Interviews with T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. (2005)
Interviewer: Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D.
Table of Contents
T. Colin Campbell interview
Interview 1 (1a) – page 4
Turning cancer in animals on with milk protein, and off without
Animal protein in general could promote cancer
Treatment, Symphonic response of body
100-fold differences in cancer between countries
Growth factor naturally in milk products could increase risk of cancer by 500%
Harvard Nurses Health Study: Nurses consumed higher than average amounts of animal protein,
limiting range of responders and the usefulness of the study
Growth factor naturally in low fat milk also
Stable steroid hormones could survive pasteurization and gastric fluid
Colustrum not endorsed by Physicians’ Desk Reference
Fish filter and concentrate dioxin
Interview 2 (1b) – page 22
Milk products as allergens
Conjugated linoleic acid
Politics made personal
School lunch program
Reversing metastatic cancer
Get a second opinion
Fasting to eliminate dioxin
Interview 3 (2a) – page 38
Genes: all or nothing?
Gastric acidity is different from metabolic acidosis.
Fine mesh reinforces bones
Negative calcium balance can be caused by milk products
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants not receive any milk other than
Interview 4 (2b) – page 54
Medical Doctor Caldwell Esselstyn
Medical Doctor Dean Ornish
Medical Doctor John McDougall
Medical Doctor Michael Klaper
Medical Doctor Neil Nedley, regarding depression
Milk helps calves grow; it’s not an aid for weight loss in people.
Healthy weight loss
Macular degeneration, cataracts
Improving the markers and diseases of aging
Improving athletic strength and endurance
Interview 5 (3a) – page 67
Medical Doctor Dennis Burkitt
The extensive landmark study in China, age-adjusted
Clear that diet has an effect
Medical Doctor Joel Fuhrman
Macular degeneration, cataracts
Antioxidants from plants
Supplements or synergy?
Interview 6 (3b) – page 81
Consensus on diet
Milk products as allergens
Milk products the riskiest foods
Violence influenced by diet
Summary of benefits of a plant-based diet
Why do health professionals sometimes promote milk products?
“Proof” in biology
Reversal of advanced clinical disorders
Interview 7 (4) – page 98
Complimentary support against cancer
Building substantial medical practices around lifestyle medicine
Insurance companies and HMOs could save very substantially via lifestyle medicine
Businesses in general could become more competitive by saving very substantially on expenses
for health care via lifestyle medicine
Lifestyle spas could support healing, teach prevention
Refined sugars may worsen cancer
“Normal” diet is an industrial age experiment that could promote disease; healthier approach
adopts some ancient elements
Funding for research
Politics of food
Personal significance of a plant-based diet
Acute infectious illnesses
Tape 1 (Interview 1a)
SJ: We’re speaking with T. Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of
Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. Dr. Campbell has received several prestigious
awards for his work relating diet, nutrition, and diseases including the 1998 lifetime achievement
award in cancer research from the American Institute for Cancer Research has authored or co-
authored over 350 scientific articles. In the book the China Study: Startling Implications for Diet,
Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health Dr. Campbell and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II cite
over 700 peer reviewed published scientific studies which conclude that consuming an animal-
based diet can aggravate many chronic degenerative diseases and even play a role in causing
them, and conversely, eating a plant-based diet can act as a preventative and even supports
SJ: In your research, what switch did you use to turn cancer on and off?
TCC: Originally our research involved experimental animals and a very specific sort of tumor
model system, or cancer system, that we could describe and experiment with. I was specifically
interested in the question concerning the effect of animal protein, but more particularly just the
effect of protein on tumor development. We discovered that children in the Philippines who were
consuming a lesser total amount of protein had fewer incidences of a certain kind of cancer,
which is exactly the opposite of what was previously believed. Then there was a report in India
using experimental animals that showed that the rats that got less protein had fewer tumors, so I
focused on that question. These studies clearly showed the effect of protein on cancer
development in these experimental animals.
SJ: What kind of protein did you use?
TCC: At first I didn’t pay a lot of attention as to what kind of protein we used; I thought protein
is protein is protein. After we saw what dramatic affects protein had on the tumor growth and
development, I started paying attention to what kind of protein it was. We used casein in our
study, which of course represents about 85-90% of the total protein of cow’s milk. The results
seemed to be specific of casein because when we ran trials using wheat protein and soy protein
fed at the same levels that had turned on the cancer with the casein, those plant-based proteins
did not have that effect. There is a major distinction between animal-based proteins, or more
specifically in this case casein, and wheat and soy protein, or plant-based protein.
SJ: Why are studies in rats particularly relevant to human cancer studies?
TCC: There are numerous instances where studies done on one species do NOT translate to the
effects in other species, and we can site these differences that exist between species as a given.
However, rats are mammals as humans are and as far as their basic biochemistry and physiology
is concerned, we can say with a great deal of confidence that at least 95-99% of the biochemical
reactions that exist in a rat also exist in humans. So there is far more correspondence
biochemically and physiologically speaking between a rat and humans or between one animal
species and another animal species than what we’re generally willing to admit. In addition, we
often want to know what is the dose relationship? That is to say, if we see a reaction in one
species with a certain dose, we might not see the reaction to the same degree of response in
another species at that same dose. A different dosage may be needed. Two things that must be
taken into consideration: first, the dose of the agent that is being administered and second, the
more qualitative characteristics of the response. Taking all that into consideration, rats and
humans, in this case require about the same amount of protein to sustain health and their rapid
growth rates are almost identical. This relevance between rats and humans has been shown
before in other studies aside from our case.
SJ: And again this was casein protein from dairy products, bovine or goat products.
TCC: Well I can’t say for goat’s milk because we used cow’s milk.
SJ: Isn’t casein found in goat [milk] products?
TCC: Casein is found in virtually all milk products including human milk too, but there are
other factors to be considered. Casein percentages can differ somewhat between species so its
effects may not necessarily be exactly the same. Casein actually can differ somewhat between
breeds of cows which can lead to slightly different responses. Differences and discrepancies
certainly exist and administering casein in one species will not always create exactly the same
degree of response as it does in another species, but compared to the extreme results from the
wheat and soy protein, casein is casein is casein. If it’s going to have any effect at all, the casein
is going to increase tumor development. It will never decrease tumor development. A large
amount information regarding the casein/tumor incidence has come out since we have finished
our work, and is fully supportive.
SJ: Why were tumors in the liver studied?
TCC: Liver cancer is common in some areas in the world in people and not so common in other
areas, such as more Western countries. Often times the difference between liver cancer from one
country to the next, usually between a poor country and a rich country, really has to do with
another agent. Most commonly this is exposure to a hepatitis virus, in this case, Hepatitis B or
Hepatitis C. If an individual remains chronically infected with these viruses, the risk for liver
cancer will be significantly raised. Poorer countries have more virus contamination, more
exposure, and therefore you have a much higher proportion of the population that is susceptible
to liver cancer to begin with. We know that for a cancer such as liver cancer to grow in people
who are chronically infected, there is going to be a large influence from nutritional intake. In
this case, we’re talking about casein as the influencing factor. Liver cancer was a good choice to
study not only because that was the cancer that I was observing in people, but it has become
common in experimental cancer research over the last three or four decades or longer to study to
the effect of carcinogens on liver cancer as opposed to other kinds of cancers in experimental
animals because liver cancers tend to grow rather rapidly. We can study their biochemistry more
effectively. Because of this, there is a huge body of literature on the mechanics of tumor
development in the liver as opposed to other tissues. There are all kinds of reasons, part of it’s
tradition, but part of it’s really, I think, rational thinking.
SJ: Were the results applicable to other organs?
TCC: Yes, studies that were being conducted by a friend of mine at the University of Illinois
Medical Center in Chicago over some years about the time that we were doing our studies on
liver cancer was able to show that higher intakes of casein actually enhanced the development of
mammary tumor development or breast cancer development. There were other studies showing
that higher protein intake increased pancreatic cancer development as well. Pancreas, breast, and
liver were the cancers that were chiefly studied at the time. I think our studies were probably
more extensive and robust than the other studies but nonetheless when people did choose to
study the effect of protein on cancer development that is what they saw—an increase in tumor
formation. We now know that there are certain things that go on that are likely to affect cancers
in all the organs as far as animal protein intake is concerned.
SJ: So in the lab were you recreating the process by which precancerous legions accumulate in
the body because of random mutations or from exposure to carcinogens like aflatoxin?
TCC: Aflatoxin is one of the most potent if not the most potent chemical carcinogen to cause
liver cancer in rats, which makes it a good model to study. The initiation of cancers can occur in
various ways, virtually all of which have to do with perturbation or disruption of the genetic
material in one fashion or another. When chemical carcinogens enter the body and get
metabolized, they bind to the DNA in specific spots. After becoming metabolized, the
carcinogens disrupt prominent, key genes that might be involved with cancer development.
Viruses like Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C virus do the same thing: a part of their DNA
comes in and inserts itself into the DNA of the rat, the host DNA. In addition to chemical
carcinogens, radiation may give rise to what we call spontaneous mutations from time to time
and there are other agents as well that are cancer causing. That whole process is referred to in
the research community as cancer initiation. There are various agents that can initiate a normal
cell to convert to an early cancer cell. In fact, we have conversion of normal cells to cancer cells
going on in our tissues to some extent, for our whole lives. That is probably true for most of us,
if we’re exposed to environmental issues, concerns, and things. But that’s a given, that is part of
the whole process, partly natural, partly it probably occurs more prominently in an industrialized
society, unfortunately. The real question is what happens to those early cancer lesions that
initiate that way? Do those cells stay there? Do they get corrected? Well, a big percentage of the
cancerous cells get repaired and reabsorb back, but some of them stay in the liver and they can
remain latent. These cells don’t cause any problems as long as we’re keeping with the right kind
of nutrition, and that’s where the protein thing comes in. Protein, animal protein in particular,
behaves like fertilizer, fertilizing these pre-cancerous cells so that they grow. We can have weed
seeds in a garden and they never grow to create weeds if we don’t give them water and fertilizer.
It’s the same idea here with the cancerous cells and the animal protein.
SJ: So in the lab all the rats were constantly challenged by the same aflatoxin dosage. You then
gave some of the rats a higher amount of protein, in this case casein, and those rats got tumors
and the other rats did not. What was the percentage on that?
TCC: That is correct. Initially, the level of protein that we were using was 20% of the total
calories of the diet, which is generally considered to be normal, traditional, regular.
SJ: And what percentage of calories do Americans get?
TCC: Approximately 90% or 95% of the Americans are consuming somewhere in the range of
about 11% to 24% of their calories from protein daily. It’s a little higher today than it was when
I first wrote the book, but the average protein intake in the American diet is about 18% right now
and about 70-75% of that protein is from animal sources. In the case of these animal
experiments, this is a situation that is really comparable to what a lot of humans are now actually
SJ: And yet that animal protein isn’t all milk protein?
TCC: Right, correct. I wish we had had the time and money to test all the other animal proteins,
but I don’t think it would really be necessary because when comparing animal proteins and plant
proteins there are other effects such as changing blood cholesterol levels, and varying degrees of
calcium leakage. Animal proteins all tend to behave similarly and we know a lot about them
now. I think if we were to test a whole bunch of other animal proteins like meat proteins, egg
proteins, and so forth I would bet anything that any animal protein tested in this amount would in
fact turn on cancer, even though final testing hasn’t been done on all types of animal protein. It’s
sort of like asking does cigarette smoke really cause cancer or not. No one has really proven in a
human study that cigarette smoke really causes cancer in humans.
SJ: It’s hard to prove anything in biological terms.
TCC: That’s right. If we want that 100% proof for all conditions we’re not going to get it. One
has to operate on the odds.
SJ: What’s fascinating is that for the rats that had tumors and were still under aflatoxin
challenge, you decreased the percentage of casein fed and what happened?
TCC: Those tumors grew no further and from the evidence that we had it looked like they
reversed which is fascinating. The way the casein was working was promoting the development
of growth in tumors, which is actually the second phase of cancer development- promotion.
During the promotion stage of cancer development other studies have shown that it’s largely
reversible and the classic case is with cigarette smoking. Most of the cancer that occurs as a
result of smoking cigarettes is occurring because of the promotion of the early tumor lesions.
When people stop smoking their risk of getting lung cancer goes down; it may take a few years
but it reverses. Being aware of that fact, I was not surprised to see the results that we did.
When we changed the level of protein in these rats from 20%, even after the tumors had already
started to grow, we switched them to the 5% casein diets. The tumors essentially stopped
growing on the evidence that we had. This was very exciting. We got to a point where we were
demonstrating that we could turn on and off tumor growth, just by giving them this 20% and 5%
SJ: What does that imply for supporting healing from challenging diseases, like cancer?
TCC: I’m not sure what you mean by supporting healing.
SJ: I don’t want to say treatment, what is the proper word? Because reducing animal products is
not a treatment —that is why I am saying support the body’s healing.
TCC: Well it’s an interesting word and concept. I’m going to suggest that I think you really are
referring to treatment, because a lot of people would agree that diet certainly can prevent certain
diseases, like cancer and heart disease. Most people agree that consuming the right kind of diet
will prevent diseases. It turns out that that same kind of diet that prevents the disease is now
being shown to actually reverse advanced disease, and that’s the definition of treatment. In the
case of heart disease for example, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. took patients with advanced
heart disease who were being told by their doctors to go home and prepare their final papers and
put them on a diet that reversed the heart disease—he showed it very clearly. Dr. Dean Ornish
did something similar with Type II diabetes. And there is some evidence for cancer too. So I’m
going to go out on a limb on this one and say that if your word healing can mean treatment, I’m
going to suggest that it’s treatment. We need more work in this area, but it’s very clear from this
evidence that we can both restore health and prevent health from deteriorating with this kind of
SJ: Is it bottom line that the body is doing the healing and it’s essentially healing itself?
TCC: Yes, I think I would agree with that. If the body is given the right resources, which means
the right kind of food, the right kind of air, and the right kind of water, and if other conditions are
made right, the body I guess you could say is healing itself, which is a nice thought.
SJ: And it’s not being challenged by cancer promoters in animal products?
SJ: So plant proteins—like that from rice, wheat, or soy—do not cause this problem. How come
only animal protein causes this?
TCC: Well, there appear to be multiple so-called mechanisms or explanatory mechanisms, as we
like to say in research. To get to the point of your question, we actually did look for so-called
mechanisms as to how and why this happens. In the late 70s, when we were still working on the
initiation stage and before we got involved in the promotion stage, I was amazed that every time
we looked for a mechanism, biochemically speaking, we found one. Higher protein diets
increased cell replication, that was very clear. We showed this in 1972 and it corresponded with
what some other research that people had done.
SJ: And not plant protein?
TCC: Well, we were using animal protein at the time and so everything that we were doing at
that particular time was with casein. We were simply asking questions as to how it worked.
Animal protein increased the transport of the carcinogen into the cell, it increased the enzyme
principally responsible for activating the carcinogen, and it changed many other parameters, and
all of this was acting in concert, which is really an amazing thought. We were not talking about
any specific mechanism but really a cluster of highly integrated mechanisms acting in symphony,
in harmony, to create the effect. And that was with just one phase of the cancer development.
When we turned our attention to the promotion question, we then also learned that there are
multiple mechanisms there too. Since we stopped that research and I have been watching the
literature as to what other people are doing, there are still more mechanisms emerging. To
answer your question, cancer promotion works through a whole family of mechanisms,
biochemically speaking and physiologically speaking, and whether it’s through hormones
traveling around the body, it’s an amazing effect. This observation probably excites me more
than any other single observation about the relationship between animal protein intake and of
disease response like cancer. When one actually begins to look at the mechanisms behind the fact
that high protein gives more cancer, or high protein gives more blood cholesterol, or high protein
does this or that or something else and realizes that there is a symphony here at work, a
symphony of reactions. I find it almost overwhelming that all of this stuff seems to work
together and everything goes wrong.
SJ: Just as when the body is working well to support healing, normally the lesions get
reabsorbed by the body, in a whole symphony of immune responses, when the immune system is
TCC: Absolutely, right, exactly, and the immune system as you know is made up of enormously
complex list of components all working together. And again, how ever you want to look at this, it
seems that all these pieces of the puzzle all get together and decide how are they going to
manage this and they work together. The converse of this is that if the body is healthy, healing
itself perhaps or at least maintaining its health, these reactions are going on simultaneously,
that’s a symphony to create health.
SJ: So when the promoters get removed, the tumors can get reabsorbed by the body and if the
body doesn’t have any challenges and we’re in good health without any tumors, then it’s actually
quite difficult for cancer to get a foothold.
TCC: Exactly. Exactly, that is precisely it. If you create the right biochemical and physiological
environment, in other words take away the promoters, take away the offending agents, and let the
body do its miracle in the way it wants, the chances of things going wrong are very, very remote.
SJ: Which may be why cancer is so prevalent in industrialized climates and industrialized
countries with the diets so heavily laden with animal products, the rich affluent diet, as compared
with low cancer rates in countries that use more of a plant-based diet.
TCC: Right, that is certainly true, I mean, rich countries consume rich food, and that so-called
rich food is not the best food, it’s not the healthiest food. It’s high in animal products which
changes the intake of a whole host of different kinds of nutrients, all of which tend to encourage
SJ: Is the difference between such countries a factor of 10 in percentage rates of cancer among
the population, just as a ball park?
TCC: Well, you kind of have to look at each cancer individually, rather than total cancer. It’s
true for individual cancers you can find differences in the rates of cancer in different countries at
least 10 fold if not in fact a 100 fold. It’s huge differences, really huge differences, as you look at
the individual cancers. The reason you have to look at individual cancers, as opposed to just
cancer generically is that in poor countries they have less instance of cancer when a more plant-
based diet is consumed. However, there are other factors that come into play here, as we just
mentioned before for liver cancer. In poorer countries, the hygienic environment is not so good,
and the exposure to viruses and bacteria is higher, and maybe people are saving foods in ways
that is not to their best interest. Essentially what you get in these poor countries is that they have
a higher exposure to some kind of initiating agents, and so you have a higher proportion of
people susceptible to get certain kinds of cancer. You will see in poor countries, for example,
that incidences of breast cancer, colon cancer, cancers like that may be much lower, but you will
see higher cancer rates for, let’s say, liver cancer, perhaps stomach cancer where they have no
refrigeration and esophageal cancer, cancer of the throat. In each of those cases, if you look at
those cancers individually, even the cancers that are fairly common in poor countries, and you
ask yourself which cluster of factors is causing those cancers to be high, you’ll discover, of
course, it’s the kind of agents you find in poor societies that are operating. In respect to nutrition
and animal foods, you can thank God they’re not consuming animal foods, because if they were
consuming animal foods…
SJ: Under the challenges that they face…
TCC: Under the challenges that they face, exactly, they would have a disaster. It’s interesting to
see people coming from the poorer countries to the Unites States start consuming our diet.
While they’re adapting to our diet, it’s more offensive to them than it is even to us. You’ll see an
explosion of diabetes or an explosion of obesity amongst some of these people when they move
into this more industrialized society. Our body basically is always trying to create health, given
its resources, even when we provide the wrong resources, like when we’re living in the wrong
environment, the body will still, from the biochemical point of view, try to do the best it can.
Because it’s a matter of survival we will adapt to bad conditions enough to at least reduce the
bad effects that would otherwise occur. We never completely eliminate it. If we live in a toxic,
poisonous environment for some period of time, we all know we get something that goes wrong
eventually, even though we may adapt in the short run.
SJ: We get something eventually if we challenge ourselves with promoters of diseases?
SJ: If we don’t, but we support robust healing and prevention then we’re ok?
TCC: Yes, you are absolutely right, absolutely, absolutely.
SJ: In The China Study, you and your son cite research showing that animal based foods
increase people’s production of insulin-like growth factor 1, which stimulates reproduction and
growth of cancer cells and inhibits cancer cell death by apoptosis, or self-destruction of the cell,
especially in the ovaries, breast, and prostate. How does growth factor do that?
TCC: It’s really not clear. These growth factors are acting like hormones; intracellular
hormones to a great extent. As they come into the cell, they bind to a receptor protein. That
receptor protein, in a sort of generic model, carries them from the cell membrane into the nucleus
where the DNA is and delivers them to the nucleus. These growth factors then act on the DNA
and switch on the expression of certain genes which actually stimulates a cluster of things to go
on to eventually lead to growth of cells, or replication of cells. It does all these things, thus it’s
being called a growth factor.
SJ: Why does extra growth factor increase the chance of getting tumors in the reproductive
system, in particular, by more than 500%, according to The China Study, your book?
TCC: Well, I hadn’t really thought of it quite that way; that is an interesting observation. The
growth factors, at least the growth factors that we’re generally talking about here, will be
increased by consuming milk. When we’re infants, when we’re consuming human milk,
mother’s milk, we’re at a point in time, our early development, where growth is important. Milk
is the food that we choose to consume in the very beginning, this is nature. It’s promoting
growth, and it’s particularly effective at doing this naturally. As we get older, to promote growth
doesn’t make a lot of sense.
SJ: Milk is better for babies.
TCC: Human milk.
SJ: Human milk is better for human babies.
TCC: Exactly, cow’s milk for cow babies, or calves.
SJ: And goat’s milk for goat babies.
TCC: Exactly, so there is a period in our life when growth is important, it clearly is that is just
part of the human cycle. But later that kind of growth, unless we’re repairing certain wounds or
something of that sort, is not the kind of thing that we want to encourage.
SJ: Do animal products increase the risk of fibroids?
TCC: Yes, it seems to, that is just sort of a given, an understanding, but I can’t think of specific
research where that’s been demonstrated. Fibroids, in their classic case, usually the fibroids you
might see in the case of the uterus, uterine fibroids, tend to either create an environment for or
are part of the development of uterine cancer. When fibroids begin to occur in a woman and are
seen, it’s generally acknowledged that they have a higher risk for uterine cancer and so over the
years women have had hysterectomies upon the discovery of fibroids like that. Now we know
that dairy is the one food that really has a strong association with uterine cancer.
SJ: Okay, so the uterine cancer association with dairy has been studied more than fibroids?
SJ: So people are just inferring from the tight correlation with respect to cancer that milk
products also promote fibroids.
TCC: That’s it.
SJ: What about other animal products? Meat, fish, chicken, pork?
TCC: Well, if we just talk about protein what we find in the one example where this was done
fairly thoroughly, was the effect of various animal proteins’ ability to increase blood cholesterol
levels and promote the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. This was done in rabbits some years
ago by the late Ken Carroll at the University of Western Ontario. He compared a whole bunch
of animal proteins, a whole bunch of plant proteins and found that as a group, plant proteins
tended to be associated with lower cholesterol levels. He found that animal proteins have
something in common, higher blood cholesterol, which was quite distinctly different from plant
proteins, even though there were some differences between different animal proteins. So to go
back to your question concerning fish and other animal products to their effect, if we look at
them in reference just to their protein content, and on the basis of the studies that have been done
with certain outcomes, animal foods in general are going to cause problems. But by the same
token, this raises yet another issue, and that is when people consume more animal foods they
consume less plant foods in general, and when they consume less plant foods they’re taking
away substances that otherwise would prevent. So what you get, in a given diet, if you try to
generalize the whole thing, it’s the relative proportions of animal and plant based food is going
to lead to good or bad things down the road.
SJ: Could you please describe the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study?
TCC: Yes, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which is probably, arguably, the most prominent
case control study that has been conducted over the years, had been ongoing since the 1970s.
And in the early 1980s it was redesigned to collect dietary information. And over the years they
became particularly interested in looking at the relationship between dietary factors and disease
outcomes. Initially, it was breast cancer that they were primarily interested in but then
subsequent to that they have worked in a lot of other diseases. And so in this cohort that they
have been using, it now includes in excess of 100,000 nurses. They have been following these
nurses for quite a long time now, since about the late 1970s and now they have the daughters of
these nurses too. The study has become very big and it has been extensively funded. The last
time I heard, over $125 million dollars had been spent on running that study, but at the same time
they have been very good about producing a lot of reports of their observations in very good
So all that having been said, most people judge the Harvard Nurses’ Study as having been quite
informative and quite useful; that is the way that the New York Times described it, for example.
However, I have a pretty serious criticism of the Harvard Study and that is due to the fact that
virtually all of these nurses are still consuming a diet that is rich in animal protein. And it’s true
that some of those nurses were able to decrease their fat intake quite substantially, down to
maybe 15-20% of total calories compared to others who were up to 55-60%. That is a big
It turns out that when these nurses are decreasing their fat intake they’re actually increasing their
already high intake of animal protein. The reason that this happens is that they were advised
over the years to use lean cuts of meat to decrease fat intake, to use low fat milk products to
decrease their fat intake. Well, the lean cuts of meat and the dairy, skim milk included of course,
are foods very high in animal protein and have become even higher as a concentration. So these
nurses as they assume they’re doing good things—they decrease their fat intake, but are
swapping that so-called benefit, if there is a benefit there, to something that could be even worse.
They don’t see any change in breast cancer rates. In fact if anything the rates tend to go up as the
nurses decrease their fat intake. One thing you will see when we study a group of subjects all of
whom are doing in general the wrong thing—namely consuming a western diet—is that
researchers will just tinker with one thing at a time, like changing the fat intake, or changing this
or changing that. This way the ability to be able to study the diet in a consistent comprehensive
way is lost. In the results that they get, just on the basis of statistical probabilities, they might see
small changes here or there that might otherwise be beneficial but it’s hard to detect them in that
kind of milieu, which leads to a lot of confusing results. In other words, the Nurses’ Health Study
does not have the kind of people that they really need: people who are consuming a total plant
based diet, low in fat. Because of this, the researchers can’t conjecture and conclude and make
comments about what the diet does or doesn’t do with any degree of authority because they
don’t have the subjects in there that are likely to be the best responders. It’s not just the Nurses’
Health Study but it’s also most other case-controlled studies that have been done, because most
of the case-controlled studies have been done on western subjects—sort of like comparing
people who smoke four packs of cigarettes a day with somebody smoking three packs of
cigarettes a day. Sometimes, yeah, you drop smoking from four packs to three packs in general,
overall, you might see a bit of benefit, you might see it from time to time but, overall you
probably see a lot of confusing results; some studies won’t show any effect. We have just
minimized the ability to detect the kinds of effects that really are important.
SJ: Is the natural growth hormone that is intended to help calves get big and strong, the natural
growth hormone in milk products, still there in low fat products?
SJ: So it’s the type of molecule that gets retained along with the proteins in the milk products.
TCC: Right and that is generally true, but a more important thing that you have to think about
that is that the amount of hormone activity we have in the body is often times not related to how
much we’re actually consuming but rather it’s related to how much we’re actually synthesizing
in our own body. If we consume a diet that continues to have high animal protein in it, and
theoretically, you move to a diet low in fat, even a little higher in protein, let’s assume for the
moment that there will be less hormones being consumed. Well, that is a small amount and
probably not terribly significant because the most important thing is the quantity of hormones
being synthesized in the body, so-called endogenous hormone synthesis. Going to these low-fat-
high-animal-protein-lean cuts of meat kind of diet, if anything, will just continue to stimulate
hormone production in the wrong direction.
SJ: So the abundant growth factor in milk products doesn’t make them more problematic?
TCC: Yes, on balance I think that we have to agree that there is some possibility this could be a
problem. I think you are probably talking about bovine growth hormone for example in cow’s
milk. That has become commonly used in recent years.
SJ: It doesn’t have to be added; it’s naturally there?
TCC: Yes, as far as structures are concerned, that kind of hormone is virtually chemically
identical to the human growth hormone, and as we know, this could be a problem. We’re
absorbing it and, in turn, the amount in our bodies could increase. If you look at the proportion of
the total growth hormone level that we have in our body compared to the amount that we’re
actually consuming, it’s a relatively minor contribution compared to the amount we synthesize.
It’s an important question because some people will argue that the bovine growth hormone in
cow’s milk is chiefly responsible for the hormone-like effects that milk produces. I think it’s a
mistake to make that argument, because not only does the data not support it, but when people
make that kind of argument then the scientific community and the regulatory community, in
particular, can quickly point to alternative studies that show that and they say ‘we don’t see all
these bad effects with this little increase in this,’ and they can get away with it. It’s an argument
that unfortunately is a diversion from something that is more important. But having said all that I
have to say that for this and other reasons, I think that giving cows bovine growth hormone has
nothing to do with health and has everything to do just stimulating milk production in those
cows. It’s ridiculous to say it can be beneficial to humans, and for the regulatory agencies to
argue that there is no effect only because they don’t see any obvious effect based on assuming a
relationship between the amounts being consumed. If we enrich the conversation and look at all
the effects that can occur, then you can take away from some of the FDA’s favorite arguments.
SJ: So the protein stimulates our own production of growth hormone?
TCC: Right, it does.
SJ: And that’s really at least as important as the dietary growth hormone [intake?]
TCC: Yes, much more important even. I think that saying bovine growth hormone-laced cow’s
milk is no particular problem is a false conclusion, even if the data doesn’t specifically exist to
support the alternative argument, it’s only dealing with part of the overall effect. I think that it’s
one way that regulators get around the argument.
SJ: Steroid rings are very hard to break down in a pasteurization process.
TCC: Exactly, and I don’t think that that kind of heat process is going to destroy the steroid, that
is my guess, but I don’t know the numbers.
SJ: I have read that during homogenization, macro-globules of fat are produced and various
substances can survive better protected in those macro-globules of fat, maybe in pasteurization
and in our digestive acids.
TCC: Sure, I think that’s entirely reasonable.
SJ: Okay, seems plausible at any rate.
SJ: Colostrum, the milk produced in the first few days post-partum, contains much more growth
factor and protein than regular milk. We’re saying that the protein is at least as problematic as
the growth factor, growth hormone. According to the Physician’s Desk Reference there is no
credible evidence to support claims that bovine colostrum burns fat or builds muscle. Do you
TCC: Gosh, I don’t know that. It has always been argued that colostrum’s real value has been
primarily from the standpoint of passing on immunity into the young. All farmers know that
calves need to have that colostrum for 2 or 3 days as a passive immunity kind of phenomenon.
Colostrum is enriched in the protein based antibodies that the mothers produce. Whether the
colostrum has so much more protein and growth hormone, I don’t know.
SJ: Would the antibodies do people any good? The bovine antibodies?
TCC: My first guess is no, I don’t think so. Because the antibodies are so specific it’s possible
in this particular case if they’re created to resist certain kinds of organisms and a human
consumes it, we could also get some benefits, I suppose.
SJ: But it has to be recognized by the human immune system as signaling, even if they did
attach to the antigen, and then the immune system would have to act on that signal, so the
immune system would have to be quite analogous in detailed molecular ways, to the bovine
immune system. So maybe it would be more of a coincidental effect, just the way bovine growth
hormone is coincidentally identical to human growth hormone. Probably not many people have
studied this issue anyway, but what I was getting at is a lot of people supplement colostrum, to
TCC: I didn’t know they were doing that. Are they doing that a lot now?
SJ: Some people do. I said a lot of people but I really don’t know how many.
SJ: People also started supplementing whey protein.
TCC: I was going to say the same thing. I mean I have looked at the websites for companies that
produce whey and boy, talk about a snake oil salesman. Those people are advertising whey as the
greatest nutritional discovery of all time.
SJ: Is it possible that whey would have the same effects in promoting diseases as casein?
TCC: Yes, definitely.
SJ: Any animal protein.
TCC: Right, they’re just really, really stretching the truth. Those claims are just outrageous.
SJ: By what mechanism does exposure to high levels of the hormone estrogen over long periods
greatly increase rates of cancer in the reproductive system?
TCC: Well, in this case again, estrogen is acting rather like a growth hormone—it comes to the
cell, goes to the nucleus, turns on things. It does a whole host of things. And incidentally, there
are dozens of different kinds of estrogens, but the one that is most often studied is called
estradiol. I think it’s very similar to growth hormone in general, to the extent of my knowledge.
