Thomas M. Campbell, MD

How Sweet is a Sweet Potato? Pretty Sweet!

Sweet potatoes are a super food that I have only recently come to appreciate. When preparing my lecture on heart disease epidemiology for our new eCornell course, I found reports of several traditional cultures known for avoiding heart disease that subsist largely on this delicious tuber. In fact, a 1978 paper[1] cited a dietary survey finding that sweet potatoes supplied about 90% of total calorie intake in the traditional subsistence culture of the Papua New Guinea highlanders. 90%! Sinnett and Whyte write, “Indeed, non-tuberous vegetables accounted for less than 5% of the food consumed, while the intake of meat was negligible.” There was no evidence of malnutrition from this diet and no evidence for hypertensive heart disease.

Here are some facts to chew on. If HALF of your diet was solely baked sweet potatoes with no salt, you would get all [...]

Are Smoothies Good or Bad?

In medical school, when time was shorter than short and I lived alone, I would periodically get concerned that I wasn’t eating enough leafy greens, because I wasn’t.
  • The APOC3 Mutation Story
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    A Goal of (Profitable) Mediocrity in the Fight Against Heart Disease: The APOC3 Mutation Story.

A Goal of (Profitable) Mediocrity in the Fight Against Heart Disease: The APOC3 Mutation Story.

On June 19th, an article in the New York Times titled, “In Single Gene, a Path to Fight Heart Attacks,” unintentionally highlighted the modern promise and the utter failure of our medical system, both at the same time. It describes the findings from two recent studies on the genetic causes of high triglycerides. Both of these studies were large, well-conducted, and published in a highly regarded journal with extensive press coverage. The NYT article was on the front page “above the fold”.

The findings of the two studies, utilizing the genetic analysis of almost 200,000 people, showed that there are four relatively rare genetic mutations on a gene coding for apolipoprotein C3 (APOC3) that are linked to low triglyceride levels. Although there is uncertainty regarding how triglycerides are involved in heart disease, it is quite clear that high triglycerides are associated with increased risk.

The important result from these studies is that people with the mutations had not only lower triglycerides, but also about a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Research of this type could never have been done 50 years ago. It embodies remarkable medical and technological advances of recent years. Further, this research is intellectually stimulating and obviously relevant to heart disease, our number one killer. I have no doubt scientists and clinicians directed the studies with an eye toward what they genuinely feel is in the public’s best interest.

And yet I am troubled.

Diet and the Common Cold

Have you ever heard someone say, “I haven’t had a cold in [insert large number] years since changing my diet!” Have you said this before? If you travel to events with groups of people following any particular diet, you are likely to hear the claim that since following the diet, they have not gotten any of their formerly common ailments. No colds, no flus, not hardly anything! I know I have heard this experience described many times from people following an exclusively plant-based diet and I suspect it’s not an uncommon claim among other groups. Perhaps the ‘primal’ or paleo diet groups or the low-carb diet groups also feel improved immunity? But is there evidence beyond the impressions that changing your diet means no more colds?

Thomas M. Campbell, MD
is the executive director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

It’s All About Food Radio Interview with Tom Campbell

On the It's All About Food podcast with Caryn Hartglass we discussed my personal journey from the China Study to medical doctor, the state of medicine, and the Center for Nutrition Studies.
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    Dementia and Diabetes News: (Mis)Adventures in Nutrition in Medicine

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A recent review found a growing body of literature showing decreased risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia with greater adherence to plant-based diets.