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Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition Paperback – May 6, 2014
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About the Author
Howard Jacobson, PhD, is an online marketing consultant, health educator, and ecological gardener from Durham, N.C. He earned a Masters of Public Health and Doctor of Health Studies degrees from Temple University, and a BA in History from Princeton. Howard cofounded VitruvianWay.com, an online marketing agency, and is a coauthor of Google AdWords For Dummies. When Howard is not chasing groundhogs away from blueberry bushes or wrestling with Google, he relaxes by playing Ultimate Frisbee and campfire songs from the 1960s. His current life goal is to turn the world into a giant food forest.
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I am not a scientist. In fact, I haven't even graduated from Elementary School. Based on my empirical life, I believe that eating whole plant-based foods is essential and even critical to stay healthy. Under the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939, at the age of 13, I was forbidden to attend school. I was put behind barbed wire in forced labor and concentration camps, where I was beaten, wounded, and starved, for three years. I never received any medical treatment. The German doctors, instead of treating the ill captives, ill-treated them. Some physical and mental scars stay for the rest of my life. In May 1945, when the Russian Army liberated me I weighed 80 pounds, a skeleton. The Russian military doctors gave me a thorough examination and predicted my life expectancy to be no more than two years. I was a teenager then. Seventy years later, I am here at the age of eighty-nine.
For many years after the war, I was a sickly young man. The most troubling ailment, for many years, was my inability to digest common staples of food such as meat and dairy products. My stomach rejected and ejected the meals that I prepared or was served. Many Holocaust survivors died soon after the war when it became difficult, and even harmful, for their digestive system to assimilate the normal food their bodies were weaned off during the war. Their metabolism, attuned to 500 calories a day, could not handle an intake of "normal" food. In the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, fourteen thousand survivors died shortly after having been liberated by the British Army. For many years, I had been seeking and getting medical treatment. Different diagnoses and a variety of medications were prescribed which did not provide much relief.
In 1953 a coworker, Jacob Grabois, told me: "It pains me to see a young man to be absent from work so often due to illness. Perhaps if you adopt my lifestyle it might help you, as it has helped me." Grabois invited me to visit him, in a little house that was modestly furnished, with an adjacent large garden. That garden yielded a crop of almost all the basic foods that the Grabois family needed. No fertilizers were used; just big compost dumpster, at one corner of the garden, contributed to the fertile soil. While savoring a delicious vegetarian meal, Jacob Grabois told me what has motivated him to embrace a healthy life style. As a young student in France, he became very concerned about his health and his life expectancy. Since his father and his siblings died of cancer, He fretted that the same fate awaited him. He studied the causes of diseases and eventually adopted a whole food plant- based diet.
I embraced Grabois' diet and it seems to have worked well, for me. At the age of 43, I replaced meat, fish, and most dairy products with whole food plant-based diet. My health had drastically improved. Currently, I don't take any prescription drugs. This might be one reason that I am still here. Side effects of prescription drugs kill more people than traffic accidents.
Like Dr Campbell, I had no financial interest; I just felt a moral obligation to share my life story; narrated in my autobiography From a Name to a Number. If you, like everybody else, want to be healthy, read WHOLE. I learn from reading what I can from whom I can. I am a vivid evidence that WFPB is indeed the optimal human diet; it corroborates the validity of Dr. Campbell's teachings. Keep on mind, that the world's farmers produce enough calories today to feed nine billion people a healthy, 2.700 calorie-per day. More than two-thirds of the world's agricultural land is used to grow feed for livestock. You might also consider what Albert Einstein had said: "It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."
Three p-words permeate Campbell's thesis here: profits, power, and paradigms. Power and profits drive the big businesses of livestock and processed food, Campbell argues. For elaboration on how the processed food industry influences people's eating habits against public health while in pursuit of sales and profits, I recommend Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (2013) or The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (2009). More controversially perhaps, Campbell also argues that profit motives fuel the chase for pills, patents, and procedures in "health care" or as Campbell calls it, the "disease care" industries of pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and medical practitioners. Registered dietitians may be compromised too, as their influential trade association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, receives major funding from the junk food business including Coca-Cola, Hershey, PepsiCo, Mars, and Unilever (that covers several major ice cream brands), as well as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Dairy Council, among others. (p. 271) The food and health care industries also buy power and influence by funding, in part, the careers of politicians, food regulators, and media outlets (including both popular media and some scientific journals) (p. 181-262). That's a big argument, and Campbell states it earnestly. He looks at, "all the political maneuvering and financial pressure...a version of reality shaped more by the profit agendas of Big Pharma, supplement makers, hospitals, surgeons, and suppliers of processed food and industrial meat and dairy than the truth." (p. 261)
But what about science? Don't the health sciences uphold an objective space where research like Campbell's can get a proper hearing among fair-minded truth seekers? Here Campbell covers a lot of ground. Whole unpacks Campbell's frustration with food sciences that drive for answers in small elements of biochemistry, often dismissing or putting up stiff resistance to studies at the level of major dietary patterns, lifestyles, and community-level differences in health outcomes (p. 45-164). Campbell knows from personal experience. He has contributed to food science both at the minute level of biochemistry, and also at the lifestyle and community levels like a medical sociologist would do, as The China Study makes clear.