These hormones bind to receptor proteins intracellularly, and are carried to the nucleus and turn
on all kinds of enzymes and other kinds of things which are then, in turn, being synthesized by
I think the evidence that you are probably referring to is the association between estrogen levels
in women and risk of breast cancer. The China Study was really pretty informative on this point,
which was very exciting. We compared using the same methodology, even the same analysts,
the same laboratory, so we didn’t have to worry about methodology problems. We compared
rural Chinese women with British women living on Guernsey Island, who were consuming
typical western diets and who had much higher breast cancer rates. And it turns out that the level
of estrogen in the British women, western women, was about 50% higher than that of the rural
Chinese women. We also found that the age of menarche for western women is somewhere
around 11 or 12 years, and the age of menopause to be about 52 years. In contrast, for the rural
Chinese woman, age of menarche on average was about 17 years and age. The age of menopause
was around 48 years. In effect, the western woman has about 8 or 9 extra years of reproductive
life. This is a time in which the estrogen levels in the blood are about 50% higher. Do the
calculation; the area under the curve kind of thing. You integrate concentration and time and it
turns out the estrogen levels [exposure?] in western women are about 4 to 5 times higher than in
a rural Chinese woman who is incidentally consuming a plant based diet. And that is just about
the exact same difference you can see in average risk of breast cancer. To take the next step you
can ask, well what relationship is there between breast cancer and estrogen level? I think that
was your original question. There is a lot of evidence now showing that having a high exposure
to estrogen over a prolonged period of time, for many years, in the case of western women can
perhaps have a very direct effect on causing breast cancer; it’s not a good idea. Most likely it’s a
combination of the estrogen acting directly on latent cancer cells to cause them to grow faster as
well as to do other more indirect kinds of things. While it was very interesting that we got this
really tight coupling of estrogen levels over all with breast cancer rates in western women, and
the group that we were working with at the time was headed up by a man by the name of
Malcolm Pike, professor Malcolm Pike who was a professor of medicine at the University of
Oxford. Now he’s at the University of Southern California. He’s really a brilliant fellow who is
acknowledged as probably the world’s leading expert on estrogen activity. It was his lab that
actually did the analysis for us, along with a fellow who is now also becoming very prominent by
the name of Timothy Key at the University of Oxford. According to Malcolm Pike, this
relationship between estrogen and breast cancer is, in his mind, confirmed. You see western
women having much higher rates of breast cancer—they start their periods earlier in life, they
end up with higher estrogen levels. All this is occurring because of the kinds of foods they’re
consuming. Animal protein will increase growth rate which in turn, turns on the menstrual cycle
earlier in life. The animal protein itself will then increase estrogen synthesis, even during an
adult woman’s life. There is so much evidence all converging now, so much evidence.
SJ: What tissues and glands produce estrogen?
TCC: Well fatty tissue does, of course, and adipose tissue does. Also, again as I said, there are
so many different kinds of estrogens. The adrenal glands are obviously a kind of factory for
steroid-like material, and I think some other tissues may as well, although I just can’t tell you
exactly. I think liver synthesizes some estrogen, I’m not sure there either.
SJ: So being composed of fatty tissues, the breast is particularly at risk?
TCC: And so overweight women have more adipose tissue and produce more estrogen. That
could be the link between being overweight and breast cancer.
SJ: What foods stimulate our production of estrogen?
TCC: Cow’s milk is probably the best example. Animal foods do for sure.
SJ: Why would cow’s protein, milk protein in general, stimulate estrogen production more than
other types of animal products?
TCC: Well, I don’t know how much difference there is. But to go back to the question we had
before, milk is constructed, and if we can think teleologically, it’s constructed as food early in
life to create a growth kind of environment, which includes growth hormones, estrogens and so
forth. That was the purpose of this kind of food.
Cow’s milk is now being shown, among its many adverse effects, as being related to things like
prostate cancer, uterine cancer, and breast cancer: all cancers of the reproductive tract. This is not
surprising because cow’s milk is a fluid that is part of the reproductive cycle. In the cow, the
milk is a reproductive component. It’s produced by a reproductive system, in the mother cow,
and is used to support the very young when they’re first born. We, then, as a species consume the
stuff for the rest of our lives.
SJ: Would yogurt also be a problem?
TCC: I have often said that I don’t think so. Or if there is a problem there it’s probably much
SJ: … they do to the protein mainly, rather than...
TCC: Well, yogurt is interesting. It heard once a presentation by a fairly noted guy, I think he
did his science quite well, who reviewed the evidence on yogurt and presented a lot of
information to show that yogurt has some real health benefits. At that time he wasn’t taking note
of some of the adverse effects that we also know about, so it was kind of hard to sort it out. I
was pretty convinced that yogurt is obviously a different product from fresh cow’s milk. It’s a
fermented product and the fermentation process is producing a lot of metabolites that are
antioxidant in nature and so forth. That almost makes it in a sense a little bit like a plant; at least
it’s taking a step in that direction. Also, the protein of yogurt is being broken down to a great
extent, and when you get a break down of protein, you get a synthesis of new antioxidants. It’s
not surprising, maybe, that you can find yogurt to be, on some occasions, certainly less offensive
SJ: Do you know of any studies that have been done?
TTC: No, not on yogurt, let’s say, and breast cancer.
SJ: So of all the animal products, yogurt might be one…
TCC: Yeah it’s one that…
SJ: Would you recommend it for people?
TCC: No, I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend it, but I think I can say with some confidence
that if there is an exception to all animal foods, I would list yogurt as a potential exception. I
would also list cold-water fish as a possible exception, although you’ve got lots of problems
there to have to think about, the dioxin and the mercury that gets in the fish.
SJ: That is also hard to break down because of the rings?
TCC: Exactly, it just doesn’t…
SJ: It’s a poison not a steroid.
TCC: Absolutely. It’s a really noxious poison and it’s persistent in the environment because
nature hasn’t learned how to deal with it. It’s a halogenated compound…
SJ: Made by people.
TCC: Made by people.
SJ: So we have no defenses what so ever.
SJ: And it builds up in every animal.
SJ: So if we go eating products that include dioxin that has been filtered from the environment to
a level that may be thousands of times greater, many thousands of times greater than in
environment, and we store that poison then that could result in a problem. It would be a
challenge, like any other challenge to the body that we’re also promoting diseases by our diet.
TCC: Right. I think it’s a little bit weak, but there is some experimental evidence to suggest
dioxin can act like a promoter of tumor development. So it gets classified as a carcinogen by the
EPA for example.
SJ: Wouldn’t yogurt, I mean it’s silly to talk about yogurt so much, but people do eat it for the
beneficial bacteria that work in the intestines to improve digestion and stimulate even the blood
vessel growth in the intestinal walls. So wouldn’t yogurt also have higher pesticides in it?
TCC: It should.
[Note from SJ: As does any animal-based food, even organic yogurt contains more concentrated
PCBs and dioxin than in plants. For anyone with health challenges, a precautionary approach
would be to avoid all animal-based foods, especially milk products. For those without health
challenges, the safest diet is still the strictly plant-based.
BTW, the company Wildwood makes superb organic unsweetened soy yogurt (“Pleasantly Plain
Soyogurt”), advertised as containing active probiotic beneficial bacteria. I like it better than any
yogurt I’ve ever tasted, including dairy in bygone years, without any of dairy yogurt’s bitter
aftertaste. Soyogurt is thick, smooth, with an agreeable mildly sour flavor, as a yogurt should
have, due to the lactic acid produced during effective fermentation by probiotics. It works
beautifully as sour “cream”. Since it contains active probiotics, it can take the place of dairy
yogurt. As always with items I mention, I have no business association with the supplier, in this
SJ: But the cold water fish with omega-3 fatty acids for example, would have some
compensatory benefits for the body.
TCC: Right, exactly.
SJ: Is that why you said maybe yogurt would be one of the less problematic foods because it has
some compensatory effects and maybe the cold water fish also has some benefits although a
person could get omega-3 fatty acids by supplementing a DHA, which is one of those acids,
sourced from algae.
SJ: Which would have much less poison in it because algae are just plants. [My error re. plants:
Algae belong to a different kingdom from plants, evolved earlier.]
TCC: Or flax seed and soy beans. They all have some omega-3s.
SJ: Then the body has to make the long chain omega-3s from the shorter chain omega 3s.
SJ: But the advantage of DHA is that is already a long chain omega-3. For people who have
decreased ability to make that, it’s good to take a supplement. That is why a lot of people might
need to either eat fish or take a supplement. Whether from fish oil or sourced from algae
depending on how safe you want to make your diet.
SJ: Do phytoestrogens like those from soybeans cause problems?
TCC: I have been asked that question many times and I have been meaning to go back and get
up to date a little bit more on the literature. But from what I have seen so far, the phytoestrogens
and their effects are a function of dose, just like so many other things. Unfortunately the
discussion of phytoestrogens in the public literature is really very superficial; they don’t take that
into consideration. Because phytoestrogens in soy beans at certain doses, the lower doses, can
really act as anti-estrogens, consuming them at the lower levels can actually block either the
effects of the estrogen we’re otherwise producing or the estrogen we’re consuming. In that sense
they’re beneficial. There is a whole school of thought based around the fact that the
phytoestrogens are a good thing not a bad thing, but then there were some studies that came
along that showed that phytoestrogens at high levels could have estrogen-like activity, which is
why they’re called estrogens. And it could lead to some adverse reactions. But then that begs the
question: what kind of levels are they talking about? Very high levels, so it’s a dose-response
relationship that has to be taken into consideration to decide whether the phytoestrogens are good
or bad. It depends on how much we’re actually consuming, I think. I sure wouldn’t want to take
phytoestrogens in pill form.
TCC: Yeah, concentrated pill form I don’t think that is wise. Also I don’t think that is wise to
over consume soy products. In this country, we have so many soy products in so many different
things these days. I can imagine, although we don’t have the data yet, that all that excess soy,
especially soy protein, maybe somewhat problematic. So my own position on this is, given first
off my inadequate knowledge of the field, that I don’t have enough knowledge about the details
of this. It’s also, I think, based on common sense. When we over consume things we get into
problems, that is sort of a given. And as far as the amount of soy that some people are consuming
these days, it’s 10 to 15 times higher than countries like China, where soy has been a native food
for centuries. They didn’t consume it that way. So I don’t know the answer to the question. I
think that consumed in reasonable amounts, soy is a very good food. I think edamame are very
delicious, first off, and now we know about the omega-3s, they have got to be a good food, just
like peas and beans and many other things. It’s just that we mash it all up and make all these
other products, and eat it in about 50 different ways everyday, with extra salt and fat added
SJ: It’s no longer health food.
TCC: Yeah, I think we’re getting out of the territory of health food when we’re doing that.
SJ: Again what foods are probably causative with premature puberty? We have an epidemic of
premature puberty in the industrialized world.
TCC: That is certainly true and dairy certainly is a major factor. And we’re consuming dairy in
so many different ways these days. But we’re also consuming in this country a diet that is, on
average, very rich in animal foods. It’s as rich in animals as it has ever been, and it has gradually
become richer, which is also a factor. There are then other factors, like estrogen disruptors,
which seem to be spreading all over the world. In this case we’re talking about dioxin and other
related compounds like that. There is some pretty good evidence showing that exposure to these
halogenated chemicals in the environment and various and sundry places do cause problems at
least in wildlife. They do, in the laboratory, cause pretty serious problems with the reproductive
system, so that you can see birth defects and sperm count in men supposedly decreased by 50%
world wide. The rate of decline world wide, according to a book that I read not too long ago,
would suggest that in about another 30 to 50 years, men will have no function. So then what is
the human race going to become?
SJ: I’ll ask about impotence later.
Tape 2 (Interview 1b)
SJ: What effect does premature puberty have on physical growth to optimal stature?
TCC: It’s associated with the attainment of one’s goal height at an earlier age. With early
puberty, kids are growing faster. They reach adult height more or less early on, which is
associated with increased risk of breast cancer and uterine cancer; there is no question about that.
They become bigger earlier.
SJ: But they don’t get taller than they might have gotten…
TCC: That’s generally true, although milk consuming populations seem to be bigger people.
SJ: A lot of people value that and want to have their children be bigger, taller.
TCC: Right. Holland is a country that consumes the most dairy and has the highest rate of breast
cancer of any country in the world. I gave a talk just on this to that group, and got blasted in the
Amsterdam Times newspaper, by the way.
SJ: Having a great number of advertisers from the dairy industry.
TCC: Yes, Holland and the Netherlands export a lot of diary products; it’s very important to
their export business.
SJ: So what would you say to parents who want their children to grow taller?
TCC: I think that they’re doing it at some potential cost for the future of their children’s health.
But the other interesting thing is when you take children who are consuming a good vegan diet—
lots of whole vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, exercise, sunshine and all that—those kinds
of kids will grow to achieve the same height, they will just take longer to get there. The growth
spurts amongst the vegan children may occur on into 18, 19, 20, and 21 years of age.
SJ: I’m getting confused, were you saying earlier that children who eat milk products get taller
TCC: They get taller sooner.
SJ: But they don’t get taller then they would have otherwise?
TCC: That is generally true. What I also said though is that I am reminded of the fact that if you
go to populations that consume a lot of dairy their overall stature seems to be a little bit higher. I
don’t know, it’s possible that people consuming a very rich animal protein diet like with dairy,
not only will they get taller sooner but they actually are really pushing the limit as to how tall
they can be. Incidentally, height is associated with breast cancer. We know that overall stature
is another risk factor.
SJ: For the reasons we have been discussing.
TCC: Yes, but to come back to that point, I just want to say that vegan children, who are always
accustomed to consuming vegan food and growing that way, will attain the height that their
genetics allow very nicely. We’re watching some experiments in progress right now with our
grandchildren, who have not touched dairy or milk or anything like that from birth.
SJ: Have formal studies been done on vegan children?
TCC: Some, not that many.
SJ: There are not very many in the percentage of the population anyway.
TCC: Yeah, but there are also not that many studies and researchers haven’t followed them long
enough. There is a group down in Summertown, Tennessee that have been followed for some
SJ: So let me just define vegan—the diet doesn’t contain any eggs, milk products, meat, poultry,
or fish, would you add anything to that definition?
TCC: No, except vegan people, of course, they don’t wear any kind of leather, or animal based
products on their body.
SJ: How do you feel about that approach?
TCC: Out of personal choice, and if there is anything that I value more than somebody listening
to me, it’s their personal freedom to make their choices. And if people want to make choices to
consume really bad food, it’s their choice. I am not the kind of person that wants to proselytize
and push people very hard. I think my role in life, as another human being, since I am in the
business of creating information, I guess, is just to do the best I can to present the information for
people to make wise choices.
SJ: People may feel that if they had to change everything in their lives, give up all animal
products in all foods and also get rid of all animal products in their household and from their
clothing they’d feel, “Well gee, I can’t do that so I am not going to do any of that. I’m just going
to continue as I am.” How do you feel about that approach?
TCC: Exactly. Personally, I mean I wouldn’t do that. We only have so many opportunities for
doing things in our lives. We can’t overload ourselves with so much concern, so many decisions
we have to make continuously. I don’t think that approach is very wise.
SJ: It’s not necessary to consider extreme changes if one can do whatever one chooses to do to
improve the diet, you don’t have to wear plastic shoes for example.
TCC: Right, my point is if others want to that it’s fine.
SJ: But you don’t want to put people off by saying ‘plastic shoes are mandatory’.
TCC: Right, I wouldn’t do that.
SJ: The immune system not only fights off invading organisms but can also destroy and reabsorb
cancer cells. In what ways do animal based foods impact the immune system?
TCC: Well, as we know the immune system is enormously complex and that is an
understatement. There are so many parts to the immune system and when we start looking at the
role of various nutrient intakes that are characterized by whether they’re present in animal or
plant-based foods, we tend to see things from animal based foods that would compromise the
immune system in various ways. Natural killer cells, to give an example from our own
laboratory, are involved in basically scavenging supposed early cancer cells. Having good
natural killer cell activity is important, but rats fed the higher casein levels had lower natural
killer cell activity, and that is just one component. The literature, of course, has gone far, far
beyond that. Many things have been worked on over the years in the last 10 years or so in this
rapidly developing field. And as I look at the literature myself, there are a whole host of
mechanisms by which protein can operate, not just on natural killer cell activity, but also on the
formation of antibodies and things like that, that in turn can relate to autoimmune diseases as
well as the typical allergic responses that we see. Along those lines, I just recently had the
occasion to see how much consensus there was in the literature regarding cow’s milk and allergic
responses, which is the immune phenomenon. I am finding that even among those who tend to
be defenders of cow’s milk, people will admit that it’s the single most common food allergen
we’re consuming. I think that is quite a striking statement.
SJ: Well the intestines are designed, or have evolved to protect the body from pernicious
influences, so how do allergens get into the blood stream?
TCC: Well, they seem to at least when the intestine is not healthy or the intestine is still too
immature. In the very early stages of the infant’s life, many tissues are just sort of completing the
process of becoming mature, and some infants’ ability to block, let’s say, the absorption of these
kinds of things is somewhat compromised for whatever reason. They have a so called leaky gut
phenomenon, which can be a serious problem for some infants.
SJ: Meaning that the contents of the gut leak into the body.
TCC: Exactly. In other words, the contents of the gut seem to kind of just passively leak into
body instead of going through the usual process of digestion and controlled absorption.
SJ: And just imagine how much damage that can do when you consider what is in the gut.
TCC: Exactly, so people with Crohn’s disease, I think, and other kinds of intestinal issues
especially intestinal parasites for example can have their immune system seriously compromised.
An important part of the immune system is actually in the gut.
SJ: So what role do foods play in the etiology of Crohn’s disease? Colitis, enteritis?
TCC: When I look at the literature for much of this stuff, there seems to be some serious
disagreement as to how much of a role food really plays in the etiology of Crohn’s disease.
Irritable bowel syndrome comes in that cluster of diseases, obviously, and colon cancer as well.
There are some who believe it plays an important role, and so they will say for example that
cow’s milk is a problem and a plant based diet is a good thing to do; high fiber intake is
necessary. But then there are others, and this is more the traditional view, who believe that the
high fiber diet is not good, people with Crohn’s should basically avoid it. So I see claims on
both sides of the fence. I happen to have met a professor at the University of Cambridge in
England by the name of Hunter who was one of the prominent researchers on this, and he was
getting some good results by taking Crohn’s patients and putting them on a high fiber plant based
diet, which is almost in the opposite direction from many of his colleagues. And that was at least
12-15 years ago when I met this man.
SJ: You’re not talking about concentrated fibers like a bran cereal that might irritate—the sharp
edges of the bran might irritate the intestines—that’s a problem, but you are talking about a lot of
softer fibers, soft fibers and whole unrefined foods.
TCC: That’s true. What you are also saying when you talk about irritants, is sort of like taking
the fiber out and using it as supplement or to fortify food. God knows what kind of crystalline
characteristics that fiber may have, so you end up with something that is unnatural at a very
minimum. It’s not surprising to see that it may have some problems.
SJ: Phytonutrients are found only in plant based foods. In what ways do phytonutrients impact
the immune system?
TCC: Well phytonutrients, the word phyto meaning plants of course, in large measure are
antioxidant in nature. That is the first thought that occurs to me and of course having antioxidant
properties, obviously, is very important. That is also very helpful in maintaining a healthy
immune system. Now again, you might ask how exactly does that work? I am sure that there are
multiple different ways, and I don’t know them all and I am sure that science hasn’t yet
discovered all the ways.
SJ: Not much money for research in that topic?
TCC: No, but what we see so far is interesting. Antioxidants are largely found among
phytonutrients. I mean I have to say the word phytonutrients is a useful term. It was invented
only in the last couple of decades and it’s almost like an obvious word to invent, saying
phytonutrients sounds fancy, but, in reality, it’s just the chemicals in plants that do things.
SJ: There are thousands of them?
TCC: Yes hundreds of thousands probably.
SJ: How does the color of a vegetable indicate its content of phytonutrients?
TCC: Well, colored vegetables, of course you know this from your chemistry, are going to have
all these pigmented chemicals that, when you stick them in a spectrophotometer, you can see the
color and you can read the UV spectrum and so forth. You find that the characteristics of these
different color chemicals turn out to be very similar to the chemical characteristic that give them
the ability to impede oxidation, so they act as antioxidants. Antioxidant activity and color tend
to focus on much of the same chemical structure. Plants with color in them are good, and now
you are actually hearing people say make sure you consume everyday foods of each of let’s say
4, 5, or 6 different colors—green, yellow, purple, red, blue.
SJ: So colorful veggies can support immune function to improve health including the body’s
response to cancer?
TCC: Yes, definitely.
SJ: Although the detailed research as to the mechanisms for that has not been studied
SJ: But how can you be so certain?
TCC: Well, one of the reasons I have become so certain, I guess, reasonably certain, is that
when you do see the results that are being published, there are bits of information that just fit
within this larger framework. I don’t see the opposite. I don’t see phytonutrients, unless they’re
really given in strange doses or some thing, coming along and actually having a negative effect
on immune responses. Maybe the classic case where that did occur was with beta-carotene.
SJ: As a supplement.
TCC: Yeah, but it was given to people for 8 years in one case and multiple years in two other
studies as a means of preventing lung cancer.
SJ: So to get the benefit you have got to eat the whole veggie?
SJ: Not in one bite.
SJ: What do you think of the studies showing that a component of milk called conjugated
linoleic acid or CLA given as a drug may reduce risk of cancer?
TCC: I don’t think much of that research at all. I know the history of that field quite well from
my own personal experiences and it really arose because the dairy and meat industries were
trying to find some way to counter this concern that was arising about consuming milk and meat.
They came up with this compound CLA or conjugated linoleic acid that does occur in the rumen
of cows being fed linoleic acid, commonly found in corn and corn oil. Cows fed lots of linoleic
acid are going to form more conjugated linoleic acid and linoleic acid conversion to conjugated
linoleic acid is occurring largely through the bacteria microflora in the lumen. So if you add
more linoleic acid you get more conjugated linoleic acid that in turn gets into the blood and in
come rather narrowly focused and rather specious kinds of experiments done on experimental
SJ: By specious you mean?
TCC: By that I mean narrowly focused out of context.
SJ: And for that reason specious?
TCC: Yes, designed for other objectives. But it was found that you can design experiments a
certain way to show that conjugated linoleic acid blocked, for example, the metabolism of
chemical carcinogens that otherwise might cause cancer. You get the conjugated linoleic acid
first and then you get the carcinogen and you can reduce the amount of the tumors that will form.
And so, as a result it was called an anticarcinogen. Well that’s very exciting, my gosh! Give
cows more corn oil and they make more conjugated linoleic acid; it gets into the milk and now
milk can be anticancer. It was all funded by the dairy industry and Monsanto to start with, and it
was reported on by people who were great defenders of the product.
SJ: Well, it’s sold in supplement form.
TCC: I heard that.
SJ: I saw it on the web.
TCC: You did?
SJ: Who knows what that means, but that is where I got that info.
TCC: Well I heard that it was going down that path. I think that is really dangerous. I was a
severe critic of that work in the beginning because I happened to know a committee where that
first was discussed, a committee supported by the dairy and meat industries, and one of their
other main activities was to try to name people in the field who might be a threat to them. They
named 7 or 9 researchers around the United States who potentially could be a threat and I had the
dubious distinction of being named twice. And so then they assigned to these 7 members as
individuals people who took the responsibility of watching these dangerous researchers. I knew
they were watching over me and the China Project because that was considered to be a
dangerous project. And that was even before the China Project was even talked about in the
SJ: What was meant by dangerous in this context?
TCC: That I was likely to get results which were going to be threatening to their products.
SJ: The sales of their products.
TCC: Yeah, and so the China Project was one thing.
SJ: It’s like having a black list.
TCC: It was. It was a black list. And I was on the black list and I was listed twice. And the
person who was going to look after the China Project is the one who also started the CLA work.
SJ: So they regarded your studies as legitimate and objectively set up and possibly or maybe
even likely to bring up results that might be harmful to their sales.
SJ: Which maybe you have.
TCC: Which I have. They were right. But they wanted to learn as much as they could about this
impending China Project at the time, which was in the mid-80s, so that by the time it came out
they would have a news release for results of this kind ready to go, hot off the burner. It would
be released at the time and raise serious questions either about the investigation or about the
funding or about something else. They would have some time to think about it and how to do
this. And it was all done secretly and I know the name of the individual who did this I know him
personally. He started the CLA work and I attended 3 of his presentations when he first started
reporting on that. He didn’t know what I knew about him. And I simply asked questions and
pointed out how ridiculous his work was from the floor when Q&A time came. I could never get
him to answer my questions, but I know I kind of put him on the spot.
And in the other case, it had to do with my help to organize and play a major role actually in
getting the American Institute for Cancer Research going. In that case, the guy was a guy I knew
well, who was on the panel that I chaired for giving out funds.
SJ: What is it like trying to conduct scientific research with these kinds of political clouds
whirling around your head?
TCC: It’s bad. It’s no fun.
SJ: Has it been a distraction for you?
TCC: Yes it has, it has been a distraction. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t spent as much time as I did
on that sort of nonsense.
SJ: You were on committees yourself.
TCC: Yeah, I was on committees, but at the same time when people do things like send a letter
around to 36 people in Washington—leading officials like the Commissioner of the FDA, and
Senator Kennedy, and the head of NIH, and all together 36 people—making the claim in there
that I had pocketed $20,000 of my NIH grant money for myself.
SJ: How did you clear your name?
TCC: In that case, I didn’t bother that much, I was working at the American Institute for Cancer
Research and so they were coming under serious attack because I was associated with them. And
the Justice Department in some cases, the Attorney General’s Offices, the Post Office
Department in different states, were bringing them under—really challenging them for things—
and Ann Landers sat on the Board of the American Cancer Society at the time. She got involved
every year in March when the cancer month came along and she would make some statement
about the American Institute for Cancer Research being a scurrilous organization just because it
was focused on diet. I wrote to her and just basically told her lay off, she didn’t know what she
was talking about.
And in some cases in Britain, the same thing occurred there. When aid organizations were
getting going in London, I had helped them a lot, and they had the equivalent of 60 Minutes
there, and that was really going to do a number on the organization and destroy them once and
for all. So I was called over, when the television crew interviewed the president, and I know her
very well, and they were going to come in and attack her on a lot of frivolous stuff. And so I was
there, sitting at her side, so when they asked her a question they didn’t want me to sit there. But
she insisted that I had to be there. And so they were being a little bit more cautious because she’s
not a scientist, but every time they questioned her with something about science she turned to me
because I had good answer, to say your question is ridiculous, or something like that. It really
worked and I know in cases in this country, I had gotten involved like that maybe writing a letter
or calling up, picking up the phone and calling somebody and saying ‘you don’t know what you
are talking about, I’m in science and will tell you that you are absolutely wrong and if you
continue, if you persist there are going to be problems.’ I did some of that kind of stuff, on behalf
of the organization, but for myself, personally, it was a distraction yes, it was a pretty serious
distraction at times. I guess I did all kinds of things but for the most part I tried to ignore it.
SJ: Regarding the financial accusations did you supply the income and loss?
TCC: I didn’t go that far in one case, there was an investigation of me in Washington organized
by a couple of individuals in our professional society.
SJ: Of nutritionists?
TCC: Yeah, American Institute of Nutrition, that is the key professional society, and I was very
active in that society, in fact, I had just been nominated by the committee to be the president.
Then this disgruntled group was angry and they made a petition to the board of directors to have
me investigated. Sitting on the board of directors was the head of nutrition for the FDA, Dr. Alan
Forbes, and so I had to go to Washington and in the basement of Dr. Forbes and go through this
grilling nonsense and I just basically told him, “all those charges are ridiculous, and if you persist
and go further on this I am just going to tell reporters what you are doing.”
SJ: What he was doing? What do you mean by that?
TCC: Well he was not the one sitting as a judge, so to speak. But the ones who were making the
accusation, they wanted to have me thrown out of the society, make a big deal out of it. And in
fact the petition did go before the board and there were 8 members on that board, two of the
members of the board were from Cornell, obviously knew me very well, and they recused
themselves from the deliberations. But they knew me long enough to know that I was not doing
that nonsense. And I am sure privately they must have said something. They didn’t vote. But the
vote on that board at that time was 6 to nothing in my favor. And of course the ones who were
bringing the accusation left, disgruntled.
SJ: And they didn’t ask you for your cash inflow/ out flow statements?
TCC: They didn’t because they knew that this was a false charge.
SJ: They didn’t even bother asking for it?
TCC: No. I had a pretty good reputation for my integrity, and they just respected that and
basically said [to the others] go away. Get lost.
SJ: They backed off.
TCC: I had a lot of these kinds of experiences and it did cause me problems at times. I don’t
know how you fight these things because that one time, there were four of us who had been
attacked and there was going to be a class action suit against us, who were sort of touting this
line. There was myself, there was a woman who was the Executive Director of the Food and
Nutrition Board—her husband was the US Ambassador to Hungary at the time, very prominent
fellow himself—and then there was a woman who was a professor at Columbia University
Teachers College, Joan Gussow—she had published, been an author of a couple books—and the
fourth one was the Director of the Diet and Cancer Program at the National Cancer Institute,
And the four of us had been on record raising questions about the way we eat. I was I guess the
most active of the bunch, and they really went after us and started saying public things. And so
four of us got together—largely as a result of this woman’s husband who was ambassador,
Martin Palmer, and he had some money in his background, he helped us out—so we all had
dinner together at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington to discuss this. We were thinking about
counter-suing and just making a big issue out of it so the public could get to know what these
clowns were up to. We talked about it, and I was ready to go forward, but two of them, the head
of the National Cancer Institute Diet and Cancer Program, Peter Greenwald, and also the woman,
this guys wife who was at the National Academy of Science at the time, those two had very
important public positions and if they joined me and the woman from Columbia in bringing this
collective suit, they probably would have to step aside their government positions at that time
until the case was resolved. And we thought it over and they decided they didn’t want to do that,
so we didn’t go through with it, but we came close.
I kept a file, and it kept growing and growing, I called it the garbage file, really two big files,
overstuffed manila folders, they got pretty thick, keeping letters and all kinds of stuff, and I said
someday I am going to write a book, I am going to say something about this stuff.
SJ: And so you have, with the China Study book.
TCC: I have but I’ve told only just a small part of some of the things I know. I don’t know, I am
now unfortunately pretty cynical about what I have seen. So I keep asking myself. Sometimes I
think I don’t want to do anymore, I don’t want to write anymore stuff, I don’t want to do
SJ: You mean about the way the government…
TCC: The way the industry has infected the government process of organizing policy, something
I have been very deeply involved in. Or the way that the industry works behind the scenes in
influencing academic research institutions and Cornell cannot be excused. Cornell has had a
very serious conflict. And in the meanwhile the public gets ripped off and most of the research
that is done in this country is probably taxpayer money and the way in which it works… The
research money that is actually given out by the National Institute of Health, for example, is
public money. The process by which people are chosen—you know, put in an application, get the
money—that I know very well because I have been a reviewer of that too on some of these
panels. The process is quite good, it’s done as best as they can to try to get a good through
review of these applications and give the money to the people most deserving. And the people
actually doing these reviews are also honorable people. So you say well what’s wrong, well
what’s wrong are the decisions at a higher level. To say NIH is going to focus on drugs, on drug
development, they’re not going to put money into nutrition. So there are no grants to review
because there is no money there.
SJ: NIH has no facility dedicated to nutrition, no department; it’s spread among all the
departments of NIH. So there is no focus, it’s like a shot gun blast approach rather than a
targeted, much more effective approach, there is no synergy between the different studies on
nutrition. And those studies only represent some 2 or 3 percent, some small percentage of NIH
TCC: Exactly. So we don’t get research focus, the policy is disoriented, and disrupted, and
distorted. And there is another somewhat different kind of scenario where the chairs of these
committees these days are consultants for the industry. They get away with it and hide it.
