Does a Vegan Diet Conflict with Human Nature?


In your bestseller “The China Study” you described a relationship between the consumption of animal products and the incidence of diseases such as cancer (breast, prostate, rectum), diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis and degenerative brain diseases. After years of research and studies you came to the conclusion that it would be healthier for people, if they would only eat vegan without meat and animal products. But man has – both anatomically and organically – developed over the course of evolution as “carnivores”. Therefore: Is a vegan diet not standing in conflict with human nature?

I don’t accept the premise that during the course of evolution we developed as carnivores. I accept the evidence showing that some animal based foods have been consumed for a long time but I am not convinced that it was very much. I fail to see how the archeological and anthropological evidence could have documented the consumption of plant-based foods that would have left little or no evidence. I also have seen some remarkably convincing arguments that we evolved mostly as herbivores, based on a consideration of anatomical and morphological evidence.

In addition, I have spent much of my career (beginning as a near carnivore, both personally and professionally) involved in experimental research on the biochemical foundation of cellular metabolism, becoming aware in considerable depth on the underlying principles, especially in regards to ‘nutrients’ present in food. There are countless reactions that, in principle, are reversible or at a minimum have optional pathways that lead to disease or health events. It is abundantly clear to me that these reactions when proceeding in the direction of health are catalyzed by plant-based components, not animal based components. This phenomenon has been given almost no attention as far as I can tell, by anthropologists.

Even if we allow that significant amounts of animal based foods were consumed by some groups in ancient times, humans over long periods of time show considerable adaptation, thus present day humans should reflect histories of say, the last 10 to 20 or so thousand years. To top off this interpretation, new findings now show that virtually all people when submitted to a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet greatly improve their health. How can they respond in this way if their bodies were meant to consume an animal-based diet?

Dr. T. Colin Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition research for over forty years. His legacy, the China Project, has been acknowledged as the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted. Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. Dr. Campbell also serves as the President of the Board for the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is featured faculty in our highly acclaimed, Plant-Based Certificate and our online heart course, Nutrition for a Healthy Heart.