I have long been a researcher experimentally investigating with my many students and colleagues the relationship of food with health, starting from over 50 years ago. My career started at Cornell University where I did my graduate work (MS and PhD). During my career, most of which was spent at Cornell University, our research program was handsomely funded by taxpayer money (NIH). I also spent about 20 years as a member of expert panels charged with the development of public policy and public education on food and health. It’s been an exciting journey and our work has been published in more than 350 scientific papers, most of them peer-reviewed and most of them having been published in the very best science journals. I am now a Professor Emeritus, having held a tenured full professorship since I was recruited to come back to the Cornell faculty over 35 years ago. Most recently, I published, with my son, Tom, a national best-seller book, The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long Term Health (2005), which includes much of what I intend to say in this blog post. It is there where you will find much of the evidence and rationale that support my views.
Thanks to the contributions of my many students, professional colleagues and friends and family, I now have come to a view about food and health that I never anticipated early in my career. This is a food-based message that has extraordinary promise, in so many ways. It’s about the ability of diet and nutrition to maintain health, prevent disease and, most importantly, to restore health. The breadth and depth of the evidence that supports this message helps to interpret past research, to plan future research and to produce a set of principles that is consistent both with theory and with application, as now being observed in the medical clinic.
The results being observed by my clinician colleagues and the feedback that I get from attendees at my lectures and readers of our book suggests that there is no other medical intervention now known that has the potential to create health and prevent disease like this intervention. I make no apology for asserting that traditional medical practices cannot match the efficacy and cost effectiveness provided by this nutrition-based intervention. If any of my colleagues doubt my claim, please show your evidence.
Here are a few teasers from this research that I now call principals.
1. Health outcomes and services should not be based on genetic determinism and genetic technologies.
2. The use of nutrient supplements is not about nutrition but about pharmacology.
3. Disease prevention merges into disease cure, as in curing advanced heart disease and type II diabetes. (Two long-time distinguished physicians, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD, and John McDougall, MD, routinely do this, respectively. In our laboratory a quarter century ago, we were able to turn on and turn off cancer by relatively modest nutritional means.).
4. Most contemporary epidemiological research inquiry is based on experimental procedures that are extremely misleading.
5. Development of diet and health policy is more about corporate speak than about objective science.
6. Public confusion about nutrition need not exist.
7. The definition of nutrition desperately needs major surgery.
8. The institution of contemporary medical practice is destined to crash…unless nutrition is included in the practice of medicine.
The underlying scientific evidence supporting these principles, if properly understood and applied, could mean an exceptionally bright future not only for the practice of medicine but also for many other societal issues as well. We desperately need to find ways to articulate this message both to the public and to those professionals who should be assuming this responsibility. The times demand it. We have problems that must be solved. And the solution has at its core the question of what we choose to eat.
The problems that now beset us and that need solutions—NOW—goes like this. Per capita health care costs in the U.S. are the highest in the world, a staggering 50% higher than country number two. Yet this money does not deliver what it should. The U.S. is far down the list of industrialized nations in its quality of health care, ranking 12th to 13th among 13 rich countries, depending on criteria used. Fifty million people don’t have health insurance and another 25 million don’t have enough coverage for their care.
This is our health care system, better described by Dr. John McDougall as our “disease care system.” Our system is managed from top down and it depends on pills, potions and misleading information for the public, both for food and for drugs. We consume the wrong food, we get sick and we die but not before we consume buckets of pills to pave our way to the promise land, while filling the wallets of those who produce such things. Many of those pills, by the way, are surprisingly ineffective and, if taken long enough, are harmful. More than 100,000 of us die each year by taking drugs prescribed to us. Add to that the deaths due to doctors’ errors and the medical system itself becomes the third leading cause of death.
This is a capital-intensive system, seemingly without parallel in the world. Wealth can be had, at least for the few at the top. But for those of us outside of that inside crowd, it’s neither wealth nor health and we hardly know what to do about it. It’s time to scream! Though there are many things to scream about, the one that needs a good loud yell is the so-called debate by politicians about who has the best health care plan. They all talk about who’s going to pay the bill as if this is going to solve the problem while none talk seriously about how to improve health. A lot of hot air and money being spread all over the place!
This is a helluva way to start my first blog and I’ve probably lost lots of readers that I would liked to have reached. For those of you still reading, thank you, because there really is some light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
In the meanwhile, write and share your thoughts. We need to start a serious, informed and constructive dialogue and get as many people as possible involved.