Recently, I was part of a process where by the PCRM in Washington actually sued the Dietary
Guidelines Committee just to get access to the conflict of interest statements that are supposed to
be readily available to the public, had to go to court to get this information. And I thought that
probably would fail because I was so cynical at the time, but it turned out the judge was a
reasonable fellow, and eight months later he ordered those records to be released. But I know in
one case, one of those records was incomplete. But who is going to follow that up, these kind of
things go on and the public doesn’t have a clue. If I tell this story to an audience, which I do
from time to time, a lot of people say “well, we know it’s all a mess.” But I think it’s a really
serious problem. What do you do about it? What would you do about this, I am just curious, in a
case like this?
SJ: Well for example, regarding the school lunch program, I would reassign it.
TCC: Yes. That is one recommendation that hasn’t been made. Exactly.
SJ: With the health and nutrition guidelines, they’re currently issued by the United States
Department of Agriculture, perhaps the responsibility for the guidelines should be transferred to
the National Institutes of Health.
TCC: Of course, but keep in mind that has been recommended from time to time.
SJ: It would be better than the USDA.
TCC: Presumably, but the National Institutes of Health is drug oriented. Their mandate is to
create more drugs. So I am not sure it’s much of a gain.
SJ: So from frying pan to the fire and vice versa.
TCC: The USDA is protecting the livestock and beef industry, NIH is one to promote drugs, one
of them is trying to make you sick the other is trying to make us well through drugs. I think what
needs to be done is something like a trust fund that LBJ, Lyndon Johnson, actually one time
suggested. Have a trust fund, the money comes in there, you get a big trust and it survives
independently and the public then gets access to information, people can expect a little more
SJ: What is your opinion of the nutrition guidelines, as they’re presently issued by the USDA?
TCC: Well, in the most recent addition they just added more confusion; it has always been an
instrument to create confusion in my view. If you look at the previous editions of the food
dietary guidelines, they focus on the numbers of servings of this, that, and everything else. They
also will tell you what’s the serving size, and I would dare say that not one percent of the people
in this country know the numbers of servings they should have for anything really and they
certainly don’t know the serving size and furthermore even if they did, they don’t adhere to it.
But that created a great sense of, in my view, confusion. People would counter that argument by
saying, ‘well schools and other large institutions, they need to know numbers of serving and
sizes, it helps them put together their big plans’. But that doesn’t cut the ice with me; I think
people have been confused. In the most recent addition, they added one new layer of confusion,
and I think a lot of it’s intentional. Now, instead of having one pyramid for everybody, now you
can go on the web and everybody can have their own pyramid. You can plug in your weight,
and your size, and your age, and your gender, and you can create your own pyramid. So now it’s
SJ: What principles are followed by the National School Lunch Program, that feeds about 40
million of our children?
TCC: I actually think now about 50 some million have access to it but actually only 20, about
half, 27-28 million actually use it. In any case, what is my view of the School Lunch Program?
It’s a disaster; it’s just an unmitigated disaster. It’s nothing more than a program to dispose of the
subsidized food products, like milk and meat. Farmers are being subsidized by the government to
produce things often in excess and so this material then, they have to do something with it.
SJ: When you say farmers, you’re mainly talking about agribusiness, huge companies not small
family farms so much?
TCC: Exactly, I still have great admiration for the small family farmer. There is a great culture
but unfortunately they have little to do with food production these days, it’s the big agribusiness
SJ: So perhaps the School Lunch Program, should get reassigned from the USDA to either the
Department of Human Services or Department of Education?
TCC: Yeah it might be better in the Department of Education. I am really serious about this
idea. It comes back to a purely fundamental question in my view—I tend to assume that health
should be a right not a privilege. I have thought this ever since I was a kid, even before I got in
science. I think it should be a right not a privilege. And by that I mean everybody should be
provided the information, the best information possible, where by they can make their own
choices. Now having said that you say ‘well, how does that work?’ That is why I am serious
about this idea of having a trust fund. And Lyndon Johnson touched on that after he left office in
a speech that he gave, not a well known speech, but I read it—a speech that he gave to
pharmaceutical company executives. And it was really interesting because he came with some
charts and he pointed out in there how the 500 largest pharmaceutical companies in the country,
if they didn’t pay taxes for 3 years and they took that money and put it in a trust fund, in three
years time we could have a trust fund large enough that it would sustain research and education
information at a level of about 5.7 or 6 % of the GNP forever. And then in that case the
organizers of this, the people who run this would not be the industry, they would be people like
Greenspan at the Federal Reserve or the TBA Authority, you put people in for long
appointments. They make sure the information is properly organized and research is possibly
funded the right way. I just thought that that was a brilliant speech that Johnson made, but he
also pointed out to these executives at that time, he said ‘I know I am looking at you, you will
never allow this to happen, because you control NIH’ and he said ‘you know it and I know it.’
You know how LBJ talked, that is what he said. And so many of these questions that we now
think are so serious, they’re all interconnected. And I think we need some fundamental structural
changes in the way in which information is created, the way in which we develop policy, the way
in which research is funded. Because right now the whole system is structured to service the
corporate sector, and they know it, everybody knows it.
SJ: Can a vegan diet not only act as a preventative but also help the body shrink a tumor or beat
back metastatic cancer without chemo or radio therapy?
TCC: I think so. And I am going to say I think so. It’s based on some fragmentary evidence so
far produced, whether it’s experimental animals or in the case of some human data it’s very clear
it looks like that is so. I think it really would.
SJ: Should a person heed the advice of a doctor who insists on chemo and radio therapy?
TCC: I don’t want to go on record to say that they should not heed advice, because if I did I
could actually be tried, found guilty of practicing medicine against the best interest of the
medical community, because people like me have been arrested for this. But I have to say that
everybody has to make their own decision and if their decision is to go to the doctor and get
advice from the doctor and the doctor says ‘you should do this’, well it’s up to that person to
decide whether or not to listen. I simply say that we have some scientific evidence that indicates
that there are alternative methods for doing the same thing. And there are a number of people
who actually are doing that now and getting good results. So I don’t say more than that, because
I don’t want to go out and advocate that people not listen to their doctors. I don’t think that is
my position to really do that, but I would urge individuals to get as much information as they
could, get second opinions. I get calls all the time, from people who have some serious problem.
Right now one person unfortunately, a former student, has glaucoma. It’s very serious, he
doesn’t have money, he wants to try this method. Somebody else has got some other condition; I
don’t know why they keep calling me but people probably figure I’ve got some contacts in
something like this. I just always say, ‘I’m not a doctor. Just go get a second opinion.’ That is
always my basic advice, get a second opinion.
SJ: Could plant based foods help the body deal with any harmful effects of chemo and radio
therapy, with some of the harmful effects?
TCC: Well that is a good question and I am not sure that it would. I am speaking about
chemotherapy agents, they’re cytotoxic and quite active. And they become cytotoxic because of
being metabolized by the drug metabolism enzyme system.
SJ: Cytotoxic means?
TCC: Kills cells.
SJ: Poisonous to cells.
TCC: Yeah and the metabolites are usually quite reactive, electrophilic in nature, perhaps and
they bind to important molecules and kill the cell. And so these cytotoxic agents—which are
known, incidentally, to have some carcinogenic properties themselves, because people after
taking those drugs, then later if they survive they’re at higher risk for getting certain cancers
often times in a similar site. And the theoretical interest in using cytotoxic drugs is let it go in
there let it attack the tumor tissue itself if possible, all by itself, and let’s eliminate all the side
effects. And so they want cytotoxic drugs to be targeted, and there have been lots of efforts made
to deliver those drugs to that site. There are some pretty interesting ideas, we’ve got molecules
that can deliver vectors, if you will, to deliver to the site, so it sounds pretty good. And so they
don’t want any of those cytotoxic agents to spill over and cause all the side effects like cancer
patients might get. Now one way you can stop that in theory is make sure all the excess
cytotoxic agent gets metabolized and disposed of. It turns out that the enzyme system
responsible for doing that is the same enzyme system that activates them to attack the cancer
cell. And that enzyme system, the so-called drug metabolism enzyme system, that’s where I
spent 25 years working fairly intensively, in the early part of my career. That enzyme system is
greatly influenced by nutrient intake. And so high protein intake in that case will help to dispose
of these cytotoxic agents and thereby in theory reduce the side effects that otherwise would
SJ: Higher protein intake.
TCC: Higher protein intake is beneficial in that case.
SJ: Well does it matter what kind of protein?
TCC: Well at that time it was casein that we were using. In that case, the higher casein intake
would actually help in theory, for people taking cytotoxic drugs. But that is a real paradox
because on the one hand it helps to dispose of the excess drug that you don’t want around, but on
the other hand it tends to also reduce the activation of that drug when it’s administered. So
therefore you are delivering a less effective dose to the tumor tissue so on balance what do you
get? It’s a real paradox.
SJ: You’re not talking about something that is going to help deal with the cancer itself but only
talking about something that is going to ameliorate the effects of the cytotoxic drugs.
TCC: Exactly. Exactly. In the literature, drug companies were very interested in my work in
those days and had me write up a big review, it was published in 1975 and invited me to some
different things, with that view in mind. But they wanted to take that idea and develop it into a
big market opportunity.
SJ: In fact as you’ve said, the casein would cause cells to reproduce more rapidly, cancer cells.
TCC: Yes, of course.
SJ: While mitigating the effects of a drug, casein may increase the proliferation of cancer.
TCC: Right, it’s one of the paradoxes that sometimes you run into when you are thinking in a
very reductionist way like that. And so it was one of the things that kind of stimulated me to
think, how can we be playing around with nature and always have to worry about these
tradeoffs? I don’t think nature is made for tradeoffs, there has to be another natural order of
things that would be a better way to do it. I think it has some rational basis.
SJ: Could people challenged by cancer take a complimentary approach and use either chemo or
radio therapy and change their diets to emphasis more plant based foods, with the plant based
foods helping to stimulate the immune system and in other ways acting in a parallel fashion to
help the body deal with the cancer?
TCC: Yeah. It sounds sort of a reasonable approach and maybe some research can be done to
test to see if in fact that way would work. But the idea is that you give the drug, this very
cytotoxic drug, you give the drug and let it do its job, do what it can do, then right away come
right behind it with the kind of diet that gets rid of all the excess and hope you are accomplishing
something. But the problem with that is I can see a down side to it. The cytotoxic drug goes in,
hits the cancer cells, and if you don’t get rid of all of it, one of the things it does do, and this is
well known, those cytotoxic drugs, chemotherapy agents, they really play havoc with the
immune system. And so cancer patients, their immune system goes to pot in a hurry, with those
kind of drugs. So now you let the drug come in, kill some cancer cells, then it messes up the
immune system, then you come back and feed a plant-based diet to try to restore the immune
system right, if you can. It’s really tricky.
SJ: What would you do if you were challenged by cancer?
TCC: I would go do a water-only fast. No hesitation. I would do a water-only fast. My life style
and diet’s about as good as we can get it, I think, it obviously can’t be prefect and maybe I have
got some residual cancers growing in me that I picked up years ago and maybe I slowed them
down a whole lot and eventually they’ll get me some day. So I also have learned quite a lot of
information about these water-only fasts, they’re pretty remarkable.
SJ: Have you ever done any fasting?
TCC: Yeah I have. I think you probably know I isolated that compound that later became
known as dioxin. And I had some serious problems with that years later.
TCC: Yeah I’m one of the discoverers of that.
SJ: I mean you’ve had problems with it personally?
TCC: Yeah I did. When I was isolating it at MIT, I ended up with polyps in my sinuses that had
to be burned out and had bleeding migraines, and then subsequent to that—I didn’t have a name
for that compound at the time, I published my work, it was a couple years later when they
SJ: Because of your work in the lab with dioxin you got dosed very, very heavily.
TCC: Very heavy doses.
SJ: Here we’re talking about a substance that the body doesn’t know how to handle.
TCC: Exactly. And so I ended up after that experience, there was one other guy working on it at
the time, FDA in Washington and he died. He had filed a complaint with the labor department
that he thought he was being poisoned, and he wasn’t being appropriately protected, but he died
before action was taken. But in any case, I got heavily dosed, I ended up with some problems,
that later evolved into some conditions with my face and my sinuses called chloracne. And that
subsequently then was shown in fact dioxin causes, that is one of the thing that people get
working with this stuff. And I had a pretty serious case of that. That went on for 8 or 10 years, I
tried to deal with it. Finally it gradually went away, when I gradually improved my diet,
coincidentally I think.
TCC: I was improving my diet during the ‘80s let’s say.
SJ: Or causatively? Your diet helped clear up the problem.
TCC: The diet was helping to clear up the problem, I’m convinced but not entirely, at least
clearing up the problems with this chloracne, these lesions and so forth. So they eventually went
away but then after they went away I could still feel this kind of tingling sensation in my face
that kind of lingered from time to time. And eventually in the early 90s, just about the time the
China Project information was being released, all of that crept into my neck and started affecting
the muscles in my neck and my speech and my eating. I had a very hard time to speak then I had
a lot of pain I had to hold my mouth, couldn’t eat very well. Went to some doctors, went to the
best I could find—Cornell Med School, Columbia Presbyterian, Sloane Memorial, all of the best.
They gave me the worst prognosis, they said I probably would not be speaking in another year,
they showed me how to use a pen knife to stick in my trachea so I wouldn’t choke to death, all
these kinds of things.
So I then had a chance to speak about the China Project to a convention in New York City, I told
them I couldn’t do it. So they said ‘well, what’s wrong with you?’ And I told this guy who had
been from Cornell, I told him I got a really serious problem, I can’t really talk. He said ‘Well,
why don’t you come down here. There are a lot of people in this audience, it’s the National
Hygiene Society, lot of chiropractors and naturopaths and some MDs. They had more
understanding of your condition’. I thought, well what the hell I can’t lose. So I went down and
struggled through it, and they got together 10 of them and sent me off to this fasting place in
California at their expense, it was very kind. They sent me there and meanwhile I had tested
myself for dioxin and I still had very high levels in my body, 25 years after I had been away
from it. So I did the fasting thing in the hope that my body would get rid of it. But when I went
there I was very skeptical, but came to learn some things that I will never forget. I learned that
water-only fasting is a remarkable medical procedure that is simply not understood by 99% of
doctors, I think.
SJ: Seems like people who want to try fasting need to do it with the supervision of a health
professional and not just at home on their own.
SJ: There are a lot of ways to trip up with it, including loss of electrolytes.
TCC: Absolutely. You are absolutely right. And now this clinic has done about 5,000 patients
this way. And I saw things like uterine fibromas shrink and all kinds of conditions resolve
themselves, hypertension almost uniformly reverse itself, and when people get that behind them
then they go on to a plant-based diet.
So now coming back to your question what would I do? I think fasting when you allow the body
to go to rest and let nature take its course.
Tape 3 (Interview 2a)
SJ: If all one’s siblings have gotten breast cancer for example, does that mean it’s in the genes
and one should play it safe by getting mastectomies as a preventative measure?
TCC: Well, all the diseases as you know, Sylvester, really begin with genes of one kind or
another not just one gene usually but a cluster of genes. So all of the normal and abnormal
biological processes begin with genes and so breast cancer too has a genetic basis just like all the
others. And there are a certain small percentage of breast cancers that are pretty strongly
influenced by genes, namely genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. And those two genes they have
what we refer to as pretty strong penetrates, that is their influence is pretty strong and they can
raise the risk for this small group of women to fairly high levels and can end up causing breast
cancer or at least being associated with breast cancer. But that is about 5% or so of women who
have that problem with those genes. And so we see a higher risk for breast cancer among those
women, of course, but the interesting thing about this is that diet, namely the diet we’re talking
about, a plant-based diet, low fat, is obviously associated with lower risk of breast cancer. And
we know a lot about how it works and it similarly works, as far as I can see in the literature, even
for that small group of women who in fact are at high risk because of those genes. So I sort of
look at the genetic equation in a way in which, since all disease begin with genes, that is the
starting point essentially, corrupted genes let’s say, or genes that people were born with. Since
everything starts at that point, that is not enough to conclude that therefore they’re going to get
the disease, because diet and nutritional patterns that we’re talking about can actually repress and
actually completely bar the expression of those genes that ultimately lead to disease, and that
even includes the people that have something like BRCA1 and BRCA2 which I call mischievous
genes. We all have some genes I think that raise our risk for one thing or another, but we don’t
really know what those genes are for the most part.
SJ: So genes function only by being activated or expressed and nutrition plays a critical role in
determining which genes good or bad get expressed.
TCC: Absolutely. Absolutely, it’s not the presence or absence of the genes that make the
difference it really is the expression of these genes. And another way to look at this, that I have
been thinking about that no one ever really does I think, and that is if you look at the relationship
between dietary fat and breast cancer or animal foods and breast cancer or animal foods and
colon cancer, or whatever, we know that the dietary effect is strong, from various points of view.
Now it turns out that all those diseases are starting with genes and that is a demonstration right
there that nutrition and diet are prominently operating; every disease begins with genes so we
can say everything is genetic. Genes are involved with everything, yet we can also say that
genes, if we did things right, are involved in nothing. It almost sounds like a paradox but it just
shows in fact you know how strong this nutritional effect is.
I am thinking of genes incidentally, too, that get corrupted during our lives that then can lead to
serious diseases, like the liver cancer case—that we worked on in our laboratory fairly
intensively for many years—that cancer starts when a chemical carcinogen comes in, in this case
it was aflatoxin. When it comes in it gets metabolized to produce a metabolite that is very
reactive and it binds to the DNA and it corrupts, therefore, a gene and we know pretty much
which gene it is. In one sense we can say that is a chemical carcinogen disease but really in
reality that carcinogen, like most carcinogens, are interacting with genes so it’s really a genetic
SJ: The body has an amazing and very well researched and proven, as far as you can prove in
biological terms, set of strategies to repair genes.
TCC: Yes, true, absolutely, and in fact we have genetic corruption or attack going on all the time
during our lifetime from various and sundry things and so genes are being damaged, if you will,
but there are some estimates that somewhere in the neighborhood of 99 to 99.9% of all those
genes are repaired. We have repair mechanisms in our cells that actually repair them, so
fortunately almost all that stuff gets repaired, but that tiny, tiny little bit, it only takes just one
slipping through the cracks from time to time, when the gene is sitting there and doesn’t get
repaired at the time the cell divides, now that gene gets incorporated into the daughter cells. So
now suddenly, in an extreme case, we have one cell that has a corrupted DNA structure, and that
one cell can divide into two and so forth and so on and eventually just grow out to form what we
call a clone of the mother cell. And eventually it can be the wrong kind of clone andt can go
SJ: So if repair mechanisms and immune system have been made less robust by the effects of
animal based foods, then the cancers can begin to get a foothold.
TCC: Yeah. There are other ways too incidentally; we just talked about the cell having the
ability to repair itself, to repair this kind of damage. At the same time, the body has a
mechanism, routine kind of mechanism that tends to kill bad cells even after they’re formed, and
are there, and start to grow. All of our tissues have the ability to wipeout and discard
mischievous cells, and that’s a phenomenon called apoptosis in the case of cancer. So it’s a good
thing we have this apoptotic mechanism that works and incidentally, nutrition again plays a role
in affecting apoptosis and it’s the same kind of diet in effect. And the evidence we have so far is
that this kind of diet, it does so many things, it stops the metabolism of the carcinogen to give the
metabolite to bind to the DNA, it affects DNA repair in the same sort of direction it also affects
apoptosis. The wrong kind of diet does everything in the wrong way, that is what I find so
fascinating about biology in this case, that when we’re doing the wrong thing everything goes
wrong, not everything, but there are a whole lot of things going wrong at the same time.
SJ: How about a different class of disease such as Parkinson’s, if both my parents got it’s my
TCC: No, I am saying that a little bit obviously without enough knowledge to know the whole
story on that one for sure, but there is some evidence already that diet can play a role in
preventing Parkinson’s disease, and it’s the same kind of diet again. And I find this not
surprising that that might be true, because this diet has such a broad effect. What troubles me
about something like Parkinson’s especially, but also some others is the fact that we don’t have
an interest in medical research to really go in and look at a question like that. It would seem to
me if we had some evidence even though it’s not conclusive, that’s exactly the kind of question
that we should be studying. People should be putting money into ‘let’s have a closer look at this
dietary effect’, to see how, in fact Parkinson’s disease doesn’t have to happen. And from what I
can see—obviously, I am an enthusiast for diet, but the fact that it has such a wide array of
effects that—we’ll discover someday that Parkinson’s can be largely prevented, by dietary
SJ: So improving diet might well help even if a disease runs in the family, in the genes, for a
whole variety of diseases?
TCC: Absolutely. This whole ‘running in the family’ is an interesting expression, as you know.
That tends to mean to most people that it’s a genetic disorder and that kind of philosophy, that
kind of assumption, is really quite a fatalistic assumption. Because if we sort of preclude that ‘oh
it’s in my family’, or ‘I know, it’s a genetic disease’, ‘it’s going to happen anyhow’, then people
are really disinclined to do the right thing. They know it’s going to come and that is the way it’s
and I just cannot subscribe to that kind of fatalism. It’s just not appropriate, and when you study
it a little more closely, of course, we find out that nutrition has such a strong effect, that’s to me a
great ray of hope. And in science and in the funding of research, that I have been so involved in
myself on both sides of the table, I am really troubled by the fact that in our national health
budget, health research budget, we don’t devote money to try and understand the nutritional
connection well enough so we can really tell the public, ‘here’s how it all works’ kind of bit.
They always look for the drug.
SJ: What is meant by the term acidosis and how can animal products increase the possibility of
TCC: Well, with acidosis usually, the lower the pH the greater the acidity or greater the
concentration of acid. Acidosis, often times also called metabolic acidosis, reflects acid being
produced in excess because of metabolism of one sort or another. And it turns out that animal
based proteins, when they’re metabolized, first digested to their amino acids and then amino
acids are further metabolized, have a little higher concentration of so-called sulfur amino acids,
which when metabolized can produce the sulfate ion, it’s an acidic ion, and that’s just one
mechanism, there are some other ways. It turns out that animal based proteins have been shown
to actually increase acid a bit and decrease, therefore the pH and the amount of pH decrease that
I have seen, or the increase in acid. In terms of numbers it doesn’t look like much, but that
change really quite major in terms of its effect on various enzyme systems.
SJ: How well do the people who consume the most milk products do with osteoporosis?
TCC: You mean why do people consuming the most dairy products have more osteoporosis?
TCC: For one thing the dairy food, of course, is a good source of protein and in many cases it
can comprise a fairly large fraction of the protein that a person is consuming, especially in dairy
producing countries. And that protein, animal protein, like we just said, can lead to an acidic-
like condition. And also that same protein can make some other biochemical changes too, any
one of which lead to the need by the body for reducing the amount of acid being produced. And
it does that most effectively by drawing on the best buffer that’s around which happens to be the
calcium in the bones. And so consuming dairy creates a little excess acid, that has to be
neutralized and that neutralization is coming about because of the drawing of the calcium from
the bones—that is one mechanism by which that occurs.
There is another one not terribly well talked about, a couple of others actually, it has to do with
the fact that the dairy contains a lot of calcium, and so for a lot of societies who are consuming
lots of dairy, they’re getting a very high fraction of the calcium from dairy. And when people
become accustomed to a high calcium diet then the immediate cascade after they go off that, let’s
say, or they come to some other event in their life such as menopause—when estrogen is
decreased—at the point they’re accustomed to this very high calcium intake, suddenly the
calcium intake might drop or certainly the estrogen will drop, that in turn portages most of the
calcium, at that particular point in time the body is not as well adapted to a lower calcium intake
and therefore is at greater risk to osteoporosis for various kinds of mechanisms.
The dairy industry has argued and lots of nutritionists have agreed that we should be consuming
these high levels of calcium for much of the earlier part of our life, especially women, as if that
is a good thing. I disagree; I think we set ourselves up by doing that. We set ourselves up for the
body adapting to these very high levels of calcium that is going to then make us vulnerable to the
effects of menopause and its subsequent effects on osteoporosis. I could go on and on about this.
There are some other sorts of mechanisms too. We gathered a lot of evidence now to show how
dairy and fat, rather conclusively can show how dairy really causes osteoporosis it does not
prevent osteoporosis. There is no evidence that dairy prevents osteoporosis and makes stronger
bones as they have said for so many years; it just doesn’t work.
SJ: Sometimes a point of confusion arises because the gastric fluids in the stomach are already
highly acidic so people wonder why acid is a problem.
TCC: Well, of course, there are different kinds of acid conditions these are separate phenomena.
Obviously, in our stomach, the stomach contents are highly acidic, very acidic. If we were to
take the gastric juice of the stomach and put it on paper it could burn through the paper in fact,
it’s that strong. And so that’s nature’s way at having a first look at the food that is being
consumed, well it’s the second look in a sense salvia is the first look. But in any case, the food
gets to the stomach, the acid is there and begins to hydrolyze many of the constituents and in a
sense prepares the food for further digestion; when it gets beyond the stomach into the lower
intestine and that is when the enzymes can come into play. That acid is strong, and there are
certain conditions—and incidentally given the fact that it’s so strong it also means that the
stomach lining, the cells lining the stomach, the mucosa as we call it, mucosa cells, they’re of a
special nature to protect the tissue from that acid. It’s fascinating: the biology! Sometimes
though, that lining can be disrupted and destroyed and the acid can begin to eat into the
underlying tissue in which case we can start getting ulcers and various kinds of conditions which
create that too. But that is one pool of acid that should not be confused with the kind of
metabolic acidosis that I am talking about, nor should it be confused with the kind of acid that
we might see in certain foods, such as citrus fruits. And we have alkaline foods we have acid like
foods. The extra acid maybe in citrus fruits and some other foods and that shouldn’t be confused
with the acid in the stomach and it should not be confused with the metabolic acidosis in the
stomach, acid is not the same for these different pools, altogether different phenomenon.
SJ: And really other than in the stomach the body wants to keep itself pretty alkaline.
TCC: Yes. Absolutely, and our tissues beyond the stomach inside of the cells, it tends to exist on
the more alkaline side of the acid base balance.
SJ: Some pharmaceuticals have the result in bones of increasing the mineral density but that
doesn’t necessarily mean stronger bones more robust bones to impulses and impacts.
TCC: Yes, bone density has often been equated with stronger bones, at least that is the general
assumption that has been used for many, many years. There are some exceptions to that,
exceptions in a sense that you don’t need to consume a lot of calcium and therefore a lot of
minerals to get stronger bones, that sort of makes some simplistic sense but that’s not really
necessarily true. Bone strength is related not only to the minerals present, the calcium, the
magnesium, and some other minerals, it’s not really related to the amount of mineralization in
the bones. It’s also strongly related to the structure of the bone itself, the interstitial kinds of
things made up of protein, and collagen, and things like this, it kind of holds things in order. I
don’t think we have paid enough attention to totality of the bone structure. There is some
evidence, I shouldn’t quite say that so glibly because there are obviously some good researchers
who are in fact beginning to point this out—bones are more than a concrete slab that we have
dumped a bunch of minerals in and watched them calcify.
SJ: Speaking of concrete, that is a good analogy because without reinforcing rods, that mesh of
steel that is wired in first before the concrete is poured, the concrete would be very brittle and not
robust at all to impacts and severe stresses, but with the reinforcing rods it has got that kind of
strength that will allow it to be robust to all kinds of impacts. So bones when they have got high
mineral density but no reinforcing fine mesh then they’re like brittle chalk.
TCC: Absolutely. It’s an excellent example. You put your finger right on it. I couldn’t have said
it as well as that, that’s perfect.
SJ: What’s meant by negative calcium balance and how do animal products cause it?
TCC: Well, before we talk about negative calcium balance, calcium balance in the old literature
and still to some extent in the minds of some people today, is nothing more than a relationship
between the total calcium being consumed compared to the calcium being excreted in the urine
and the feces. Positive calcium balance means that we’re consuming more than we’re excreting,
perfect balance it’s equal, negative calcium balance more is being excreted than being consumed.
And the loss of calcium, as we just talked about before, is arising in large measure because when
animal foods are being consumed creating a metabolic acidosis, drawing calcium from the bone
to neutralize all of this, it eventually ends up out in the urine for the most part, we loose calcium
from the body by that measure. Incidentally there is another interesting point about calcium
balance studies, in the older days in fact when I was a young graduate student, calcium balance
studies were often considered to be the key measurement, the principle measurement of calcium
health, you just determine how much is going in, how much is going out and always try to err on
the side of more going in than going out, that was very simplistic. In fact the first job that I had
as a masters student at Cornell University was washing the glassware of this researcher who was
simply doing nothing more than calcium balance studies, how much going in, how much going
out. And we now know shortly after that time in fact a very well known professor at Harvard,
I’m a great admirer of his work, by the name of Mark Hegsted. He did some really brilliant
studies along with some people in Sweden, showing that if we determine how much calcium we
need according to balance studies, to keep things balanced, if we do it that way we will find as
was shown in these famous Swedish studies, we will find that the amount of calcium that we
need at some point in time is pretty much a reflection of what we have become accustomed to in
the recent past. If we have been accustomed to a fairly high calcium diet, we do a balance study,
we need pretty high calcium intake; that is the way the body has adjusted to this condition. In
contrast, you are taking people on a high calcium diet and switch them to a low calcium diet for a
while, in the neighborhood of two, three, four months according to what the data showed, if they
come to a low calcium diet and you go back and do these calcium balance studies again, same
people, you find out that they need less calcium. So the body is always adjusting, always
adjusting, that phenomena is exciting and it was really clearly demonstrated in some famous
research. It was done in Sweden by a guy studying for his Ph.D. over a period of about 10 years,
he did large numbers of human trials and Mark Hegsted of Harvard University expanded on that
and showed the same thing. So balance studies are kind of silly, they have actually been
abandoned to some extent by the more serious researchers but still unfortunately to some extent
people still talk about them.
SJ: Can milk products cause negative calcium balance?
TCC: I would say yes, but actually I don’t know.
SJ: Even though they’re loaded with calcium?
TCC: That’s right. I know there has been some dispute, argument about that, you know some
will argue that milk because of all the extra calcium can overcome essentially, they will argue
this that the extra calcium in milk will overcome the negative effects of the extra protein. But I
don’t believe that in a larger context, even though in a short term experiment one might show
that from time to time and might be a well done experiment, the problem is that people routinely
consuming more dairy have more fractures, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t compute. So even
though there is a bit of confusion and controversy in the field involving whether dairy doesn’t, at
least from my limited knowledge, I need to go back and actually look at that more carefully.
SJ: Dispute regarding the calcium balance aspect but not dispute regarding the increase in hip
fractures for example with respect to increasing milk consumption, or cheese, or whatever
product of milk.
SJ: How can people get their calcium if not from dairy?
TCC: Well from a couple of sources of course I mean natural sources, leafy vegetables certainly
have a good share of calcium in them, and whole grains, all whole grains are a good source
because when we’re consuming the whole grains the outer bran layer obviously has calcium and
some other minerals too as well as the B vitamins. It raises another interesting point, we tend to
take these grains and separate out the good from the bad and we give the good stuff to the
animals and we keep the bad stuff for ourselves.
SJ: So what is the key to bone health?
TCC: Well one of the important things to good health is exercise, weight bearing exercise.
SJ: For bones.
TCC: For bone yeah, staying active and of course weight bearing exercise…
SJ: Some might say that getting exercise puts stress on bones, so you should get as little as
TCC: No, exercise has positive effects across the board.
SJ: It sends an electrical stimulus along the bone and that challenges the bone to grow cells
instead of depleting them.
TCC: Perhaps. Exercise is a good thing and as far as bone strength is concerned weight bearing
exercise is good, incidentally that idea of weight bearing exercise making stronger bones has
been used in a rather strange way a couple times recently arguing that people who are
overweight, it’s one of the advantages of being overweight, because when they walk around
they’re getting weight bearing exercise and therefore should have stronger bones, that is kind of
a silly argument.
But exercise, coming back to your original question, exercise is obviously important, sunshine is
also important because we have got to maintain a good source of vitamin D, and obviously eat
the right food—the combination of exercise, getting outdoors with adequate amount of sunshine
and eating the right foods and also a couple of other things by the way, salt. Excessive salt intake
has a negative effect on bone health for some people, so not overusing salt, consuming the right
food, getting some exercise, keeping the body hydrated making sure there is enough water—
these are all factors that can give good bone health.