Campbell's account in Whole may serve as vivid material for science studies. This is a field where sociologists and philosophers grapple with questions of how human foibles, careerism, and powerful interests sometimes distort and inhibit the advancement of science, and how new theories occasionally burst through to scientific acceptance despite formidable resistance. Campbell deploys the concept of scientific "paradigms" in food studies. Scientists cluster their investigations and share basic assumptions within a broad current of thought, or paradigm, the thinking goes, for as long as the prevailing paradigm seems productive, until one day the paradigm runs out of answers and gives way to challengers. In our time, Campbell suggests, the paradigm in nutrition is that animal foods are healthy sources of key nutrients that call for microbiological research; and the paradigm in medicine is that disease is to be cured through pills and procedures that call for biochemistry in pharmaceuticals, biotechnological engineering, and surgical protocols. The notion that medical and nutritional sciences, or any science, organizes into theoretical paradigms that hold sway during periods of "normal science" springs from Thomas Kuhn's launching pad for the field of science studies, first published in 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition. T. Colin Campbell goes further, intimating that scientific grant makers should promote a more appropriate distribution of financial resources in health-related studies, in order to breed a research environment that would admit a variety of approaches, even if they contradict the main thrust (p. 214-217). His thinking comports well with some recent, socially minded philosophers of science, especially Miriam Solomon's excellent brief, Social Empiricism (Bradford Books) (2001).
If you haven't read The China Study, I would recommend that first (and The China Study may be all you want or need). The China Study spells out the many health benefits of whole foods, plant-based eating in Campbell's view; and what is the research that brought him to believe that; and what's wrong with animal foods. Or, for a captivating show of it on your tv screen, you can see T. Colin Campbell speaking prominently in the outstanding documentary film, Forks Over Knives.
If you want to know how exactly to go about eating a whole foods plant-based diet, then Whole is not the place to turn. But I can recommend some very good books for that: The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good!,Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year, and Everyday Happy Herbivore: Over 175 Quick-and-Easy Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes. Isa Chandra Moskowitz also comes pretty close to Campbell's way of eating in the reduced-fat version of her super-tasty chef's recipes (though she adds very small quantities of oil that you can cut out if you want to stay true to Campbell's way) -- in Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes.
If you're curious and you want to come to grips with the clash in food science between Campbell's minority viewpoint and mainstream theories, then you've come to the right book. Further, if you'd like to hold your own in discussions with people who may want to know how you can be so confident as you shrug off the mainstream opposition and lean into the radical health promise of whole-foods plant-based eating, read this. If you simply want to know why whole foods, plant-based eating has not become more widely accepted, then Whole is a very fine book for you. Thank you, T. Colin Campbell for turning it out.
The book’s thesis is that both our food advisors, food production businesses along with both the medical research and medical service providers including the major organization such as the Cancer Research Society are all trapped in a paradigm that neglects major areas of knowledge. He feels and make a good argument that these organization while not “evil” are fueled by the profit motive and as such make their decisions on what is proper research information based on profit rather than what might be best for overall health.
He feels that a plant based diet void of both meat and milk would dramatically increase the health of the nation and decrease cancer rates. He feels that this would be very bad for our overall economy in the short run. As a result extremely strong influences work to keep this from occurring.
It is not that major Cancer researchers do not want to cure cancer but that in order to fund their research they have to operate in the current paradigm. He feels this neglects major areas of potential benefits. He states that if a researcher wants to investigate any type of holistic approach such as overall nutrition then their career will be very much in question and it is extremely unlikely they would obtain funding.
I am afraid to say his thesis sounds reasonable but I do not feel competent to judge the validity of his arguments.