which demonstrated strong relationships with plant based eating and low rates of cancer and heart disease. The movie “Forks Over Knives” was the first place where I learned about his efforts. He advocates a “whole foods, plant-based” diet. In other words, he thinks we should be living the Plant Life (he pretty much said it)!
While The China Study told the story of his research and plumbed the depths of the benefits of living the Plant Life, Whole explores the issues preventing the spread of the Plant Life to the majority of society. Because of an overly-reductionist scientific approach to research, corporate profit motives, and political allegiance to the latter, Americans get the wrong kind of information, disguised as health and science.
Whole makes several worthwhile points:
1) Scientists and doctors “reduce” the pathways of disease into simple forms to study them. Buuuuut, they often don’t “expand” them again to put discoveries into context. That’s why you hear about this one little chemical curing everything and then go buy the next “superfood” that has it–only to have nothing actually happen for you. There are no silver bullets!
2) People take advantage of the above. Ever heard of Snake Oil? But besides unverifiable fads, “reduction” benefits the scientists, doctors, and industry. They create products that work on the the minute facts. Once these exist, the incentive shifts from curing and treating to income and profit for selling a fix for the pathway–irrespective of whether or not in the long run it actually solves the bigger problem! Like srrsly.
3) Income and profit drive the agendas of groups responsible for scientific information and policy, including government, the American Cancer Society, and medical and nutrition societies through donations, advertising, and sponsorship from the companies whose income and profit are affected by the policy made. Groups have trouble embracing policy that threatens their income streams, and so their information and decisions become biased.
4) #3 sucks because all it does is confuse people. I think I’m getting the information I need, when, in fact, I am getting only a fraction of the information, or information that benefits the group giving it out. That is not the whole story. #pun-dit
I think Campbell makes a sensible argument in his book, even if it is a little depressing. I am glad for what he wrote, as it points out the challenges we face in the information you and I are given each day about health, diet, and wellness. Embrace the Plant Life, and see the results for yourself!