SJ: How much salt should a person consume?
TCC: Oh I should know this number, I have forgotten.
SJ: Isn’t the allowance something like 2400mg of sodium?
TCC: Yeah 2400mg sounds right.
SJ: About a teaspoon of salt, but that seems like a lot of salt to me, maybe I don’t use much salt,
that’s the reason my taste buds just aren’t in need of it as much since I don’t use so much.
TCC: I should know these numbers, and once knew them and have forgotten, but we on average
consume really excess amounts of salt. And something like if it’s still true today what I knew
from some ten, fifteen years ago data, we’re consuming in the neighborhood of 5 to 10 times as
much salt or more than we actually need. And it’s something like 80-85% of that salt is coming
from processed foods rather than the kind of salt that we add at the table. And so it’s one of the
big arguments against processed foods. So we’re really over consuming salt and for about 20%
of the population who are particularly vulnerable to high salt intake in terms of high blood
pressure, they’re going to see high blood pressure from all that excess salt too as well.
We’re way over consuming salt. Salt is, interestingly, I don’t know if you want to go into this or
not, but our taste for salt is influenced by our recent past. If we’re accustomed to consuming a
high salt diet and then we’re put on a taste panel and given a choice of foods containing various
amounts of salt, we will choose the foods that are most nearly like the foods that we have just
been consuming in terms of salt content. And so for a high salt diet, we prefer high salt diets,
very simply. In contrast, let’s say we’re accustomed to a high salt diet and now for some reason
we’re made to consume a low salt diet for some period of time. It turns out that about 3 or 4
months maybe less, maybe more is required and then we go back on this taste panel and now
we’re going to choose the low salt diet so our preference for salt is very much influenced by
what we have been consuming in the recent past. And if preference for salt is mistakenly used as
an indicator of how much salt we need then that is a big error, that’s wrong. The amount of salt
that we need is really as you indicated before, fairly low and it’s much lower than what we
actually are consuming.
SJ: Besides problems for bones what other damage can a high salt diet do?
TCC: Hypertension, blood pressure is the big thing. Blood pressure and all the sequelae that
arise from hypertension, obviously hypertension is going to lead to increased risk for stroke and
cardiovascular diseases and things like that. Hypertension is not a good thing and by consuming
all that excess salt and keeping these high blood pressures is just a bad thing, it’s not good.
SJ: What about the chloride ions that get eaten in salt?
TCC: I don’t know about the chloride ions, I just don’t know that well enough. I know that the
cation sodium actually compared to potassium, another monovalent cation, if you compare
sodium and potassium salts the potassium salt is better and it appears that we clearly need in our
diet a certain ratio of sodium to potassium ion intake. By consuming a plant based diet, it tends
to put us in the right direction. And we know also that there is a balance between sodium and
potassium activities throughout our bodies. In reference to what is on the inside of the cell and
what is on the outside of the cell. So the shifting of those two ions in particular does play an
important role in maintaining so-called osmotic activity inside and outside the cells.
SJ: Just as an example of how sensitive the body is to these salts even potassium in excess can
cause some misfiring of nerves and when that comes to heart problems that could prove critical.
TCC: That is a good point, yeah that is an excellent point, just because potassium is a little better
than sodium obviously doesn’t mean we should go out and consume a whole lot of potassium to
solve our problems, it just doesn’t work that way.
SJ: As you have said mother’s milk is the healthiest food possible for babies to grow and
prosper. Why has the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that infants under a year
old not receive any milk other than human?
TCC: Well as far as I am aware and this is just from the literature and not having been involved
in these panel discussions, so with that advisory, it’s my understanding that the reason that the
American Pediatric Association for example and other organizations like it made a decision to
recommend not consuming dairy food, cow’s milk, and that was generally for two years rather
than one year, babies should stay away from it for two years. That came about not coincidentally
just after some pretty convincing data was coming forth that cow’s milk consumed too early in a
baby’s life could give rise for some individuals to the onset of type I diabetes. And that research
had been done by some excellent research groups mostly in Finland and to some extent in
Canada. And it really created quit a howl the thought that cow’s milk might be related to type I
diabetes. The whole story really started in the beginning from the observation that when babies
are cut short on their weaning for example, those babies that were weaned early had a higher risk
of type I diabetes of course being the really serious kind where they end up not being able to
produce insulin. And so that was the original observation, just cutting short weaning. But then it
was observed that when the weaning period was decreased in contrast they were also going onto
cow’s milk earlier, and so then it became more a function of the real relationship that was of
interest was the fact that the cow’s milk consumed early could give rise to this autoimmune
disease called type I diabetes. It think that the pediatric associations were obviously being really
cautious in this case and passing out the word “don’t feed cow’s milk” for at least a couple years.
But we also know from some of the literature too that type I diabetes can be initiated in a similar
fashion beyond two years, on up to 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 maybe even later.
SJ: What mechanism, how does the peptide get into the blood stream?
TCC: The peptide you are referring to is the incompletely digested cow’s milk protein. All
proteins in theory are digested down into their individual amino acids but that process is
somewhat incomplete as we know in many cases. And so rather than getting complete digestion
to the individual amino acids we can end up with a few amino acids not completely separated
one from another in which case then we get a little chain of them, called peptides. If those
peptides are absorbed into the blood and they can be, especially in infants whose absorptive
process in the intestines is not yet complete not yet mature, the body sees those proteins as
foreign, foreign proteins and treats them as such. And anytime the body sees a foreign protein,
and those foreign proteins are called antigens, at that point the body wants to get rid of them and
it gets rid of them by making antibodies or using other components of the immune system to deal
with that. And so it makes antibodies to the antigen and that is a very interesting reaction because
the antibody itself being a protein creates it in such a way that it makes a prefect match to look at
that specific protein that is coming in, so antibody antigen interaction is very, very, very specific.
Antibodies are specific for specific proteins. And in the case of type I diabetes, it was discovered
that there was a certain peptide of some 17 amino acids all hooked together that kind of slipped
into the bloodstream. The evidence showed that an antibody was made against that 17 amino
acid peptide and it was specific for that peptide—and all those amino acids in that peptide were
in a very specific sequence—it just so happens that a similar 17 amino acid fragment was found
in the surface of the pancreas cells that produce insulin, the pancreatic islet cells. And so the
antibody now being produced to kick out the foreign cow’s milk protein, or peptide in this case,
that antibody then essentially could also be used to attack the pancreatic islet cells that produce
the insulin and that was ‘Katy bar the door’, because when the antibodies start attacking these
infant pancreatic cells and destroying their capability to produce insulin, that was a very bad
deal, because then that meant that infant no longer could produce insulin, for the rest of it’s life
and so obviously very, very serious.
There has been a lot of discussion on that questioning the literature in the last 15 years, since that
was first discovered, or so. Some very extensive and in depth research has been done on the
question. It turns out that whole process is more complex than what I have just described, so it
involves some other components of the immune system as well, but what is shown and what one
can conclude at this point is that cow’s milk protein given early can in fact initiate an antibody
kind of response, however complex it may be, that then can in turn affect these very important
cells such as the pancreatic islet cells and destroy their capability, it can have life-threatening,
life-long certainly, consequences. And unfortunately in my view at least the pediatric
associations and other health research people, the medical community, haven’t emphasized this
enough. Sure they say ‘don’t drink milk’ but they don’t go out and tell women, they don’t speak
this very loudly. In fact, when this first came out, one of the major reports that came out in the
beginning was in 1992 and an organization in Washington was interesting in publicizing this for
the public and invited me and the late Dr. Spock and another very famous pediatrician to come to
New York to have a news conference to publicize this fact. I didn’t agree to do it at the time
because I thought I had enough trouble before I saw more information on the question, but it was
also very clear from that experience and subsequent experience that everything has been done to
keep the public from knowing this information. Only modest attempts have been made to let the
public know and I think the mere fact that it exists that cow’s milk can have this kind of
damaging effect early in life, for certain individuals—and incidentally those certain individuals
that I am speaking of are those who may have a genetic predisposition for it, that is one thing that
has been demonstrated and that genetic predisposition might in turn might be related to some
viral interaction such that they end up with a so-called leaky gut, the gut doesn’t mature quickly
enough and so it slips in there.
SJ: Well, leaky gut can develop for many reasons and at any age.
TCC: Right, it can.
SJ: So with infants, researchers first became aware of the problem with infants and pointed the
finger at the problem particularly in infants because their digestive tracts are trusting that they’re
only going to be fed foods that are completely compatible with robust health, for instance
mother’s milk. But when you feed an infant something that can cause a problem, such as really
any kind of milk other than human, then indeed the problem arises more readily with infants, but
at any age a person can develop leaky gut syndrome due to some kind of an infection, as you
mentioned, or perhaps due to gastroenteritis of some kind and all of a sudden be challenged with
even adult onset type I diabetes.
TCC: You’re right.
SJ: In other words, death of the Islets of Langerhorn and hello needles, hello insulin.
TCC: You are absolutely right, that is one of the things that I said before that it’s too bad that
they sort of narrowed this concern down to the first year or two of life, because in reality we
know that this kind of phenomena can arise in later years. We know for example that type I
diabetes as you just said, can arise in some people on into their teen years and even older maybe,
they’d loose their capacity to produce insulin altogether and it needs to be assumed that more or
less the same thing is going on, that has already been demonstrated in infants.
SJ: What can a baby be fed if the mother can’t lactate enough?
TCC: Gosh, I’m not a pediatrician, so I am not sure I can answer that question well enough, but
obviously good water is always important.
SJ: I mean for nutrition.
TCC: For nutrition, I going to beg off that one because I don’t know enough about it, you can
start them in on purees of vegetable matter. My wife and I had five children and she used baby
food like that, that was for the most part vegetable. Our grandchildren have been fed that entirely
as we have sort of really gotten into this. I don’t know, just regular food that we would otherwise
be consuming, put in a physical form that they can actually consume is about what the size of it
is. As far as liquid is concerned they can drink fruit juices too, my wife did that quite a bit.
SJ: So many young children suffer from severe earaches, do milk products have anything to do
TCC: Yes, they do. It’s now acknowledged even by the defenders of the dairy industry—I just
happened to have seen this information recently—it’s being acknowledged that cow’s milk is the
number one food allergen that we consume. It’s also being acknowledged, even in the
conservative literature, that the effect of cow’s milk on creating allergies it can take many
different forms, ranging all the way from behavioral patterns, to skin eruptions, to other kinds of
issues and ear aches, the excessive fluid accumulation and other kinds of responses like that is
just one of those kinds of allergies. And we know that dairy is a strong effecter of these ear aches
that are occurring in very young children.
SJ: Also just as a film forms at the back of the glass as it gets emptied, milk can enter the inner
ear canal as the head is tilted back to drink and that provides a perfect ambient for bacteria and
other pathogens to grow.
TCC: Oh really, that I didn’t know, interesting. Do you know of some evidence that that has
SJ: That I can’t cite; it just seems very plausible to me.
TCC: Yeah. But it’s clear, I think we agree, that dairy, drinking cow’s milk, is certainly a major
factor in causing ear problems for young children. One of our grandsons had exactly that. The
two youngest they have been pure vegans from the beginning, no milk at all, but in one case our
grandson’s mother wanted to let him have some milk from time to time, or maybe some ice
cream to join his kids, but every time that that was done he got ear problems, and suddenly they
just realized “no way” even the slightest bit of dairy could cause problems, it was just back and
forth, back and forth demonstrated so many times.
SJ: What about acne?
TCC: Acne was recently demonstrated in some fairly good research, a good report out of
Harvard, showing that there is a strong link between teenage acne, usually occurring between the
years of about 14 and 18 I think, there is a strong link between teenage acne and dairy
consumption. And again it’s another kind of allergic response. And acne although it’s not life
threatening, it certainly is a difficult problem for a lot of teenagers. And I just wish that they
knew because they certainly don’t want to have that problem and they usually go to their
dermatologist and try to get some creams and this and that and everything else, when in fact all
they need to do is quit consuming dairy. That is not going to clear up all the acne problems, but
it’s certainly going to according to the recent evidence address a lot of the acne problems.
SJ: Because teenagers have burgeoning hormones that cause a secretion of oils in the pores and
sometimes dry skin blocks the oils and that causes an eruption. And if you add more hormones
that are naturally occurring in milk products then that just adds to the problem, does that make
TCC: That could be, sure it could be. Also the issue of consuming all that milk and getting extra
protein, actually will tend to turn on the synthesis of our own hormones, so our so-called
endogenous hormones, the ones that are produced in our bodies, can be increased in their
production, just simply from consuming a dairy based diet.
SJ: What foods can cause headaches?
TCC: Dairy again is a big one, migraine headaches are classic symptoms, and I have heard it
said by a number of people that dairy is the principle cause of migraine headaches.
SJ: By dairy you don’t mean eggs, rather milk products.
TCC: Of course, I mean just cow’s milk products: ice cream, cheese
SJ: Goat milk products, do you think?
TCC: I don’t know about goat milk, there are people that say that goat milk is different and it
doesn’t create the same response and so forth.
SJ: Not as much lactose.
TCC: Perhaps, I just don’t know enough, again it’s a question of I wish we could do the kind of
research of comparing goat’s milk with cow’s milk a one on one kind of comparison with respect
to these kind of responses. But I haven’t seen that kind of information, maybe it’s been done, but
I do hear from time to time that goat’s milk is not as problematic as cow’s milk. But I might be
just be reflecting an impression rather than pertinent data.
SJ: So far as other aspects, such as protein content and perhaps hormone content that would
occur naturally goat’s milk would cause problems?
TCC: Yeah it should. There should be some problems with goat’s milk but you know the
difference between goat’s milk and cow’s milk these days in the modern sense is pretty
significant because cow’s milk is pretty loaded up with exposures at least to all kids of other
agents, that goat’s milk tends not to be exposed to—hormones, and pesticides, and antibodies
and so forth.
SJ: What about animal products could contribute to impotence, including both erectile function
and sperm count and motility, the ability to have children?
TCC: Well, one thing is that erectile function is in fact an expression of vascular health and
vessels throughout the body, obviously, are subject to atherosclerosis, occlusion. And when one
is consuming a high fat animal based diet this kind of phenomena doesn’t occur just in the heart,
it obviously also occurs in the brain in which case if it breaks it creates a stroke. With erectile
function, obviously, it’s affecting the tissues in that area as well and blood is what’s required, a
good flow of blood, and when blood flow is impeded that is the problem.
Sperm count, I don’t know about sperm count. There is a fairly well known book that was
published recently with good information showing that sperm count’s actually decreased quite
substantially in the last few decades throughout the world. And some estimates now that it may
only be 50% as high as it once was, that is pretty alarming. And there’s a projection by this
author who wrote that book that if it continues on this track pretty soon men are going to have no
need, there is no need for men, or they’re not going to be able to function, that is the end of the
human race I suspect. But the thesis on the part of that author and others like it, they weren’t
focused so much on the question concerning dairy. In that case they were talking about these
endocrine disruptors, the chemicals like the chlorinated hydrocarbons, or the chlorinated
pesticides, and things like dioxin, things like that that tend to be spread around the world in the
environment. And may very well be the cause of sperm count going down. I haven’t heard the
questions concerning dairy though on sperm count.
SJ: How old do men have to be to experience problems with erectile function, due to dietary
TCC: How old do they have to be? Well, I’m told it starts in late 40s early 50s, just like
atherosclerosis symptoms begin too.
SJ: The symptoms, however, the reality of atherosclerosis can begin at what age?
TCC: Oh, much earlier, these days there is now talk of plaques existing in children as young as 8
and 9 years of age.
SJ: Those studies might not have considered if maybe erectile function could be problematic for
TCC: Yes, right. I am just not familiar with the literature and the numbers on that but that is
certainly a very real possibility I would think.
SJ: Due to plaque forming, atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries and not allowing blood
flow. On a plant based diet could one possibly stay virile and avoid impotence much longer
naturally even until quite elderly without spending a fortune on pharmaceuticals and risking their
TCC: Yes. I can tell a little story about that. Dr. Esselstyn, the famous doctor who reversed heart
disease, in his 18 patients, one of whom we met for breakfast one morning. He was ecstatic about
the fact that his heart disease was all better. He was actually a very wealthy man, by the way,
extremely wealthy, but he just told us, told my wife and I at breakfast that morning at a
conference that he had been brought to by Dr. Esselstyn, that much to his surprise he wakes up
one morning and he didn’t have the erectile dysfunction problem. And he was amazed and so
word has spread, it has been noticed many other times, it can be corrected if people get on the
right diet just like heart disease can be corrected, so it’s a reversible process. I don’t know if it’s
always reversible, or if it’s reversible after some period of years, I don’t know that, but yeah
erectile dysfunction is nothing more than an expression just like coronary heart disease.
SJ: Well, so cleaning up one’s diet, helps one clean up one’s arteries, allowing extra blood flow
or recovered blood flow and more joy in many ways.
TCC: Absolutely. Let’s extend that just one more step too, it’s kind of interesting. You know
menstruation is very much a function of how fast the girl grows. And young girls and boys, of
course, the rate at which they grow is a function of how rich their diet is. If they’re consuming a
really high protein diet, lots of animal foods and so forth, they’re going to grow faster and have
earlier age at menstruation. In our China Study age of menstruation on average was 17 years
compared to about 11 and 12 in this country. We recorded averages for some 65 counties, I
mean there were some counties where the average age of menstruation was as high as 19 years.
That is a big change and so what it sort of suggests is that if people are consuming a plant based
diet, not pushing the growth of the children so hard, their reproductive years start later. And it
could solve the teenage pregnancy problem according to an associate of mine who was in my
high school class by the name of Gloria Steinem in her magazine, Ms. Magazine. That is where
that idea first came from.
SJ: How about animal products and constipation?
TCC: Constipation, of course, has been most directly attributed to how much fiber one is
consuming. And so consuming low fiber diets, obviously can give rise to constipation. And the
late Doctor Dennis Burkitt, who traveled all the length of Africa in some of his studies, made a
lot of observations, amongst people living in the rural areas on plant based foods that their stools
are much looser then Western. He gave some very comical seminars that I attended on that
question. But he pointed out as had some of his predecessors before him that constipation was
pretty much a disease of the west, of western societies. It didn’t exist in the societies that
consumed a lot of plant based foods. And now we know it’s very clear that people consuming
plant-based diets don’t have that problem, that people who have that problem, people who need
the what do you call it the H formula something like that, I forget?
SJ: Preparation H?
TCC: Yeah, that whole thing is related to the fact that people are consuming animal based foods.
TCC: Hemorrhoids and animal based foods.
SJ: So hemorrhoids resulting from constipation.
TCC: Yeah, hemorrhoids resulting from constipation, absolutely. That’s right Preparation H was
for hemorrhoids it wasn’t for constipation per se, but it was related to the same complex of
SJ: How do the protein fragments called opioid peptides in dairy protein worsen constipation?
TCC: I don’t know, I don’t know the answer. I know about the opiate–like substances in dairy
SJ: What is the effect of opiate like substances?
TCC: Well, there is some speculation, again I don’t know the literature well enough on this, but
there is certainly some speculation about the role that they may play in brain chemistry for
example and therefore in behavioral problems, such as with attention deficit disorder or attention
deficit hyperactive disorder, ADD or ADHD, a serious problem according to many authorities.
And the opiate like compounds in dairy could be playing a role.
SJ: In fact some of the peptides are called casomorphines and act in the body a little bit like
morphine, unfortunately since they’re absorbed right in the intestines they affect the intestinal
muscles to slow peristalsis and slow the movement of the bolus along the intestinal tract,
worsening risk of constipation.
TCC: Oh is that right, that is something I didn’t know, good.
SJ: Do animal products increase the risk of male pattern baldness?
TCC: Not that I am aware of, but you know this whole question of animal versus plant–based
food has such a broad array of effects, I tell you any more these days I am not surprised to see
SJ: The research has yet to be done.
TCC: The research has yet to be done. Baldness is largely a genetic thing, it’s a very strongly
genetic link we know that but whether that in turn can be influenced by diet I don’t know. I can
make an argument that it could be, because the little hair follicles that eventually begin to die,
their livelihood, their life certainly can be influenced by the biochemistry and physiology of our
bodies influenced in turn by diet.
SJ: Which diseases is high cholesterol associated with, only heart disease or with other chronic
degenerative diseases as well?
TCC: Well, it seems to correlate with, associate with, if you use the word associate; it’s
associated with lots of things. It’s associated with increasing cancer rates, higher cholesterol
levels. We saw that in China, we of course know that higher cholesterol levels are associated
with heart disease, and with stroke, and often times with condition that relates to diabetes and
obesity, if you call obesity a disease which I don’t. But in any case in a whole host of conditions
like that, that are typically found in Western societies are associated with higher cholesterol
levels. But I want to emphasis that I am using the word associate here not meaning causality, I
am just simply saying association, And further more I should point out that as far as cholesterol
levels are concerned we know now that a better estimate of these associations is not total
cholesterol, but it’s the ratio of total cholesterol to the good cholesterol HDL, which also relates
to how much of the LDL or bad cholesterol that we have. So it’s the LDL, HDL, total
cholesterol complex that is more important than the total cholesterol in itself.
SJ: If saturated fat and animal protein—but not cholesterol per se, if cholesterol is just a marker
for disease—if they contribute to many diseases, especially atherosclerosis and heart disease, is it
ok to have high cholesterol or not?
TCC: You mean high dietary cholesterol?
SJ: Or high…
TCC: High blood cholesterol? Yeah, of course, the connection between dietary cholesterol and
blood cholesterol is not a simple one to one relationship. And, in fact, the level of the cholesterol
in our blood may be influenced slightly by the amount of cholesterol we actually consume, but
it’s more influenced by the kinds of foods we’re consuming that contain let’s say animal-based
protein or plant-based protein or how much fiber they contain, how much this and that; I mean
it’s more than just dietary cholesterol intake. So your question is in reference to the high
cholesterol intake or the high cholesterol in the blood, because they’re not necessarily the same?
SJ: Well you were saying that cholesterol may not be causative of disease.
TCC: Right, you mean dietary cholesterol, the cholesterol we consume?
SJ: Or the cholesterol in the blood. So if it really is the animal fat and protein that are causative
is it alright to have high cholesterol in the blood?
TCC: One can argue that, that possibility exists and we do know that people can have high
cholesterol and don’t get heart disease. And in the same fashion we can also see people who have
much lower levels of cholesterol do have heart disease. So roughly speaking, the amount of
cholesterol is related to heart disease risk for sure when you look at large populations, large
groups of people, right, but there are deviations for individuals that are quite substantial at
times—high cholesterol no heart disease, lower cholesterol heart disease. That paradox, so to
speak, is resolved to some extent if we look at the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL that improves
it a bit, so you don’t have as many of these exceptions. It’s further improved by examining how
much of the bad cholesterol is actually oxidized and that’s pretty critical, because that indication
says that to the extent that cholesterol may become involved in some of these diseases it could be
related to the extent to which it’s oxidized. And that makes altogether eminent sense. Relatively
high levels of oxidized cholesterol in the body come from people consuming animal based foods
instead of plant based foods, plant based foods have a lot of antioxidants that therefore tend to
decrease the amount of oxidized cholesterol. Now this oxidation sort of phenomenon that is so
important in so many different disease processes, also it’s important in the development of
plaque and the subsequent rupture of the plaque. We know, for example, that plaques alone that
occlude the artery and blood flow are not sufficient in and of itself, unless it’s completely closed,
it doesn’t explain very much of the heart attacks that actually occur. That is the closing of the
lumen of the artery. Rather, we now know that these plaques to the extent that they do relate to
heart attack or stroke, have to do with the rupture of the plaque and the plaques rupture when the
covering over the plaque, the kind of thin layer of pretty tough stuff that forms over these
plaques normally, when that covering becomes sort of thinned, something breaks that and then
all the stuff on the inside of the plaque is extruded into the blood. That can give rise to a very
quick clot and cause a heart attack. The rupturing of that plaque and the membrane over the
plaque can in fact be related to oxidation phenomena. If a lot of oxidation’s going on, it could be
kind of rusting away the cover.
Tape 4 (Interview 2b)
SJ: For those who are concerned about cholesterol, high cholesterol, does consuming animal
products as well as saturated fats stimulate our production of cholesterol?
TCC: Yes it does. Yes, that is an important point I think. We have always been told for many
many years now that if you want to reduce your cholesterol level through dietary means, we
should be consuming less saturated fat and less cholesterol. Nobody almost ever mentions that
we should stop consuming high animal protein and the data shows and has shown for many
many years that the level of animal protein being consumed is probably a more significant factor
than either saturated fat or dietary cholesterol consumption. Probably more than both of them
put together. So, this returns us to the more general statement or idea that just consuming animal
based foods gives us higher levels of cholesterol, higher saturated fat, and most importantly,
higher levels of animal protein. And we could conclude that in consuming that kind of diet we
tend to have less antioxidants, because you are not consuming a plant based diet. That whole
constellation of factors is clearly all playing a role far more important than just saturated fat or
dietary cholesterol itself.
SJ: How come plant protein and saturated fat don’t stimulate production of cholesterol?
TCC: Why plant protein and saturated fat you said?
SJ: Either or.
TCC: Plants’ fat is more generally called oils, and are usually less saturated. Although we see
some saturated fat in plants, we see much more polyunsaturated fats in plant material. We have
known for many years that consuming diets that have a higher ratio of polyunsaturated fats
(usually arising from consuming a plant based diet) that a higher ratio of polyunsaturated fats to
saturated fat consumption lowers the cholesterol. So when there are more plants, more
polyunsaturates there is less cholesterol. So plants don’t tend to have very much saturated fat,
but there are a couple of exceptions: coconut oil obviously has quite a lot of saturated fat and a
couple of others. You can find some saturated fat in most plants quite frankly, and you can find
unsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats in some animal fats.
SJ: Mostly there is a big difference between shorter chained saturated fats and longer chained.
TCC: Right. As you know, the chain length of fatty acids is described by the number of carbon
units along the chain going anywhere from let’s say three or four carbon units from the simpler
short chain fatty acids all the way to 22 to 24 to 26 length. The ones that we have sort of focused
on, historically, for the most part in terms of atherosclerosis are the ones that are about 16 carbon
units in length or 16,18 or 20 somewhere in that region. Then, further, we tend to make the story
look more complicated by talking about the extent to which they’re saturated or unsaturated. So,
it’s the 16-18 carbon chain length fatty acids that have commanded most of our attention over the
years, but in more recent years, as you indicated, the middle chain, the medium chain fatty acids
12-14 are now being recognized as being probably as significant, if not more so, than the longer
chain fatty acids. But, again, that is another wrinkle that helps us to refine our estimates and in
the relationships, but there are so many of these kind of additional bits of information. There is
the question concerning the total amount of fat in the diet. I would just like to list these as it’s
kind of important. I mean, the effect of fat on disease production, whether it’s heart disease or
perhaps other disease, in so far as the fat alone is concerned, is related to the total amount of fat
being consumed. Secondly, it’s related to the degree of unsaturation, namely how much
saturated fat, how much polyunsaturated fat and how much monounsaturated fat like you find in
olive oil. So the degree of saturation is important, and also chain length, which we just talked
about. Chain length is yet another factor that seems to be significant here, and then there is the
question concerning the positioning of these unsaturated bonds in the fatty acid which are usually
characterized by where the position is relative to the end of the fatty acid chain and we have
referred to them as omega 3’s, omega 6’s and omega 9’s. So, the question concerning omega 3’s
and omega 6’s and the ratio thereof is still yet another factor. I just listed a whole bunch of
different factors here along with the fats, that all are known to play some role.
SJ: Can more information be found in your book, The China Study?
TCC: Yes it can be, and it gets pretty complex. You know, looking at all these details, and quite
frankly, you know these details become less important when we consume a low fat diet because
in a low fat diet these relationships become almost unimportant. It’s one of the arguments for
low fat diet. If we’re going to be consuming a high fat diet, then we’re supposed to be picking
and choosing things.
SJ: Additional dietary cholesterol beyond what we make is found only in animal foods, never
TCC: Yes, cholesterol is never found in plants, only in animal foods.
SJ: Is it necessary to take cholesterol lowering drugs to clear arteries?
TCC: For the most part, no. I am not a physician, and I think there is some evidence that in
people with traditionally very high levels of cholesterol, we know that they can take cholesterol
lowering drugs and we can see some decrease in the cholesterol levels. There is no question
about that. Cholesterol lowering drugs do lower cholesterol in many instances, but the fact
remains that we can also get a lowering of cholesterol, a substantial lowering of cholesterol, by
switching our diet from an animal based one to a plant based one. Especially a diet involving
whole plant based foods, in which case the importance of these cholesterol lowering drugs is
much less. To answer your question, I suspect that there are people who can’t change, refuse to
change, or who can’t get their cholesterol levels down even if they do change and they still have
these very high cholesterol levels. I can see a case being made for using cholesterol lowering
drugs to some extent.
TCC: I mean there are certain people who are genetically predisposed to having really high
cholesterol. We call them familial hypercholesterolemia: it runs in the family. In those
situations, sure, I suppose you can use some artificial means to get it down if you can’t get it
down by natural means, but I think getting cholesterol levels down to their appropriate levels by
natural means is far, far more important.
SJ: Could you describe the work of the medical doctor Caldwell Esselstyn that you have
touched on already.
TCC: Yes, Dr. Esselstyn is a very eminent physician and surgeon who did virtually all of his
practice at the Cleveland Clinic, the famous Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland often rated as #1 in
the country for heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn was loaded with awards and a very distinguished
career. He did a lot of operations, and finally, in the 1980’s decided that all of his operations for
heart surgery and other sorts of issues were not likely to lead to less heart attacks and less heart
problems, and so, he decided to organize a study of heart disease patients where he basically
changed their diets to a low-fat plant based diet. He did it on the basis of his knowledge at the
time, and we didn’t know each other at that time, of course. But in any event, he did this study
and started out with 18 patients with advanced heart disease, really seriously with heart disease,
who had collectively had 49 coronary events in the previous eight years. They were very sick.
He put them on this low-fat, plant based diet. He started them out also on some cholesterol
lowering drugs just to make sure that the high cholesterol got down and you could demonstrate
that to them. But in any case, he started out these people on that kind of diet, and they stayed
with it; mostly because he stayed with them. He met with them frequently, every two weeks I
think. He took their cholesterol levels often and really stayed on top of it so he could be assured
that they were complying, and so, 20 years later, those 18 patients middle to older age at the time
they started, have gone from 49 coronary events in the previous eight years to zero over the next
20. Three people have died but not from coronary disease. His results, I think, are perhaps the
most remarkable results of this kind in the medical literature of the last century.
SJ: I have here some images of coronary angiograms of the distal left anterior descending
artery before and after beginning a plant based diet and this is in one of his later patient’s without
any cholesterol lowering medication. Could you describe what they show?
TCC: This fellow he followed very closely, one of his colleagues actually at the Cleveland
Clinic who I think at the time was about in his middle 40s who developed some difficulties. He
just was able to show that, as you said, by simply getting him to change his diet, he saw this
rather remarkable change and the arteries started to open up. He did these kinds of angiograms
using reasonably sophisticated medical techniques to actually examine his patients. Not only did
they get the results that they desired in terms of how they felt, but also with respect to the
elimination of the angina pains that they often had. He not only resolved those problems for
them in a practical sense, but then he went to much more sophisticated scientifically advanced
techniques to show that, in fact, these arteries were absolutely opening up. So, to see in these
pictures it’s very visible. You can see an opening of the arteries. There could be a huge increase
in blood flow and that can occur pretty fast. He has done this with some friends of mine. Not
with respect to the pictures, but he has taken friends of mine who have had angina or other heart
problems and put them on this and really has had remarkable results.
SJ: So, Dr. Esselstyn took patients who were scheduled for bypass surgery and helped them
change their diets with the result that they didn’t need bypass surgery any longer.
TCC: Right. Just recently, I obviously can’t use the name of the individual, but it’s a friend of
mine I sent to him who had had bypass surgery about 10 years ago, and he’s an older man. He’s
73 now, and as I said about 10 years ago he had bypass surgery because he had heart pains,
atherosclerosis and so forth, and he has kind of lived with that over the last 10 years. He tried to
change his diet a little bit, not a lot. I told him about it but he only changed a little bit. Well,
recently, it got worse. His angina reappeared, and he went to the hospital, a very famous
hospital, and they told him they could do an operation on him but they were concerned that if
they did he might not survive. It was that advanced. So obviously, he was alarmed. He called
me up and I said, ‘Look, you have to do see Dr. Esselstyn, it’s time for you to go see him’, and
so he did. I just happened to have visited this man a week ago in his home, and his cholesterol
level has dropped down to 110 after changing his diet. His LDL level is down to something like
40. It’s amazing. Of course, he’s pleased. His angina for the most part now is gone, and here
was a man really in advanced stages. The doctors still wanted to do bypass surgery on him.
They urged him to do that, and he didn’t know if he wanted to do that, especially when they told
him he might not survive. That’s when he called me, and so, I said you have an option, you can
go do this surgery or you can go see Esselstyn. He went to see Esselstyn and he has gotten these
results. He’s been a very prominent man in this town by the way for many years, but I won’t
give his name.
SJ: I believe you showed an image of the angiogram in your book as well as describing more
of Dr. Esselstyn’s work in the book, The China Study.
TCC: Yes. I have heard Dr. Esselstyn speak on a number of occasions. We have spoken
together at different conferences and other meetings and I just am so impressed, and others are
too. Here is a very famous doctor who steps outside of his profession in a sense and did
TCC: Yes. I also have to tell you something about Dr. Esselstyn. His father before him was a
famous doctor. He was the first director of the forerunner organization to the Medicare Program
and was appointed by President Kennedy. His wife’s father was a very famous surgeon at the
Cleveland Clinic. He was largely given responsibility for bringing under control the radical
mastectomy operations they were doing in those days. He kind of stepped outside of the realm
of his practice too and took that on. His wife’s grandfather is the founder of the Cleveland
Clinic. Dr. Esselstyn is so prominent that one could arguably say that he’s Mr. Cleveland Clinic:
the #1 heart hospital in the world. He’s president of his National Society, and he recently had me
to speak in grand rounds at the Cleveland Clinic. So, when I was there on the campus, I gave the
seminar in the building that’s beautiful, a big building; a real monument to someone. It’s called
the Crile Building. It’s named after Esselstyn’s wife’s grandfather who founded the Cleveland
Clinic. This man with such prominence, such personal distinction and such, quite frankly,
humility as well (some of his colleagues kind of poked fun at him as Dr. Sprouts) just went
outside of the realm of his field. He’s a man of great courage. Most importantly, he’s a man
with a lot of compassion for his patients, and he got these results. He’s the doctor’s doctor. He’s
the physician for the former president of the American Medical Association. He’s the physician
for some associates of the Board of Trustees at the Cleveland Clinic. It’s not like they don’t
know him. They know him, and if they want to go to a real doctor, they go to him. But you
know, I find it so troubling that somehow I give lectures and I ask how many people have heard
of Esselstyn and it’s almost no one. It’s shameful.
SJ: Have other medical doctors besides Dr. Esselstyn stepped beyond the conventional to
recommend complementary dietary changes to improve health?
TCC: Yes. There are an increasing number of people who are doing that these days. Probably,
Dr. Dean Ornish is best known. He did something similar to Esselstyn but he also used stress
management exercise as part of his program, and he would have people come there and do it for
a week or two to see what benefits they got. He got some good results also. He published them
after one year a fairly short period of time. He certainly has published his technique widely, and
so the Ornish diet, in fact, Dean Ornish is known much more than Caldwell Esselstyn although
Esselstyn’s work is of longer standing, and I think more dramatic. Then there are people like Dr.
John McDougall who has had thousands of patients. I think he most recently told me he almost
has had 8,000 patients already run through his program at his clinic where he treats people with
this kind of diet for all kind of conditions and gets remarkable results on things like rheumatoid
arthritis, diabetes. These kinds of things are resolved pretty cleanly for most people, to say
nothing of heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer.
SJ: Dr. McDougall is also a medical doctor?
TCC: Yes. McDougall is an M.D., and he got his medical degree at one of the big ten schools
and then went west and eventually to Hawaii and he started there and he was practicing. At a
fairly young age, he had a problem himself. He had a stroke when, I believe, he was 19, and so,
he had to come face to face with his own mortality. He got obviously very interested and
eventually found that this kind of diet had remarkable effects and has spent most of his life out
there vigorously pursuing it and showing remarkable results. Again, often, almost always
considered outside of his profession, sadly, when he should be at the core of the profession. He
should be leading all the others. There are still others: Dr. Terry Shintani, from Hawaii, a very
compassionate, generous, M.D.; he has a law degree, and M.D. and Doctors of Public Health. He
does this in Hawaii. He has had a clinic there and is doing something very similar. There are
many others, like Dr. Michael Croft. One of the more interesting ones that I have met in recent
times is a young man, relatively young man in Oklahoma by the name of Dr. Neal Nedley who
finished up his M.D. when he was 23. A very bright guy and married somewhere along the lines
a woman who was good at physical therapy. That was her thing, and so together they have been
in medicine, and he ended up in a place in Ardmore, Oklahoma where he became quite well
known for being just a really good general doctor and internist and now he has turned his
attention to using so called lifestyle medicine in his practice where he basically has patients
come to him with all kinds of problems. He really gets serious about urging them to try the
dietary approach instead of the drug approach, and he’s getting remarkable results. In fact, the
results that he has been getting with this kind of diet have had a substantial effect on reducing
signs of clinical depression. A lot of patients who come to him with serious problems have real
clinical depression, and with this diet, he has had a substantial effect on reducing clinical
depression. So he has written a book on it.
In any case, Dr. Nedley and his wife and another woman who had a health food store in Ardmore
have now built a new facility. A beautiful facility, it’s like a café, health food store, grocery
store, and a beautiful place in the back for holding lectures and cooking demonstrations and
things like that. Dr. Nedley has this practice, and he’s actually getting referrals from other
doctors to him for what he has been able to achieve. So, he filled up his office with patients. So,
now the last thing I have heard, he has three other colleagues who have joined him, other
medical doctors. Now they’re a group of four. They can’t keep up with the patient supply. I
mean, it’s really working. The results he’s getting with this kind of diet are absolutely brilliant.
I see this sort of being the future of medicine in many ways.
SJ: It’s becoming the case that now that the pathfinders have shown the way in how
beneficial this approach of improving diet can be, people are building substantial practices by
advocating dietary improvements.
TCC: Good way to put it, and you know that didn’t happen a few short years ago, and I think to
some extent a lot of credit needs to be given to Dr. Nedley because of his personal charisma.
He’s a very pleasant fellow, and I am sure that a doctor of that kind has a better chance of
making this work than others maybe, but he’s also a very competent doctor, and he’s getting
results regardless of his personality. He found that, I think the figure that he was giving me was
something like half his patients took him seriously and went home and really changed their diet,
and that is the half that he worked with to see the results. There was something like another
quarter who tried maybe halfheartedly or incompletely, and then there’s always a quarter of the
people who don’t want to do it. But in any event, if you get half the people to do it or maybe
three quarters of the people to do it, listen carefully and do it and see the results, that is enough.
He’s going to get a lot of patients coming to him for that reason. There are other young people,
some students in my class have gone on and are starting to do the same thing. My own son is
now going into medicine, the one who wrote the book with me, Tom. That is exactly what he
wants to do. So I think there is a whole generation of young people that are coming along now
and they now know that not only is this information reliable and useful, they’re young enough to
start off their careers in this area and make it work. I have to say that is where the real hope is;
getting these young people who are into medicine. There is another young woman who was in
my class some three years ago now is in Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse and she intends to
do the same thing. It’s going to spread with these young people who know how to do it.
SJ: Milk is meant to grow calves from 60 to 600 pounds or more in under a year. What do
you think of the study claiming that dairy milk products can be used to increase the loss of
adipose or fat tissue.
TCC: That is a ridiculous claim and it’s also now being challenged officially, legally, and in
fact, one of the big dairy companies that was making that claim has withdrawn it. But it went
through a period for a few months where we all had to hear about this relationship between dairy
and obesity. It was on all the TV shows and radio shows, and the dairy industry spent huge
amounts of money and they can put it out there regardless of the evidence, and finally, the
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. One particular person on that committee wrote
a paper summarizing all the evidence, a former student of mine who has been there as a director
of nutrition. She did an excellent job summarizing all of the evidence and it turned out that only
about two of those 17 studies were relevant to this question in one way or another; only two of
them actually showed an effect. It turned out that both of those studies that showed a beneficial
effect of dairy and reduced obesity were done by the same research group and were funded by
the dairy industry, but even worse, the study was structured in such a way they did not, in fact,
even record baseline calorie intake which is always a consideration. So, there was no way to
make the conclusion that they were making. How it got published, I don’t know, but it did, and
it was on that basis of extremely flimsy and quite frankly, unreliable evidence that the dairy
industry went out and spent millions of dollars to put the story across the land. Of course, they
have been challenged now in respect to a lawsuit, and one of the big dairy companies has already
conceded, they’re not going to say it anymore. Yet, that story is sad because, quite frankly, they
were out there long enough to now cause a lot of people in this country to think that dairy might
just be able to reduce obesity in children and dairy is good thing to now put in schools instead of
the cokes. That is what all this leads to, even though it’s a false claim. This is a sad commentary
on our entire society as far as I am concerned.
SJ: Well, that the dairy industry could basically pay for the advertising and has connections
to get the appearances on shows an promote that thread, a very fragile thread of evidence,
evidence in quotes, that really got later disproved so that many people got the idea without
hearing about the lawsuit.
TCC: Absolutely, that is my point.
SJ: And withdrawal of the claim.
TCC: That doesn’t get publicized very likely.
SJ: What would be a sound strategy for weight loss?
TCC: Quite frankly, from many different perspectives and on the basis of a variety of evidence,
the best way to go is just a total dietary and lifestyle change. I am talking about really lots of
things working together. Consuming a low fat plant based diet for various biological reasons and
biochemical reasons can lead to a reduction in body weight. It may not be the really rapid kind
that you get simply by all of a sudden consuming far less calories for a bit of time, but it
gradually decreases and decreases in a very healthy manor so that the body begins to adapt and
so eventually staying on that one can keep their weight under control, provided, of course that
they also add to this some reasonable amount of exercise. That is the lifestyle component and at
the same time, if they have a stressful life, trying to keep that a little bit under control so that
they’re not in a sense driven to eat more than they should be eating because of their stress which
is obviously a relationship. So, it’s a lifestyle thing but the low fat plant based diet is a very good
starting place and it probably is the central player in this constellation of diet and lifestyle things.
That will lead to a lower body weight that can be sustained. That is the most important part of it.
It can be sustained, and in the process, not only do they lose weight, but they lower the risk for
just an enormous number of different diseases that tend to be associated with obesity for
SJ: Many years ago, I was 50 pounds heavier with adipose tissue, and I gave up milk
products to lower saturated fat intake and cholesterol intake. Well, that seemed to really be the
key to allow me to begin losing weight, and that was before I went vegan. Just giving up the
milk products, and so, here’s a before and after picture. It has been very gratifying to feel lighter
and to be able to get around more readily.
TCC: That is interesting, I also today weigh 45 pounds less than I once did, and I lost much of
that, of course I am older and one tends to lose some weight as you get older obviously, but not
always. I actually, lost most of this as I really changed my diet too.
SJ: Now as a vegan it’s very easy to maintain an ideal, for me, weight.
TCC: Absolutely. And also, I suspect you still remain physically active.
SJ: That’s it.
TCC: One of the interesting things about this diet and exercise thing, people sometimes will
ask this question, you know, ‘how important is exercise?’ Well, we can’t really quantitate things
quite that way, but the two working together is very interesting. The two working together create
a result that is greater than the sum of the parts, if you will, and there’s some very interesting
physiology and chemistry going on here. If people eat right, a low fat type of diet and taking
into consideration calorie intake and so forth, and look at the blood chemistry, this actually leads
to a distribution of energy in the body in favor or a greater urge to have physical activity. We
did this kind of study in rats, and when switched to a low protein diet, for example, they can
actually consume more calories and gain less weight: maintain lower body weight and they can
gain excess calories. What happens is that some of those extra calories they consume in a larger
fraction actually go off as body heat instead of body fat, and some of it goes off to stimulate
them to exercise. So if you offer them a wheel to spin a wheel beside their cage, they actually
exercise a lot more, voluntarily exercise.
SJ: So that is actually contrary to the mythical belief that you need the animal protein to get
SJ: To have high metabolic activity.
TCC: Absolutely. These are animal experiments, and that is what came about. If you start
looking at humans to see how they correspond, we did things with the animals incidentally to
find out some interesting things. The animals consuming less protein are consuming more
oxygen. This is very interesting. So they ended up having a higher BMR and then of course,
they expended more of the calories in two ways. First, they had a little higher BMR, so calories
came off as body heat, and secondly, some of these calories were used to stimulate exercise. So
you start thinking of this in the context of humans. You know, the same thing is happening, but
then on top of it, let’s say you tell the person the other way around. Let’s say they’re way
overweight. ‘Why don’t you go exercise?’ So they go exercise, with difficulty usually, but
they’re exercising: doing the best they can. As they lose their weight they get stimulated to want
to eat differently. Their taste preferences begins to change too. So, the exercise in a sense
almost can lead to dietary changes in the right direction, and dietary changes in the right
direction can lead to more appropriate exercise patterns.
SJ: You don’t have to exercise and start off from 0 and go to an hour and a half a day.
SJ: Just anything, 5 minutes.
SJ: 20 minutes, 10 minutes.
TCC: Whatever you can do reasonably comfortably but pushing it just a little bit, staying with
it. The two together, it’s truly remarkable.
SJ: Or break it up, several brief walks several times a day.
TCC: Exactly, and you can also add in some components like being out in the sunshine and
making sure you get enough water and enough sleep and so forth and so on. It’s a great formula.
SJ: Are there any diseases that changing diet wouldn’t help?
TCC: I am sure there are, but I am finding it harder and harder to find such diseases. I mean
some of these genetic disorders, you know rare genetic diseases obviously, probably we can’t do
much about, maybe.
SJ: For example?
TCC: I can’t even think of some of the names of them. I think muscular dystrophy for example
might be difficult to control through diet. I don’t know that. In animals muscular dystrophic
kind of condition can be influenced by diet and maybe it can in humans too, I don’t know.
SJ: Well would a high animal product diet worsen symptoms, for example?
TCC: It would be my guess yes. That would be my guess.
SJ: So symptoms could be ameliorated even if the disease could not be reversed entirely?
TCC: I think so.
SJ: Possibly ameliorated.
TCC: Right. After thinking about this, you know, every disease you once thought was pretty
much family oriented or genetically oriented, and then with the passing of time, I think these so
called diseases kind of fall by the wayside. You can no longer explain the causation of these
diseases that way, and we see more and more evidence that even difficult diseases may be
ameliorated as you say or maybe even reversed with appropriate diet, and that is one of the
remarkable things about this diet, the diversity of response that is created. A wide spectrum of
SJ: How about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia?
TCC: Same thing, Alzheimer’s has been associated with meat consumption. It has a very strong
SJ: A tight correlation.
TCC: Pretty tight. I mean not so much correlation but was more so called case control studies.
Just asking people who had Alzheimer’s or comparable people who did not, same age, same sex
and that kind of thing, you could see a substantial increase in risk for those who consume more
meat and animal based foods. Even with things like cognitive dysfunction, a little bit of senility
if you will that can lead to Alzheimer’s and at least is associated with a higher risk of
Alzheimer’s. That too is associated with the ratio of animal to plant based foods being
consumed. It wasn’t until we actually did the book that I had an opportunity to go back and look
at some of the work of others, particularly in the context of history and it’s really quite
SJ: So with plant based foods one could possibly maintain a high level of mental acuity
throughout most of life even until quite elderly?
SJ: We have spoken about maintaining mental acuity and virility. How about other markers
TCC: Like aches and pains maybe?
TCC: I just got reaffirmed in some of this talking to a very well known physical fitness guru
who works with professional athletes a couple weeks ago as well as a book that I just recently
read on hydration. Those two experiences, reading the book about hydration, written by an M.D.
by the way, and also meeting this fitness fellow, and at the time that I was talking to him a
couple weeks ago, he was actually working with a Russian tennis star, #1 ranked tennis player in
the world who was at the Wimbledon. At that time, he was called in to see her because she was
competing at a very high level and we were having some discussions, and it turns out that on that
basis as well as on a personal basis, hydration is very important, good diet is very important. As
far as aches and pains are concerned, as one gets older everyone tends to incur a few more aches
and pains of the joints, muscles or whatever, probably not keeping in shape to be honest about it
in a large measure. I have found for myself, I do a lot of running and am very active and once in
a while I get an ache and pain. I don’t know where it comes from but every time I stop and think
about it, I haven’t drunk enough water the previous day, and so I can tell that by other sorts of
signs. If I drink enough water, it goes away. I don’t really slip off the wagon as far as my diet is
concerned ever really, so I can’t say that. I think that for older age people, we know that
rheumatoid arthritis which is an affliction of older people, of course, more than of younger
people, that is greatly attenuated by a proper diet. Dr. McDougall has shown this with lots of
people. I just ran into somebody last Tuesday night talking in Rochester. A man came up to me
at a book signing with almost tears in his eyes and was quite emotional about it. He had
somehow gotten a copy of the book somewhere along the line and his 16-year-old daughter had a
serious case of rheumatoid arthritis and she was really in a difficult way, and so she started this
diet, and he just couldn’t believe the response that she was seeing. As I say, he was really taken
by this. Of course, I pointed it out him. And she had quit dairy by the way, and I thought that
probably was one of the main things. So, I just told him and he knew this: that Dr. John
McDougall had been doing this fairly routinely. So, I wasn’t surprised to hear it but it was really
nice to hear that someone so young with that serious of a problem came to the talk. I didn’t speak
to her but you know something like rheumatoid arthritis and other kinds of arthritic conditions
are the sources of pains, very clearly, and it’s more common in older people, and I think it can
largely be controlled on the basis of the evidence that we now have. What else could we think of
with old age? We talked about impotence. We talked about mental acuity, blindness; even
people get blind for different reasons. So called macular degeneration is the chief cause of
blindness among older people. We know that has a close link to diet. Even cataracts, which are
not a fatal thing, not even necessarily a cause of blindness for the most part, but they’re common
and troublesome. That has a relationship with diet, same fashion. Animal based diet increases
the risk for cataracts. Animal based diet increases risk for macular degeneration and blindness.
SJ: So, if a person is reducing the markers or signs of aging does that mean reducing the
processes of aging or many of them?
TCC: Yes, what is age? Aging, obviously, to some extent is rusting away of our body or
deterioration of our tissues or loss of function. I mean that is part of life, and a lot of these
problems do arise and up and focus in tissue here or there and end up being called a disease of
one kind or another. So a lot of these diseases we’re talking about are age related. Obviously,
they tend to occur in older people, and can you call these diseases a sign of aging or is aging
naturally linked to these diseases? I don’t know how one would, I think to some extent this is
sort of a matter of semantics.
SJ: Maybe the animal based diet increases the rapidity of aging and the plant base slows it
SJ: Or even reverses the signs, some of the signs of aging to some extent or to a large extent
even in the case of impotence from impotence to virility.
TCC: The way I like to say it these days is this dietary effect, that is, the plant based diet,
maintains health and prevents disease simultaneously. Now, it’s a little bit redundant to say it
that way because if you are maintaining health you are obviously going to be preventing disease.
If you are preventing disease, you are likely to maintain health. I am going to throw something
else in here that has nothing to do with prevention of disease; it has to do with what we
mentioned before: mental acuity, physical activity. We know from studies of lead athletes that
there are lead athletes, and there were Olympic-type athletes who have found that their
performance is enhanced when they consume this kind of diet.
SJ: Especially endurance.
TCC: Endurance, even strength. One of the people who came to my class was a world
champion wrestler for four years, a vegan. He was a captain of the American Olympic team in
1992 and was the oldest person to win a medal in wrestling.
A vegan, he later became the executive director of the Olympic boxing team, and had me out to
speak to the team because he was so enthused about this that he wanted the whole Olympic team,
especially the boxing time which hadn’t been doing very well, to become vegans. You know,
there is evidence in the literature going back a long ways, all the way back to the ancient Greeks
that elite athleticism as well as just overall physical performance can be enhanced with this kind
Tape 5 (Interview 3a)
SJ: The Irish medical doctor Denis Burkitt came to some remarkable conclusions after serving
for 10 years as a Minister of Health in Uganda. He encountered diseases such as heart attacks
and chronic intestinal diseases mainly in people who had sojourned in the West and then
returned to Uganda. He came up with a striking quote, “Small stools, large hospitals”. What did
he mean by that?
TCC: Well, I knew Denis Burkitt by the way, and as a matter of fact, when he got a rather
prestigious award in this country for his life’s work, he invited me down to be his principle
speaker at the ceremony. He turned out to be a good friend. Unfortunately, it was just two
months before he passed away, but Dennis Burkitt was a very remarkable honest man. I had
great respect for him. He traveled, I think, something like 10,000 miles over really back country
roads all over Africa trying to find out basically something about disease and how it compared
with the West as you indicated, and he used to give these amusing seminars with that quote after
showing some pictures of stools and things like that in the West and the rural countryside. What
he really meant by it was that when people are consuming the typical western diet, low in fiber
high in fat, they’re much more likely to get constipated, compacted. The way he described it was
very quite amusing but it was tragically true that the stress and strain with that kind of diet
translated into hemorrhoids, translated into constipation, translated into other kinds of western
disease such as colon cancer, he thought at least, and in which case you need big hospitals.
In contrast, he told how the people in Africa would step off into the bush and do their business
and then back to work, and this was certainly more frequent by considerable amount than what
happens with people in the west. In his view, that was the best of medicine, that was the best of
health and you didn’t need much in the way of hospitals to take care of that problem.
SJ: Did your research in China show a relationship of animal based foods to degenerative
diseases in addition to cancer?
TCC: No, not really. What we had done was to look at all the disease rates we had, some of
which are typical western kinds of disease, some of which are typical diseases found in poor
countries which tend to be the infectious kinds of diseases and the diseases that associate with
poor public health facilities understandably, and so, we basically learned that the western kind of
diseases tended to aggregate together in the same geographic areas and the so called poor
country disease aggregated in somewhat different areas. Of course, that suggested to me that
there would be some common causes, and of course, our minds can range far and wide as to what
these common causes might be. They might be biological, they might be social, they might be
economic, they might be this, they might be that, but we had an opportunity to see, in fact, if the
biological information we had associated with this group of diseases would amount to anything.
It turned out that the western diseases were associated with blood cholesterol which in turn is
associated with animal food, to get back to you question. Cholesterol tends to go up with more
animal food consumption and it tends to go down with more plant food consumption, so we saw
a high correlation between blood cholesterol levels and the consumption of animal based food
such as meat, milk and dairy, although they didn’t consume much in the way of dairy, but there
were two or three areas that they did and hence the association. In contrast, the blood
cholesterol levels were inversely associated with dietary fiber, different kinds of dietary fibers,
legumes and the like, and that was really a very powerful observation in my view because the
cholesterol levels in China were already very low, as we’ve talked of before, going from
somewhere around 80 or 90 mg a deciliter up to about 170 or so. It was within that range as they
move from 80 to 170 that we found that as the cholesterol tends to go up it’s highly significantly
associated with the consumption of more animal food and less plant food. I know that is kind of
a long winded answer but it was an important observation especially since the range of
cholesterol that we were considering in this case was already quite low.
SJ: So did heart disease increase along with cholesterol as a marker?
TCC: Well, heart disease overall in rural China was quite low, and quite frankly, we didn’t
really see any significant heart disease when you get below let’s say about 150-160. So there
was very little heart disease present in China, and you tended to see it at the higher levels. So
that is not enough data to really make too much of that within rural China, but when you
compare this range of cholesterol with the extended range you see in the West, of course, we
know that blood cholesterol levels are highly associated with heart disease.
SJ: So in China, the range just didn’t reach anything like the high levels of cholesterol that
you see in the west.
TCC: That’s right.
SJ: And that is why the study didn’t show an increase in heart disease with cholesterol and
didn’t show a relationship of animal based food to degenerative diseases in addition to cancer?
TCC: Correct, you are absolutely right.
SJ: Just because the range of eating animal products didn’t increase enough.
TCC: That is exactly right.
SJ: Or even when people ate some animal products, they were mainly eating plant based food.
TCC: The range in China was kind of just beginning to penetrate the western range a little bit,
but only on the low side, and you don’t see much heart disease there; therefore, from an
experimental point of view, it’s hard to see an association. Interestingly, within that same range,
I must say, a number of different cancer rates also went up. Others hadn’t made much of that in
the past, and I am not sure that it had ever been reported.
SJ: So cancer might be more susceptible to animal based foods and animal fats.
TCC: Perhaps, or you know whatever it is that people are doing when they start consuming
animal based foods.
SJ: Okay, whatever correlates.
SJ: So in that regard, couldn’t getting more exercise help to keep the Chinese healthier rather
TCC: Yes, of course, exercise we know from many different studies, as you know, Sylvester,
it’s obviously very good, and we have lots of evidence to show it’s going to help to reduce the
risk of these diseases. In China, it was not something that we could look at very carefully
because virtually all the Chinese were quite active. The Chinese had a way of segregating
people into different groups for experimental purposes in so far as their exercise is concerned
ranging from those that were involved in very heavy exercise all the way down to those that were
let’s say doing office type work who were presumed to be the people who were doing the least
exercise, but even in that case, the Chinese people who supposedly go into the office went to the
office on bicycles.
SJ: So there wasn’t any group in the study that really did no exercising. So you really
couldn’t distinguish disease in relationship to exercise since everybody was getting enough
exercise to help the immune system for example?
TCC: Exactly. Precisely. It just wasn’t possible to sort of tease out that relationship and have a
very careful look at it because everybody was exercising quite a bit.
SJ: Well, how about the fact that people in third world countries don’t live as long, so they
don’t have time to develop degenerative diseases, doesn’t that invalidate the conclusions?
TCC: No, actually, it turns out that the accrued disease rates across different countries are
influenced by what proportion of each population is living to be older. Obviously, with
population of a higher proportion of older people, they’re going to have more of these kinds of
diseases. So in that case, you can’t compare one population with another in that they may differ
in age distribution. So what we do in determining statistics is to age adjust, as we say. In other
words, we weight each population according to a common base of age of distribution, and in that
particular case, then we can compare. So in effect, for example in rural China where the age
distribution might be quite different than here, what we’re doing, I think, to put it in the simplest
possible words, we’re comparing people within a fairly narrow range like all 50-55 year old
people in each society one with another. Now that is fair you see, now we’re just comparing
people of the same age bracket and determining what is their risk of getting disease. That is a
very different kind of question. Under those circumstances, we can compare different
populations by doing that, and incidentally, virtually all data are done that way these days. So in
most studies, you will see that it has been done.
SJ: So do the results of the China study support the relationship of animal based foods to
SJ: Even though you don’t know what else it might it might correlate with?
TCC: That is true.
SJ: You talk about exercise, what about pollution or something like that? Is there anything
else that could correlate that would invalidate the results?
TCC: I mean those other factors from some other different kinds of studies you know are
proposed from time to time to relate to cancer especially the presence of environment chemicals
that are mischievous and bad, but we really didn’t have a chance to measure that kind of thing
really. So in exercise, of course, we were limited there too, but we could, of course, look at the
relationship between diet and disease rates, and in spite of what those other factors may or may
not be doing, it’s clear that diet does have an effect. Incidentally, the effect that we see, again, as
we have talked before, is a very broad based effect involving animal foods in general, and that, in
turn compares favorably with more discriminating kinds of studies that might be done on
selected groups of people in other types of studies.
SJ: In India, a higher percentage of the population consumes milk products than in China. Do
they get cancer more often than the Chinese, do you happen to know?
TCC: No, I don’t know that. I just don’t know what the comparison is between India and China.
I do know that in India they’re having a problem with heart disease these days, higher than what
otherwise would have been expected I think, especially in regard to the fact that India tends to
consume more plant based foods than in China. They have a history and a culture that is rather
friendly to consuming vegetarian types of diets, and many Indians are that way, but they’re
getting more heart disease than what they want and a lot of this is attributed to the fact that
they’re consuming a lot of ghee, you know the dairy fat. They really use a lot of that, and that
certainly is contributing to some of it.
SJ: So if they’re using ghee rather than the whole milk product, the protein part of it, as much,
then they would be more susceptible to heart disease than cancer.
SJ: Because of their consumption of dairy.
TCC: Perhaps. There are some studies now going on in India trying to analyze that question
more carefully, but I am just not familiar with the results enough to comment.
SJ: How about throughout the world, do people in areas with higher consumption of milk
products also experience higher cancer rates?
TCC: Yes they do. If you plot dairy consumption, which incidentally is only consumed by a
minority proportion of the population of the world, but if you compare dairy consumption across
different societies and cancer rates, you see more cancer rates, more heart disease, and more
diabetes in countries that consume more dairy.
SJ: And more osteoporosis?
TCC: More osteoporosis too.
SJ: More hip fractures?
TCC: Exactly. But you know there is another factor in the whole dairy association that should be
mentioned. That is, and this is kind of interesting, dairy tends to be consumed obviously in the
temperate zones of the world rather than the tropical zones. It’s much more commonly
consumed in the temperate zones, and to the extent that dairy is consumed in the tropical zones,
it tends to be more fermented and much less is consumed. It turns out cows grow better in colder
climates. They don’t accommodate so well in warm climates except for a couple of different
breeds, and as you get to the northern climates where cow’s milk is consumed, that is also the
region where sunlight exposure is less. Sunlight, of course, produces vitamin D in the skin, and
we know now that vitamin D is important in helping to prevent cancer. So there is, at the present
time, quite a discussion in literature about the role of the lack of vitamin D being associated with
these diseases which tends to coincide with the simultaneous presence of more dairy.
SJ: Vitamin D would be more associated with osteoporosis rather than cancer?
TCC: Actually, yes, it always has been discussed primarily in context of osteoporosis, but now
we know too that vitamin D is important in preventing cancer. Although that is a relationship
that has to be considered very carefully because it’s really the vitamin D that is transported to
the liver in which case it’s metabolized to hydroxy form and then subsequently is stored in the
liver also. Then it’s transported again to the kidney where a very tiny, tiny fraction of it’s
converted one step further to so called dihydroxy vitamin D, and it’s that form, that latter form
that is very, very important in a number of different events in the body, not the least of which
tends to prevent the conversion or the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells. So, it’s
important to have adequate amounts of the dihydroxy vitamin D. That raises a very fascinating
question, how do you make sure you have enough of the so called highly active dihydroxy
vitamin D that is being produced in the kidney? Well, the body is another place where nature’s
really developed for itself a rather wonderful scenario of reactions to make sure we always have
enough of this latter product if we have enough vitamin D in the first place. We can get enough
vitamin D if we get adequate exposure to sunshine. But in those situations where people may be
restricted; they don’t get enough sunshine, they’re in cities or whatever, they don’t get enough
sunshine, they don’t get enough of vitamin D and therefore, they suffer not having enough, and
that is what lead to the movement several decades ago of supplementing vitamin D in dairy
products especially and now some other foods too. The story gets kind of complicated, but one
of the interesting things about dairy and vitamin D that I find interesting is that that dairy
obviously is a good source of protein and as we talked before, the protein animal in origin, of
course, tends to create a metabolic acidosis decreased in the pH a bit and that metabolic acidosis
actually impedes the conversion of the hydroxy form of vitamin D in the liver to the kidney from
the dihydroxy that is really needed. So, when one is consuming animal protein based foods it
tends to repress the formation of that very important last product of vitamin D which in turn
raises the risk for cancer and these other things: osteoporosis and the like. So it’s a really
interesting network of reactions that as far as the bottom line is concerned goes back to the
consumption of animal protein based foods as being a single factor. So, you go to the northern
climates, you get less sunlight, let’s say, you see more cancer and immediately people want to
attribute that to the factor that they’re not getting enough sunlight, not enough D, but by the same
token, they’re consuming more dairy which in turn is going to negatively impact the vitamin D
activity that is there and is limited in the first place. It’s really quite a fascinating story.
Fascinating story of how, in this case, the food is interacting with an environmental condition to
create together a compromised situation that can lead to cancer.
SJ: So, actually, the biological science, the biological plausibility is the relationship between
D and milk products and the population studies varying. All of these come together to show an
even stronger support for the hypothesis that dairy is correlated with cancer.
TCC: Absolutely, I think this is one of the parts of science that I particularly like, looking for
that context and to see if, in fact, the observations we may make in a test tube or in a lab or in a
single experiment, all of that correlates with other things and to see if it fits so to speak. As in
what you just said, especially in reference to dairy, sunlight, vitamin D and cancer, it’s all kind
of coming together.
SJ: I’m looking at a different kind of study. Could you please describe the Physician’s Health
Study and the Health Professional Study and the association those studies found from milk
products with prostate cancer.
TCC: They did some work obviously on that question and found a relationship specifically in
their study between dairy consumption and prostate cancer, but more to the point, I think, really
one of the most eminent members of that group, Dr. Ed Giovannucci. Actually, it covers some
very nice work not only in sort of formulating hypotheses and explanations of how all this works
but concluded after summarizing a number of different studies on the relationship between dairy
and prostate cancer that concluded with his colleague, Dr. June Chan, that when you look at all
these studies together, dairy is the most significant factor in so far as it’s association with
prostate cancer is concerned, and Dr. Giovannucci, in fact, I think, gave a very nice description
of possibly how that could work. I liked it because it just made a lot of biological sense. I think
SJ: Does bovine leukemia virus pose a threat to humans?
TCC: It’s said to by a number of different people. I am just not familiar enough with the data,
and I think the data is a bit sparse on this question, but there are some who will argue with me
and say no it’s getting pretty strong these days, and they will cite certain evidence to say it is.
This is the kind of thing, talking about the transmission of an infectious agent, if you will, from
one species to another and then in turn relating that to the presence or the absence of disease. It
takes a big study and it takes time to see that kind of thing, but it certainly is a plausible
hypothesis. There is no question about that.
SJ: It’s of interest that it has been supported by a study that the virus crosses species and
infects chimpanzees, an animal model of course, very close to humans, and also that a majority
of dairy herds are infected and that dairy farmers experience a higher rate of leukemia.
TCC: I have heard of some of those studies. You know maybe more about than I do in this case.
That certainly sounds a little alarming, I wouldn’t say necessarily convincing but it certainly is
indicative of a real problem here.
SJ: Whether people have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, the excess sugar makes the blood more
like molasses than freer flowing normal blood so that the thickened, more viscous blood fluid
damages fragile tissues and restricts nutrient and waste flows throughout the body. How can
changing diets help diabetics?
TCC: There’s really some very convincing work and it goes back many, many years, back to the
1920s at least, showing that in diabetics, Type 2 diabetics in this case, adult onset insulin
independent Diabetes is commonly found in adults. Those individuals when they’re put on a
high fiber diet, plant based, can really bring that disease largely under control, and that kind of
information has been popping up from time to time for 60-70 years, and now we know from a
number of clinics and other studies that the effect is really quite remarkable and convincing.
SJ: Besides Type 1 diabetes, even multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disease such as
rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are associated with animal products. Does any food stand out as
TCC: This is, first off, looking at the information on those autoimmune diseases, I am intrigued
by the fact that those diseases tend to occur in regions of the world where dairy is consumed.
They also tend to occur in areas, as we said before, of the world where there is less sunlight. So,
I think, it’s very possible, and it’s looking at it very broadly, that dairy has a support and
association with a number of these different diseases and people have published on this. Some
work in France, I know was published maybe about 15 years ago on that question and earlier
about 20 years ago others have published on it, and so, they see these general relationships which
certainly raises ones consciousness about the fact that the association between dairy and the
presence of these autoimmune diseases is real. Then in the last 10 years, 15 years perhaps at the
most, some very good biochemists have begun to tackle this question and have looked at the
biochemical events going on in the formation of these kinds of diseases: lupus, MS, we have a
model in animals that mimics the MS situation and mimics the lupus situation and also the
rheumatoid arthritis situation. These are pretty good models. It’s an autoimmune disease that
has been created in such a way that animals can get that disease, and so now they’re beginning to
study some of the mechanisms associated with the formation of that disease in these particular
animals, and it turns out in that particular case, once again, it’s the vitamin D connection which
in turn has the connection to animal protein, in turn has the connection with the dairy, that all
supports what we generally see on a population basis. So, it’s too early to really put your finger
on it and say ‘okay this is the food that causes one of those diseases necessarily’, but I don’t
particularly like to do that anyhow with any disease, any diet-disease connection, but broadly
speaking, the dairy connection is getting to be very convincing. In my view, it’s not just the
presence of dairy but it’s also perhaps the presence of other animal foods too, and the extent to
which those kinds of foods work on one of those autoimmune diseases might, in fact, differ
obviously under different circumstances. It may be stronger for one disease than for another
disease, but is quite clear that the biochemistry and also the comparative population data that
those two groups of that kind of evidence when coupled together, say that dairy has the potential
of a really serious problem here as far as those diseases are concerned. There is one other factor
in those diseases that we have to take into consideration maybe more so than other diseases, and
that is genetic background. It turns out that especially in Type 1 diabetes with children. The
children who are likely to be susceptible to these effects we’re talking about, the dairy, etc., there
is a subset of children who do appear to have a rather different genetic makeup that can in fact be
measured in these people, and so it’s sort of a genetically susceptible subgroup of the population
that seem to be susceptible. That is very clear, but it’s not clear how that genetic predisposition
is really translated into susceptibility but there is genetic component here, I think, that is
probably pretty important.
SJ: Even without dairy proteins triggering the autoimmune problems?
TCC: That is open to question. I don’t know that.
SJ: No research has been done in that area?
TCC: There is some research that suggests from what I have seen that genetically susceptible
babies, in this case, who don’t go on dairy, don’t get the disease.
SJ: So you have seen a study?
TCC: Yes, we have seen this kind of thing. It seems to me, I think many would argue we need
to see more of this kind of information to really become convinced of that, but of the evidence
that I have seen, you see this. So, I think it leads to this notion that we talked about before that
all of these biological events whether they’re pathological or physiological you know disease or
health and these events really are starting with DNA which is the main component of genes. It
starts that way and we all have the presence of perhaps the wrong kind of genes on occasion
either because we’re born with them or because they’re acquired during our lifetime, and those
diseases even though we may have them it turns out we can learn to control their expression, and
this is one of the instances I think where this is beginning to play out. Children who have that
genetic predisposition and are exposed to dairy are going to be at very much higher risk of
getting Type 1 diabetes. That is quite clear, and if they don’t have dairy then they’re much lower
risk maybe equivalent to those who are not, in fact, genetically predisposed.
SJ: It’s a tragic price to pay for wearing a white mustache.
TCC: Yes, it’s especially for the African American race. I mean the African Americans we
know as well as the Latin Americans, and this is true for Asians too, but in our continent, I think,
the Latin Americans and Hispanics have been probably studied most. In any event, those two
ethnic groups have a very high lactose intolerance, and we have known that for a long time.
With blacks for example in the United States, the percentage of people who are lactose intolerant
is somewhere around 75-85%, with Hispanics it’s probably higher, and unfortunately, you find
some black celebrities agreeing to put the mustache on their face, and surely, they don’t know. I
don’t believe that they’re obviously aware of this information, but they have been co-opted into
the system with money, I’m sure.
SJ: Particularly counter-productive.
TCC: It’s very counter-productive and obviously in their case they’re not doing their own race
any good, let alone other races. The white mustache thing you could say, I guess, is a great
marketing tool but that is really all it was, it had nothing to do with health. It was money.
SJ: I hope the word gets out so that people don’t make the mistake of promoting it any longer.
SJ: Could you describe the work of the medical doctor Joel Fuhrman?
TCC: Yes, Dr. Fuhrman is a productive, interesting physician. He incidentally was a world
class ice skater and was in championships, and so, you can say he’s an elite athlete as well. Joel,
who I know personally, has become very interested in a couple things. He has become interested
in the plant based diet and in even for the most part raw food plant based diet kind of thing. He
also has become interested in the idea of fasting, water-only fasting, and he has published a book
on each of those things. He has recently also published a book on this kind of diet for youngsters
in pediatric age groups. Joel is very much, I mean he and I and Dr. McDougall and many others
are in the same camp in general. I think Dr. Fuhrman, if there is a difference between Dr.
Fuhrman and myself, it’s that he tends to favor a little more of the nutrient supplements. He’s a
little quicker to use those than I would, but he’s a physician and I am not, so, I think it’s
something that we have to continue look at, maybe he’s right, but at the present time, I am not
quite as enthusiastic for the use of supplements as he is.
SJ: When does undigested dairy galactose form deposits in the lenses of the eyes forming
TCC: I don’t know. It has something to do with lactose metabolism or digestion hydrolysis into
its two components. Lactose being a disaccharidant to galactose and glucose, it’s the galactose
component that seems to be involved in this, but I, quite frankly, have just forgotten what the
details of that galactose pathway is.
SJ: Well, if people were to eliminate the source of the galactose…
TCC: Yes, of course.
SJ: Mainly removing the lactose in dairy can…
SJ: Indeed, ameliorate the problem.
TCC: Yes, absolutely.
SJ: Many people develop partial blindness due to degeneration of the macula, the tissue that
receives light in the eye. One of the main causes of macular degeneration is free radical damage
that can be prevented by antioxidants. What roles to free radicals and protective antioxidants
play in other diseases?
TCC: I think the free radical idea which was born under obviously controversial conditions,
(I was, in fact, involved in those early discussions myself) is fairly recent, but free radical
activity I think is really one of the great areas to think about in terms of disease formation
because free radicals are highly oxidative as you know well and highly oxidative reactions can
amount to rusting and so in a sense, if we have a lot of free radicals in our body it’s only
exacerbating the rusting of our body and aging of our body which is not good and plays a role in
cancer, plays a role in heart disease, plays a role in this, plays a role in that. I mean a lot of
diseases are exacerbated by the presence of free radicals and the formation of free radicals is in
part a natural process but in nature in our bodies the free radicals that can be formed in some of
these complex reactions tend to be controlled quite a lot, and so they don’t cause mischief, and
one might even argue at low levels maybe they’re doing something worthwhile to simulate our
bodies to work in certain ways, but obviously we tend to produce excess free radicals. Then you
can ask the question ‘well, how do you get excess free radicals and that kind of damage?’ Well,
one way to get excess free radicals not to consume enough of the antioxidants of plants. So, if
you don’t consume enough plants, you don’t get enough antioxidants in order to impede the
activity of these pro-oxidants or free radicals which is an imbalance of antioxidants and pro-
oxidants, and we have some evidence too that animal foods, protein in particular, stimulate the
performance of pro-oxidants or free radicals. So it’s coming back to kind of balance between
animal and plant foods, but as far as these specific radicals are concerned or specific antioxidants
are concerned, we can’t put our finger just on one kind of free radical; there are many different
kinds or one kind of antioxidant. It’s a whole family of antioxidants and free radicals that are
competing with each other.
SJ: Do plant antioxidants play a role in tissue repair?
TCC: Well, they should certainly prevent further degradation. As far as repair is concerned, I
think if you are talking about damage that already occurred that lead to scar tissue and fibrotic
tissue and things like that and that’s what free radical activity can do. If that kind of tissue has
been formed, no, I don’t know of any evidence that antioxidants can necessarily repair scar
tissue, but it certainly can stop the whole situation right there. There is evidence though,
interestingly, that you can have scar tissue, within the cell or between cells or at the tissue level,
that can be overgrown; let’s say you put it right and it can be overgrown by normal tissue which
would tend to make it look like it’s disappearing. But as far as this specific chemical reaction is
concerned of actually repairing that, let’s say converting a fibrotic tissue back to a normal tissue,
I am not aware of any evidence that that can actually occur; but maybe that is a moot academic
point to some extent because if you are going down the wrong road and you have scar tissue and
it’s accumulating and all of a sudden you change your diet, and you say, ‘ok put the brakes on,’
you stop it, and then subsequently, the normal tissue’s encouraged to grow and gradually covers
SJ: Let’s say that the liver or the kidney has gotten to a large extent dysfunctional but not
necrotic; can plant antioxidants help the body repair that tissue?
TCC: I am going to say yes.
SJ: In sense of increasing functionality and getting themselves more vibrant.
TCC: I am going to say yes but I can’t give you any specific reaction that occurred to me
SJ: Without supporting research, the instinct is yes.
TCC: My instinct says yes, but I have to put my critical scientific hat on in this case, and I can’t
tell you specific reactions. I have to think about that a little bit.
SJ: But switching diets to plant based diet could help.
TCC: Oh, yes.
SJ: Just to eliminate the disease promoter would help?
TCC: That is right.
SJ: And whatever good phytochemicals that are in plants might also help?
SJ: So as far as plant antioxidants per se, research is yet to be done. All plants contain
protein. Does eating a variety of whole and refined plant based food provide plenty of the
essential protein building blocks so that we can make all the proteins we need?
TCC: Absolutely. If we’re consuming a good plant based diet with lots of variety as you have
just indicated, meaning the whole foods, the bran layer of cereal grains has protein and that is
good, the flour on the inside of the grain does not, not to any significant extent; so we have to eat
the whole grains A. B, We should be eating the other portions of the plant, the leafy material is
rich in protein, so are the things like I call the flowers and buds of cauliflower. They also have
some protein. Of course, one of the richest sources of protein indicates the seeds, the bean, the
legumes, especially legumes. There is a plant that is drawing nitrogen from the air, able to
convert the nitrogen in the air to organic nitrogen or protein, and so it becomes quite rich. So
things like soy, peas and peanuts and things like that and other kind of beans are a good source of
protein, lot of protein, plenty of protein.
SJ: What do you mean when you write ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’?
TCC: Well, it’s one plus one equals four or five or six or ten instead of two. Things work
together. Statistically speaking, we talk about interactions. You know you can actually measure
interactions at times with this kind of synergy but we do it in a rather simplistic sense, I would
argue. In science, we tend to look at A plus B and if you look at them separately it gives you,
whatever, some number, but then it turns out the interaction between A and B might add still
more; it’s not just an additive thing, it adds still more. So we can dissect out that kind of
relationship from a statistical point of view, and we can study it. We see it, and we know it
exists. The problem is what do you do when you have got not just A & B, you’ve got a few tens
of thousands of A’s and tens of thousands of B’s. and C’s., and D’s, and E’s, and F’s and you
know all those interactions are going on. Now talking about the whole is greater than the sum of
its parts is, quite frankly, a very substantial statement. It really is. We can see from a larger
perspective and this is one of the reasons I get interested in the larger perspective because just
allowing for this effect of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts to be expressed is
SJ: Can taking vitamin supplements make up for not eating many veggies?
TCC: It has been a hotly debated topic for quite a number of decades now, essentially two or
three decades, much of which have been during my career because vitamin supplements weren’t
much used before 20-30 years ago. So that argument has been playing out and debated quite
widely. In fact, I was just talking to someone this morning about that very question. There is
some evidence, and I have always tended to say, ‘No, they can’t, they just can’t’. These vitamin
supplements cannot replace what is in the whole food. But there are a little bit of cracks here and
there; maybe. You know where, if a certain food, in theory, is missing all of its water soluble
antioxidants such as vitamin C and somehow it got destroyed or whatever happened, and then
you dump some vitamin C back in; you might restore a little activity. But this is kind of an
academic question, and in large context, in a practical setting, no. There is no point on relying
on nutritional supplements when you can get the whole food. Just to mention, as I said, I was
just talking this morning to someone and we were comparing some notes and where if you take
the whole fruits and vegetables and then look at, your sort of test it you study it, you look at its
antioxidant activity in the whole and then let’s say you are looking at the antioxidant activity in
terms of its ability to do vitamin C-like work and you get a certain result. Then you look to see
how much vitamin C is really there. Can vitamin C account for all that work that was done to
create that vitamin C-like response? No way, it turns out that often times that the vitamin C level
is only about maybe 1% of the vitamin C that is there that actually ends up causing a vitamin C-
like effect. That’s the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this guy a professor at
Cornell University, Rui Lu who has been doing some of that work with apple skins and grape
skins in showing that the effect that is actually produced, a vitamin C-like effect for example,
cannot be attributed to just the vitamin C in the fruit peel. It’s quite interesting. I think the
question you just asked is one of the more important questions, we all should think about that to
realize that the evidence is so far produced. It does really strongly, and I mean strongly,
reinforce the idea that eating the whole food is a lot better than trying to take out a single vitamin
and put it in a pill or something like that, but I have to say at the same time, maybe there are
occasions in the short run when you can take a vitamin supplement you can kind of fill in
whatever is missing for a short while but to rely on that is in my view not a risk, it’s pretty much
nonsense. It has to be whole food. These supplements are costly, anyhow. It costs us money and
then we turn around and for the most part urinate them out anyhow.
SJ: Dr. Michael Klaper’s Vegan Health Study has found by offering an extensive range of
blood tests that many vegans are deficient in DHA. Please comment on the recommendation that
he has made that vegans supplement DHA source from algae.
TCC: I just don’t know enough about that information. I know Dr. Klaper quite well and I know
that he has been promoting that. DHA is sort of an omega 3 type of product.
JS: Long chain omega 3.
TCC: Exactly. We know omega 3’s have a lot of good properties especially in the immune
system and immune system function, and I know he has basically proposed and I think he has
some clinical evidence to suggest that DHA is good and that vegans aren’t getting enough of
that. The only problem now speaking in general about Dr. Klaper’s work, he really is very
conscientious and a really wonderful person and very conscientious about working with vegans.
He’s doing more work with vegan-type people than anybody I know of, and he’s, of course, an
MD, a doctor, and he’s doing this kind of thing. He basically is trying to understand why it is
that a certain small fraction of so called vegans don’t seem to behave the right way, as far as
disease is concerned. They still maintain fairly high cholesterol levels for example, maybe 5%
of them do or maybe more but they seem to be resistant to the kind of benefits that most vegans
would get, and so he’s trying to understand something about those so called resistant vegans.
Some of us think, and I think he acknowledged this, that those vegans who are not getting all the
benefit that they think they otherwise would get may not be aware they’re cheating a bit in their
diet. In other words, they might be using foods that are less than whole, get into the sugars and
the flours and things like this. In which case, they’re not getting enough of the right, the good
kind of stuff. So it may be a plant based diet but it’s not what they really should be eating, and
some of us believe that those 5% of the people haven’t quite taken that step yet, and quite
frankly, aren’t even quite aware of it themselves. You know that they’re kind of slipping off the
wagon. They may be people who are somewhat resistant to change too. That is always a
possibility. But here is the interesting thing about these people and Dr. Klaper’s, and I really
admire his work and attempt to try to find this out. We need to do more of that kind of work, and
that is something. These kinds of questions are here for us to think about, the sort of challenging
questions that we don’t know fully the answers to. You know, why a certain small fraction of
vegans don’t get all the benefits that others do. I would argue that that is the kind of research
that we need to do much more so than trying to find a new drug for a new disease.
SJ: Based on this kind of extensive range of blood tests to get an overall snapshot.
TCC: Which he’s doing.
SJ: The laboratory analysis that he’s doing. Also in this study, he has found widespread
deficiencies in vitamin B12.
SJ: But aren’t many Americans whether consuming animal products or not deficient in B-12?
TCC: Yes, that seems to be the case. B-12 seems to be somewhat low. But in a lot of those
cases, too, we have to keep in mind deciding whether it’s too low is based in large measure or
comparing against the reference standard. You know how much B-12 we think should be there,
and based on other examples, sometimes we set these standards to reflect, in this case, a meat
eating population, in which case the B-12 is somewhat higher. We set the standard up here, now
you go to the vegans, they don’t have as much and you say oh they’re deficient. Well maybe
they’re the ones who have the right amount, you see. That was certainly true in the story on
cholesterol. It used to be, even in my lifetime in my younger years, 200-300 mg of cholesterol in
the blood was considered normal and we in fact, even got to the point, where if people had levels
as low as 150 to 160 they were abnormal and they were at risk. So, through the last 30-40 years
that range of 200-300 has been changing, and the reason 200-300 was considered normal was
only because that was the normal distribution for people eating the western diet.
Tape 6 (Interview 3b)
SJ: The appendix of the China Study provides a very useful explanation of the metabolic
pathways for biosynthesis of vitamin D as you have already explicated, so deficiency can cause
many disorders possibly even multiple sclerosis?
SJ: Many people test low in vitamin D. Should D get supplemented during the winter or
during days spent in doors without exposure to sunlight, or by the elderly every day?
TCC: Unfortunately, the measurement of vitamin D in our blood in many of the studies has
depended on the measurement of the storage form of vitamin D in our liver. That is the first
metabolite that is produced, called the hydroxyl vitamin D. Within limits, the storage form
doesn’t have a lot to do with what vitamin D is really doing because it’s the subsequent
dihydroxy D that makes the difference, and the body has this marvelous way of being able to
control how much of the storage form is converted from moment to moment as it needs it. Of
course, our body can work with a fairly low level of storage as well as a high level of storage and
still do it just about the same. So, we’re measuring the storage form of vitamin D and finding
out that supposedly we’re low and then we get more vitamin D in order to fill up the storage
form. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It doesn’t make a lot of biological sense. What
we need to do if we’re going to measure vitamin D status is to measure the dihydroxy vitamin D
in the blood. The really good stuff, which is only present in about 1/1,000th of the level of the
storage form but it’s also about 1,000 times more active. That is really the business end of the
story. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been measured. Now, in more recent studies that I have seen,
some studies have started to measure that a little more effectively and that’s good, but that in
turn, the amount that is actually produced, we can’t administer that end stage metabolite because
it’s very active and in fact, it’s toxic. If you tried to inject that into people, it possibly could kill
them. The body is working with this very powerful vitamin D metabolite, this dihydroxy, but it’s
deciding on its own basis when to make it and how much of it to make. So, I think it’s a great
story of how nature has framed this thing has developed this whole thing to control how much of
the final metabolite is produced from time to time. Over the long term, we should recognize that
things like animal protein, for example, impede that formation. So, I didn’t want to put that chart
scheme at the end of the book just to illustrate a point, not so much that I wanted to put all the
emphasis on vitamin D, but instead, simply to illustrate how interconnected reactions are. This is
only a very small snapshot of that kind of interconnectedness that occurs throughout our cells
and throughout our body but it’s certainly something that shows how sunlight, in this case,
interacts with food, interacts with hormones. The parathyroid hormone interacts with very
specific kind of disease responses and health responses. It’s all there.
SJ: And you have mentioned how animal proteins can inhibit the metabolism of vitamin D so
that might be why there is an epidemic of D deficiency even in milk drinkers, even though D
gets added to milk?
TCC: Correct. You have said it well.
SJ: Why do vitamin D and calcium help to alleviate some symptoms of premenstrual
syndrome like anxiety and irritability?
TCC: I don’t know, I can only sit here and speculate on that one. Premenstrual syndrome is
when the estrogen levels, the normally high estrogen levels that are circulating during the
reproduction cycles begin to drop, and when the estrogen levels start going down, then it puts at
some risk calcium metabolism and some other kinds of changes and so this simplistic
pharmacologic answer to that, if you will, is to just give calcium supplements or give more
estrogen such as an HRT, hormone replacement therapy, and vitamin D in that particular case is
an important player in the whole calcium metabolism scheme, and so during the premenstrual
period when estrogen is going down this will allow more calcium to be lost in the bones. One
way to stop that is to give some vitamin D, store it of course; you can give calcium too. It’s
rather a simple minded way of trying to manage a complex system that is probably better
managed by whole foods and eating the right food in the first place.
SJ: Then the estrogen swings might not become so extreme.
TCC: Yes, that is right. Not so extreme and the total amount of estrogen in the blood during
reproductive years is not going to be so high if they eat the right food.
SJ: In fact, I believe that binging can result when the swings of estrogen level are very
extreme because of cravings that arise during a low period.
TCC: I didn’t know that.
SJ: So, it’s another example of how it all comes together when switching diet to plant based
SJ: Again, plenty of calcium can be obtained from such foods.
SJ: Dr. Campbell, throughout your career, you have conducted research that puts animal
products in a bad light. What has been your motivation, are you an animal rights activist or an
TCC: No, that is not what propelled me in the beginning, not at all. If I were an animal rights
activist, I guess I would not have used experimental animals in the laboratory to learn what I
have learned. I mean that is answer enough. So, I simply was not that. I don’t want to discount
it at the same time. Obviously, I don’t want to discount it, it’s very important, the arguments in
favor of animal rights. There are obviously very good arguments. We have to be conscious of
this and sensitive too, and I am becoming more sensitive as time passes, to be honest about it, but
it was not my motivation. As far as environmental concerns, I think I can say more or less the
same thing. I love the outdoors, I love the environment. I think we’re doing terrible things to
our environment but that wasn’t my motivation, but I certainly appreciate the arguments that are
made on that score, if we just eat right.
SJ: On an evolutionary time scale, people have been consuming milk products from other
species for very a brief period, so milk products could be called unnatural and least likely to be
tolerated by people. Many vegans argue that people evolved as plant eaters since the length of
the intestinal tract, with respect to body length, is so much greater than that of carnivores making
the rotting of animal foods with our virulent pathogens much more likely than in carnivores.
Many other aspects of our anatomy conform to that of herbivores, for example our incisor teeth
are short and stubby like those of cows not like long fangs of cats. However, looking at the other
side of the coin, to take the devil’s advocate side, since close primate relatives of humans, the
chimpanzees and bonobos eat rodents and insects, it’s plausible that the progenitors of humans
ate small animals for millions of years? Hasn’t that consumption of animals over an
evolutionary time scale led to dependency on getting a very small amount of animal products
several times a week? For example, our low synthesis of L-taurine, the amino acid, compared to
herbivores and the existence in people of intestinal receptors specifically for the absorption of
heme iron since it’s found in significance amounts only in animal foods?
TCC: I’m not sure what your question is.
SJ: So, in short, since we’ve consumed, our progenitors have consumed animal products in
very small amounts over a long period of time, evolutionary time scale, and we have made
adaptations over that period such as absorption of heme iron does that make a case that humans
are not herbivores but rather omnivores?
TCC: Well, perhaps. I don’t know whether we’re total herbivores. I’m not an anthropologist or
paleontologist so I can only rely on what others have said and published. One of the people who
actually has become quite popular in this field, at least whose view and my view are being
distorted, is Lauren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University who wrote the Paleolithic
Diet. I have heard him, I’ve met him. I have been on a panel with him, and unfortunately, his
views are being used to argue that we should be consuming a very high animal foods diet, but in
reality, he actually argues that our nearest living primate relatives, are only consuming 3-5% at
most animal based foods and that is mostly insects. Now, he also is opposed, he says drinking
milk makes no sense. It’s not generally known about his work, I think, and there are others in
that field too who argue that eating wild animals because of having different fatty acid
composition are more favorable omega 3 to omega 6 to give a specific example. Eating some
wild animals in small amounts may have been in our past, and I can’t dispute that. I think what
they’re saying is perhaps correct, as part of our dietary history, and we may, in fact, have, as a
result of consuming a bit of that, adapted to, lets say, absorbing taurine or may have adapted to
some extent of having some modest ability to handle that kind of food, but, if that is the truth, if
that is what really happened, to me in no way does that argue that in a context of the modern
world that we’re supposed to eat not 3-5% of our diet in the form of animal food but 70% as we
do. The average American ranges somewhere between about 50% of total calories in the form of
animal food to close to 100%. In the case of protein, which is our most important signal
indicator, about 75% of our total protein is animal based on average. So we’re largely
carnivorous. That is no where near what maybe we did in the past, not even close, and so, I
believe not only on those grounds but even probably more importantly on biochemical grounds
just seeing how all the biochemistry relates in a favorable way to the chemicals consumed in
plants and in an unfavorable way to the chemicals consumed in animals, the nutrients if you will.
That combination of evidence from the biochemical level, from the archeological level,
anthropological level, that combination and also today from the empirical data, we’re just seeing
things. We were basically a vegetarian type species. We may have consumed some animal
food, yes, we have. I think that is probably true, but I don’t buy the argument that somehow that
justifies eating this very large supply of animal food these days that, quite frankly, is so different.
It’s not even close to being the same as wild animals. Feed lot operations and animals pumped
up with all kinds of stuff these days to get them to grow twice as fast as they otherwise would.
No, that is not in my book.
SJ: If we were carnivores then we would be able to handle such a huge load of animal
products with a short digestive tract.
SJ: But ours is very long, indicating that we’re mainly herbivores to a greater extent.
TCC: Yes, I would even say in a much greater extent.
SJ: And to such an extent that many people can thrive on a vegan diet.
TCC: Of course. One of the interesting questions that is raised here, though, is that some people
have tried this and then gone off and said they need just a little bit of animal food. I don’t know
how to judge that kind of comment. If they were being really honest with themselves and they’re
not somebody being prejudice or biased…who knows? Maybe they do need a little extra protein,
I don’t know, or something.
SJ: It may be that some small percentage has problems with absorption, so that they fail to
thrive because of that reason.
TCC: That’s right, it could be.
SJ: So they eat a small amount? If that is what is required to thrive. As long as the rest of the
diet is a whole unrefined plant based diet? Otherwise…
TCC: Yes, I think we totally agree. It seems to me that is the kind of consensus opinion that
should form and not the alternative, bipolar kinds of opinions. It has to be 100% vegan for every
single person on the face of the planet and we’re supposed to expect excellent health for
everybody. This is just probably not a realistic assumption, and in contrast, I know somebody
who eats nothing but animal food. He’s still pretty young but I don’t know what is going to
happen to him.
SJ: Not even pizza with a crust?
TCC: I don’t think so. Not that I am aware of. He’s a bit overweight already.
SJ: Oh, he’s following a high protein diet, so he’s going to the extreme and testing that diet.
Unfortunately, he might end up with some kidney problems.
TCC: That is right. He’s just not of the age yet so he might not necessarily see the problems.
SJ: He could very shortly unfortunately. As we age and make fewer growth factors, could the
growth factors in milk give us more vim and vigor?
TCC: I don’t think so. I think that, if anything, they’re likely to cause us to be a little more
hyperactive. Especially for young children. It’s acknowledged, incidentally now, even by people
who are likely to be defenders of dairy consumption, it’s acknowledged in print, in official print
literature, that the single most important food allergen we consume is dairy, and it’s also
acknowledged that the kind of allergic responses that we get are highly variable, ranging from
hyperactivity to acne to intestinal disorders to all manner of problems so dairy is a problem there.
SJ: So then as you mentioned, rather than giving us more vim and vigor, milk products,
including cheese, contain components that make people feel less vigorous?
TCC: In the long run, yes.
SJ: What would you say to people who can’t envision letting go of cheese?
TCC: Well, I would be talking to myself a little bit, because I happened to have liked cheese a
lot and was raised on a dairy farm, and that was the one food that I had the most difficulty giving
up, and I don’t know what I would say to them. I guess I’d say to them the same thing I say to
everybody, make the change, be persistent, have patience and eventually
you will begin to discover there is a whole new world of taste and you will begin to be adapted to
those tastes and then you certainly won’t have that addiction to the old foods, and you will
actually begin to reject them. But I don’t know whether that is ever true with cheese for people
who like cheese.
SJ: What is a safe amount of animal based foods for those who choose to eat some? Is there a
TCC: It’s going to vary between different individuals. Obviously, some people can tolerate, as
we talked before, smoking all their lives and live to be quite old, a very small fraction of people
of course, and I think the same susceptibility to animal foods is going to vary a lot between
different individuals. For certain individuals, especially those who are highly vulnerable to heart
disease or already have heart disease, consuming even small amounts of that kind of food could
be really quite a problem. Others, probably, can tolerate a little more, but it’s a very hard thing
to quantitate. With animal foods, when you think of them in their totality and you ask yourself
‘are they likely to do harm or good on balance for any individual?’, all the evidence to me points
that if it has any effect at all it’s going to do harm.
SJ: In fact, it’s hard to eat just a little of some food.
TCC: Yes, that is true. Because if you really like that food you get addicted to it, we all know
you can’t smoke one cigarette a day if you are inclined to want to smoke. It doesn’t work that
SJ: From the standpoint of human health, are milk products the first to let go of while
minimizing or eliminating other animal products, in a transitional state?
TCC: I almost want to say yes. Primarily because I think the evidence for dairy is more
SJ: Ironically, many vegetarians gave up the flesh products in favor of the milk products.
Unfortunately, and possibly not to the benefit of their health.
TCC: Right, they may have made the wrong choice.
SJ: But as a transitional phase, the first would be to let go of milk and then ideally to migrate
to almost an entirely or entirely a plant based diet.
SJ: What problems can eggs present?
TCC: I think there are at least a half a dozen studies that have shown an association with egg
consumption, because their high sulfur content creates a condition in the intestine that leads to
certain kinds of colon problems, possibly colon cancer. The old story, of course, is that eggs
have a lot of cholesterol and this is a very cholesterol rich food and that was talked about a lot
over the years, but there are some studies showing that some people can consume quite a lot of
eggs and don’t necessarily get a high cholesterol level, but it varies across the board again. I was
just talking to someone this morning, Dr. Esselstyn, my friend who talks about that. They’re
doing the brachial artery-tourniquet test. You put a thing on your upper arm, stop the flow of
blood, and then you eat an Egg McMuffin breakfast and the amount of pressure that is formed
under those circumstances happens very quickly after consuming that breakfast: the arteries
tighten up and get occluded and the pressure builds up and you can test it by this test. That is my
understanding about the way it works.
SJ: That is astounding!
TCC: And it happens within minutes.
SJ: An autoimmune reaction?
TCC: He’s very interested in the effect of foods on the endothelium of the inner artery. He’s
interested in the role of the endothelial cells in not only healthy arteries but also in the process
that leads to atherosclerosis.
SJ: But how could it occur after a few minutes, I mean it takes a while to digest it?
TCC: Have you ever eaten asparagus and seen how fast it comes through to your urine?
TCC: It’s pretty fast.
TCC: It’s really pretty fast. I don’t know how it gets in there so fast.
SJ: Some digestion and absorption occurs very quickly.
TCC: Yes, it sure can.
SJ: Are we engaging in scare mongering sensationalism or is the problem that the effects of
animal based foods are just plain scary?
TCC: Well, I don’t look it as scare mongering, and certainly, I am not interested and have no
interest in scaring people. I think that if we just state the facts as they exist, for some people that
is going to frighten them quite immediately. Other people are going to pass it off, but we have to
have sort of a sensible sane approach to this kind of information and just realize that you know
that there is something better than consuming those kinds of foods.
So, if we’re really interested in our health and decide to try it (plant–based foods), most of us
will learn we like it.
I don’t like to think of the scare tactic. I have no interest in using that approach myself.
I generally think people are reasonably rational but obviously, unfortunately, I am probably
wrong and a lot of people are not very rational.
SJ: How come people lose weight and control any tendency towards obesity by eating lots of
TCC: A couple different reasons: When they’re consuming lots of complex carbohydrates,
that means a very high plant based diet, and unless they add oil to it, it’s going to be low in total
fat and oil. On that account, they’re consuming much lower amounts of oil or fat, which has 9
calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and they’re less likely to over consume into those
high calorie dense foods if it has fat in it, calorie dense fat. There is another issue here though,
too and that is when consuming a high carbohydrate diet, the protein intake tends to be
somewhat lower which favors that combination of the low protein high carbohydrate, complex
carbohydrate I should say, that favors more of the energy that is being consumed to be extended
by body heat or perhaps to stimulate physical activity. In which case then, it doesn’t get laid
down -as body fat. So there are a number of things going on here and we could talk a long time
about that but I think probably the most important thing is simply consuming a diet that favors
the disposition of calories in the form of body heat. It increases a bit the metabolism and it
doesn’t take much.
SJ: In addition to using oil, a very high calorie density food, the mistake frequently made in
following a high carbohydrate diet is eating low nutrient highly refined processed carbohydrates
instead of the whole grains.
SJ: So to lose weight, one needs to eat whole unrefined vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains
containing these complex carbohydrates plus a small amount of fatty foods such as avocado, nuts
and seeds. But doesn’t eating health food taste like cardboard?
TCC: A lot of it does, but the way I look at it, I guess, is that industry is still in the early stages
and they gradually evolve to produce better products as time passes. Some of their products are
obviously very good.
SJ: You are talking about processed foods.
TCC: Yes, and that raises another question, when I say very good, I mean they’re tasty.
However, processed foods even though they may be vegan can be a problem.
SJ: So how can you avoid the cardboard image of the health based diet?
TCC: I only speak from personal experience. In our own home where my wife has been so
good about creating different kinds of dishes, it turns out that there are many just wonderful
dishes that you can consume and they look attractive on top of it, if that is important to people.
There are all these interesting tastes and people have become accustomed to them and they like
those tastes. I have become addicted to having a salad. For somebody else that may be
cardboard and maybe it was for me to some extent in the beginning too.
SJ: Do you use an oil based dressing?
TCC: No, if there is any oil in the dressing that I use it’s a very, very tiny bit.
SJ: What kind of dressing do you use then?
TCC: Mostly vinegar or some kind of vinegar derivative. I may use some ginger in it.
SJ: So, basically, a water based dressing.
SJ: Actually, considering the huge variety of plant foods, the choices are much broader than
the standard meat and potatoes kind of plate that you get in the restaurant or at home.
TCC: Absolutely, the variety is much greater. Someone can play around with trying all different
kinds of things more so than just throwing a slab of meat in the frying pan and frying it.
SJ: And you can use lots of herbs if you want.
TCC: Right, exactly.
SJ: And make it totally delicious. But, I do still have to limit myself if I want to lose weight. I
can’t just eat all I want.
TCC: I think that is generally true, but again, another thing you can do to control weight, of
course, is to maintain a good exercise program.
SJ: Or eat a lot of the green veggies which are low calorie and in addition to exercise.
TCC: That’s right.
SJ: Because if you want to fill yourself up, you can fill up with that mainly and then go to the
legumes and the grains.
SJ: A friend once asked, ‘Doesn’t eating lots of veggies poison you with pesticides?’
TCC: There’s been a tendency for people to think there are so much more pesticides on
vegetables than in animal foods. As far as the concentration on some of these foods, yes, you can
see more pesticides on the leaf of a spinach if it’s grown under those conditions than you can see,
lets say in a piece of meat, in theory, because it means you are not getting _______. That is only
a surface argument though. The important thing about this is that a lot of these pesticides,
especially if they’re fat soluble, bio accumulate. Animals spend their time eating grass and crops
like that for several years perhaps and these chemicals don’t get metabolized, they don’t get
excreted, they accumulate in the fat. So, things like dioxin, DDT, these kinds of pesticides and
things like that which are fat soluble, it turns out they accumulate in the fat of the animal. So,
it’s estimated that somewhere around 95% of our intake of those kinds of pesticides, etc., are
coming from animal foods. They aren’t coming from plant foods because where there is a
concentration in the overall animal food, especially when you consume the fat along with it,
people do, that is where we get our pesticide from. Not from the plant foods, even though the
initial concentration on the plant food may be under some circumstances higher than animal
foods. But the animals have been accumulating and storing, we’re eating pesticide stores when
we’re consuming animal food.
SJ: In regards to heavy metals, can plant based foods help us control the adverse effects by
chelating, helping the body to chelate the heavy metal and excrete it?
TCC: I have heard some reference to that, but I don’t know. I don’t know especially with
reference to the heavy metals because the heavy metals don’t seem to be in very much of the
natural environment although they can be. I mean you can find arsenic in certain areas that are
much higher than in other areas, and in Taiwan, I believe, it’s said that arsenic can be found in
some of the water supplies. There are some pretty classic studies showing arsenic poisoning can
occur even though those people for the most part are consuming plant based foods. Lead,
mercury, there are some others, they tend to get in food because of our industrial world for the
most part, the lead and the mercury. I don’t know whether plant foods can really attenuate those
effects very much or not.
SJ: So far as chelation goes. That is binding it and allowing it to be excreted.
SJ: However, in other respects, it can help the body deal with harmful substances.
TCC: Yes, chelation is positively a factor that could help.
SJ: Discounting the effects of concentrated poisons, how do animal products affect the
nervous system, contributing to emotional problems such as depression, irritability or attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder?
TCC: I simply cannot speak to the mechanisms of that at all. I am not sure that really anybody
can very much, but the ADD or ADHD, as sometimes we call it, those are disorders that seem to
represent an allergic response in many cases, because we know, if you take kids, for example,
who have that problem and take them off of dairy, there is a lot of evidence, either with dairy or
in some cases other offending food allergens, you take them away and their hyperactivity
disappears. In one of these I suspect an embryological response, but which of those immune
function components are really misbehaving and getting out of whack? That, I don’t know.
SJ: Have you found that since switching your diet you have been able to more patiently seek
the emotional and spiritual centers?
TCC: Yes, definitely.
SJ: Without the barrage of irritants to the nervous system from animal products?
TCC: Right. I don’t know whether it’s because of not being exposed to those things or whether
it’s something else I don’t know, but I know in my own life and here in many others as they sort
of begin to take on this lifestyle and eat that kind of food, you become more aware of things that
you should have been aware of before and weren’t. I think it’s likely to lead to a more contented
feeling, spiritual feeling, higher level of consciousness, especially on matters concerning
violence against other people. I have become very much more sensitive to the fact that eating
animal based foods has a lot of consequences and those consequences for the most part are
having to do with the way some people mistreat other people and the way they mistreat animals,
the way they mistreat the environment. I call that just global violence. Why do we do that?
Why do we do the things that are often times not in our best interest and violate the rights of
others or abuse? Whether it’s human beings, or whether it’s abuse in the environment, it’s all the
same. So I see where just choosing the right kinds of foods, we would be decreasing violence:
end of story, full stop. It’s just the way it is.
SJ: That actually has been found in prison studies.
TCC: Yes, it has. It’s very interesting, that is right. Whether that increased awareness and
consciousness, I’m not sure. I guess you get it from eating the right kind of food, but what is the
reaction there? Is it because we’re then avoiding animal foods? You know, that may in fact
cause those kinds of alleged responses that we don’t want to have. I mean the fight or flight
syndrome maybe even. Yes, there are some very good studies showing that people tend to be
more contented and less violent when we do that. Dr. Antonia Demas was showing this in a
remarkable way in a couple of settings, one in Miami, Florida, and the other in Oakland,
California, where she was working with troubled youth who were incarcerated. She changed
their diets and, wow, what kind of changes she was seeing. It was just remarkable. You have to
sort of wonder, especially in those settings because they were mostly African American or
Hispanic, and those folks are very sensitive to dairy. They have a very high lactose intolerance
index which suggests they’re probably going to be sensitive to a lot of problems with dairy.
Take them off of dairy, and we might empty half our prisons. Just stop and think about it, all the
consequences. When you start thinking about these kinds of things, it’s bound to increase one’s
awareness of what is going on, seems to me.
SJ: Beyond our physical health, so many problems and tragedies might well have been caused
by our so called affluent diet.
TCC: Right, we rape the earth, take the resources at an unprecedented rate in order to eat the
food to make us ill, and then we make drugs that command still more costs.
SJ: An enriched lifestyle, and an impoverished humanity.
TCC: Yes, this issue is a very important issue, a very big issue. It has far reaching consequences
when we start thinking about what food can do for our very existence. This is the kind of
discussion I wish we could have with young children. It can occur. Young children should
know. They seem to have more open minds and I have often wondered along these lines. It’s
just curious, in fact, why is it that we don’t want children to ever go to a butchery, yet we’re
going to let him eat the products of a butchery. Why do we do that? If you were to go into the
public school system and say I would volunteer my services, I would like to take your class over
to the local slaughter house. You would get no place. But yet they’re going to sit there and eat
their hamburgers, and a lot of kids don’t even know where the hamburgers come from, but you
take those kids over to that slaughter house, it would be a life changing experience for them, a lot
of them. They wouldn’t eat it, and so just show them a film of the abuse of their pets.
SJ: Or even not abuse but how it actually works in the ideal way with the animals stunned.
It’s a pretty brutal process.
TCC: Yes, that would change things around.
SJ: People don’t like to think of their food being killed and skinned, dismembered, intestines
TCC: I think, most children would find that really abhorrent, and they don’t need to be told that
it’s abhorrent; they will decide that on their own. You don’t need to say anything, just let them
see and say that is where your hamburger comes from. This is where your breast of chicken
comes from, a chicken that can’t even turn around in a cage. I mean, these kinds of things. That
is just human nature, and so we deny. We’re denying young people their humanity by not telling
them what is going on. We’re really denying them their humanity and I think it’s disgusting.
SJ: All because we think that they have to get the flesh and the white stuff into them to lead an
optimal life, whereas in reality, we’re setting them up for future disease or maybe even present
TCC: That is right and why do they think that? They think that because all they have to do is
walk over to the walls of their classroom and if there is anything hanging there that has
something to do with health, it’s what are they being told. They’re being told to drink that 3rd
glass of milk instead of 2 glasses. They’re being told to be sure and get enough protein. You
know, very simple message like that. Who is producing that? It’s the industry producing it.
They’re cultivating in the children a new market for life. So their companies knew this very well
when they were starting to market to the kids and increased the amount of nicotine in the
cigarette for example, get them addicted.
SJ: Children have been a target of the dairy industry for a long time, for decades.
TCC: Yes and that is a crime. That is literally a serious crime and they should be held
accountable for it. Originally, we started the discussion talking about ‘Does it increase our
awareness of such’, and I am saying things now that I wouldn’t have said 20 or 30 years ago. So
why am I saying it now? I criticize myself or critique myself I should say. Well, why did I do
that, I just have become aware. I don’t know why I became aware. I should have always been
aware, but I am more aware now.
SJ: Of the effects on human health as well.
TCC: I mean, I come from a background of hunting, trapping and slaughtering animals, milking
cows, I did all that. So, I know what that world is like.
SJ: Well hopefully, the results of your research will become better known and reduce the
motivation to continue promoting the animal industry.
SJ: Genetic engineering is being used to increase the content of beta carotene in rice, yet a
possible unintended consequence is the creation of allergenic proteins. Do you think genetic
engineering should be used to increase the functionality of foods?
TCC: No, not at all. I know that there are what appear to be some very powerful arguments for
going down that route of genetic engineering of foods and creating foods that have higher
nutrient content and particularly in the 3rd world, where increasing the percentage yield of foods
is needed in order to feed more kids. That’s a pretty powerful argument. You know that is being
used to support that, but there is another way of doing that besides having genetic engineering or
genetically engineered foods and running the real risk of unintended consequences. All the
alternative ideas really have to do with is just simply going into these societies and asking
questions about how you could get a little bit more equitable distribution of resources and wealth
and opportunity. That is also possible. So that instead of them having to depend on the food that
has to be handed out to them, they could be learning how to do some of these things themselves.
I know, my view on that is a little bit simplistic in an international setting because I have worked
a lot in an international settings, and I know there are areas of the world where there are people
living and they can’t go out an make a garden in a rock pile as much as they might want. In a
situation like that, you can study the question a little bit and maybe relocate them in areas where
they can do that. There are ways. We just don’t think along those lines. We just don’t. To give
an illustration, when I was working in the Philippines with malnourished children, we had a
Food for Peace Program which primarily accounted for sending in dried milk powder for these
children because they needed dairy. But they didn’t say the reason we’re sending that because
this is a byproduct of our subsidy program. And why do we have a subsidy program? Because it
would make good politics. It would produce all this extra milk. We dried it down and sent it
abroad. We wanted to help feed the world, feed the kids, take care of them. Forget it, nonsense.
SJ: Seems like with the benefits of a diet consisting of a large variety of whole unrefined plant
based foods and possibly supplements of vitamin B12, vitamin D, DHA, maybe minerals as
called for, as well as exercising, emotional and spiritual practices, we could be healthy and
vigorous well into old age and avoid or possibly heal the degenerative diseases such as cancer,
diabetes, heart disease, impotence, constipation and many others that Americans eventually
suffer. Have I got that summary about right?
TCC: Yes you do. The only qualification, you named some outcomes that are obviously
considered diseases and problems or at least we think they’re diseases and problems. In some
cases, they only became diseases because somebody decided to call them diseases. The
pharmaceutical industry decided to call them diseases and the medical committee went along
with it and you would get a name for a disease, now you got a new disease. Everybody becomes
aware of it. Now there is an epidemic, now we need drugs and the natural order of things is that
we don’t have to. I’m thinking like you said impotence. That was coined by a pharmaceutical
industry marketing group and then once you opened up that market, you got a problem and
you’ve got a market, instead of thinking it was the natural order of things. I don’t think it’s quite
the natural order of things because people are eating the wrong food. We don’t go down the road
even asking ‘What effect does this bad food have on creating that problem?’, if you will. We
don’t go down that road. Rather, we go down the road, ‘Let’s call it a disease, let’s give it a
name’ and ‘Now let’s find something to give to people a billion dollar drug’. It’s all messed up.
SJ: Why do many nutritionists and doctors advise drinking milk? Do they know about the
problems with dairy and other animal products?
TCC: Mostly not. A lot of well meaning good people in the practice of medicine and science
and the public, of course, they’re led to believe that three glasses milk a day is better than two
glasses, builds strong bones and teeth. I mean I have heard that since I was a kid. Being raised
on a dairy farm we were doing great things. We were producing health food you see because
that is what everybody believed, but I think, of course, you are referring to the fact that those
recommendations to consume three instead of two are based on policy committees that have been
corrupted by the industry itself. Those kinds of people get in there and they develop these kinds
SJ: Although correlation does not show causation, with the results of population studies and
with biological plausibility such as turning cancer on and off, increased levels of the hormone
estrogen as well as negative calcium balance with animal products, is all that research regarding
the harmful effects as about as close to proof in biology as is possible to come short of
knowledge of the detailed metabolic pathways, some of that is coming out now, and more of the
formal clinical studies that have been done? Who paid for the studies of the metabolic pathways
and the clinical studies?
TCC: Well, the clinical studies certainly were mostly paid for by the pharmaceutical industry.
The whole concept of doing clinical trials which everybody thinks is the gold standard, which I
do not accept, that concept was built around the idea that you have to test single things to see
what they do, keeping everything else under control. Of course, it’s never said that everything
that is being kept under control also includes all the factors that are the more important factors.
Not everything can be kept under control. So, you stick in one chemical and see what you can
do. That is a clinical trial usually used for the development of drugs of course and things like
this. Pharmaceutical industry pays for most of that, pure and simple. The government pays for
some of that. National Institute of Health will put up some funding to help that get under way,
but they in turn are greatly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry as well. If you go back to
your first statement, if you look at all the biological evidence that has to do with knowledgeable
plausibility, evidence having to do with comparison over a broad range, the relationship between
our diet and lifestyle, disease, and then you put all this together and by that, in my view at least,
the way I sort of want to do that is I want to look at some of the basic biochemistry and see if I
feel it’s right, and then I want to see if that is consistent with a bigger picture. I also want to ask
questions too, ‘Is this consistent with, is it practical in a sense?’, and maybe in some cases ‘Is it
economical, feasible?’. You have a variety of different kinds of studies. You have studies that
determine biological plausibility. You have studies that look at just general associations. It’s
putting it all together to see if you have run across a fundamental truth. So it’s a much more
SJ: How about reversal of even severe diseases, that is, using plant based foods to support the
body’s own healing processes for example to shrink tumors? Has any formal clinical evidence
been found? We mentioned formal clinical studies using only isolated cases as being somewhat
irrelevant, but formal clinical studies of people consuming the whole plant based diet.
TCC: Yes, the most famous are Dr. Esselstyn’s in my view. Reversing advanced heart disease.
Obviously, Dr. Dean Ornish also did this too but his studies were shorter. Esselstyn’s now have
gone on for more than 20 years and it’s just remarkable. I don’t know anything in the drug field.
SJ: How about shrinking tumors?
TCC: That is a little more problematic because nobody wants to look at and quite frankly, there
is really, really serious bias against doing those kinds of studies. I had an experience and I can
tell you this: on one occasion when I was lecturing at the McGill University Medical Center and
at that time it was a university-wide lecture, essentially, and there were about 800 people in the
audience, and this is maybe at least ten maybe more than that maybe 15 years ago, when I was
simply just offering the idea that diet was not only important in terms of preventing cancer in my
view but what about the possibility of using it in a broader sense for maybe reversing advanced
cancer and no one said anything until after the lecture was over. I went to dinner with the head
of surgery, head of chemotherapy and the head of radiation therapy, those three gentlemen took
me to dinner, and of course, they brought the topic up. ‘What did you mean by saying that?’
Well, if you look at the biology, the theory of it, it seems to me to be a reasonable idea to test. I
would like to see it done, but nobody is doing this. If a person gets cancer, put them on a dietary
regimen for example, and the guy on my left who was the surgeon said, ‘You will not get any of
my patients. I know what I can do. That’s it. You just simply will not. I know what I can do.
You can’t just take patients like that and try something really strange’ or whatever word he used.
He said something that irritated the guy on the right who was the chemotherapy guy. He said ‘I
can do this, surgery can do this and this and this’. The guy on the right suddenly heard him say
something he didn’t really care for and said ‘no, no you can’t. I’ll tell you right now this
chemotherapy will work better than what you just said’, and the two of them started arguing with
each other and one of them said something to annoy the guy sitting on the opposite side, the one
involved in radiation therapy. He jumped in and said ‘No, neither one of those work, it’s
radiation therapy’. The first thing, it was really amusing. Those three guys are there arguing
about what was the best treatment for a couple different cancers amongst those three different
ways, but they all agreed to one thing. Forget diet. That is not the way.
SJ: Protecting their own turf. Not considering a completely different playing field.
TCC: That’s right and I have seen this played out so many times.
SJ: And to your way of thinking, has it been proven as close as you can prove in biological terms
or at least shown to your complete satisfaction that animal based foods play a major role in
causing or promoting cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis among other degenerative disorders?
TCC: True. What’s proof? Proof is the accumulation of evidence, weight of evidence. That is
the way I like to look at it. If you look at all the evidence on animal food versus plant food just
to look at that comparison. I find the weight of the evidence against animal foods far, far in
excess of the weight against plant food, from many, many different perspectives. You can call
that proof or not. I don’t know, but I think it really is more the weight of the evidence. I would,
in these days, at least, become, I think, a little more conscious of something else that I hadn’t
paid much attention to before and that is processed foods. Start thinking about processed foods.
Process foods are something less than the whole plant foods. They might all be plant based, but
if they’re less than whole and they only contain white flour and sugar, oil stuff like that and some
salt thrown in and make a biscuit out of it, I am concerned about that. So, I am going to take a
lot of processed food and put them in the same basket with animal foods and say we have a
mixture here of stuff that is not in our best interest. The health basket is the one with whole plant
SJ: Has there been any evidence generated against that diet?
TCC: No, not as far as I am concerned. Not any convincing evidence. There are organizations
that will argue this vehemently that animal foods offer a lot. Obviously, the dairy industry is
looking out for the dairy, the meat industry looks out for themselves, the egg board looks out for
eggs, and there are other organizations that are strange and we don’t know where they get the
money from that would make that argument such as an organization called the Weston A. Price
Foundation in Washington. They’re quite vigorous. They have quite a lot of money and those
people are out there using Weston A. Price’s work to argue in favor of consuming livestock. I
have gotten to know Weston A. Price’s work and they’re distorting it.
SJ: How are they distorting it?
TCC: Weston Price was a dentist, a dental surgeon who mostly was working in the 10’s, 20’s
and 30’s and he was going around the world surveying indigenous peoples when he could find
them who had not yet been touched by commercialism. He found about 14 such groups, one case
living in the Alps in Switzerland, another group in the Hebrides of Scotland, Polynesian islands,
mountains of Peru, in Africa, like the Maasai. He was looking at all these different people and
what he measured was their dental caries, he was a dentist, and what he found was that these
groups had not yet been touched by the commercial western world and they really had good
teeth. That is not surprising. He also talked about their dental arches. They had fuller faces, they
looked healthy, he was impressed with their health and as soon as they got access to a port or
someplace where there was food being brought in, all of a sudden deficiencies shot up. Then he
was making this generalization that that is bad health, and probably I am sure it was, and he was
sort of, to some extent inferring a little bit about other diseases also beginning to occur in those
circumstances but he didn’t record anything on that point. He did give some evidence on caries.
He did all this and so he was arguing that we should go back to the indigenous diet. He said that
fish was important and the fishing communities. In some cases, he inferred that animal foods
might be important but he also acknowledged that these people, in a lot of cases were living on
plant based diets. This foundation in Washington that now exists populated by nonscientists
giving these hostile reactions against things that I say or that Dr. McDougall says or Dr.
Esselstyn says, they’re really going out there to do everything they can to try to discredit us on
any grounds. They’re extremely hostile, rude, and I know they get funding from the agriculture
industry, the livestock based agriculture industry. So that is the caveat of it, I’d say. There are
people. I mean they really believe, I think, they act like they believe that what we’re saying is
wrong. One of their people has written something to say that we should consume as much
cholesterol as we can, and it turns out it he happens to be a 24-year-old young guy with no
training in nutrition. He writes well, and he makes these outrageous statements like this.
SJ: Well, he’s like a debater who is trained to argue one side or the other and come up with as
many points in favor of one side and as many points against the other side. It’s just a debating…
SJ: Exercise. An exercise like a tennis player practicing his tennis. The man is just debating,
practicing his debating expertise whether or not he believes in what he’s saying.
TCC: Right, that is true. He has no training in the field. He never did any research in the field,
never has published a paper that was peer reviewed and yet, he somehow, he will put his things
around on the internet, or maybe distribute papers at meetings that I may at or presenting.
SJ: Unfortunately, he’s not putting on a high school debate, he has a nationwide audience in a
Tape 7 (Interview 4)
SJ: Should local breast cancer alliances and prostate cancer institutions be discussing the
possibility of providing information to Americans everywhere on how a plant based diet of
whole unrefined foods may help the body become more effective against cancer?
TCC: Definitely. I think these organizations are grassroots in nature and are really reaching a
lot of people, and I think they have a responsibility to share with the people as much as they can
regarding this information. It has been my experience that when I have spoken to these groups,
not many, but when I have spoken to them, I find that they’re very much in the medical mind set
and drug companies like them, drug companies often times will help these groups. I have spoken
a couple of times at them where drug reps have been available, showing their wares, for drug
companies it’s a means of advertising their wares, and I just take offense to that. I think the
groups are very good in terms of patients sharing their feelings and comforting themselves. That
is obviously a very important activity, but they’re a vulnerable group. They’re extremely
vulnerable, and so, I just find drug companies taking advantage of that, and I would rather that
they also spend some time trying to learn some of the information that they tend not to hear.
SJ: It may be that such groups avoid talk of means of prevention and supporting healing since
many victims blame themselves. As difficult as it is to look forward rather than back under such
a grievous challenge, the people could think of themselves not as victims but as proactive self
healers retaking control of their lives from disease by improving diet to support healing.
TCC: I think you have just said it very well, Sylvester. That is excellent. I couldn’t say it really
any better. I think that we often hear about, or at least I get criticized some times for being a
little bit too candid in some of my views because they say, my critics say, it blames the victim,
and I don’t mean to blame the victim. That is not my point and I know it’s a sensitive matter for
those who already have the disease, but I also think that it’s probably more refreshing too for
everyone to be a little bit more honest, where they have been and where they hope to go because
only by knowing where they are, perhaps what they have done, can they more forward in a really
honest way. Every time I think of that sort of different kind of philosophy, I think of my mother,
for example, who obviously was a farm wife and we ate the food that she knew best at the time.
Well, that was the kind of food that we now know is not exactly the best. So, when I started
talking to her about this a few years ago, at first, she felt a little bit guilty, I think, and I felt like
maybe I shouldn’t be telling her about all these things, but eventually, she came around and with
just a healthy attitude to be honest. We all operate in our own best interests with the best
information that we have at the time and so, I think the idea of feeling like victim is not really
quite fair. People shouldn’t feel to be the victim.
SJ: Some tumors may already be causing pain or blockages at the time of diagnosis, and so
require prompt action from a conventional medical standpoint. Could plant based diet or dietary
means be used to complement such interventions?
TCC: I think so. I mean we do have evidence now, not enough, but we do have evidence that a
plant based diet, that the kind of plant based diet that tends to prevent disease from progression
on is the same kind of diet that seems to be able to reverse disease at later stages. I mean this is
most dramatic in the case of heart disease and diabetes, of course, but we also have some
evidence in the case of cancer too. The development of disease is a really kind of interesting
phenomenon, and I don’t think is fully understood. I mean, development of these serious
diseases like cancer and heart disease and some of these so called chronic degenerative diseases
is a long process that goes on for many, many years, and it goes on slowly perhaps most of the
time and we know that there are foods that will tend to progress it forward. There are the foods
that will tend to inhibit it perhaps even reverse it, and I think this is true all the way along the line
even after it’s diagnosed, even after the submission that really is staring to occur. Now, it’s true
that if we expect to see reversal at that point after diagnosis, I suspect that we’re going to have to
be a little more aggressive in what is going to be done at that time and be really strict about diet,
for example and even maybe use some other lifestyle procedures to get things turned around. I
am thinking of something that is really off the mark as far as traditional medicine is concerned
and that is the water-only fast. I have seen that personally work on people with cancer, and
cancer-like conditions. It’s very quite remarkable. When we give the body a chance to rest, so
to speak, either rest from the act of digestion and absorption and then return to a really good
plant based diet, really remarkable things happen. Not just with cancer but with all kinds of
diseases. So, I think it’s important to at least consider the possibility of using diet and lifestyle in
an aggressive way for those people who already have been diagnosed; the same kind diet that
what would be used to keep them from getting there in the first place.
SJ: So enough evidence has been gathered that the doctors should be discussing a diet and
lifestyle based approach complimentary to or possibly even before conventional treatments?
TCC: Yes, we have enough evidence. Incidentally, I have thought a lot about this and the fact
that just during the last couple of weeks, two or three weeks, I have visited with some clinics
where there is a consensus amongst those of us who know the information the way we do. There
is a consensus amongst us that the only way that we believe that this information is really going
to take a foot hold in our society is if it fits within the economic system. Namely, I am talking
about the fact that physicians who are the primary care givers under the present system and
perhaps should be, of course, under the future system, they have got to be able to be paid
adequately, and just simply telling people to eat their vegetables and fruit’s not exactly going to
do it. That is very clear and so procedures have to be developed where physicians can make a
reasonable and even a substantial income by doing this, and there is, in fact, now emerging such
procedures, such models. I am thinking particularly of Dr. John McDougall of the west coast
who is a very clever guy. He has been in the business for a long time and he has come up with a
model now that he’s using and it can earn for him plenty of money, a lot of money and still at the
same time practice what he knows best to do. Patients get well. The physician makes money.
Patients go off of drugs, quite frankly, in many cases. In other words, the practice of medicine
has to fit within the economic system to really make it work. Now, I think we’re entering some
ways by which that can be done.
SJ: In the past, such ideas were rejected out of hand because the feeling was that the majority
of Americans, the vast majority, would not change their diets regardless of the health benefits to
TCC: Well, that goes to the question concerning who is giving the information to these people
who refuse to make changes. If the doctor doesn’t really believe in this, he’s the last person to
try to convince patients to try it. It only turns out to be a self serving prophecy. The doctor will
say to the patient, oh, you ought to do this, you, ought to do that, but if the doctor himself or
herself are not doing it themselves, they’re not going to be a particularly good advocate for that
kind of change. So that is a very simple notion. These are not the people to talk to patients
about this. I mean, the doctors have got to: a) know the information, b) be convinced that it’s of
value, and c) have got to be able to make some money when they’re doing it. That is the
practical substance of what needs to happen.
SJ: The most successful doctors in building substantial practices may be those who do
incorporate dietary and lifestyle improvements.
TCC: Yes, I am actually getting to know such people like that who are really doing well. I met a
very bright young doctor, reasonably young doctor, in Kansas who started to practice so called
lifestyle medicine where he basically approaches his patients when he first gets his patients, and
he was good internist with a good reputation. He basically informed them when they came to
visit with them that he wanted to send them out of the office without a prescription. He wanted
them to try the diet lifestyle thing, and he was convinced himself, that was 9/10 of the battle. So,
he was very persistent. He told them what they had to do and it turned out about half of them
really did listen and another quarter at least tried. There was the quarter who didn’t care and
didn’t want to do it that way. But in any case a half is a lot and maybe three fourths, and he had
so much success with this approach so far and has actually seen recovery from these sometimes
very serious illness that all of a sudden doctors elsewhere in the hospital in that town were
referring their patients to him, and then he couldn’t take care of all those patients, and more
recently he has taken on three more physicians in his practice. Now, there are four physicians
doing the same thing and they’re just absolutely overwhelmed with patient referrals. It works,
and now he has written a book about this. His name is Dr. Neal Nedley. I think it’s fair enough
to give out his name, and I think that model can be a model for the future but in that particular
case, it was clear that Dr. Nedley believed in what he was doing and then in turn demonstrated
for the patient’s what they could achieve if they just listened to him. It’s going to have to be the
wave of the future. We’re going to have to think in these possibilities.
SJ: Since his approaches can help ameliorate or reverse a vast range of disorders, it’s amazing
that the insurance companies and HMOs haven’t picked up more on it.
TCC: It’s amazing. It’s frustrating, quite frankly, knowing that that doesn’t work that way. And
from my limited experience in that category of experience, I am learning that big insurance
companies are sort of locked in place with what they do. It’s an enormously large industry doing
things the way they have always done things and you are also invested in the system to maintain
the status quo because they’re making a lot of money and have a ‘if it doesn’t need fixing why
fix’ kind of attitude and furthermore to really get in there and start insisting that things should be
changed is not the easiest thing to do. I know that from some technologies that have been
presented to them by which they can actually reduce cost and they’re reluctant to do so because
they figure that the cost of change is too much. But on the other hand, Dr. Dean Ornish has been
successful in getting quite a number of insurance companies to buy into his procedure and to pay
for that procedure.
SJ: Lower fat.
TCC: Yes, if they will try that as a means of disease management, maybe reversal. Insurance
companies are in fact paying for that kind of service to some extent and this seems to be
growing, the idea seems to be growing. So it’s possible, and I think insurance companies can
certainly take a lead in this area. They’re the ones standing to gain financially in the long run.
SJ: A very small study could show substantial reductions in pain and outflows if health
challenges improved and be applicable very broadly for much greater savings and a significant
reduction in human misery. It would be so doable for those companies to conduct such a small
SJ: And it wouldn’t have to last so long as a complete clinical trial of a drug for example. Just
long enough to demonstrate cash savings.
TCC: Well, I know of two examples: One Dr. McDougall conducted with the Blue Cross Blue
Shield company in one of the big Midwestern states where over a six month period using this
procedure, he was able to show us a 19% savings in medical care costs. That is a lot: a 19%
savings with a reasonably modest approach. In other words, it was highly significant. Then
another study done in North Carolina with some of my own colleagues where they were in a 30
day period got a 14% medical care savings by doing something like this, and something really
quite modest especially the second one. If it were done using some of the more interesting and
perhaps more aggressive procedures with lifestyle change, the savings could even be greater
especially over longer periods of time. It could be huge. I think of companies like General
Motors which has a six billion dollar health care cost, bill, or Southwestern Bell for example
which has about three billion dollar. I am familiar with the second one especially. They have
about a three billion dollar medical care cost. The company cannot afford to keep going along
this tract because these costs are escalating faster than anything else going on in their business
and so they’re reaching a crisis stage, they need to do something. Some of these companies are
now beginning to understand this.
SJ: In fact, it makes the U.S. less competitive because other countries do not have the kind of a
health care system that we do that tends to be a bottomless pit for money for many reasons and
therefore, the costs to overseas companies for health care are substantially lower than U.S.
companies. So if U.S. companies took the approach that you have been talking about, a dietary
lifestyle approach to really promote health improvements among employees, that could help
them become more competitive.
TCC: Oh, absolutely. I mean it’s clearer now that companies when they’re experiencing these
escalating costs in medical care have to do something, and I know of one case with a big
company where they had to impose all of a sudden a $2,000 up front payment on the part of
each employee at the beginning of the year. The employee had to take on the first $2000 in
medical care costs. It caused an enormous uproar between the employees and the company, and
so, some of these companies, when they’re experiencing these kinds of costs, and of course,
they’re interested in protecting their bottom line obviously, so what are they going to do? In
some cases they may cut the number of jobs and then they lay off people in order to
accommodate this, or they send jobs overseas where often times they don’t pay any medical care
costs at all, and so all of a sudden, our country suddenly begins to suffer, and of course, the
people working in these companies in these communities where this occurs they know the price
and much of this is due to the fact that medical care costs are going through the roof of these
companies, and even in the public sector with municipal budgets, public school budgets things
like that. Public schools are particularly vulnerable because they’re having to pay the medical
care costs of all their existing staff as well as retired staff, as other companies do too, and those
costs are escalating rapidly. When schools have to take on that burden and don’t get
compensation from the state or the federal government to cover those increasing costs, they have
to cut programs. Either that or they have to raise local taxes, and this is going on all over the
country. School budgets seem to be escalating very rapidly, largely because of medical care
costs and so their only choice is to raise taxes and that doesn’t set well with the public, so it’s a
very serious problem. I think if anything is going to cause change as far as these ideas are
concerned, it may come because of these economic considerations, the financial constraints that
are placed on agencies, institutions and companies simply because they can’t afford these costs.
So what you suggested before, finding ways linking this health information for employees is
important to think about. Companies can organize these demo projects to enroll their employees
in these programs so that the individuals can see for themselves what kind of benefit they can
get, that would be a great thing. At the same time, the company begins to learn how much
savings and money they can make by seeing how well people can get and not consume all those
dollars, and so, I think that linkage between a concern for the economic health of the company
and the personal health of the individual is an important linkage that needs to be considered.
SJ: Again, the study doesn’t have to be as long as a clinical trial for pharmaceuticals, it can be
very short just long enough to demonstrate cash savings.
TCC: That is right. We’re just talking maybe a matter of a month or two or three and we have
already known from other kinds of studies that that kind of savings really is a reasonable thing to
expect. There are so many examples of these kinds of improvements in health that can be
accomplished for all manners of diseases in a fairly short period of time through the use of diet
and at the same time that this improvement is going on and they’re making their dietary change,
they’re dropping their meds. In other words, they’re giving up their drugs in surprising amounts,
and it happens fairly quickly. So, all of a sudden it translates into a cause. People paying a few
thousand dollars a year for their drugs and more and then learning, in fact, that they don’t have to
take these drugs anymore. This is for things like hypertension, diabetes.
SJ: They don’t have to suffer the side effects any longer.
TCC: They don’t have to suffer the side effects. Again, just in the last couple weeks, I had an
opportunity to be at three of these different kinds of programs in places and talking to the people
who were going through the program and, of course, presenting to those programs myself what
the information is. I wish the whole country could see what I have seen because it really is truly
SJ: What are the names of some of programs again?
TCC: One of them is Dr. McDougall’s program. It’s called the McDougall Program in Santa
Rosa, California for the most part. It’s a 10-day program. He brings them in, they go through
the program. It’s really a very active fun kind of a program in a way. He offers food; he gives
out demonstrations of how to prepare food. He takes them shopping. He tells them all about the
information. A second one is the one I just mentioned before, run by the Adventist’s Church,
The Coronary Health Improvement Project. Dr. Hans Diehl is the one who has headed that up
and that has now been established in, it seems, if I know my numbers right, in something like
300 towns and communities around the United States. The third one is really interesting; it’s the
most aggressive one. It’s one which involves bringing people in with problems for the most part
and put them on a water only fast for some period of time for upwards to maybe two, three, four
weeks or longer depending on how serious the condition is, and then bringing them back
gradually onto a plant based diet, and the results that they get there are staggering, but easily it’s
the one procedure that would be the hardest to sell. People are not wont to believe that. In fact,
these people who come there resolve their problems and go back to their doctors and their
doctors immediately say oh every once in a while we see a remission but can’t have anything to
do with that fasting you were doing. That is just the typical reaction and it’s something you just
have to live with. But people come in with really, really serious problems and just resolve them
in no time. I saw one woman in that case. She came in. She could hardly walk in the door, a
really wonderful lady from Texas, and she had for some years been suffering more aggressive
rheumatoid arthritis and it was really, really painful for her. Fourteen days later, she was just
moving about almost as if she could dance with almost no pain.
TCC: Absolutely staggering. She obviously got very enthused about our book, and she now
promoting the book all over Texas because she just couldn’t believe she never heard of this
before, and John McDougall does this routinely with rheumatoid arthritis patients with a
somewhat less aggressive approach just simply changing their diet and not doing the fast. These
things work, they really work.
SJ: Are you familiar with the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida?
TCC: Yes, I have spoken to them, in fact, I was there recently with Dr. Brian Clement who has
worked with Ann Wigmore in Boston originally when it started but they have moved their main
facility there. They tend to focus primarily on raw plant foods, and I think their sort of rule of
thumb is to make at least 85% of the diet with raw foods. They talk a lot about food combining
as well. So they have some wrinkles in their program and it’s somewhat different from some of
the others and they use cereal grass juices, barley juice, water grass, wheat grass and things like
this. They treat a lot of people coming in there with cancer, and I don’t know how much success
they have really had. They say they have had a lot of success, but I need to know their numbers
better, if I could know those, but I don’t’ know, so… They seem to get a lot of results according
to what they say.
SJ: They have hundreds of anecdotal success stories.
TCC: Yes, that is the thing. A lot of them will tell you about anecdotal stories, and it’s fair
enough, we can believe that, but it would be nicer, a lot easier, to convey the information to other
people if we could just sort of write it up so to speak and document all of this and get it into a
proper article, and that is what I have urged them to do as much as I can.
SJ: I think they’re working on that as well.
TCC: There is a whole question concerning follow up and documentation, that is important.
SJ: Do you have any sense of what the benefits of fresh or raw plant foods would be?
TCC: Well, one of the big things that is claimed is that for one thing, they’re more replete with
nutrients with consideration to the way foods are prepared these days, harvested and then
processed, they lose nutritional content, so eating the fresh raw food, of course, and that has been
demonstrated quite well, it’s a better nutritional composition with the raw food than it is with the
processed or cooked food.
SJ: Especially if it’s been blended in a high power blender to release the finer nutrients, some
of which if it’s not blended don’t get released unless you cook them like in the case of tomatoes
and broccoli for example.
TCC: I have heard two views of that. Not everyone agrees with that. I would have said what
you just said a little while ago but I found some people that I have quite a lot of respect for who
argue that a body was made to digest foods and by breaking it all up like that releasing the
sugars, especially in the case of fruits, it makes it more readily available for absorption and not
necessarily in the best interest so that arguments goes. I don’t know whether there is any bearing
in that argument or not. I happen to think that blending these foods up is probably a pretty good
SJ: Blending green veggies. Now, this seems like a good idea doesn’t it.
TCC: Yes, given those arguments that we were just talking about, releasing everything and
making it easier to digest and may be even to consume.
SJ: However, juicing fruits so that you have only the juice from the fruit, makes for a very
powerful sugar-laden drink, and might impact the body too severely.
TCC: Yes, that is true, and that is just what I said about releasing sugars and stuff as primary
food sucrose. At the same time, other than just juicing which is one concept, juicing is straining
away all the other stuff. The better approach, as far as I’m concerned, is just blending the whole
fruit and taking the skin and peel and all the rest of it.
SJ: And, in fairness, Hippocrates does not emphasize fruit, more like the green veggies and
TCC: Yes, absolutely. In fact, they tend to limit the intake of fruit except for a couple times a
week maybe. It’s quite restrictive on fruit that’s true.
SJ: The rationalization for that is that the sugars feed the cancers that they’re trying to treat, so
they limit the sugars.
TCC: Right, exactly.
SJ: Do you have any sense of any of that theory?
TCC: I mean that is what they say, and I lectured to the group there, the staff and the patients
who were there, and we exchanged these ideas and they told me that too, and who knows, their
idea is as good as mine, I’m sure and they have had some experience. Again, from the scientific
empirical point of view, it would be so nice if you could actually record some, get some data on
this. I know that some people say ‘what is the point?’; we don’t need to document everything.
Well, yes and no. If we’re going to convince other people of these kinds of approaches, it’s
better it in some kind of format, some kind of tabular form.
SJ: Certainly, as formal study would be very valuable.
TCC: Of course.
SJ: Positron emission tomography works by tagging a sugar molecule with a radioactive atom,
then the cancer, the tumors absorb the sugar molecules preferentially, it’s the food they prefer
apparently and start glowing. It seems like that is supporting.
TCC: It seems like it suggests that but they do it at a differential rate over and above the
neighboring cells which may not be neoplastic.
SJ: Well, they stand out by that glow and that is how you tell where the tumor is basically.
They stand out from the other tissues so the other tissues do not absorb the sugar as readily as the
TCC: That is pretty good support.
SJ: That is how PET scans work.
TCC: I hadn’t been familiar with the distinction with the way you just said it, it sounds entirely
SJ: So avoid that Coca Cola if you have cancer.
TCC: Yes, but then there are all these kinds of variations in a macrobiotic diet, another group,
SJ: Yes, how do you feel about the macrobiotic diet as promoted by the Kushi Institute?
TCC: Again, it’s pretty much along the lines that the rest of the folks in this business are
doing. It’s plant based for the most part. They do use some fish as you know. They also like to
emphasize the consumption of fermented vegetables. Food combining, again, is an important
consideration from their point of view. I mean it’s kind of a unique taste, their foods, especially
because of the fermented foods. You kind of have to get used to it I think but I was aware of
some data that had been collected by them at Kushi Institute many years ago, especially in
reference to its ability to retard the progression of cancer. I saw that information, it was
impressive. Never got published really, and so I am kind of convinced that there is something
there. Whether the macrobiotic diet is a better way to go, let’s say, than the Hippocrates Institute
and whether that is better or worse than someone like McDougall or such. I mean, they’re all
doing something. They’re all doing something that is fairly major.
SJ: It may be that simply removing the insult of the standard diet, the insult to the body,
removing it allows the body to heal.
TCC: Could be.
SJ: And move on.
TCC: It could be. I think it’s time for us in this country to begin to have a dialogue, a public
dialogue on these various and sundry diets that have been pushed aside by traditional medicine
and traditional science as being worthless when, in fact, they’re not. I want to say that
emphatically, they’re not worthless. I see a lot of evidence that these kinds of procedures have
really shown some impressive results, and when I compare those results with, let’s say the
traditional way of taking drugs, hands down, in my mind, it’s all about food and preventing and
curing diseases. It’s not about drugs, and that is the stark contrast: that we need to keep our eye
on them all.
SJ: And part of the reason that studies haven’t been performed is that the money for studies
goes to pharmaceutical studies, for medical trials for the FDA for pharmaceuticals, not to testing
out whether the macrobiotic diet can lead to reversal of disease.
TCC: That is right. It goes right there. There are sort of two levels to the public level or maybe
two or three or four levels, I don’t know, but one is the funding for research. Why don’t we do
more research and make some comparisons? We need to get serious about this that is one level
that the public gets cheated out of knowing something about this. The second level is,
unfortunately, the attempt by the authorities of the major medical societies to discredit those
approaches, just simply discredit them and not even consider the evidence, and they seem to
have an agenda. Just simply discredit on any grounds. So that is the second level where the
public gets cheated out of it, too, as well. They don’t get to know this kind of information, and
those are very powerful forces when the professional societies take a stand against something
they know so little about.
SJ: Tragically, many Americans may follow a dairy rich diet or eat other animal products in
part because they have been told it’s very healthy for them to eat larger quantities of such
TCC: Right, absolutely. There is an aggressive industry out there that is going to promote their
wares and that is the way it’s and they’re going to keep on doing it.
SJ: Since the government has long been disastrously constrained by industry from giving
much play to the health challenges presented by animal based foods, for many years you were
about the only one doing the work of informing people about it, but now as we have discussed,
many groups from a grassroots level are informing people the benefits of really a more
traditional diet different from the experimental conventional diet that we have now. It has really
been an experiment that has been going on for more than a century that seems to have been
pretty well proven a disastrous experiment. A catastrophic experiment to follow the industry
processed foods diet that we have been playing with for so long now, but the traditional old-time
diet is what we’re now calling an alternative diet.
TCC: I am really beginning to dislike that word alternative.
SJ: Yes, it really is the traditional. What would you call it?
TCC: I don’t know, the problem, I mean the word ‘alternative’ in the beginning may have been
a reasonable word, that the problem is that word ‘alternative’, ‘alternative’ this, ‘alternative’ that,
in the area of health suggests to most people something really strange, not quite mainstream, not
yet proven, marginal at best, and so, it has taken on its own meaning in the recent years just
because it’s used so much to describe things that people don’t tend to believe in and so, coming
up with a better word. If I could come up with a better word, probably in another 5 or 10 years,
then I would want to reject that one. I think the main point about all this is rather than promoting
a diet, whatever it may be, that we begin to understand what food can do. Really understand it,
how it works, and I would like think as we have talked before that food is comprised of these
countless chemicals, many of which we call nutrients that work together in marvelous ways and
it’s in that fashion that these foods through their nutritional composition are able to effect health
the way they do and to try to sort of tease out the effects of this that or some other chemical
really defeats our purpose and causes a lot of confusion for the most part. So, I don’t know, I
think it’s a question of getting to understand this. We really need to get to understand it.
SJ: What further research would you like to see conducted regarding any of the issues that we
TCC: Well, as far as research is concerned, certainly increasing the funding of the National
Institutes of Health budget to be commensurate with the interest of the public and commensurate
with what can be done right now.
SJ: The budget for nutrition?
TCC: For nutrition, exactly. Right now they admit to 2-4% of the budget for nutrition projects,
and quite frankly, most of that, as we talked before, is really for the testing of individual
chemicals called nutrients and it’s basically turning nutrients into drugs if you will. I mean this
is only just a penny on every dollar probably that is going into serious nutrition research of the
kind we’re talking about. It’s not even noticeable. So, first put some money there and let’s start
doing some studies. Now, as to the kind of studies that should be done, I think we should start
looking at making the art of research an art of observation rather than a practice of tinkering with
things. In science we always tend to want to tinker with things. We want to look at one thing at a
time and see what it can do this way or that way and that is technology. Science to me should
be more a matter of sitting back and observing to see what is doing what, seeing how they fare
and then also taking an approach that’s more holistic in nature looking at dietary patterns.
Maybe doing the kind of research that should be done in a practical way with these groups that
we just talked about before who are achieving these results. Go in there and organize some
really serious research maybe on the part of multiple sites that are doing these things. Seeing
what can be done and comparing them all. Who is succeeding and who is not and then trying to
understand if there are differences, and why are there differences. That is the kind of research
that should be done.
SJ: Would the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine with its 5,000 medical doctors
among its members, among its 100,000 members, would that group be capable of such studies?
TCC: Sure, I think they have done a good job in many ways over the recent years. Dr. Neal
Barnard deserves a lot of credit actually for what he has been able to achieve, he and his people,
and they certainly are positioned to have the interest to go forward and sort of help to make that
go and now they’re getting to be a fairly substantial organization. I think they have about 60
people working on their staff and they’re getting funding. They’re growing. They’re getting
quite a reputation for a serious organization and they can do it. But, nonetheless, no matter how
much progress they have made they’re still kind of small in a way and I think, in this case, the
National Institutes of Health will never get the American Cancer Society and American Heart
Association to take too much of this too seriously. They give us watered down messages but the
National Institutes of Health is funded by American taxpayer dollars and the American taxpayer
needs to understand what their tax dollars are going to do, and if they really knew that their
money is being spent primarily on developing yet another toxic drug instead of looking at
nutrition, if they really knew the potential of what nutrition can do and what diet can do… I
think the NIH has a public responsibility to put money into this kind of effort and really get
serious about it, but we know that NIH, according the views of many and I am one of them, tends
to be the laboratory for the pharmaceutical industry and they’re getting on the public dole, and
pharmaceutical industries use the taxpayer money to do the research that they want to see done.
SJ: What does becoming vegan mean to you personally?
TCC: Well, I don’t use the word very much. I don’t really say I’m vegan. People ask me and I
say, well, we’re very close to it, just as close as about anyone but…
SJ: It’s not about purity.
TCC: No it’s not about purity, no, unfortunately, the word again, like the word alternative has
taken a negative meaning or negative connotation for too many people. So, I just like to talk
about a plant based diet, and actually, I was an advisor at NIH reviewing grants in one of these
so called study sections some years ago, and I know in my own mind I am the one who came up
with the word plant based diet as opposed to using the V words and others have acknowledged
that, and I know at NIH the people on these committees said that I was the one who first came up
with that phraseology for whatever that is worth, but I think talking about things in a plant based
nature instead of a vegan nature to me makes more sense. Then furthermore talking about, I am
sure there are better words than a plant based diet maybe, but we maybe can think about that, but
the important point is that we should talk about it in the context of it being really very good
nutrition, healthy. It should be healthy kind of concept.
SJ: If you had gone into a different field and continued the diet you grew up with, what do
you speculate your health would be like now?
TCC: I am not sure I would be here to talk to you about it for one thing. I have already outlived
my father and his brother. My wife has outlived her mother by about 14 years. We have had
cancer in my wife’s family. Heart disease in my family especially my father’s side and I just
don’t think that I would be as healthy as I am now. I am quite sure of that, although I was at the
farm and I was always outdoors and got some benefit from continuing to do that kind of thing,
no I don’t think so.
SJ: Do you get out running much?
TCC: Yes, I run almost every day and in the summer time I run between 4,6 or 7 miles a day,
wintertime just about the same.
SJ: What is your age?
TCC: I’ll be 72 in another three months.
SJ: Fantastic. What is your method of avoiding knee injuries and shin splints due to running?
TCC: I think that has been over emphasized, and it could be the people who get the knee
injuries and the shin splints, that these people may be getting those things because they’re eating
the wrong diet to start with and their bodies are not able to withstand the pummeling that occurs
when you are doing this kind of thing. I know for myself, not only have I lost a lot of weight,
keeping weight down by running which makes it easier on my joints, but at the same time
occasionally when one starts to get older you always get a little sore here or there or muscle or
bone or something like that. I find that if I get a sore in my knee or calf or whatever is hurting a
bit, I just run through it. That is the time for me to go out and really run. The interesting thing is
that a good friend of mine, Ruth Heidrick who has run, she’s about the same age as I am. She
has run something like 70 marathons. She still runs marathons. She’s considered one of the
greatest women’s athletes in the world today. I have had her in my class, a very wonderful
woman. I heard her, she said the same thing. Someone asked her what about shin splints and
what about this and that bone injuries. She said I just run through it. Well, I found the same
thing. I mean that can be carried to the extreme. If you are really hurting, I think there are times
when you shouldn’t do that, maybe, but drinking lots of water, keeping on the diet. Water is
really important. Stay hydrated and I don’t think we would see these knee problems. I have
been told that for the last 20 years. ‘Why are you running all the time? Aren’t you afraid you
are going to get bad knees?’ My knees are stronger today than they have ever been.
SJ: The metabolites from a plant based diet tend to be more alkaline than metabolites from an
animal based diet, which tend to be more acidic. Does that have something to do with the ability
to run out cramps and so on?
TCC: Maybe, I hadn’t thought of it quite that way but I think you have a point there, an acidic
kind of condition especially resulting from the build up of lactic acid through vigorous exercise.
SJ: Compounded by perhaps metabolites that are acidic from the food.
TCC: That is right, compounded by that and also compounded by not being hydrated enough.
Put all that together. So, I think, diet can play quite a role in allowing us to remain physically
SJ: As a runner, does it help to keep yourself lean?
TCC: I think so. It makes sense to me.
SJ: But isn’t it unhealthy to lose most of ones fat? What if a person without much fat got
pneumonia? There wouldn’t be enough reserves to fight off the infection. I have been asked this
question about my weight, since I have very little fat on me I get asked that question by
TCC: Do you have a lot of pneumonia in your life?
SJ: No, zero. I hardly ever get sick.
TCC: Well that is probably the best answer of all.
SJ: Once in the last five years.
TCC: You can say, well I don’t tend to have to worry about pneumonia and colds. I don’t
need the fat; I don’t need to worry about it.
SJ: I’ll tell you that in this society, if people see people without much fat on their bodies they get
all worried about them or think gosh that is an odd person.
TCC: Well, for years and years and years, mothers of little babies how common it was to
always hear one woman tell another woman about their little baby about how plump they are. It
was a common expression. Maybe it still is. Everybody starts to see a really plump baby?
Plumpness is not necessarily the best thing in the world. Surely they need some energy on their
body to use but that is not our problem these days.
SJ: How often do you get sick?
TCC: The last time that I really had a cold was about 10 years ago and it was just starting to run
more seriously at that time, and for some reason picked up something and then that had been
something like 10 years or something. I have maybe had a bit of a flu once in 20 years or 30
SJ: I am experiencing the same effect, and I have been experiencing it for years now, and I am
just wondering how it is that the plant based diet and lifestyle that we have been talking about
promotes such fantastic health? We have spoken about chronic disorders. How might such an
approach prevent or reverse acute infectious illness such as colds, flu or bacterial infections?
TCC: It’s a good question. I have often wondered to what extent can we get information on the
effect of plant based diets on lets say the more infectious kinds of diseases the communicable
diseases, and I think what you said just on the basis of our own personal experiences and the like,
it seems like you are healthy because of the way you eat because of your exercise because of
getting some outdoor exposure.
SJ: And other lifestyle factors.
TCC: And other lifestyle factors.
SJ: Relaxing when needed, meditation.
TCC: Yes, exactly, and we don’t get these kind of infectious diseases. It’s a common
observation on the part of a lot of people. Unfortunately, just looking at the literature, I always
have to put my scientific hat on every once in a while, unfortunately, I don’t find a lot of
information on that other than the fact that people will say it. It’s generally acknowledged that a
healthy person doesn’t get as much cold, flu, etc, but then you don’t go back and ask the
correlation to that question, ‘well why are they healthy?’. Maybe they’re healthy because they’re
eating right for starters. That linkage is hard to establish in science.
SJ: Well what about the idea that the immune system benefits both from the nutrients and from
the oxygenation due to exercise?
TCC: Right, I know the immune system is always in vogue as a really principle system to keep
us healthy and it’s fair enough to talk about what the immune system can do and to talk about
how we maintain a healthy immune system. One of the things about the immune system, and it
may be partly my ignorance compared to some of the other systems I know better, but it’s an
extraordinarily complex system and things do work together within that system, and I don’t
know of another system in the body that is as complex as the immune system involving the cells,
involving the ability to make different kinds of things and travel around the body and fight this
and that and some other kind of infections, but it’s clear that the immune system, when it’s
healthy, it stands to reason that it tends to keep away those diseases whether they’re chronic in
nature or whether they’re just occasional communicable kinds of disease. Plant based diets seem
to do that. They seem to keep healthy immune systems.
SJ: Do you ever drink coffee or tea or eat vegan chocolate or should I say dairy free
TCC: Yes, we have dairy free chocolate on occasion, what is it called carob.
SJ: So rather than chocolate, you are talking about carob. That is more naturally sweetened.
Chocolate requires some kind of a sweetener to be added.
TCC: My wife has put in our cookies occasionally just a little bit of the chocolate to keep that
chocolate taste. I don’t get too excited about eating chocolate chip cookies myself. I would
rather have raisin and oatmeal type of cookies.
SJ: What kind of treats do you use when you are feeling like a treat?
TCC: Oh, a treat. I had some of my wife’s cookies for one thing. She makes cookies now with
no fat and just a very minimal amount of sugar and she puts in fruits, dried fruits and things like
that and grains.
SJ: Ground nuts.
SJ: So that takes the place of oil, for example, using the whole food nut.
TCC: Exactly, I just find that I am adapted to that taste now and that to me is a great treat. Just
to get her to make some of those cookies.
SJ: What would you say to people who can’t envision letting go of caffeine or chocolate in
TCC: They just have to be persistent and it’s a tough habit to break for some people. It seems to
be extraordinarily tough for some people who are addicted to that, caffeine in fact. I used to
drink coffee, too, but only a cup or two a day was enough for me to make me a bit addicted, and
so when I quit I got a headache. I know what it’s like to sort of have to quit, and I can just well
imagine that those who drink much more and try to quit it’s almost impossible without going
through a lot of suffering but I think you just have to be persistent. Just quit and live with it for a
few days and get past it. I don’t know what else to say about that.
SJ: I found many useful suggestions on steps to take to eliminate or reduce addictive caffeine,
chocolate and dairy products and the biochemical reasons for their addictive potential in the book
“Breaking the Food Seduction” by Neal Barnard, MD.
TCC: Yes, I have not read that book, but Neal has produced some very nice books, and I am
sure that he has got something really good to say. I must read that.
SJ: What struck you as one of the more comical events that have happened related to your
TCC: I wish I could see more comedy and not so much of the other kind. Gosh, I don’t know.
You have me stumped on that one. I think the notion, I thought it was kind of comical at the
time, that people thought it was comical about all of a sudden discovering that dogs which I
always throught were carnivores pretty much and had to have all that meat and stuff and to
discover that, in fact, people have dogs and they’re feeding them vegan dog food and they have
sleek coats. The dogs seem to be doing really well. That is not comical but it’s unusual in the
face of a lot of popular opinion.
SJ: Most of the subjects that we have discussed are detailed in the book “The China Study”
which cites hundreds of peer reviewed articles. Many further relevant articles can be found on
your website: http://www.nutritionadvocate.com .
Thank you very much, Dr. Campbell for your cogent remarks, for your life’s work making an
historic contribution to our understanding of the improvement of nutritional support of more
robust health and for writing with your son, Thomas, the best researched treatise on nutrition
ever published, The China Study.
TCC: Your comments are very kind, and I also want to thank you for your generosity in making
all this possible. I also might add another thing about my son Tom. He graduated theater, of
course, I think I pointed this out before and now he’s going back to medical school, and during
the course of writing the book with me, he was, in fact, a full co-author, I must emphasize
excellent, he learned a lot about the field and had to go back and take some science courses a bit.
He recently ended up in the 97th percentile in the MCAT entrance exam, so he now wants to be a
doctor following this path.
SJ: Was he raised on a plant based diet?
TCC: Yes, and I am very excited about it because he knows that you have to come up with a
model so that he can make money and at the same time do what he wants to do, and he has pretty
well in mind what he wants to do now, and his new wife is an official yoga instructor now, and
so together Tom and Kim and others like them, some young people, Dr. McDougall’s son is in
first year medical school too. There are some young people coming along at the outset, going to
medical school. I had some of these kinds of students in my own class at Cornell and now just
finishing up medical school and still with it. They’re committed to go out and do it and I think
that these young people… that is one of the really most hopeful signs that I know of. That
they’re going to go out and start their career this way, make it work. They’re not going into the
trade, just primed and ready to go out and make a lot of money just pushing drugs. They’re
going out with a mission and I just think that is very exciting. So, thanks again.